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The Precision That Is Epon

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In 10 years, I’ve played four different sets of irons. Two of those sets I only switched because of the 2010 groove rule. For several years, I played Hogan Apex Plus irons; I still have them in the garage and get them out on occasion. They are positively the best irons I’ve ever hit. I’ve also played the Nike VR Forged Pro Combo and the Titleist 690 CB, which are both tied for a very close second. The fourth set would be the Bridgestone J33 CB irons that were played by Freddy Couples, Matt Kuchar, and Davis Love III in the mid-2000s. I played these irons longer than any others, and the aforementioned Hogan’s just narrowly unseated them. I’m sad that I don’t still have them around.

If you’re accustomed to playing forged irons, it means you’re likely picky about finding the right ones when it’s time to upgrade. You’re searching for the right feel or the right sound or the right head weight. The interesting thing about the irons I mentioned above? They were all forged at the famed Endo Forging House in Japan, though many years apart. If you’re a casual golfer, you may not have heard of Endo… or its house brand, Epon. Prior to researching this piece, I wasn’t all that familiar with them either. Within five minutes of talking on the phone with Dustin Vaughn, however, I learned the forging house had produced all of my favorite irons. Vaughn works for a company called Swing Science, and he’s the Epon distribution manager for all of North America.

“What makes Epon interesting is that when you ask a player what their favorite clubs are, or the clubs they’ve hit that feel the best, they almost alway name a club that was forged at Endo. And with Epon, we can take the process to the next level,” Vaughn said.

I would hear this theme strung throughout our conversation as well as my conversation with Jeff Sheets, who was the lead designer for the Hogan Apex Plus irons back in the day (again, my favorite). The idea is that Epon, because it’s a house brand, can (and does) spend as much time on their product as they need to in order to make it the best they have ever released, and that’s their only restriction.

Over the years, Endo has forged many irons for OEMs. Aside from the aforementioned ones, here are a few others: Mizuno JPX-800 AD and JPX-825, Fourteen TC-606, TC-777, and TC-1000, Nike VR, VR_S, VR Forged and SQ Forged, Titleist 690 MB and VG3. In terms of woods, Epon has forged the Mizuno MP Craft 425 and H4, Nike VR Pro, VR_S, and SQ2 (which is my favorite 3-wood ever, man, I wish I still had it).

When you look at those models, they may not seem like they are the best-selling clubs of all time (though the JPX-800s did well), but they all have a sort of cult following, which is exactly how Epon is viewed, and the company likes it that way.

In the world of iron forging, the process has improved significantly over the course of the last half-century. In the 1970s, a foundry was able to forge a club head to within about 40-60 grams of the desired head weight for the finished product. The extra weight would then have to be ground off by the hands of a highly skilled craftsman, but as with anything, it’s impossible to be perfect every single time. In today’s world, Endo is able to forge an iron head within 10 grams of the desired weight of the finished club head for any company that asks them to forge an iron. That produces a much more consistent product, because there is less room for error on the grinding and polishing part of the process. With its house brand, Epon, the company can take it even further.

With Epon irons, Endo can forge the head to within 6 grams of the desired final head weight. For context, a quarter weighs about 6 grams. Jeff Sheets, the Technical Director for Swing Science and Epon Golf says, “With Epon brand Endo holds nothing back. While they provide premium forgings for major OEMs, every one of those projects operates within a budget. Endo’s Epon products are the epitome of what a forging manufacturer is capable of producing without any limitations.”

Epon AF Tour Irons.

Epon AF Tour Irons

Epon’s latest line of clubs includes the AF-Tour (traditional blade), AF-Tour CB, AF-303, AF-503, and the AF-705. The AF-Tour looks as good as any club you could imagine; it has a thin top-line, little-to-no offset, and the lofts are very traditional (the 7-iron loft is 36 degrees). Their tagline for the AF-Tour is, “If you’ve got to ask if you’re good enough to play this club, then you likely aren’t.” That statement sums up how I felt about it as well. The top line is both something to behold and something to fear.

Yet Epon has also managed to do something I’ve never seen before. In its AF-705, which is Epon’s “super game-improvement” iron, the company has managed to have a very thin top-line as well as less offset, yet still have the irons perform like S-GI clubs. It’s also forged from the same S20C carbon steel as the AF-Tour, which means it’s designed to feel like butter but perform like a hybrid iron. I typically balk at a 7-iron with 29 degrees of loft, but the look of the AF-705 reminds me of my old Hogans.

Epon's AF-705 irons.

Epon’s AF-705 irons

With Epon, just as with other super-premium golf equipment manufacturers like Miura or Fourteen or Vega, the discussion always comes back to price, and maybe rightfully so. A set of Epon irons is going to set you back almost $2,400, which is basically double what other OEMs charge for their “premium” players irons. And the question that always comes up is, “Are these irons really $1,200 better than the Titleists or Mizunos I can buy off the shelf?” That’s entirely up to you.

