- Callaway is releasing three new Epic drivers: Epic Speed, Epic Max and Epic Max LS.
- The Speed and Max build on the previous generation while Max LS is something new entirely.
- Retail price is $529.99. Retail availability begins Feb. 18.
With every release, Callaway likes to call our attention to a first. Epic Speed, Epic Max and Epic Max LS drivers are the result of the FIRST time that AI has been used to design Callaway’s AI face and Jailbreak technology concurrently.
As you may know, for the last several generations of products, Callaway has leveraged a farm’s worth of supercomputers, artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate its design objectives.
While most manufacturers use some flavor of supercomputing, Callaway believes nobody else is using AI to the extent it is nor is it playing as prevalent a role in what ultimately comes to market.
Callaway Epic Drivers – AI Speed Frame
This time around, the defining feature created (at least in part) by the machine is what Callaway has branded AI Speed Frame. Speed Frame builds upon both AI Speed Face and Jailbreak technology by further stiffening the connection between crown and sole and adding more contact points to create additional horizontal and torsional stiffness.
It’s a hard value to quantify in absolute terms but saying the new design reduces crown deflection by 20 percent would put you within a reasonable ballpark.
Basically, the AI Speed Frame design tightens internal connection points which results in less energy lost to deflection and more energy returned to the ball.
Short version: More speed. There’s always more speed.
No, It’s Not Green
As an aside, you may have seen images of the AI Speed Frame on Callaway’s social media channels. While the bright green thing Callaway staffers are holding up is a reasonable representation of the technology, the actual AI Speed Frame is fixed into the head during the casting process. There’s definitely a bit of manufacturing ingenuity involved but it’s worth mentioning that production versions of the AI Speed Frame are made of titanium and aren’t green.
Callaway Epic Drivers – Three Models
As become standard for Callaway and nearly everyone else, there are three models in the Callaway lineup. Differences in movable weight technologies aside, two of the three aren’t significantly different than what we saw in last year’s Mavrik line.
The third – the Epic Max LS – is a fairly significant departure from what Callaway has done over the last several iterations. It’s not what I expected from Callaway and that makes it all the more intriguing.
Here’s the breakdown of the three models.
Callaway Epic Speed Driver
The quick version of the story is that the Callaway Epic Speed driver is the fastest in the 2021 lineup. There are a couple of ways to consider fast and either provides adequate justification for the claim.
Callaway Epic Speed – Cyclone Shape
The first angle is that Epic Speed, which is built on the cyclone shape we saw with last year’s Mavrik, is the most aerodynamically advanced of the three models and, therefore, should produce the highest swing speeds.
Your refresher on the cyclone design is that it creates a bit of an anti-SpeedBack (COBRA) anti-Inertia Generator (TaylorMade) look. The crown is taller and flatter and the transition from the sole to the tailing edge of the crown is more aggressive than we see in traditional driver shapes.
Callaway says the end result is lower drag during the downswing to the tune of .8-1.5 mph relative to Epic Flash. Faster players might get more, slower players will get less. As always, your actual mileage may vary.
The second angle is ball speed. A more forward CG typically means faster peak ball speed and since Epic Speed has the most forward center of gravity of the three new Epic drivers, it should be a tick faster than the others.
Epic Speed Forgiveness
By conventional metrics, Epic Speed could be considered unforgiving but, as was the case with Mavrik, Callaway maintains that forgiveness in the Epic Speed driver comes from AI Face design and the spin robustness (consistency) provided by the more forward center of gravity.
The thinking has merit. As centers of gravity move back, you get more ball speed robustness. As they move forward, you get better spin robustness. Depending on the golfer, one may be more effective at preserving distance than the other.
Despite the somewhat unusual shape, a slight draw bias and the most forward center of gravity in the 2021 Epic lineup, the Epic Speed should prove to be the best fit for the majority of golfers.
The Callaway Epic Speed is available in nine, 10.5 and 12 degrees of loft.
Callaway Epic MAX
Of the new Callaway Epic drivers, the Epic Max is perhaps the easiest to explain. Relative to the other two Epic models, the Epic Max offers the highest MOI. It’s forgiving in the most conventional sense.
Like TaylorMade and Titleist, Callaway’s design philosophy doesn’t involve chasing MOI to the greatest extent possible. Callaway believes there’s a point of diminishing returns at which the ball speed penalty isn’t worth paying.
In practical terms, Epic MAX won’t have the highest MOI on the market but it should be forgiving-enough. “We like where we’re at,” says Alan Hockenell, VP of R&D for Callaway Golf.
Where they’re at is a front-to-back MOI in the mid-5,000s and a combined MOI over 9,000. It’s not PING but it reasonably qualifies as a mid-to-high level of conventional forgiveness.
