Callaway Epic MAX Star Irons and Hybrids – Key Takeaways
- Callaway updates its ultra-premium, ultra-light irons and hybrids.
- A.I.-designed, specifically for slow swing-speed players.
- Available in 3- through 8-hybrid righthanded (3H-6H for lefties) and 5-iron through sand wedge
- $349.99 per club. Available Sept. 30
Today’s stories on the new Callaway Epic MAX Star lineup may make you:
C: Grab your torch and pitchfork
Your answer, of course, will depend entirely on your swing speed, demographic and bank account.
You can read all about the new Callaway Epic MAX Star driver and fairways in our companion post so this piece will focus on the Epic MAX Star irons and hybrids. If you answered D to the above survey, I look forward to your comments below. And if you didn’t answer D to the above survey, well, I really look forward to your comments below.
This should be fun.
Callaway Epic MAX Star Irons and Hybrids
Breathe, people. Breathe.
You’re no doubt asking yourself: Is there a market for this line? You bet your Great Gatsby there is.
“It’s all about performance for that type of golfer,” says Callaway’s R&D VP Alan Hocknell. “The market is telling us the technologies we have in the Epic family are noticeably beneficial to different types of golfers.”
Who are we talking about? The industry calls them “slow swing-speed” golfers. Translated: Primarily senior golfers who don’t mind paying the freight for all things Epic.
“We want to retain all the performance we get from that technology and make it available in a format that is a little easier to swing,” says Hocknell. “It’s for people that might be force-limited or speed-limited.”
This is Callaway’s third Epic Star iteration dating back to 2017. In the overall price matrix, it falls slightly below Honma’s Beres 2-Star line and well below the Beres 3-, 4- and 5-Star lines. On the other hand, the Star line makes XXIO Prime, XXIO 11 and XXIO X look like a relative bargains.
Epic Iron Technology
The Callaway Epic MAX Star irons are all about lightweight construction and maximizing ball speed for slow swingers.
“We don’t have another iron that’s set up like these at all in terms of head construction,” says Hocknell. “There are a lot of things going on here that are really helpful for the improvement type of player for the consistency of launching the ball easily with really high ball speed.”
The Epic MAX Star irons do share plenty of DNA with the game improvement end of Callaway’s lineup—everything from the Apex DCB to Mavrik MAX to the Big Bertha BB21. Specifically, we’re talking about a 1025 forged head, an A.I.-created Flash Cup Face, a Tungsten Energy Core and the ever-popular urethane microspheres.
What sets Epic MAX Star apart is the whole artificial intelligence process set up to optimize performance for slow swing speeds. Everything, from the hollow body assembly to the Flash Cup Face, is designed for the 80 mph and lower crowd.
Tungsten and Urethane Microspheres
Even though the Epic MAX Star irons feature a hollow body, that doesn’t mean the body is empty. Callaway has packed in a buttload of tungsten along with a healthy dollop of urethane microspheres. Callaway’s Tungsten Energy Core—a signature feature of the current Apex line—creates a super-low center of gravity.
“That’s terrific for low impact locations on the face,” says Hocknell. “And there will be plenty of those from the type of user we expect to hit these irons. And the heel-toe weighting stabilizes the iron from off-center hits.”
We’ve talked about urethane microspheres before. One of the advantages of hollow-body design is to maximize face flexing for ball speed. One of the disadvantages of hollow-body design, or of any design using an ultra-thin face, is harsher sound and feel.
At $350 a stick, harsh is not an option.
OEMs have taken to injecting foam or other such goo into the heads to dampen vibrations but the trick is to dampen vibrations while still allowing the face to flex. Callaway introduced urethane microspheres with its Rogue irons in 2018.
“Urethane microspheres are hollow spheres suspended in urethane and injected into the head in very specific locations,” explains Hocknell. “As the face flexes (the urethane microspheres) don’t impede the flexibility of the face at all so we get all the ball speed advantages. Post-impact, the very energetic face will want to vibrate and this dampens out those vibrations and enhances the quality feel.”
Callaway Epic MAX Star Irons Specs
While the Epic MAX Star line is designed to be the finder of lost yards for the slow swing-speed golfer, here’s something that will surprise you:
The new lineup has actually weakened lofts. By a lot.
