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

GBB_Epic_Hero

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.

Epic_Triaxial_Carbon
The Epic drivers use carbon fiber inserts on the crown and sole, which improve their forgiveness.

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.

Epic_bars
Jailbreak Technology: Two titanium bars located behind the club face stiffen the crown and sole of the Epic drivers to make the club faces more flexible and improve ball speeds.

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

GBB_Epic_Sub_Zero_Hero

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.

GBB_Epic_Comparison_Address_Drivers

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.

GBB_Epic_Slider

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.

GBB_Epic_Sub_Zero_WEights
Most golfers will get better performance from the Epic Sub Zero driver with its 12-gram weight positioned in the back of the driver head.

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.

The Test

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.

Epic_Speed_Step_Crown
Callaway’s Epic and Epic Sub Zero drivers have 3D-printed “Steep Steps” on their crowns, which improve club head aerodynamics for faster swing speeds.

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.

The Results

CallyDrivers2017

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.

GBB_Epic_Sub_Zero_Hero_2

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.

#TheWRX Results

TeamWRX_Epic2017.001 copy

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.

GBB_Epic_Sub_Zero_Weights_2

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.

The Takeaway

GBB_Epic_Headcover

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.  

Specs

GBB_Epic_Specs

  • 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

Shafts

GBB_Epic_Shafts

  • 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)

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77 COMMENTS

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  1. Hit these both last night with shafts that were available and was carrying a minimum of 20 yards further than M1 and M2 (2016, and 2017), 917 D2, 917 D3, Cobra F7, F7+. Now I just have to see how it matches up head to head with my 816 DBD although I already think I know. LOL

  2. Great information Zak.

    I just bought a brand new BB Alpha 816 DBD and I hit it in the center of the face with great results. I’m glad to know that the EPIC is just as good.

    Is it possible that the reason could be that the 816DBD has two tubes that connect the sole and the top of the head and have the same effect that the EPIC’s rods?

    Thank you for your review.

  3. I will be getting fit for one in the next week! I’m interested in seeing how much better it is than my razr extreme 8.5. Getting fit on a open range with trackman. Wish I could take sub zero down to 7. Any how I’m interested in seeing the difference from a $50 club bought used two years ago to the latest and greatest, same color, EPIC price, bar setter.

    • So I had my fitting. The standard EPIC I could swing faster so I got better numbers than subzero. In comparison to my RAZR Extreme not much of a difference honestly. For the money the win goes to the RAZR Extreme. I flew a few 270 carry under 2k spin which was better, only just. Subzero felt little dull/heavy for my 105-8 swing speed but I’m sure faster swingers will hit it further than standard. Can’t wait to play the EPIC see if it gets better on the course.

  4. Maybe you should try and launch the ball higher and see what happens. It doesn’t seem like you have optimized your launch so the numbers don’t make a lot of sense.

    • The most important thing in a comparison is consistency…

      …and he was hitting all clubs obviously very consistent, with about the same numbers in regard of launch.

      Thus, I consider this a good comparison.

      However, he could achieve considerably more carry (for ALL drivers!) , if he would use a positive AoA…
      …but if this causes inconsistency within his swing – then to do this would not make a lot of sense.

      So, if all is said and done, he did his best for consistency – which means, he did his best for a fair comparison…

      …and this is what I like to see.

      • Duh. If I shoot a gun at the ground does that tell you anything? This was a terrible review. rick shiels is carrying it over 300y with a +aoa and his mind was blown. Hit the club properly not safely.

  5. Let the “Epic” propaganda begin. Now that Rory and some new players are on board Cally just need to roll in the cash. Callaway begins to have a bad reputation in their product cycle I don’t even see from TM.

    • For me it did, KK, but many testers are seeing lower spin from the Sub Zero. Make sure to hit them both and see what works better. It’s not necessarily skill or speed dependent.

  6. Zak, how about a REAL LIFE test? You know, out to the range, hit it, measure distance with a laser or tape, dispersion,,,, even better!! a playing test, go out play 18 and see how it performs under real world situations! How much better is it than your old driver? And if you want to go rouge, give honest opinion weather its worth the money. This phrase “particularly if they’re coming from a driver that’s two or more years old.” could have easily been ” If your driver is less than two years old, don’t think it will be worth it for you”,,,

  7. Hit the Epic SZ today at a local Ma/Pa golf shop. Sounds great. Performance not better than the DBD from last year. It’s a good club but not revolutionary like they want us to think.

