There are two approaches to building a great set of golf clubs.
In one, you painstakingly try and test individual clubs, and add them to your bag when you’re sure they can improve your play.
That gives you quite a cosmopolitan ‘parliament of all the talents’ to take to the course – the best driver for your play, the best individual woods that respond to your swing, the best irons, and so on.
That’s an approach more common to long-experienced golfers who have seen the world turn around the tee and know what manufacturers’ claims look like when you hit a golf ball with them.
For everybody else, the idea of getting a complete set of clubs in one purchase – ideally with a single guiding philosophy of golf underpinning their design and building, can be an enormously appealing idea.
You click one ‘Buy’ button and bang! Suddenly, you’ve got everything you need to hit the links and have at least a decent, and probably an above-average round of golf.
That’s why manufacturers keep making these collected, philosophically-guided sets, and it’s why they keep flying off shelves and onto golf courses around the country and around the world.
If you’re going to buy a brand new set of golf clubs, the Callaway Strata would like your attention – and it goes some distance out of its way to get it.
Widely acknowledged to be one of the top sets – if not the top set for relatively new golfers with a reasonable swing speed – it does a great deal of what you need it to do and refuses to take more money from you than necessary for the privilege.
Let’s take a closer look at the Callaway Strata set and see whether the hype is justified.
What do you get?
There are three main versions of the Callaway Strata set: a 12-piece, a 14-piece, and a 16-piece version.
We’ll get to them all, but let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. What do you get in the standard 12-piece set?
The 12-piece Set:
- 3-Fairway Wood
- 6–9 Iron
- Pitching Wedge
- 2 Headcovers
- Cart Bag
You can immediately see that the 12-piece set strives for ‘good enough’ competencies to take you from the tee to the hole.
Could you plug some additional gaps with extra clubs? Absolutely. That’s why the 14-piece adds in a sand wedge alongside the pitching wedge and gives you an extra headcover.
The 16-piece version adds in the sand wedge, a 4-hybrid, and two extra headcovers.
You can add even to the 16-piece version to get a more progressive journey from the tee to the hole, but at any level, the Callaway Strata set demonstrates a degree of golf-first thought about what you genuinely need to make the journey of each hole.
In addition to this philosophical underpinning, it’s fair to say that the Callaway Strata set unconsciously boosts a new golfer’s confidence by the uniformity of style and design, and broadens their smile by being available at a price point which even new golfers should be able to afford.
It’s almost like the game of golf is thanking you for your interest and encouraging you in when you see the Callaway Strata set, all thought out in advance and waiting for you to simply pick them up and start playing.
Let’s work our way through the clubs and see if the appearance of value translates into a genuinely useful set of clubs.
Well…we didn’t expect that.
That’s a point about pre-chosen sets like the Callaway Strata.
Because they’re chosen by the manufacturer, rather than tailored to your specific choices about things, you more or less expect them to be average. Good enough, but average. You don’t expect them to be blow-the-doors-off excellent.
The Callaway Strata driver is… well, it’s blow-the-doors-off excellent.
We’re looking at a titanium 460cc driver with a staggering 10.5-degree head. We’ll save you the complicated math, but that means it has an absurdly large sweet spot.
That in turn means if you hit the ball with this driver, and you get it dead on, the ball will scream away from you like a rocket on a date.
What’s more, it won’t just have speed and distance – the sweet spot means it will go more or less where you intended it to go.
Even better, if you hit the ball with this driver and don’t get it dead on, the size of the sweet spot means you still stand an excellent chance of the ball behaving as though you had hit it dead on.
The Strata driver seems to exist to forgive us our slicing sins and bring us redemption. Well, redemption, distance, power, and placement, which is all you can ask for in any driver anywhere.
It helps to get the most out of the Strata driver if you have a fairly fast swing, and some new golfers will take a while to get up to the required speed to get the best results with it.
In fact, the desire you’ll have as a new golfer to run down to the tee and whack the stars out of the ball with the Strata driver will be a little misguided, to say the least.
But once you have the speed, the Strata driver seems determined to make the best of even fairly bad mis-hits, so it brings the key benefit of forgiveness to newer golfers on the tee.
The more you use the driver, the more your confidence grows, and the more determined to get to experience the full effects of driving properly.