All I can tell you is what Epon offers, and that is a totally customized fitting experience (you can’t buy Epon off the shelf) for your irons, fairway woods, or whatever Epon product you buy. You will also get a clubhead that has been inspected by hand as it came off the forging line, and you’re getting a club made by the forging house that forged the four best irons I’ve ever held in my hand, all from different brands.

If Endo can create that consistency among OEMs, all with different specs, it seems to me that their house brand can only be something I’d likely fall in love with. At $2,400 per set, I’m just not sure I’m willing to get divorced over it.

Interesting in hitting an Epon? Find an Epon fitter near you. 

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. bruce n.

    Jul 10, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    I have a set of EPON AF – 503’S that I LOVE. Each head came wrapped in plastic showing the head wt. vs the std. eg : 3 – 258.3 vs 259.5 std 8 – 278.8 vs 280.0 std. I HAVE HAD MANY forged sets and these play very well. I PAID $ 210 per club with kbs tour shafts. The tried the pxg’s before these ; and the epon’s feel softer.They re[placed honma tw 737p’s which replaced I200’S THIS YEAR. I am set now .Try them !!

  2. Ill take the other

    Jun 30, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Personal 3’s are great (not mentioned)…play well, my set-up was a private builder/fitter very familiar with Epon, ended up with x100 soft stepped black on black played as well as looked. Remember builder actually showing me tolerances of head weights vs. another big name OEM’s premium heads (although i believe this is where “tour issue, and OTR differ slightly…i.e. Tour Issue TaylorMade woods, much better product)…may not mean much, but you do get a higher price with a little more perfection; tighter tolerances, more precise specs. I’ve seen OTR drivers stamped 9.5, measured 10.2. So do believe some companies take more care, but you will pay the “luxury tax”

  3. Ill take the other

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    while we play this game, a dollar bill is a gram:)

  4. Maz

    Jun 29, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I had a chance to hit some of their drivers a few months ago during a fitting and they were really good, too!

  5. Marty

    Jun 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    FYI, Fairway Golf is an Epon dealer and proud sponsor of GolfWRX.

  6. Zaphod

    Jun 29, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    It’s a shame for the house label that their own irons look like shyyyyte, not very good looking

  7. Neil Cameron

    Jun 29, 2017 at 11:15 am

    maybe he meant raw forgings not the finished heads?

  8. cgasucks

    Jun 29, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I feel like getting a set of Apex Pluses…

  9. juststeve

    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Nice puff piece. Disappointed to find it on the front page at WRX not clearly labeled as advertising. In any event, irons more precise than your swing won’t make you hit the ball better. Work on your swing.

  10. Sam

    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I’m sure he meant .6 of a gram ….. just a typo.

  11. GregC

    Jun 29, 2017 at 9:19 am

    “With Epon irons, Endo can forge the head to within 6 grams of the desired final head weight. For context, a paper clip weighs about 6 grams”

    Not sure what they make paper clips out of in your part of the woods (tungsten maybe?) but a single paper clip does not weigh 6 grams. 12-14 paper clips might get close to 6 grams. Hopefully Endo is a little more precise than the comparison used.

    • Boobsy McKiss

      Jun 29, 2017 at 9:25 am

      ROFL exactly what I was wondering after reading the article.

    • Adam Crawford

      Jun 29, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Greg C, you’re right. It was a poor comparison. We are replacing “paper clip” with “quarter”. A quarter weighs exactly 5.7 grams.

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Equipment

Ping G410 LST: Low spin offering joins G410 family

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Ping Golf has today added to its G410 driver family, introducing the Ping G410 LST, which according to the company, is a high-MOI driver engineered to produce low and stable spin.

The new addition from Ping features the same movable-weight technology found in the G410 Plus model. With the G410 LST model, however, the CG position has been moved slightly forward in all three areas (draw, neutral, fade) which aims to promote spin reduction of approximately 200 to 400 rpm, depending on shaft choice and a golfer’s launch conditions.

Each weight position shifts the CG location by 1/10″ in each direction from neutral, influencing left or right shot direction approximately 10 yards, and speaking on the moveable-weight technology featured in the G410 LST, John K. Solheim, Ping President stated

“The addition of the movable-weight technology in our low-spin driver option allows us to fit a wider range of golfers. A perfect example is a high-swing-speed player who battles a miss to the right. In that case, the combination of placing the weight in the draw position and the lower spin greatly improves dispersion and leads to increased ball speed for more distance.”

The club also features Dragonfly Technology on the inside, designed to create an ultra-thin crown structure, saving weight, which is moved to the extreme boundary of the clubhead to increase the MOI by 3% (compared to the G400 LST) for added ball speed and forgiveness.

The G410 LST driver head (450cc) contains a more rounded, pear-shaped design which combined with Turbulator Technology aims to provide for added clubhead speed, while the face of the club sits slightly open and the score-line pattern frames the impact area in a bid to offer players improved alignment.

The lightweight and adjustable hosel of the G410 LST expands from five to eight settings, offering loft (0, +1º, +1.5º, -1º, -1.5º) and lie adjustments (up to 3º flatter than standard) which seek to optimize ball flight.

