It appears Callaway is getting closer to launching its next round of drivers. The 2018 Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero drivers have made an appearance on the USGA conforming list.

Notable, I suppose, is that the standard model appears to lack the track weighting system of the Epic, while the Sub Zero variant retains the front/back weighting that has become the signature of the Sub Zero franchise.

The rest of the story, we assume, will be boilerplate Callaway; regular Rogue for the masses, Sub Zero for the faster swinger with a steeper angle of attack.

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What We're hearing

Sources who have seen the new clubs are telling us that Rogue will not be a replacement for the current Epic. This part of the story certainly aligns with the current Callaway strategy. For all the talk of too many releases, the reality is that Callaway has shifted most (and if Epic holds, we can argue ALL) of its lineup to minimum 18-month lifecycles. Consider the Apex iron, which is now over 2-years on the market.

The timing is right for a new XR, but we're hearing Rogue isn't that. While Callaway marketing will offer the definitive word, our sources have told us that Rogue is (supposedly/allegedly) better in every way than Epic.

If that makes it Epic-IER, sign me up.

As I've heard it, Rogue features a number of enhancements that didn't make it into the original Epic. As the story always goes, another year of R&D gets you a better driver.

How Callaway reconciles the notion of better (assuming that's the play) with a 2017 Epic that remains on the shelves should prove interesting. It could be as simple as dropping the price on the 2017 model and sliding Rogue in its place at $500. It could keep Epic at $500 and offer Rogue at $700 (an odd play for a mass market driver), or Callaway could take an entirely different approach.

I'd wager on the first but would love to be surprised by option 3.

On a related note, multiple sources have told us that the Rogue fairways and hybrids are nothing less than exceptional. Both will have glued hosels, and while that can be a cost-cutting decision, for many brands, it saves weight and lowers the center of mass compared to an equivalent adjustable version. This is potentially significant for Callaway as it has among the heaviest adapters in the industry.

The Retail Challenge

The challenge for Callaway will come in trying to retain (and grow) its market share in the 2nd year of the Epic franchise. TaylorMade has M3 and M4 in the pipeline and an apparently healthy Tiger Woods playing its clubs (though getting the notoriously difficult Tiger to switch to a new model could prove challenging). PING's G400 is strong, and Cobra will be looking to regain a bit of what it lost this season. Owning the driver market won't be quite as easy in 2018.

Expect the fairways and hybrids to be a larger part of the story (and a key part of the strategy to maintain a leadership position in the metalwoods category), but don't discount Callaway's ability to generate fresh buzz for an Epic-IER driver either.

More details to follow, likely soon.