How many times throughout a normal round do you use your fairway metal, or, if you prefer going old school, your fairway wood?

Two? Maybe 3?

I have a buddy for whom the 5-wood is a legitimate weapon on Par 5’s, but for many of us, a 3-wood is a driver substitute on tight driving holes and an iffy proposition off the deck. I’d be willing to bet, depending on the course, you could take the fairway metal/wood out of your bag and not even miss it.

So that being said, fairway woods (I’m Old School, we’re going with woods today), are almost always the undercard to the driver launch main event – unless, of course, you’re Tour Edge and fairway woods are your thing. We’ve seen PXG and TaylorMade drop their newest drivers this week, with fairways and hybrids serving the role of sidekick.  Today’s Callaway Epic Flash launch follows the same script: it’s all about the driver, as you’d expect, but Callaway’s dominance in fairway woods is well earned and warrants a little attention. The Rogue and Rogue Sub-Zero tied for a close second in 2018’s Most Wanted Fairway Wood shootout, while the Epic copped top honors by itself in 2017.

So, what has Callaway cooked up as on encore for 2019? Why, combining the two, of course.

Epic + Rogue = Epic Flash

Jailbreak in a fairway wood was the story of the Callaway Rogue, and the tech proved itself during Most Wanted, as the Rogue topped the scoring in ball speed, carry distance and total distance while finishing in the top 4 in dispersion. Neat trick if you can pull it off.

For all that performance, the Rogue lacked two basic features – it lacked hosel adjustability and moveable weights. The 2017 Epic did not have Jailbreak, but did feature hosel adjustability, while the Epic Sub Zero featured both hosel adjustability and moveable weights.

For 2019, you get both Jailbreak and adjustability and, if you’re a Sub Zero kind of guy or gal, you’ll get your moveable weights back, too. On top of that, you’ll get a fairway wood take on Callaway’s unique – and possibly game-changing from a design and R&D standpoint – Flash Face Technology. Put them all together, and you get what Callaway is calling a ball speed machine.

Flash! King of the Impossible

With apologies to Mr. Mercury and Queen, Flash Face Technology sounds like some sort of futuristic, Terminator-type development that use machines to do what humans can’t. Callaway used a combination of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to design the faces for the Epic Flash driver and fairway woods, taking human engineers out of the loop and using a Super Computer to design, analyze and redesign the face to come up with a design engineers couldn’t have come up with on their own (You can read more about it here).

While the driver features a ripple-type face – a sort of a variable face thickness idea on acid – the fairway wood face is a little different.

“You’re looking at a map of thickness as indicated by color,” says Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s Senior VP of R&D. “The big red ring is a thicker area, and then there are actually thin areas immediately adjacent to that red area, and then particularly thin areas low on the face.”

There are several reasons why the face design of the Epic Flash driver is different than that of the fairway wood. First, of course, is that a fairway wood has to perform both off the tee and off the deck. Also, the Epic Flash face material is 455 Carpenter Steel instead of titanium, and the face is considerably smaller and shaped differently.

“It doesn’t have the same ripple-type effect of continuous movement between thick and thin areas (as the driver),” says Hocknell. “But you can see a lot of the same principles. It’s relatively thin right in the center, it gets thicker before it gets thinner again as you go toward the perimeter. And there’s that distinct, particular red ring that is the thickest part of the face.”

When combined with Jailbreak and Hyper Speed Face Cup Technology, you get what Callaway’s marketing department could call the turbo-charged love child of Epic and Rogue.

“The results bear fruit,” says Hocknell. “It has high ball speeds from the center and high ball speeds from the low part of the face. Some of our Tour pros have had exposure to that now. They’re saying that’s what’s most noticeable – the continuity of ball speed no matter where you hit it on the face.”

Flash Flexibility

One of the reasons Callaway gave to taking hosel adjustability out of last year’s Rogue fairway was weight. Previous versions of Callaway’s OptiFit hosel were on the heavy side, so by dumping it, Callaway was able to keep the CG lower and move mass away from the hosel. For Epic Flash, Callaway performed OptiFit liposuction to come up with OptiFit 3.

