Today Callaway Golf has officially announced it’s Epic Star lineup, and OMG, I can’t wait to read your comments.
The Star franchise isn’t so much new as it is new to you. Like our USA version of the Epic, the Epic Star has occupied the #1 Driver spot in the Japanese market for most of 2017. That’s relevant here because the demands of the Japanese market aren’t dissimilar from those of our senior market.
The majority golfer in Japan is one who doesn’t generate a ton of swing speed, and like golfers over here, he craves more distance, sometimes desperately so. Japanese consumers aren’t adverse to dropping comparatively big bucks in search of a few more yards either, especially if the club’s aesthetics are adequately audacious. That’s where Epic Star’s gold paint comes in.
Lightweight, distance focused, and blinged-out in black PVD (irons) and gold, Epic Star is a Japan Spec product brought back to the USA. Callaway is game to find out if what sells over there can find a receptive, though admittedly niche market in the USA – and I suspect its competitors will be watching closely.
The Star Audience
In simple terms, the Epic Star is designed for players looking for an ultra-premium experience in a lightweight package. The obvious translation is that it’s intended for slower swing speed players who have near PXG-level money to spend on golf clubs.
The performance story is simple; less weight equals more distance. To that end, compared with the standard Epic lineup, everything in the Star family is lighter and by extension, faster. Heads tweaked, shaft weights, grip weights, and even sliding weights, all reduced. Where Epic is adjustable, the Star line is glued.
With all of that weight-savings comes a higher cost, and so here’s your punchline.
- Driver: $699.99
- Fairway Woods: $399.99
- Hybrids: $299.99
- Irons: $300
In case there's any confusion, that's per club pricing.
I know…I feel like a dramatic pause might be warranted, but for now, let’s accept that Ultra-Premium doesn’t come cheap and move on.
Epic Star Driver
As we’ve touched on already, the story here is weight savings. That’s not to say Epic Star isn’t loaded with Epic technology. Jailbreak (ball speed), Speed Step Crown (aerodynamics), and Adjustable Perimeter Weighting (shot shape correction) are all included.
Callaway's goal was to keep everything that makes Epic, well…Epic, while reducing the overall weight of the club. To that end, Epic Star's sliding weight has been reduced from 17 grams to 11. The stock shaft, a Japanese made, Ultra-Premium Grand Bassara from Mitsubishi, weighs in at 39 grams* (sorta). Additional weight is saved by using a narrower diameter Golf Grip J200 grip (previously only available in Japan). Finally, by eliminating the adjustable hosel, Callaway saved yet another 7 grams.
All of this speaks to the larger story of more distance derived from lighter weight and ultimately more clubhead speed.
The Epic Star Driver is available in 10.5° and 12° models.
Retail Price - $699.
Epic Star Fairway
Unsurprisingly, the story of the Epic Star fairway, and really, the entire lineup, mirrors that of the driver. Weight is saved through a lighter shaft, lighter grip, and a glued hosel. Prices are raised because of….frankly; I’m not sure.
The Epic Star fairway is available in three lofts (15°, 18°, and 21°).
Retail Price - $399.
Epic Star Hybrid
Simply put, the Epic Star is an Epic hybrid, only lighter…and stronger (lofts)…and longer (shafts). As with the driver and fairway, the core technology is the same. You’ve got a Hyper Speed face cup, a Triaxial carbon crown, and a Tungsten MIM’d standing wave for optimal CG placement.
Adjustability is out (weight savings) and a lightweight (50 gram) Bassara shaft is in.
Noteworthy are the stronger lofts – 18° (#3), 20° (#4), and 23° (#5) and the longer shafts. I’ll save you the hassle of looking it up; subtract one from the club designation and the lofts match the standard Epic, eg. Epic’s #2 is Star’s #3 and so on.
Retail Price - $299
Epic Star Irons
Rounding out the lineup is the Star variant of the already ultra-premium priced Epic irons. Filed under Yup, the technology, which includes Exo-Cage construction, MIM’d Tungsten-infused standing wave, and a light weight hollow hosel is consistent with the standard Epic Iron.