“As we’ve said time and time again, just looking at the numbers on a page doesn’t really describe how the iron performs,” says Hocknell. “You’ve got to look at center of gravity and other factors like offset that will really determine how high the apex of the flight is, particularly in the 5-, 6- and 7-irons.”
For the record, each of those irons is one, two, and four degrees weaker in loft than their respective predecessors. The scoring irons are four to five degrees weaker. Overall loft structure is still game-improvement-y without going overboard, based on a 30-degree 7-iron.
For its finish, Callaway is using what it’s calling a Triple Black Plasma PVD. We’re not entirely sure how that differs from a regular old black PVD finish since physical vapor deposition is basically a plasma gas process anyway. Either way, PVD does tend to get a bit of a bad rap in the industry. You can question its choice for irons labeled “luxury,” and, no, it’s not Diamond Black Metal (DBM), Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) or even Quench-Polish-Quench (QPQ). But it’s not going to wear off after two range sessions, either.
And not for nothing, from the pictures we’ve seen the black and gold coupled with a gold shaft does look pretty sweet.
The Epic MAX Star irons feature ultra-lightweight ATTAS Speed shafts which contribute greatly to the $350-per-stick price tag. UST Mamiya touts the ATTAS Speed as “the perfect combination of ultra-lightweight performance with precise control and feel.”
The lightweight Winn Dri-Tax Lite is the stock grip.
Epic Star MAX Hybrids
Callaway is also leveraging slow swing-speed-targeted A.I. to design the Epic Star MAX hybrids.
“A.I. is coming back with different solutions (for Epic MAX Star) than other Epic models, particularly focusing on improving the torsional stiffness of the head,” says Hocknell. “When you don’t hit the center of the face, it puts a twisting load into the head. We’re counteracting that better.”
The hybrids feature a category-specific A.I.-designed Flash Face Cup combined with Callaway’s Jailbreak A.I. Velocity Blades. The Flash Face Cup provides the flex while Velocity Blades back it up with stiffness.
“We’ve separated the Velocity Blades wider on the head,” says Hocknell. “They don’t interfere with the flexibility of the face but they add vertical stiffness and some stiffness in other directions. So we have a really efficient Face Cup and Jailbreak is making that Face Cup work even harder.”
Each hybrid loft features a unique A.I.-designed Flash Face Cup made from high-strength SS21 maraging steel. And that face is attached to a body that leans heavily toward the fairway wood side of hybrids.
“This one has a cambered leading edge and much more of a fairway wood presentation to the head shape,” says Hocknell. If that sounds a lot like the Epic Super Hybrid released last month, it should.
“It allows us to do certain things as to where we put the weight inside,” says Hocknell. “With split tungsten weighting on the sole in the heel and toe locations, it’s given us a lot of forgiveness and a low center of gravity, making these very easy to launch.”
As with the Epic Star MAX irons, the hybrids feature the ATTAS Speed shaft and the Winn Dri-Tac Lite grip.
Mixing and Matching
If you like options, you’ll love the Epic Star MAX. With four fairway woods, six hybrids (17-degree 3H to a 32-degree 8H for righties; 3H through 6H for lefties), and irons ranging from a 23-degree 5-iron to a 58-degree sand wedge, you can put together any kind of a set you want. Since the hybrids and irons are priced the same, a golfer could go all the way up to an 8H without a price penalty.
Then again, anyone considering a set in excess of $5,000 isn’t all that worried about a price penalty.
“It’s not for everybody but there are pockets of popularity,” says Hocknell. “Florida, Arizona, California, Long Island—these have done extremely well.”
The ultra-premium market is larger than you might think. Visit any private club in the Coachella Valley, Scottsdale or Miami and you’ll see more XXIO, Beres and Epic Star than you ever thought possible. Money is less of a roadblock for the right consumer who wants to make the most of their remaining golf-playing years.
From Day One, both XXIO and Beres were designed specifically for the target demographic. You can’t say the same thing about the Epic Star line, however. From Day One, it appeared simply to be an ultra-light version of Callaway’s latest SGI clubs. The use of A.I. to design Epic Star MAX for the target demographic seems to indicate the line is evolving into its own category.
For more information, visit Callawaygolf.com.