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