The notable differences are the stock shaft, where Callaway is using the ultralight (and ultra-premium) 55-gram Grand Bassara. Callaway is stating that the Epic Star is more strongly lofted than the Epic, and while that’s technically true by the numbers, what Callaway has done is bump the specs to the tune of one full club.
Loft for loft, the Star’s 4-iron matches the Epic’s 18° 3-Iron, 5 matches 4, 6 matches 5 and on down we go until we get to the Star’s 39° PW, which necessitates a 44° AW, and a 49° GW. Everything provided by Callaway suggests the same heads with new paint and new numbers stamped on the sole.
Why would Callaway do that?
Lower lofted heads within any variable length set weigh less than the higher lofted ones (a 3-iron head weighs less than a 4-iron head), and reduced lofts produce more distance. Shaft lengths are consistent with Epic as well, provided you compare Star to the loft equivalent version of standard Epic irons. In case you missed it, the same rules apply with the aforementioned hybrids.
Remember, the Epic Star story is 99% weight and distance (and 1% gold paint).
It may sound a bit unwieldy, and I have real concerns about green stopping power, but we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the target audience isn’t a guy who sprays the ball, it’s the guy looking to gain distance perhaps by any means necessary. Within that field of view, Callaway’s stamp switcharoo, coupled with the new (and Ultra-Premium shaft) shaft does make everything lighter, and that’s the ultimate goal here.
Retail Price: $300 (per irons)
2 10 Cents
Other than the Grand Basara shaft, I can find nothing in what Callaway has conveyed that justifies so much as a $1 price increase over the current Epic line. Frankly, Epic Star should probably cost less. Unlike its closest competitor in the premium for seniors space, XXIO - which can at least make the argument that every aspect of its product has been engineered for the target audience - Callaway appears to be repainting and repurposing for a new audience, rather than doing any actual re-engineering for it.
What’s the justification? It's the shaft, and you might be getting it.
Aftermarket cost for the Grand Basara is about $500 – and unlike most of Callaway’s other stock options within the Epic metalwood lineup, this one appears to be the real deal version. There is an argument to be made for added value, but I wonder how many fitters out there routinely fit their senior clientele into $500 shafts.
Is value added where it isn’t needed actually value?
If weight is the argument, then yes, lighter is often better for seniors. With that said, I’d be remiss not to point out that the aftermarket Grand Barasara 39 has an actual weight of 43 grams in Lite flex and 45 grams in regular. For the sake of comparison the Diamana Green M+40, which is one of the stock options for the standard Epic and should produce similar launch characteristics, has an actual weight of 44 grams in light and 45 grams in regular.
You tell me: Is Made in Japan craftsmanship, ION plating, and 1-gram weight savings enough to justify a $200 price bump in spite of the loss of adjustability?
I’m not sold on the ultralight grip either. While the weight savings offered by the narrow diameter J200 grip fit perfectly within the Epic Star story, I’m not sure how well it fits the target demographic. The reality is that as the mythology around grip sizing has been torn down, we’re seeing seniors move to bigger grips, which often prove more comfortable for arthritic hands.
I’m similarly unimpressed by the Epic Star hybrids and irons. To be sure, I’m not questioning the performance of any portion of the current Epic line, but again, a significant cost increase over what’s been on the market for months is attributable only to a lighter shaft, lighter grip, and some manipulation of the numbers stamped on the bottom of the club. The engineering and the technology are the same. The numbers, the paint, and of course, the ultra-premium shaft are what’s different.
Does any of that completely justify the price bump?
The upside here is that Epic Star will have limited distribution; custom fitters and green grass, so the overwhelming majority of Epic Star buyers will be fit into the club, and will presumably walk away with a club that performs well for them. For any game Epic Star changes for the better, it’s worth every penny.
That said, I’d wager that most could do every bit as well for a two to three hundred dollars less. Whether that’s a standard Epic with a lighter weight and a less than ultra-premium shaft (regular premium should work just fine), or something like Cobra’s senior-focused FMax line depends on the golfer...and the fitter.
It’s your money, spend it however you’d like - always, but at the very least, understand what it is you’re buying.
The Callaway Epic Star lineup is available beginning September 29th. For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com.