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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chip Brewer, Callaway Golf’s CEO, started the company’s first quarter conference call earlier this month to Wall Street with an apology. “Let me apologize for this in advance, but I can't resist it. I believe it's fair to say that Q1 2017 was an EPIC quarter for our company.” Brewer said its EPIC driver fueled the company’s financial results in the reporting period. Pun aside, he added later, “I think once and we're all done,” referencing the temptation to use the epic tagline again.

While the pun might be considered one and done, that isn’t the case for Callaway in terms of branching out on the EPIC platform. When Brewer came to Callaway in February of 2012, he challenged Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s head of R&D, to create his “dream iron” ? the iron Doc Hoc would design for himself. As the story goes, the new CEO imposed no limit on time, materials or cost. Sounds a little along the path of PXG, doesn’t it? According to Callaway, more than 70 people were enlisted to help determine what was needed and how to create it. Engineers, metallurgists, industrial designers, Tour pros, professional club fitters; all took part in conceptualizing, developing, refining, and testing.

epicironNo stone was unturned, as they say, in an effort to eke out a superior and more pleasing combination of distance, control, forgiveness and feel. The result is the Epic and Epic Pro irons, both promising the best performance package in an iron in Callaway’s illustrious history.

Callaway reported the Epic iron has an ultra-thin, ultra-fast face that is turbocharged by an improved 360 Face Cup architecture that reduces the rim thickness to 1mm at its thinnest point. That allows the rim to flex more readily, consistently and at greater speed. That increases ball speed for more distance, and gives more ball speed on impact toward the toe, toward the heel, high up and especially down low ? the most common place where mis-hits occur. 

Inside the head, fundamental changes were made to Callaway’s Internal Standing Wave technology, a weighting method that affects launch, spin and feel. In simple terms, the ISW is a flat, asymmetrically shaped piece of metal that helps pinpoint CG location to promote optimum launch and spin in each head, and helps control vibration to promote unique feel. In this case, ISW consists of a specially shaped piece of MIM’ed tungsten. MIM’ed stands for Metal-Injected Molding, an injecting-molding process that uses finely powdered metal to create intricately shaped parts with tremendous precision.

Parts spend up to 41 hours of furnace-time at temperatures up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit to fuse the powder into a solid piece. MIM’ed tungsten allows a new combination of size, shape and weight for the ISW, allowing Callaway to precisely position the CG location differently in each individual iron. Extremely low in the long-irons to promote easier launch and high, long flight; and progressively higher as loft increases to promote a lower flight in the short-irons for added control; and a balance of easy launch and control in the middle-irons, according to the company.

Callaway said it made equally significant improvements to the clubhead’s Exo-Cage construction. (This is the second Callaway iron to employ Exo-Cage. The first, Big Bertha OS) In Epic, the company incorporated a high-grade steel structure into the center of the cavity to add strength and stiffens the body, especially the topline and sole, so that the face can take on more impact load. The term for this is “energy lensing.” In Epic irons, energy lensing raises the efficiency level of the face to promote faster ball speed and distance. That, combined with face thicknesses finished to a tolerance of 1/1000th of an inch, according to the company, helped Callaway to elevate the COR right up close to USGA limit of .830 COR in the 3-iron through 7-iron. It’s the first time Callaway said it had so many irons in a single set bump up epichybridagainst the COR limit.

The Epic Pro irons share all the same material and technological advancements, but in a more compact head with a thinner topline and sole and less offset -- qualities that make it slightly less forgiving but significantly more workable, a trade many better players are willing to make. That said, Epic Pro, according to the company, boasts Callaway’s best-ever overall performance package of distance, workability and forgiveness in a player’s iron.

Given the level of detail and costs involved in the creation of the Epic and Epic Pro, you likely have come to the conclusion that it has been passed on to the consumer. You would be correct. The irons debut at retail on June 16th at a cost of $250 per club (steel), $280 (graphite).

Epic isn’t finished with the irons. It also will be available in a hybrid. The Epic hybrid incorporates a crown consisting of Callaway’s proprietary triaxial carbon composite material. Used in its GBB Epic driver and fairway woods, triaxial carbon is the thinnest and lightest composite material the company has ever used. The weight it saves is redistributed into strategic locations within the head to increase MOI and lower the CG.

During development Callaway said it studied and tested a variety of new ways to enhance launch and trajectory, and succeeded by incorporating MIM’ed tungsten into its Internal Standing Wave technology. (MIM stands for Metal-Injected-Molding, an injecting molding process using finely powdered metal to create intricately shaped parts with precision.) The precise shape and weight of this MIM’ed tungsten piece (1.8x heavier than steel, according to the company) allowed it to achieve the specific mass property goals necessary to raise this hybrid’s high forgiveness and easy launch characteristics to the next level.

Epic hybrids are equipped with UST’s new Recoil 760 ion?plated graphite shaft engineered to promote great feel, long distance and tighter dispersion. The Epic hybrid (also at retail starting June 16th) is available 2H-5H at $279.99 each.


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