“It was designed to take weight out of the hosel assembly itself,” says Hocknell. “And also to take weight out of the way in interfaces with the head, by taking material out of both the hosel and the head.”

The new OptiFit hosel is noticeably shorter than older models, and up to 11 grams lighter. Saving weight in one place, of course, allows you to reposition it somewhere else. In the case of Epic Flash, Callaway says the CG is as low as it was in the Rogue, while adding the adjustability of the original Epic.

It’s important to note – the new OptiFit 3 hosel is not backward compatible with earlier versions, so if you have a shaft from the original Epic you love, it won’t fit into the new Epic Flash head. You’ll need to replace the adapter.

The Epic Flash Sub Zero features a pair of moveable/interchangeable sole weights, one 16-grams and the other 2-grams. They do pretty much what you’d expect: heavy weight up front promotes lower spin and a flatter trajectory; heavy weight in the back promotes easier launch and higher trajectory.

Specs/Price/Availability

The standard Epic Flash fairway woods are available in a 3+ (13.5o), 3 (15o), 5 (18o), Heavenwood (20o), 7 (21o), 9 (23o) and 11 (25o) models, with the 3+, 9 and 11 available on right hand only. All are adjustable one full degree down and two full degrees up. The Sub Zero is available in 3+, 3 and 5 (lofts are the same as the standard models), and feature the same adjustability. The 3+ and the 3 are available for both lefties and righties, while the 5 is in right-handed only. Callaway is offering three stock shaft options: the Project X EvenFlow Green 40 (which is not listed on the Project X website) and HZRDUS Smoke, and the Mitsubishi Tensei AV.

The stock grip is the Golf Pride Tour Velvet ALIGN, with a green reminder edge that’s unique to Epic Flash. Your first thought might be that an ALIGN grip with an adjustable hosel is kind of a dumb idea, but Callaway’s OptiFit hosel allows the reminder edge to stay in the appropriate position even if you adjust the loft.

Pricewise, if you consider what PXG and TaylorMade have done with fairway woods this week, you’ll find the Epic Flash to be a relative bargain (key word, of course, is relative) at $299.99. It hits the stores February 1st.

Apex Hybrids

If fairway woods tend to be driver afterthoughts, hybrids are often the red-headed stepchildren. Callaway’s Apex hybrids, despite the fact they’re pretty easy to launch, are decidedly aimed at better players. While Rogue hybrids are more of a mini-fairway wood for Game Improvement players, Apex hybrids are more long-iron replacement in style, performance, and playability.

For 2019, the Apex hybrids are getting a wee bit of a makeover to keep pace with the updated Apex iron lineup. The biggest update is….wait for it….Jailbreak Technology. Color me shocked.

When combined with Face Cup technology and a 455 Carpenter Steel face, the new Apex hybrids have all the requite rocket-launcher ingredients, but Callway says they’re designed to be an easy transition from your irons.

“Our other hybrids are more like scaled-down fairway woods in that they make the ball fly – high launch angles, low spin, great for overall distance,” says Hocknell. “With these aimed at better players, we want trajectory to be more consistent with what you’d find with irons. It has more spin than our other hybrids, but it still benefits from our speed technologies.”

The Apex hybrids have a slightly flatter face than Cally’s Game Improvement hybrids, along with flatter lie angles and a more neutral bias for those golfers who tend to hook GI hybrids off the planet. They’re available in 18-, 20-, 23- and 26-degree lofts, or 2 through 5 for the old fashioned among us. The 2 and the 5 are offered in right-handed only.

Further proof of Apex’s iron-replacement pedigree is Callaway’s choice of stock shaft – the True Temper Catalyst, which True Temper says replicates steel shaft performance better than traditional graphite laminates. The Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grip is stock.

The new Apex hybrids are priced at $269.99 – closer to the top end of the market (the new PXG hybrids come in at $379) than the bottom. They hit the stores January 25th.