Speaking concerning the G410 LST’s new technologies and benefits, Solheim said

“The head size is slightly smaller than the Plus model and the CG is positioned to reduce spin several hundred rpms while still providing extremely high forgiveness. The combination of lower spin and more stability plus the ability to dial in the shot shape with our movable-weight technology greatly expands the types of golfers who can benefit from the technology of the G410 LST driver.

As always, we encourage golfers to undergo a thorough custom fitting with a trained PING Fitting Specialist to determine which G410 driver model best fits their game.”

G410 LST Specs: 

  • Loft options: 9, 10.5 degrees
  • Head volume: 450 cc
  • Head weight: 206g
  • Swing weight: D4
  • Std. lengths: 45.75″ (PING Alta CB Red), 45.25” (PING Tour & Aftermarkets)
  • Lie adjustability: Up to 3 degrees (Std: 57.0?)
  • Stock shaft option: PING Alta CB Red (Soft R, R, S, X)
  • No-upcharge shaft options: PING Tour 65, 75 (R, S, X), Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 60 (R, S, X), Project X Evenflow Black 75 (5.5, 6.0, 6.5)
  • Stock grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 in six sizes: Blue -1/16″, Red -1/32″, Aqua -1/64″, White Std., Gold +1/32″, Orange +1/16″
  • Arccos Smart Sensor Grips (upcharge): Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 in two sizes (White Std., Aqua -1/64”)

The G410 LST driver is available for pre-order and custom fitting at authorized PING golf shops around the world beginning today and costs $540.

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Equipment

Ping Blueprint irons are officially coming to retail

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After what has been much speculation they are here: Ping’s Blueprint forged blades.

Born from the idea of creating a club for the most exacting of golfers, Ping meticulously prototyped and tested in house with their tour staff and other highly skilled players on everything from preferred shots, grind, to blade size and shape. When it comes to shape, the Blueprints are one of the smallest blades on the market, but there’s some reasoning behind this.

From Ping:

“After extensive in-house research with varying head sizes, the findings revealed the theory of “aim small, miss small” was validated by many of the highly skilled players in the test, who produced tighter stat areas when hitting the more compact head.”

Only the bravest golfer will take on this 2-iron

It makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that the more you concentrate mass, the more that mass will transfer energy when you get close to it right? It was that final design that we saw out on tour around nine months ago that has ended up becoming what we will see at retail. Tried tested and ready for fittings and finding their way into golf bags.

From Ping’s President John K Solheim:

“When we launched it on tour, a few players put it in play immediately and it wasn’t long before we had our first win. Based on a lot of their input, we were able to deliver exactly what they were looking for while expanding our iron offerings into a new category. We’re very pleased with the development process we went through and are looking forward to applying our learnings to future PING products.”

Like everything Ping, the company has gone the extra mile when it comes to engineering every last aspect of these irons. Even something as simple as a tip weight has a calculation attached to it. Just like the G410 irons, the Blueprint irons have a visible tungsten toe weight.

Let me explain: basically every iron on the market utilizes a tip weight, either inserted into the shaft or into a port in the bottom of the hosel. (We’re about to go deep into the weeds from a design standpoint but stick with me). There is 100 percent nothing wrong with OEMs using tip weights to achieve desired swing weight but when you use them you move the CG closer to the hosel/heel side of the club…not on a humanly noticeable level but certainly from a definite engineering perspective.

This is why Ping has always placed the CTP (Custom Tuning Port) in the middle of the club head, directly behind the COG. But with a forged blade this is NOT possible because it’s solid metal, but there is a way to keep that COG EXACTLY where you want it: taking the amount of needed mass, dividing it by two and placing equal amounts in the hosel and in the toe. Simple? Yes. Done by anyone else? No.

Ping Blueprint irons construction

Ping is utilizing a four-step, multi-stage process for the one-piece forging to create the Blueprint forged iron. This process provides very tight dimensional tolerance control within the compact design. The high-strength, 8620 carbon steel (same material used in the Glide forged wedges) increases the iron’s durability compared to other carbon steels, ensuring long-lasting performance. The Blueprint irons go through more than 50 steps in the manufacturing process, including milling faces and grooves to ensure quality control club after club with each and every head checked for absolute accuracy.

Details

  • Available in 2-PW, starting at $230 per club
  • Stock shaft options: True Temper Dynamic Gold 120 (S300, X100), Ping AWT 2.0 (R, S, X) with all other Ping shafts available at additional cost
  • Arccos Smart Sensor grips available at an additional cost

 

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Whats in the Bag

Brooks Koepka’s winning WITB: 2019 PGA Championship

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Driver: TaylorMade M5 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX shaft

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), Mizuno JPX 919 Tour (4-PW)
Shafts: Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec X (3), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (4-PW)

Wedges: Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52-12F, 56-10S); Vokey SM4 TVD Raw (60-08M)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Image c/o Vokey Wedge Rep Aaron Dill

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2 SLT T10

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord (Midsize) with one wrap of 2-way tape and one wrap of masking tape

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Related

See more pics of Koepka’s clubs and shafts here.

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