Again, so much of these types of conversations are rooted in design philosophies at the brand level. There isn’t a clear right or wrong, just a company position. Within that context, Callaway is where it wants to be right now.
Callaway Epic Max – Movable Weight
The Epic Max features Callaway’s sliding weight track. That adds a fair amount of intuitive and demonstrable shot-shaping capabilities to the design. The 17-gram weight allows for upwards of 16 yards of shot-shape correction.
It’s not the same level of correction you might find from a dedicated draw-bias club but it does make the Callaway Epic Max a viable option for the golfer who has a slice and is trying to correct it.
Draw bias now, neutral later. That sort of thing.
The Callaway Epic Max is available in nine, 10.5 and 12 degrees.
Callaway Epic MAX LS Driver
That brings to the Epic MAX LS which might not be what you’re expecting from Callaway. It certainly caught me by surprise.
As you’ve no doubt surmised, the LS does, in fact, stand for Low Spin, but don’t take that to mean the Epic Max LS is this year’s version of the Sub Zero.
LS is a relative term. The Epic Max LS is low spin relative to the Epic Max but should generate appreciably more spin than Mavrik Sub Zero did. In fact, if you’re looking for a new Callaway driver that offers launch and spin characteristics on par with last year’s Sub Zero, your best bet is to buy the Epic Speed and turn loft down by one degree.
Let me say it again. LS ain’t SZ.
Epic Max LS – A New Generation of Low Spin
Sub Zero and similar competitive designs were born of what Hocknell describes as a “launch and spin Olympics” among manufacturers. What arguably started with the TaylorMade SLDR, Loft Up and 17°/1700 RPM evolved into an annual low spin competition. Before long, nearly everyone had a driver that flirted with the idea of topspin at launch.
I’m exaggerating a bit but I think its fair to say the majority of manufacturers offered something to spin just a tick more than a Tim Wakefield knuckleball.
Low Spin Isn’t a Thing On Tour
The quest for low spin hasn’t played out to the same extent on the PGA TOUR. Since 2008, average spin rates have averaged around 2,600 rpm and have never dipped below 2,500.
Low spin has never been an obsession across the Tour and while Epic Max LS acknowledges that reality, it’s also designed to meet the needs of the next generation of Tour player. With the emergence of launch monitors and a better understanding of how to optimize distance, coaching has evolved. Some would say for the better.
There are no universal truths but more golfers are hitting up on the ball, paths are zeroing out (becoming more neutral) and fewer elite golfers are trying to work the ball from one side of the fairway to the other.
The Callaway Epic Max LS is designed to meet the needs of these younger Tour players, elite amateurs and anyone else who is, by some measure, trying to remove the golf club from the equation.
What does that mean?
The Epic Max LS was designed to be as neutral as it can be. The face isn’t a little open or a little closed. It’s not meant to be slightly draw-biased or slightly fade-biased. The center of gravity is more closely aligned with the center of the face.
For all intents and purposes, the Epic Max LS is designed to get out of the way, not offer any specific protections (above and beyond the standard mishit stuff), not enhance anything and not kill all the spin. The idea is to bring the full suite of Callaway technology to the table but otherwise just be.
Let the golfer do the rest.
Whether you want to hit a little fade or a little draw, the Epic Max LS is designed to let you do what you do without getting in the way.
Lower spin by comparison. Neutral by design.
Callaway Epic Max LS – Forgiveness
Because the Epic Max LS is way more Max than it is Sub Zero, that conventional forgiveness number (MOI) is higher than you might expect. Callaway says total MOI is above 8,400 and I’d project a front-to-back number in the high 4,000s to low 5,000s depending on the weight setting.
If you’re looking for a market comparison, it’s a compelling one. The closest comp you’re likely to find is the PING G425 LST.
Epic Max LS – Movable Weight (If You Want It)
Neutral though it may be, shot shape correction (a little bit of draw or a little fade) is provided by the 13-gram sliding weight at the back of the club.
For some golfers, the Epic Max LS will be the lowest spinning of the three new Epic drivers. For others, it will be the Epic Speed. It really boils down to the CG location differences, how you deliver the club and how you make impact.
The Callaway Epic Max LS is available in nine and 10.5 degrees.
Callaway Epic Drivers – Stock Shafts
The stock shaft offerings for the Callaway Epic Driver lineup:
- Callaway Epic Speed driver: Project X Cypher (40 grams), HZRDUS Smoke IM10 (50 and 60 grams)
- Epic MAX driver: Project X Cypher (40 grams), HZRDUS Smoke IM10 (50 and 60 grams)
- Epic MAX LS driver: Mitsubishi MMT (60 and 70 grams)
Retail price for all Callaway Epic drivers is $529.99. Full availability begins Feb. 18.
For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com.