So perversely, by forgiving more sins, the Strata driver pushes newer golfers towards better form, better speed, and better placement. There’s no golfing world in which that can be a bad thing.
The 3-wood in the 12-piece gives you a 15.5-degree loft on a 42.5″ shaft. While the head is significantly smaller than that on the driver, the sweet spot is maintained as a percentage of the area, so you still get every opportunity to hit perfect, satisfying shots with it.
Off all the clubs in the standard 12-piece set though, the 3-wood might well be the one with which most people struggle, simply because it’s the club with the least obvious range of uses, so it requires more golfing nous than many beginners might have to correctly judge when it’s a 3-wood moment.
To be fair, it’s also tricky to know when to use the 3-wood because most beginner golfers will be positively itching to use the hybrids in the Strata set.
The 5-hybrid (and the 4-hybrid if you get the 16-piece set) are clubs for all occasions, which is why most beginners will gravitate to using them for everything imaginable.
You can use them off the tee if you want to, though their clubheads are smaller than a driver, so that takes some practice.
On the fairway though, the hybrids in this set are like formulae on a spreadsheet. Plug them into your distance dilemma and they’ll give you the trajectory you want, the distance you need, and a stunning degree of control over the fate of the ball once it leaves your club face.
In addition to which, they act as superhero clubs when you get yourself in trouble.
Stuck in a bunker? Give it a 5-hybrid. Landed behind a tree? Either of the hybrids, depending on distance. You name it, if it’s a dilemma you can get into, the Strata hybrids will help get you out of it.
Is it worth getting the 16-piece set more or less to upgrade to a second hybrid in this set? Oh yes – it’s like doubling the quantity of secret recipe in your golfing.
Even if that were the only difference between the 12- and the 16-piece, once you’ve used the 5-hybrid, the chance to get a 4-hybrid as well will seem like a no-brainer.
The Strata irons run from the 6-iron down to the pitching wedge (with the option of the sand wedge in the 14- and 16-piece sets).
All four irons are cavity-backed, which means more steel is pushed to the outer rim of the clubhead. That will translate into impressive balance and forgiveness in any shot you take with them.
Again, you don’t expect them, in a set, to be as precisely engineered as they seem or feel, which, like the driver, is a surprise that predisposes you to think well of the Callaway Strata set and those who made it.
With stainless steel shafts and perimeter weighting, they have a precision and a control which more or less automatically translates into better golf, because you can be more sure, more often, that the shot you intended to hit is the shot that will be delivered.
That’s accentuated by the continuation of the expanded sweet spots which made the woods a thing of surprising pleasure.
As with them, the irons have larger spots, meaning you needn’t hit the shot exactly where you normally would have to. ‘Close enough’ will translate to the shot you want, or something close to it.
That seems to be the trademark that most embodies the Callaway Strata sets – while you can marvel at the uniformity of design and the relative ‘completeness’ of the set for a comparatively small set, it’s in the forgiveness that’s been engineered into the set that golfer affection is born and nurtured.
That makes sense, because it conveys the idea that clubmakers have taken the real-world experiences of beginner golfers into account in shaping and building the set.
Is it going to make you PGA champion in your first season out on the links? No, of course not.
But it’s going to offer you precision with well-tooled shifts, distance and delivery with a driver from Mars, a get-out-of-jail-free card (or two) in the hybrids, and enough encouragement and engagement in the game through a series of large sweet spots to make a would-be golfer into a lifetime golfer.
The Callaway Strata set speaks to the soul of reasonably new golfers, and answers the prayers they didn’t know they were praying.
You only get the single wedge with the 12-piece set – the pitching wedge. If you upgrade to the 14- or 16-piece set, you can add a sand wedge to your bag, which might well be worth your while if you’re a new golfer who plays courses with particularly tricky sand traps in them.
The standard pitching wedge is set at 46 degrees, which should give you good loft on short pitches, and which easily translates itself to regular use around the green for those times when you’ve dropped the ball a little short – or when you’ve twanged it too far with one of those sumptuous hybrids.
Frankly, who are we kidding? If you can afford it, and with the Strata set, the likelihood is that you can, upgrade yourself, and get the 16-piece.