    • It is safe to say with the R&A and USGA rules all we are going to see is a constant change in bells and Whistles.. 2% improvement is a clubs performance is only important to about 2% of of the golfing world at least 98% of us are just buying a club for the pleasure of it. (which of course is OK if it makes you happy). A $499 driver at best will take a 16 to a 15 handicap and half that point is in his or her head having a new driver.

  8. Seems like we have reached a bit of a limit on ball speeds and ave distance….

    Just saw a new 816 DBD with a Rouge Silver yesterday for €220….clearance of the model to make way for the new Epic, which seems anything but Epic!!

    I know where I will be heading on Saturday morning with €220…..

  9. Zak……… dude, you have 170 ball speeds yet you hit a 9 degree head to 7 degree launch? Stop hitting down on it so much, man! You’re wasting so much effort.
    With that speed, you should dial it down to 8 and launch it at 17 degrees and hit it to 330.
    Learn to hit up on it, dude.
    That’s why you should stop being the initial tester on here. You’re just confusing people and making them feel very disappointed.

    • Nd,

      I appreciate your suggestion. Since we only published the ball data, I went back and looked at my average angle of attack with the GBB Epic. It was -2.4 degrees. According to Trackman, that’s much closer to the average AoA on the PGA Tour (-1.5 degrees) and average AoA for bogey golfers (-2.1 degrees) than what you’re suggesting.

      We’re always looking to improve our reviews with more testers and different kinds of testers, and you can read about the multiple fittings of GolfWRX Members as part of #TheWRX contest here: http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/1417466-thewrx-christmas-comes-early-at-callaway-golf-8-members-are-treated-to-thewrx/

      I do know how to swing up with a driver, too!

      • Lets see it. Set the thing to 8 degrees neutral, AoA to 6 to 8 up, and get the spin down under 2000. And why did they make you use the Chrome Soft? They should have at least given you the Chrome Soft X!

      • Zak, seriously, you did not try to get the most out of the driver. i’m not great but i have positive launch and ave. 290 wz the gbb. i changed my thumbs up to a shank.

        • As soon as he treats all the clubs the same, it is a good comparison…
          …and it seems, that he treated all the clubs the same.

          If he would hit some with a positive AoA and others not,
          it would not be a fair comparison.

          However, I also wonder why a lot of people have a negative AoA…
          …and therefore don´t get the most (distance) out of their drives.

      • There have been plenty of articles written on the subject of AoA and a lot of tour pros hit down on it because they need the spin to help them find fairways (most already hit the ball long enough). That’s why those same articles recommend following the examples of LPGA players because their slower swing speeds force them to have a + AoA for maximum distance.

  10. I think people are skipping the article and just reading the numbers. If I can get the same performance on slight misses that I got from middled 816 DBD swings I will take that all day.

    It seems the more you hit the center the less you gain from this driver, but even pros have misses. For your average weekend golfer this could make a big difference.

  11. I’m not going to get “troll’ish” here. Simply put I don’t care for the look. I don’t like the lime green, I don’t care for the look of carbon fiber like the “racer-boy” Suburu WRX kiddos. I don’t like the name., nor the head cover. And I think Harry Arnet hurts to company with his PT Barnum persona. This won’t be in my golf bag regardless of performance. There are plenty of amazing drivers out there.

    • Very little discussion on the fact that this club has an unpleasant sound upon striking. I personally couldn’t get past it. This has been a constant problem for me when hitting carbon fiber clubs, not just from Callaway. Is it just me or have other Epic testers noticed the same? Even though I noticed some distance gain on range (<5 yds), it's a deal breaker for me.

  12. Here we go again with nothing more than marketing hype and a $500 price tag for a driver that will generate no performance improvement compared to the 816 DBD, which you can now buy for much less. Save yourself a bucket of money and go buy a driver from 2015/16 or (better yet) go invest in lessons with a golf pro.

    • Better still, buy a club that’s 3 to 5 years old to really save money and only loose maybe 5-10 yards compared to the latest. The gains are too small to pay so much for. I play with a driver from around 2007 (TM Burner) and it is better/as good as my mates’ newer ones.

