Update (January 17, 2017): Launch monitor data added from #TheWRX, a group of eight GolfWRX Members who visited Callaway HQ to be fit for the GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers.
“We’ve changed pretty much everything with the way we’ve made this driver,” says Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s Senior Vice President of Research and Development. And even a cursory glance reveals that a lot has changed with Callaway’s new GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers.
The GBB Epic
Callaway has been adding carbon fiber to its driver designs for more than a decade, using the material to make lighter and lighter crowns that have steadily improved the performance of new models. This year, the company brought carbon fiber to the soles of its drivers, a shift as dramatic as each driver’s vibrant green highlights. According to Callaway, more than 50 percent of the Epic and Epic Sub Zero drivers are made from carbon fiber.
The marquee technology for both the Epic and Epic Sub Zero, however, is something golfers can’t see. It’s called Jailbreak, a structure of two parallel titanium rods located behind the club face that connect the sole and crown. The rods serve to stiffen the crown and sole so they don’t flex as much at impact, Callaway says, which allows the club face of the drivers to flex more and return more energy to the ball. More energy means more ball speed and more distance, and Callaway is claiming an improvement of up to 2 mph in its player testing.
Because of the added carbon fiber, internal titanium rods and many more changes, Hocknell says it takes twice as many steps and twice as long (roughly 7-10 days) to manufacture the Epic and Epic Sub Zero drivers. The payoff? The structural changes to the Epic improve its total moment of inertia, a measure of ball speed retention on mishits, to an impressive 8000 g/cm². That’s 20 percent higher than the MOI of the Great Big Bertha, the driver the Epic replaces in Callaway’s lineup.
The GBB Epic Sub Zero
The Epic Sub Zero, according to Callaway, is even more forgiving. It has an MOI that’s almost 8500 g/cm², making it a unicorn in today’s driver market. Generally, deeper-face drivers like the Epic Sub Zero are less forgiving than their shallower-face counterparts. Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s Manager of Performance Analysis, says he expects the Epic Sub Zero to be far more popular than Callaway’s Alpha 816 DBD, the driver it replaces in the company’s lineup, because of its added forgiveness, both at retailers and among PGA Tour players.
The biggest difference between the drivers, other than their shaping, is their adjustability systems, which target two distinct groups of golfers.
The Epic has a sliding weight track located on back edge of its sole. It sits lower than it did on the Great Big Bertha, and is also shorter, which helps the driver retain a maximum amount of forgiveness regardless of what setting is used. Even though the track is shorter, its heavier sliding weight (17 grams) actually gives golfers a wider range of draw/fade bias.
Callaway calls the Epic its “most draw-capable driver,” and even in its neutral setting it exhibits a light amount of draw bias. Golfers who don’t fight a slice, however, can easily make the Epic a truly neutral or even a fade-biased driver by moving its sliding weight toward its toe. So if golfers have a one-way miss and want to alleviate it with a driver setting, the Epic is most likely going to be the best new Callaway driver for them.
Those who don’t need help straightening out their trajectory may see better performance from the Epic Sub Zero, which is designed to help golfers squeeze every last yard out of their drives by optimizing launch conditions. It uses two weights — 12 and 2 grams — to allow golfers to move the driver’s center of gravity forward to reduce spin or rearward to improve consistency.
To test the performance of Callaway’s new Epic and Epic Sub Zero drivers, I went to the Ely Callaway Performance Center (Carlsbad, Calif.) to compare them to their predecessors. I hit between 5-10 shots with each driver and tested the GBB Epic Sub Zero in its two settings (heavy-weight forward, or “WF,” and heavy-weight back, or “WB”). Obvious mishits were removed from the data.
Each driver was tested with the same shaft on Trackman 4, and I hit Callaway Chrome Soft (2016) golf balls. To ensure as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, each of the four driver heads was also digitally lofted and weighed prior to the test to make sure each was as close to 9 degrees and a D3 swing weight as possible.
In my testing, the Epic offered the most distance and ball speed of the four drivers tested, but just barely. It produced +0.4 mph more ball speed on average than the Alpha 816 DBD, and +0.3 yards more total distance.
I must admit, I expected to see bigger differences between the Epic, the Epic Sub Zero and the Alpha 816 DBD. After all, the Epic Sub Zero is said to have a whopping 43 percent higher MOI than the Alpha 816 DBD it replaces. Ultimately, the biggest problem with the Epic and the Epic Sub Zero in testing was how well I hit the Alpha 816 DBD. For whatever reason, I rarely missed the screws with the Alpha 816 DBD… and still the Epic edged it.
Both during the testing and my fitting the day prior, I was incredibly impressed with the forgiveness of the Epic. Even mishits approached 170 mph in ball speed, and when they landed they were closer to the target line that I would have predicted from the strike.
