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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

Forum Thread of the Day: “Anti-hook hybrid?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from kgeisler13 who is looking to replace his current 3-iron with an anti-hook hybrid. Our members give their thoughts on the subject to kgeisler13, with Ping’s G410, as well as Callaway’s ’19 Apex proving to be popular suggestions.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Joelsim: “Ping G410. I’ve hit about 60 shots with my new one and not a single hook. I sold the G400 as it was prone to hooking.”
  • Banker: “G410 flat setting, KBS hybrid 95x. Swing as hard as you want.”
  • Golfingguru11: “Callaway apex has the highest toe and most open face of any I’ve seen since the original idea pro.”
  • eaglestan66: “Titleist 818 H1 can be very fade biased if weight and lie angles are set correctly. This is one of the reasons I purchased the 3 and 4-hybrid version.”
  • phil75079: “The Callaway ’19 Apex hybrid. Everyone who has hit it agrees it is neutral to fade biased.”

Entire Thread: “Anti-hook hybrid?”

 

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Whats in the Bag

Shane Lowry’s winning WITB: 2019 Open Championship

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Driver: Srixon Z 585 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70X (45.25″, tipped .75″, D3 swing weight)

3-wood: TaylorMade M4 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8X

Irons: Srixon Z U85 (2 [18 degrees], 3 [20 degrees bent to 21]), Srixon Z 585 (4 [23 degrees], 5 [26 degrees]), Srixon Z 785 (6-PW)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White TX Hybrid (2), KBS Tour 130X (3-PW)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 (50 [bent to 51, 35.75″, D5], 58 degrees [35.25″, D7.5)
Shafts: KBS Tour Wedge X

Putter: Odyssey Stroke Lab Exo 2-Ball (Lowry’s putter has an all-black finish, and he switched into it earlier this year at the RBC; 34″)
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0 (custom shamrock)

Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV Pure White

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R (logo down)

Image c/o Srixon (obviously, Lowry does not have all wedges pictured in play)

Additional Shane Lowry WITB notes, via Johnny Wunder

2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, compared to Tommy Fleetwood, is on the other side of the spectrum in regards to brand loyalty. He is Cleveland/Srixon in 12 clubs including the ball with the only two exceptions being the TaylorMade M4 3-wood and his Odyssey Putter. In this case, that makes sense, those clubs seem to be a challenge to swap, especially the 3-wood, and Cleveland/Srixon isn’t really known for putters on the PGA Tour.

I got some interesting intel on his driver Switch from the TaylorMade M2 into the Srixon Z585.

According to Rodney McDonald, VP of Tour Operations for Cleveland/Srixon, Shane is a dedicated staff member that is always willing to get all Cleveland/Srixon in the bag.

On Lowry switching into the Z585 Driver McDonald had this to say

“The switch was very easy. Even though he had won early in the year with another driver, he was not driving it good at all. He is very loyal to our team and our products that he came to us to find a new driver. He instantly loved the look of the Z 585 and once we started testing the numbers were exactly what he was looking for. His main comment about the driver is how his misses are minimal and he can hit all the shots he wants to.”

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Equipment

Tommy Fleetwood’s bag is as awesome as he is (Tommy Fleetwood WITB)

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I’m obsessed with this guy. If there was a movie about his life, Aaron Taylor Johnson would play him…can we make that happen?

His bag has taken over for my past obsession with Charles Howell III, David Toms, and Rocco Mediate. I’m drawn to players that tweak a bit, it keeps it fun for me on Getty Images at 3 a.m.

Much like a Bernhard Langer, there is no telling what OEM sticks will land in Fleetwood’s bag. It’s awesome and a sign of the non-contract “eat what you kill” mentality shared by some of the biggest names out there (BK and Patrick Reed to name a couple).

Tommy has messed around quite a bit in the past two years with his bag and the fun part is, he’s not afraid to shake it up.

Here is a partial list of clubs that were previously in the bag since ’17 leading up to his current setup

  • TaylorMade M3 driver (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70X shaft)
  • Titleist 917 D2 driver (@ 8.5 degrees) (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70X shaft)
  • Nike Vapor Fly 3-wood (13 degrees) (UST Mamiya VTS ProForce Red 7X shaft)
  • Nike Vapor Fly 5-wood (Mitsubishi Diamana Blue 80TX shaft)
  • Titleist 917 3-wood (14 degrees) (UST Mamiya VTS ProForce Red 7X shaft)
  • Titleist TS3 3-wood (12.75 degrees) (UST Mamiya ProForce Black 7X shaft)
  • Nike VR Pro Blades
  • Callaway MD4 wedges
  • Ping G410 3-wood (14 degrees) (UST Mamiya ProForce Black 7X shaft)
  • Ping G410 7-wood (18 degrees) (Mitsubishi Diamana BF 80T shaft)
  • Odyssey 2-Ball (plumbers neck)

His grips are also a fun one, he goes Blue Golf Pride TVC in his woods, Iomic Sticky in his irons, and black Golf Pride TVC in his wedges. God, I love this guy!

Tommy Fleetwood WITB @The Open

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (9 degrees @7.5)
*has lofted up a bit, his driver has been down to 6.5 I’ve heard.
Shaft: Mitsubishi DF 70X (45 inches)

3-wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees @14)
Shaft: Mitsubishi DF 70X (42.5 inches)
*was in a Ping G410 until the Scottish Open where he switched into the M6.

Irons: TaylorMade GAPR Lo (@18.75), Srixon Z785 (4-iron, 23 degrees), TaylorMade P7TW (5-9)
Shafts: GAPR: Project X 6.5 (39.5 inches), 4-iron: Project X 6.5 (38.5 inches), 5-9: Project X 6.5 (38 inches @ 5-iron, minus 1/2 inch from there) (26, 30, 34, 38, 42 degrees)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (47, 52, 55, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Wedge notes: 48.10F (bent to 47) Tour chrome finish
52.08F raw
56.10 (bent 55) raw
60.08 raw

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro #3
Grip: Super Stroke Mid Slim 2.0


Quick thought: I do see a specific trend when it comes to free agents, and it’s mildly telling. Keep in mind I understand that it’s not 100 percent, but the trends are there.

In woods and wedges specifically, TaylorMade seems to be a popular choice in the overall woods category for non-signed players and Vokey is hands down the wedge of choice. Makes sense in my opinion, I’m not a big “best company” guy, but I do understand the choice. Both companies make and have made extremely high-performing sticks for many years. Consistency in anything is a hard opponent to beat. When Nike bounced out of clubs Rory, BK, Casey, and a few others put Vokeys straight in, and a BK and Casey put TM woods in the bag. (Just an example for context)

Anyway, Tommy Fleetwood is four back going into the final round. I have a weird feeling if it blows he could be holding a trophy.

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