      Nearly stopped reading with the statement “we changed everything”. Really, again? Was the previous crap then?

  13. Though I will admit, like the rest of you, I was expecting better results. It’s worth noting that most people will not hit the 816 DBD nearly as well as the new epic and would likely see much better results when comparing.

  14. My XR16 works fine. It’s a bit longer, but not quite as straight as my old Titleist 976R, which I was able to pipe down the middle most of the time. I’m toying with the idea of going back to it (though, to most of my mates, it looks like a 3W). If I look back at the drivers I’ve been suckered into buying over the past 10 years, if I gained 5 yds, it’s a lot.

    I think I’ll keep my current clubs and count my extra money instead.

  15. So you are at a Callaway fitting centre and you are launching the ball at 8 degrees. The fitter should be let go. I’m sorry but that is crazy.It appears that they did not fit you properly for any of the clubs in the test.

      • I apologize.I guess I having been watching to many youtube guys claiming to carry the ball 295 with a 115 swing.I thought the 8 degree launch seemed very low but obviously it works for you.Thanks for the reply.

        • Yes, a lot of people think they need to be launching their drives at 17 degrees and with 1700 rpm of spin to optimize results, and for some it does. Bubba Watson can do it on demand, but even his average launch angle on the PGA Tour in 2016 was 9.73 degrees.

          As we write all the time, the most important part about buying a new driver is being properly fit. When golfers do that and upgrade to the newest technology, very impressive results often occur. It can be game changing!

  16. Seems as if the difference will be more consistency with the extreme higher MOI and a tighter fit due to head choices and adjustements.

    As many have stated, a perfect strike makes little difference – It’s the forgiveness and fit that give you better and more consistent (longer) driving.

  17. Wow. First Ping, then Titleist, then TM and now Callaway. The latest and greatest is worse/same than previous years model. M1 2016 = M2 2017, G30>G, 915>917, and GBB DBD > Epic SZ. This is why the used golf club market is so strong and more and more people don’t buy new anymore

  18. Why would anyone expect to expect higher ball speed? Ball speed is capped. Jailbreak or no… MOI is capped. The only thing left to do is expand the sweet spot and aerodynamics. That’s it.

    • I think most people were expecting something closer to the actual limit of ball speed and MOI. while things are close, nothing is really “maxxed out” on more than one of the numbers if at all. If you get to the maximum limits, minus the error allowed, then you can get more distance, but i feel that callaway definitely under delivered on this driver given all the advertising and promises.

      • Anyone that doesn’t think balls speed is maxed out is on glue. Every few years there is a recall on a driver that’s too hot. Remember the original Nike SuMo that every said was short? Recalled for being too hot, and the conforming one got replaced with the circle version. I had a Mizuno MP-001 that was amazingly long. It also made the non-conforming list. MOI maxed out is basically do you want to go square or not.

        MOI only helps curvature due to gear effect. Even with a max MOI you can slice the ball with a path angle inside the face angle.

  19. One ‘good hop’ longer for 400+? I don’t think so…puke green – again?…It didn’t fly even one or two shots remarkedly longer in testing?

    If it proves to be more forgiving, it’ll last 6 months. It’ll be on sale @ the remaining DSG ‘pro shops’ (lol) for 299 by July 4th either way

  20. Excellent initial review, the 816 has been out for a couple of years now there is still plenty in the marketplace. , yet according to your data and review, not much as changed. I am some what surprised by this givin the name “EPIC” and the subliminal advertising.

  21. Make no mistake, the biggest thing you’re paying for is this —> http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/fashion/color-of-the-year-2017-pantone-greenery.html

    An honest review. . .”that carbon fiber crown looks cool and that green is going to be in vogue this year and you’ll buy anything at this point.”

    You can be expected to gain .3 yards distance. Sounds like a good use of 500 dollars.

    Quote, “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.”

    So…they’ve bypassed the COR limits?

    “And many will see bigger gains, particularly if they’re coming from a driver that’s two or more years old.”

    Yeah, those 3-year old drivers, with the old COR limits. So short. Please try to convince me this club is longer than my G15. I’d love to hear it.

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