My results weren’t quite as good with the Epic Sub Zero, but it was a great driver on the whole for #TheWRX, a group of eight GolfWRX Members who were selected to visit Callaway HQ and be fit for the driver. In their fittings for either an Epic or Epic Sub Zero driver, they saw an average gain of 11.675 yards of total distance (carry + roll) compared to their gamer driver, which is incredible.
See the breakdowns of their Trackman number below.
Related: Full Coverage of #TheWRX
With the Epic Sub Zero, I especially struggled with heavy-weight forward setting, which creates a flatter trajectory that can boost distance for high-spin golfers. Ultimately, the setting did what it was designed to do, lowering spin by nearly 200 rpm compared to the heavy-weight-back setting, matching Callaway’s claims. The bad news; it also lowered my ball speeds and widened my dispersion, which is typical of any driver when CG is moved forward.
Callaway representatives predict the vast majority of golfers who are a fit for the Epic Sub Zero will be better served by its heavy-weight-back setting, which enhances forgiveness. They’ll still be in the minority, however, as Callaway estimates that roughly 70 percent of golfers will be better served by the Epic.
Based on my initial testing, as well as the testing of GolfWRX Members, it’s safe to say that most golfers should see at least the small ball speed gains I did with the Epic or Epic Sub Zero when comparing it to older Callaway drivers. And many will see bigger gains, particularly if they’re coming from a driver that’s two or more years old.
The GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero (both $499.99) will be in stores January 27. Learn more from Callaway’s website.
- Lofts: Epic (9, 10.5, 13HT), Epic Sub Zero (9, 10.5)
- Head Size: Both 460 cubic centimeters
- Stock Length: Both 45.5 inches
- Stock Swing Weight: Epic (D3), Epic Sub Zero (D4)
- Stock Grip: Golf Pride New Decade Platinum
- 40-gram range: MRC Diamana Greenboard (294 grams*)
- 50-gram range: Project X HZRDUS T800 Green (308 grams)
- 60-gram range: Fujikura Pro Green (313 grams)
- 70-gram range: Aldila Rogue Max (323 grams)
* Total weight (with stock head, shaft, grip)
- See what GolfWRX Members are saying about Callaway’s GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers and fairways.
- Callaway’s GBB Epic and Epic Sub Zero Fairway Woods: What you need to know
Members’ Choice: The top-5 drivers that golfers want to test in 2018
Golf’s “off-season” is upon us and the PGAM Show in Orlando is quickly approaching in January, which means it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming driver releases.
We’ve seen a few companies launch their “2018” lines already — such as Cobra with its new King F8 and F8+ — while speculation swirls around the companies who have yet to announce their newest products. For instance, we’ve spotted a new “TaylorMade M4″ driver, and a new “Rogue” driver from Callaway. If history repeats itself and Titleist remains on a two-year product cycle, then we’ll see a replacement for the 917 line sometime in 2018, as well.
The question we posed to our GolfWRX Members recently was, which new or unreleased driver has you most excited heading into 2018? Below are the results and a selection of comments about each driver.
Note: The comments below have been minimally edited for brevity and grammar.
Titleist (7.39 percent of votes)
BDoubleG: I know it’s well down the road, but the Titleist 919 is what I’m most looking forward to. I played the 910 until this year and loved it, but I realized that I wasn’t getting much in the way of distance gains with the 915/917, and I was just leaving too many yards on the table. I know it’s a cliche, but I was seeing considerable gains with my G400LS, then my M2 I have now.
I feel like Titleist has been hurting in the driver market share category (and probably elsewhere), as I think a lot of people think that the 913, 915 and 917 have been minor refreshes in a world where almost everyone else has been experimenting with structure (jailbreak, turbulators) or with COG (spaceports, SLDR, G-series extreme back CG). I think if Titleist is going to recapture some of their market share, they will need to start taking an interest in stepping outside of their comfort zone to catch up with everyone else. Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but a D2-style head with ample forgiveness and low-spin (maybe a back-front weight), with the same great sound of the 917, and hopefully getting rid of the “battery taped to the sole” look would be a huge hit in my book.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with…and I hope I’m not disappointed.
Mizuno GT-180 or otherwise (8.87 percent of votes)
mrmikeac: After thoroughly testing the Mizuno ST-180 and seeing the distance gains I was getting from my Epic, I can’t wait for the GT to get here. Cobra would be next in line for me, but Mizzy really did something special with that JPX-900 and it seems to look like they’re going the same route with these drivers. Excellent feel, forgiveness and simple but effective tech.