The 14-piece is fine as far as wedges go, and it will give you the sand wedge, but if you’re going to go for an upgrade, why not get one that also gives you a 4-hybrid?
The Strata sand wedge is – as the name suggests – great for getting you out of bunkers and sand traps, but it’s also useful around the green if the loft of the standard pitching wedge doesn’t seem to offer enough length for the shot you need to play.
With all its forgiveness, its large sweet spots, and its ‘pry it from my cold, dead hands’-quality hybrids, there’s no doubt that the Callaway Strata set is aiming to give you enough performance to radically improve, or even launch, your golf game. But there are times when its aim of covering the waterfront runs a little thin.
Upgrading to the 16-piece set makes sense, so you can get what feels like a necessary – or at least a highly desirable – 4-hybrid to give you options. But there are areas where it would still be wise to augment the set with additional clubs where you can.
For instance, there’s a somewhat conspicuous length gap between the usual reach of the 5-hybrid and the usual reach of the 6-iron.
Some intermediate club – or heck, even the replacement of the 6-iron with a 6-hybrid to give a broader range of possibilities – would serve Callaway and its customers well here.
Likewise in the wedge department, upgrading to get the sand wedge makes sense, but maybe the inclusion of one other wedge – a gap wedge, possibly? – would allow the set to feel more like a complete thing.
That said, if you want a set with every kind of club for every kind of scenario, the likelihood is you’d burst the price point which is another big draw for the Callaway Strata set at the moment.
Certainly, as a base set, it’s better than many golfers would assume is possible for the price – and that low price lets you contemplate adding on any specific clubs that would help you in specific situations, without putting you too far out of pocket.
The putter is pretty much the sharp end of any set – putting is how you put the game away, and getting a club that gives you reliable results in that area is probably more important than the joy of a good hybrid on the way down the fairway.
The putter in the Strata set is a progressive mallet-headed model, with some useful bottom-weighting to help combat jumping during the roll towards the hole. It also has markings on the head, to help you line up your putt correctly.
At 35 inches, the shaft of the putter is suitable for many golfers, but given the importance of putting and its individualistic nature, if you need to get yourself a putter that’s more right for you, you can do that reasonably cheaply.
Golf Bag and Headcovers
Many people might look at a set of golf clubs and just see the clubs, assuming that the rest is just an easy addition to bulk up the offering.
If you’ve ever tried to play a round of golf without a golf bag though, you’ll know that that’s sheer folly. You need a good golf bag not only to get from hole to hole, but also to keep your clubs from falling over the moment you set them down.
The bag that comes with the Strata set is above average, though by no means the lightest or most robust on the market. It’s a ‘get you started’ bag, rather than a ‘forever and a day’ bag.
It’s light enough to feel like a reasonable load when you carry it on your back, and it fits in a golf cart, which – especially if you’re a new golfer and aren’t used to all the walking involved in a round of golf – is a thing definitely worth hiring.
The bag has a padded dual strap, which makes carrying it a lot easier if you are walking it around.
There’s a rain hood for your clubs in the event you get caught in a sudden shower – which is almost guaranteed to happen to you as part of your commitment to being a golfer.
And there are five handy compartments to keep things in as you travel the course, including the likes of a sneaky sandwich and a water bottle, should you take longer on the fifth hole than anyone ever anticipated.
Both the 12-, the 14- and the 16-piece sets come with headcovers for your woods and hybrids. Again, non-golfers will likely think this is overkill.
It isn’t. They’re a necessary part of your golfing kit, to protect the heads of your more vulnerable clubs (the irons can more or less look after themselves. Because they’re made of iron.
The headcovers in the Strata set are at least adequate for the task at hand. They’re unlikely to win Best Headcover at the golfing Oscars, but they’re good enough to do the job you need them to do, at a price that is comfortable.
Overall, the Callaway Strata set is a high-value offering for beginner golfers. Even in its 12-piece version, it offers performance, and most especially forgiveness that you’d expect to pay significantly extra for.
Yes, there are some gaps, even if you upgrade to the 16-piece version, but the underlying philosophy of welcoming new golfers into the game and helping them make progress through forgiving clubs that deliver strong performance means many a newcomer to the game will be won over for life by the Strata set.