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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

Titleist introduces new premium Scotty Cameron Concept X Putters

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Scotty Cameron unveiled two experimental prototype Concept X putters today. Available in limited quantities, the Concept X models (CX-01 and CX-02) are a cross between the Newport 2 and a mallet with MOI-boosting “wings.”

The CX-01 features a popular-on-Tour “Nuckle Neck” with one shaft of offset. The CX-02 is designed with a new low slant “Joint Neck” that promotes additional tow flow.

“Concept X is for the player who wants the feel and performance of a Tour-proven blade style putter, but wants to benefit from the latest technology to achieve more forgiveness. What’s unique about these putters is that they’re fast looking and high-tech. But by making them wider, they’re more forgiving. You get a calm feeling like when you play a mallet. So, you get the best of a blade and the best of a mallet in one. It has a very elegant, high-end, industrial look. At address, after a few putts, the wings almost disappear and it’s like looking down at a blade,” Scotty Cameron said.

“I like to say that Concept X is the top level of performance in a putter. Our new four-way sole balancing is designed into these models. The new Nuckle and Joint Neck technology. The enhanced vibration dampening chambers for better sound and feel. It’s all in there. Concept X truly is a prototype that’s come to life.”

The putters also feature Dual-Zone Vibration Dampening Chambers within the face-sole construction. Each “chamber” is separated by a band of stainless steel, and the mid-milled aluminum face is connected by internal screws to compress the vibration dampening material for a soft, solid sound and feel.

The Concept X’s wing design shifts weight to both the perimeter and rear of the club to boost MOI and forgiveness. Customizable, removable heel and toe weights enhance stability while increasing the face’s sweet spot.

Weight-saving face inlays and 6061 aircraft grade aluminum sole plates allow Cameron to move (heavier) stainless steel around the perimeter to increase MOI. The sole profile of each model has been milled with Scotty’s four-way sole balancing design to help the putter easily sit more squarely at address.

A glare-reducing Stealth Gray finish is paired with a bright dip black anodized face inlay and sole plate components. Raw engravings add to the “prototype” feel of the putters. Each Concept X putter features customizable stainless steel heel-toe weights, a stepless steel shaft and a new gray Pistolero grip with black lettering.

Scotty Cameron Concept X putters will be available at select network of Titleist authorized golf shops in North America on Aug. 31 and worldwide Sept. 28, 2018. MAP $599.

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Equipment

Everything you need to know about TaylorMade’s new GAPR Lo, Mid and Hi clubs

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The Golden Years of wood-style hybrids and hybrid innovation in the marketplace are over, Tomo Bystedt, the Senior Director of Product Creation for TaylorMade, told GolfWRX.

Based on data collected from the company’s myRoundPro app and TrackMan data from its fitting facility, called “The Kingdom,” Bystedt says TaylorMade has found that most golfers are “not very good” with irons higher than a 5-iron, and while some hit the 3 wood very well, they struggle with 5/7/9 woods and hybrid-style clubs. Bystedt also acknowledges that Tour players have moved away from hybrid-style golf clubs as we know them, and into driving-iron-style clubs instead; they provide better control and offer greater distance in certain conditions, he says.

So, golfers of all skill levels need to fill the gap between a 5-iron and a 3-wood, and thus, TaylorMade has designed a new family of golf clubs called GAPR, pronounced “gapper.”

The family consists of a GAPR Lo, a GAPR Mid and a GAPR Hi. The clubs are made with C300 faces and 450 stainless steel bodies, with the company’s familiar SpeedFoam between the faces and bodies for durability of the face and to improve overall sound and feel due to the vibration dampening qualities of the foam. They also have “blind slots,” according to Bystedt, or in other words, speed slots on their soles that are not bore-thru slots. Each of the GAPR irons have adjustable loft sleeves, as well.

TaylorMade’s new GAPR clubs will be available on August 24 and sell for $250 apiece with stock KBS graphite shafts and Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grips. More specs and info on each of the offerings below.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about GAPR irons in our forums.

GAPR Lo

We’ve spotted Tiger Woods testing a GAPR Lo at Carnoustie, and Bystedt says other big name pros including Dustin Johnson are testing it, as well. There are a few GAPR Lo irons that have a fixed hosel that are floating around in Tour bags, but the retail versions have an adjustable hosel.

The GAPR Lo irons have a weight port (filled with either steel or tungsten weights) placed in the back for head weight purposes and are not interchangeable weights by the user. The head shape of the GAPR Lo is slightly bigger than the P-790 UDI clubs, according to Bystedt, and more similar to the Tour Preferred UDI. That’s because player feedback suggested the P-790 UDI was a bit too small, and players wanted a slightly bigger size.

Retail offerings of the GAPR Lo will include 17, 19 and 22 degree options, ranging from 40.25 inches to 39.25 inches, respectively.

GAPR Mid

The GAPR Mid iron has a bigger profile than the GAPR Lo, and has CG (center of gravity) lower in the club head for higher launch and more forgiveness. The weight port is on the sole of the club, as opposed to the back cavity as seen on the GAPR Lo iron. The soles are also wider, making these more playable for players from the turf.

The GAPR Mid irons are offered in 18, 21 and 24 degree lofts, ranging from 40.25 to 39.25 inches, respectively.

GAPR Hi

TaylorMade’s GAPR Hi irons have an even bigger profile and wider soles than the GAPR Mid irons, and the CG is lower and deeper for an even higher launch and greater forgiveness. The shaping of the club is like the child of a driving iron and a wood-style hybrid; according to a TaylorMade press release, it “features modern Rescue shaping with a high-toe, peanut shaped clubhead.” It also has bulge and roll on the face to help with off-center hits. Additionally, the SpeedFoam in the GAPR Hi is slightly less dense than the rest of the offerings, according to Bystedt, because the density of the original foam was raising CG and deadening sound too much; he calls it “SpeedFoam lite” in the GAPR Hi.

The GAPR Hi is offered in 19, 22, 25 and 28 degree lofts, ranging from 40.75 inches to 39.25 inches, respectively.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about GAPR irons in our forums.

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Equipment

Hand-painted Callaway Create headcovers are now up for auction

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As part of its Callaway Create platform, Callaway teamed up with artists from around the globe to produce 32 hand-painted headcovers. The headcovers are each hand-stitched and weather-proofed by Seamus Golf in Portland, Oregon.

Below are a few examples, but check out the website here to see all of the designs.

Each of the 32 headcovers are individually named by the authors, given names such as “Banana Slice,” “Cartpool Karaoke” and “Freaky Fourball,” among other creative, golf-related names.

The headcovers are now available at auction, and the proceeds will serve to benefit Bunkers in Baghdad. Here is more information about the organization, as per the Callaway website:

All auction proceeds go to Bunkers in Baghdad, an organization dedicated to sending new and used golf balls, clubs, and equipment to our troops around the world, with a focus on the brave men and women currently serving in combat zones. Bunkers also supplies golf equipment to our vets and warriors around the country to aid in their recreation and rehabilitation.  It has collected and shipped 9 million golf balls and 700,000 golf clubs to our troops, vets and warriors in more than 65 countries around the world and all 50 states.

Click here to enter the auction, and click here to read more about Bunkers in Baghdad.

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