Callaway Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero or otherwise (17.73 percent of votes)
cvhookem63: It seems like we’re not getting a lot of “NEW” this time — just some same lines “improved” on a little. I’m interested to try the Rogue line and M3/M4 line to see if they improved on their previous models. The Cobra F8+ is intriguing to me, as well. I’d like to compare those three to see how they stack up.
tj7644: Callaway Rogue. It’s gotta make me hit straighter drives right? It sure can’t be my swing…
Equipto: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero, and that’s about it. Most of my testing will be with shafts I presume.
bangabain: Excited to give the Rogue a shot, although with the hope that there’s a little more fade bias despite the lack of sliding weight.
TaylorMade M3, M4 or otherwise (27.09 percent of votes)
DeCuchi: TaylorMade M3 of course, and the F8+. I’m more interested in the fairways this year though. TaylorMade M4 fairways and Rogue fairways are top of my list.
elwhippy: TaylorMade M3 and M4. Not owned a TM driver for several seasons and want something with a bit more power than the Ping G Series…
cradd10: M3. Still rocking an OG M1. Super solid driver. Curious to see if the updated version can beat it.
Cobra F8/F8+ (33.66 percent of votes)
WAxORxDCxSC: I sure want to like the F8 based on looks (I understand I’m possibly in the minority on that one at GolfWRX).
TWshoot67: For me, it’s three drivers: the Cobra F8, F8+ and TM M4.
The General: Cobra F8 is going to dominate everything, just wait, on the F8
Ace2000: Definitely F8/F8+. Love my Bio Cell+ and can’t help but wonder if these perform as good as they look.
True Linkswear goes back to its spikeless roots
True Linkswear is getting back to its roots, while expanding the singular golf shoe brand’s reach at the same time.
The Tacoma, Washington, company’s Director/Partner, Justin Turner, told us that with the release of the two new models, the company is course-correcting from a move toward the mainstream, spiked golf shoes, and a loss of identity.
In addition to durability issues, Turner said the core True Linkswear customer didn’t appreciate the shift — or the deluge of models that followed.
So, in a sense, the two-model lineup both throws a bone to True devotees and casts a wider net.
Turner and company asked: “If we wanted to restart the brand….what would we value?” A commitment to the brand’s core outsider identity, style as articulated in early models, and an emphasis on quality led Turner on multiple trips to China to survey suppliers in early 2017. Eventually, the company settled on a manufacturing partner with a background in outdoor gear and hiking shoes.
“We’ve spent the last few years scouring the globe for the best material sourcing, reputable factories, advanced construction techniques, and time-tested fundamentals to build our best shoes yet. No cheap synthetics, no corners cut.”
Eventually, True settled on two designs: The Original, which, not surprisingly, has much in common with the zero-drop 2009 industry disrupting model, and the Outsider: a more athletic-style shoe positioned to attract a broader audience.
True Linkswear Original: $149
The company emphasizes the similarity in feel between the Original and early True Linkswear models, suggesting that players will feel and connect to the course “in a whole new way.”
- Gray, White, Black
- Waterproof full grain leather
2-year waterproof guarantee
- thin sole with classic True zero-drop heel
- 12.1 oz
- Sockfit liner for comfort
- Natural width box toe
True Linkswear Outsider: $169
With the Outsider, True Linkswear asked: “What if a golf shoe could be more? Look natural in more environments?”
- Grey/navy, black, white colorways
- EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning
- Full grain waterproof leather
- 13.1 oz (thicker midsole than the Original)
The company envisions both shoes being worn on course and off.
True Linkswear introduced the more durable and better-performing Cross Life Tread with both models. Turner says the tread is so good, you can wear the shoes hiking.
Both models are available now through the company website only. True Linkswear plans to enter retail shops slowly and selectively.
Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker’s Winning WITBs from the 2017 QBE Shootout
The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair closed the QBE Shootout with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot win over Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. O’Hair made a timely eagle on the par-5 17th hole at Tiburon Golf Club to lock up the first place prize of $820,000 ($410,000 each).
Here’s a look at their bags.
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White Prototype 60TX
3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Limited Edition 70TX
5 Wood: Titleist 915F (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 80TX
Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4-iron), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 prototype (50, 54 and 58 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Putter: Scotty Cameron prototype
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Related: Sean O’Hair WITB
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 8.2X
3 Wood: Titleist 915F (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 80TX Prototype
Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (17.0 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2X
Irons: Titleist 718 CB (3-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour Prototype
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (46, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 w/ Sensicore
Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Related: Steve Stricker WITB 2017
Note: We originally reported Stricker had a Scotty Cameron putter in the bag, per Titleist’s equipment report. Stricker did, however, have a Odyssey White Hot putter in play during the final round of the QBE Shootout.
Spotted: A TaylorMade “M4” driver (via Instagram)
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