In 2017, Callaway released the Epic (and Epic Pro) irons, which served as a working parking lot for what SVP of R&D, Dr. Alan Hocknell, termed concept-car technology. Building upon the unquestioned success of its Epic metalwoods family, Callaway took its best shot at crafting an iron where the price ($250/head) was sure to ruffle some feathers, but a robust list of proven technologies seemed to justify the price tag.
It’s also fair to assert the first Epic iron was, in part, a response from Callaway to the success of PXG’s 0311 family of irons and like other major OEMs, Callaway felt it prudent to offer, what was on paper, a competing product.
Epic wasn’t perfect, but it was a start. Admittedly, it slightly missed the intended mark (most notably in the sound/feel department), but in all fairness, the first-generation of any product isn’t likely to be as polished as a second, or third iteration. That’s the reality of evolutionary design – it gets a little better each year, and the earliest adopters accept the risk of missing out on possible future improvements. Replacing a set of irons isn’t equivalent to buying a new vehicle, but at $2400 for a set of 3-PW, it isn’t chump change either.
EPIC GETS FORGED
With the 2019 Epic Forged Iron, Callaway has altered the roadmap slightly, though the destination is largely the same. This time around, (so far) there isn’t a pro version, which makes sense given the popularity and sustained success of the Apex/Apex Pro line, which targets the more accomplished ball striker. But more importantly, Callaway is changing how it combines various technologies to achieve what it calls Ultra-premium forged distance. The original Epic iron utilized an Exo Cage construction and stiffening internal design features which approximated Jailbreak technology, which was the all the rage with the first Epic driver.
This time around, and perhaps ironically, the Epic Forged iron technology story is actually closer to the Rogue/RogueX irons than it is any of the current Epic Flash pieces of equipment. Though it’s semantics and ultimately might not matter, for many Epic has become synonymous with Jailbreak technology which does not exist in the Epic Forged irons. Instead, the tech story centers around urethane microspheres and a Suspended Tungsten Core, which is just as cool as it sounds, if not more so.
You’re likely to comment on it, so let’s get it out of the way. Epic Forged is expensive. At $300/club, it’s at the very top end of the mainstream retail market, and best practice is to accept that fact and move on remembering higher-priced options do not preclude the existence of lower-priced alternatives.
Callaway believes Epic Forged is worth the price of admission, and its curb appeal is a positive first step. If you’re paying $2400 for a set of irons, you want it to look like a $2400 set of irons and this time around, Callaway clearly put significant effort into ensuring even the most discerning consumers would get the Damn, those look expensive glare from the Saturday morning 4-ball. Let’s move on.
The technology story of Epic Forged irons is really about the convergence of multiple technologies coming together in a single space, and Callaway’s efforts to maximize the impact of each different material.
It starts with a cast 17-4 stainless steel Face Cup laser welded to a 1025 forged carbon steel body. In between these two pieces, sits a suspended tungsten core and proprietary urethane microspheres. The density of tungsten makes it an ideal material to alter CG location and thus change launch angle/spin rates, but the densest forms of tungsten can’t be welded to steel, which is the traditional manufacturing technique. To solve this problem, Callaway injected urethane microspheres (more plasticky goo) in liquid form into the hollow cavity, which when hardened surround and fix the tungsten core in a precise position. The Suspended Tungsten Core allows Callaway to move as much weight as it can low/rear in the clubhead, where the primary objective is to increase launch and boost heel-toe MOI (forgiveness).
As mentioned, Callaway received less than glowing feedback regarding the sound/feel of the first Epic iron, and if it is going to attach adjectives like super-premium to Epic Forged, Callaway can’t afford similar missteps. To that end, it’s using the aforementioned urethane microspheres which played an integral role in the 2018 Rogue/Rogue X iron story. Essentially, this material is a malleable plastic with microscopic glass spheres, which give it a porous quality. The function of the material is to dampen unwanted vibrations at impact, thus softening the overall feel, without diminishing ball speeds.
An updated 360 Face Cup works in concert with modified Spin Control VFT (variable face thickness) to generate higher ball speeds while maintaining more consistent and playable spin rates throughout the bag. To aid this effort, Callaway utilizes a 1025 forged face in the approach, gap, and sand wedges.
It’s a reality that in the GI/SGI iron space, distance is often the first consideration for a potential buyer. Distance is a valid selling point and one which speaks directly to the male ego, but distance alone doesn’t decrease scores. The inherent challenge of stronger-loft irons (and with a 41° PW, Epic Forged is sufficiently loft-jacked) is to balance distance gains with enough spin and launch to hold firm greens. Callaway understands the necessity of responsible loft-jacking, though we’ll need to wait until we have product in-hand to see if Epic Forged deserves a passing grade.
Finally, Epic Forged gives us a little twist on the standard cast vs. forged debate. Without diving too deep into the weeds, consider that Epic Forged has a forged body, but a cast face which is what actually makes contact with the ball. It’s reasonable to think that golfers attracted to the forged messaging believe that forged irons feel better (which is certainly debatable), but if the face is cast, how much can a forged body contribute to improved feel?
Specs, Availability, and Pricing
While you’re pondering that little nugget, note Epic Forged will be available in both RH and LH and comes stock with Aerotech Steelfiber FC or Mitsubishi Tensei AV Silver shafts and Golf Pride Tour Velvet Grips. A full menu of no upcharge custom shafts is also available.
Full retail availability begins 8/2/19.
The retail price for Epic Forged irons is $300 each.
For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com
EPIC FLASH HYBRIDS
This time around Callaway is placing the hybrid and iron releases side by side, whereas the first-generation Epic hybrid came attached to the Epic fairway wood and driver models. Regardless of the approach, hybrids tend to get lost in the product release shuffle because frankly, it can tough to get consumers excited about clubs which tend to lack a uniform identity. C’est la vie.
That said, the 2019 Epic Flash hybrid is a feature-rich offering with technology on par with the rest of the Epic Flash line of equipment.
The Epic Flash hybrid is positioned in between the more workable and lower-launching Apex hybrid and the larger, more forgiving Big Bertha model. Like the Epic Forged irons, it targets the avid, mid-handicap player who could benefit from a little more distance and forgiveness than what any long-iron can reasonably offer.
As such, the Epic Flash hybrid is a simple story of saving weight and redistributing it to increase forgiveness, launch angle, and ball speed. It may sound simplistic, but saving weight is akin to lowering your handicap. It becomes exponentially more difficult the more progress you make. Furthermore, it’s not that the goal is to make the entire club lighter, but to remove weight from one area to place it in another, where it can be used to optimize performance.
With that, Callaway worked to access as much discretionary weight as possible which is then used to create several MIM (metal-injection molded) tungsten weights, one of which is visible on the outside of the club and the other which sits low/deep inside the rear portion of the clubhead. To create this cache of weight, Callaway redesigned the adjustable Optifit 3 hosel (saving 13 grams) and fashioned a new crown out of a proprietary triaxial carbon fabric (T2C), the total weight of which is less than five grams.
The net result is 80-90 grams of moveable weight, which is a substantial number given that the total head weight isn’t much more than twice that amount.
The external MIM weight, which resembles a moveable weight, but is actually fixed, gives club fitters a simple way to modify swingweight as needed. The second MIM tungsten weight sits low and deep in the clubhead to, as per usual, increase MOI and launch. Keep in mind, the target audience of the Epic Flash hybrid is roughly the game-improvement player as the Epic Forged irons (6-20 HC range).
Topping things off, the Epic Flash hybrid retains the signature Callaway Jailbreak Technology, which features two vertical bars to stiffen the body and place more load on the thin 455 Carpenter Steel face. Callaway isn’t officially making any distance claims with the Epic Flash hybrid, but suffice it to say, it should as long as it reasonably needs to be.
Specs, Availability, and Pricing
The Epic Flash hybrid will be available in 3h (18°), 4h (21°), 5h (24°), and 6h (27°). All but the 6h are available in both right and left-handed.
The stock shaft is Mitsubishi Tensei AV Silver which has a mid-launch, mid-spin profile and comes in A, R and S flex.
As with the Epic Forged irons, the Epic Flash hybrids will be available at retail on 8/2/19 at a retail price of $300/club.
For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com