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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

Callaway launches new Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero and Rogue Draw drivers, and fairway woods

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With its Jailbreak technology, Callaway’s GBB Epic drivers were the No. 1-selling drivers in the United States in 2017; actually, according to Callaway, they were the No. 1-selling drivers every month in the U.S. in 2017.

How do you back that up? How do you replace a driver that’s been so successful?

Well, apparently you don’t.

Callaway’s new Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero and Rogue Draw drivers, as Callaway says, do not replace its GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers of last year. Instead, Rogue is an all-new line that improves on the Epic technologies, but the company will continue to sell its Epic drivers.

Actually, if you follow Callaway’s trends over recent years, you may realize that the company should be coming out with an XR 18 line of drivers and fairway woods. That’s not the case, however. In this sense, Callaway is “going rogue.” Company representatives say that with the new Rogue drivers and fairway woods, the company is “doing what the industry is not expecting us to do.” This means that instead of coming out with an XR 18 driver at a price point of say $379, it is launching the Rogue drivers at $499.99 and packing them with improved-upon technologies than were in the Epic drivers, for more forgiveness and better aerodynamics. Callaway also says “the XR line is done for us.”

The original Jailbreak technology in the Epic drivers consisted of two titanium bars that sat behind the face; the idea is that the bars gave the structure more strength, or stiffened the crown and sole, to allow the faces to be made thinner, and therefore faster, without sacrificing durability. But with the Rogue drivers, Callaway wanted to save weight from these bars in order to displace the weight elsewhere (re: lower and more rearward in the head for more forgiveness). So Callaway’s engineers designed new hourglass-shaped Jailbreak bars, which are thinner in the middle portions of the titanium bars, and thicker near the crown and sole. This allowed the company to save 25 percent of the weight from the Jailbreak design without sacrificing the benefits of higher ball speeds across the face. You’ll notice from address (in the photo below) that the body looks a bit more stretched out than the Epic drivers; that’s to drive CG (center of gravity) more rearward to raise MOI (moment of inertia, a measure of forgiveness). The new hourglass design allowed that to be possible, as well getting rid of the weight-shifting track in the rear of the sole, as seen on the Epic drivers.

Callaway’s Rogue drivers, unlike the GBB Epic drivers, use the Boeing aero package — equipped with speed trips on the crown and an overall more aerodynamic shape — that the company introduced in the XR 16 drivers. The Rogue drivers also use a new X Face VFT technology that uses variable face thicknesses across the face to boost ball speeds on off-center strikes. The triaxial carbon crowns of the Rogue, which Callaway calls it’s largest carbon crowns ever, also save weight from the top of the club that is displaced lower in the heads to drive CG lower and more rearward.

The overall result is 0.6 mph more club head speed from the Rogue drivers compared to the GBB Epic, according to Callaway, and a 16 percent tighter dispersion.

There are three different models in the Rogue driver series: Callaway Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero and Rogue Draw. The relationship between the Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero is the same as it was between the GBB Epic and the GBB Epic Sub Zero, with the standard version having a larger profile and more shallow face, while the Sub Zero is a bit lower-spinning with a more compact look and a deeper face. The Rogue Sub Zero has two interchangeable weights (2 grams and 14 grams) that produces about 200 rpm of change between the two settings, according to Callaway.

The new Rogue Draw, with a 5-gram screw in the sole toward the heel, and with additional internal heel wighting, is for those golfers who want to fix their slice. The GBB Epic driver, with the 17-gram weight all the way in heel, hit the golf ball 11 yards left of center, according to Callaway’s testing. The Rogue Draw hits it 18 yards left of center. That means the Rogue Draw will draw the ball 7 yards farther than a GBB Epic set to draw.

The Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero and Rogue Draw drivers will be available at retail on February 9 for $499.99 each. Callaway Customs will also be available on each of the drivers in March. See below for more information on stock shafts, and keep reading for info on the fairway woods.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Rogue drivers and fairways in our forums

Callaway Rogue driver

Stock shafts for the standard Rogue range from 40-70 gram options, including Aldila’s Synergy and Quaranta shafts, and Project X’s EvenFlow and HZRDUS Yellow shafts.

Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver

Stock shafts for the Rogue Sub Zero range from 50-70 gram options, including Aldila’s Synergy, Project X’s EvenFlow, and Project X’s HZRDUS Yellow.

Callaway Rogue Draw driver

The Rogue Draw is available in 9, 10.5 and 13 degree lofts. Stock shafts include the same offerings as the standard Rogue model, which include Aldila’s Synergy and Quaranta shafts, and Project X’s EvenFlow and HZRDUS Yellow shafts.

Callaway Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero fairway woods

Callaway’s Epic fairway woods did not have Jailbreak technology, but the Rogue fairways do. Also, unlike the hourglass-Jailbreak that’s in the Rogue drivers, the Rogue fairway woods do not have the hourglass shape, and they’re made from steel instead of titanium. According to Callaway, while it wanted to make the Jailbreak technology lighter in the drivers, it actually wanted to make it heavier in the fairways, thus they’re made from steel and do not have the weight-saving hourglass shape.

Jailbreak in the Rogue fairway woods combines with Callaway’s familiar Face Cup technology. The Rogue fairway woods faces are made from “ultra-thin” Carpenter 455 steel, and the Face Cup is designed to boost ball speeds on off-center hits. Additionally, the Rogue fairways use Callaway’s Internal Standing Wave to position CG low-and-forward for high launch and low spin, they use triaxial carbon crowns to save weight from the top portions of the club to also shift CG lower, and they use the Boeing aero package for more club head speed.

The Rogue Sub Zero fairway woods, which have more compact shapes and deeper faces, also have a 5-gram weight in the forward portion of their soles in order to driver CG even more forward. This design will help high-spin golfers lower spin for more distance.

The Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero fairway woods will sell for $299.99 each starting on February 9. See below for shaft details.

Callaway Rogue fairway wood

Callaway says the Rogue fairways (13.5, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23 and 25 degrees) are available in multiple premium shafts and weights ranging from 40-80 grams.

Callaway Rogue Sub Zero fairway wood

Callaway says the Rogue Sub Zero fairways (13.5, 15 and 18 degrees) are available in multiple premium shaft brands ranging from 60-80 grams.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Rogue drivers and fairways in our forums

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Equipment

Ping’s new Glide 2.0 “Stealth” wedges, and Vault 2.0 putters

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Today, in addition to the G400 Max driver and the G700 irons, Ping also launched Glide 2.0 Stealth wedges, and the Vault 2.0 putters that we first spotted at the 2018 Sony Open in Hawaii. Each of the products are currently available for pre-order. See below for tech info, photos and more about the offerings.

Glide 2.0 Stealth wedges

Unlike the original Glide 2.0 wedges, which were made from 431 stainless steel, the Glide 2.0 Stealth wedges are made from 8620 carbon steel for a softer feel. More obviously, they have a different, darker finish that reduces glare and “makes the wedges seem smaller,” according to Ping. The finish is applied using something called a Quench Polish Quench process for greater durability.

The wedges also have a milled, wheel-cut “half-groove” near the leading edge of the higher-lofted wedges (56, 58 and 60 degrees) to increase spin on shots hit low on the face.

Like the Glide 2.0 wedges, the Stealth versions also have progressive groove designs, which means the grooves in the lower-lofted wedges (46, 50 and 52 degrees) have a larger edge radius than the higher-lofted wedges. Therefore, the lower-lofted wedges will perform a bit more like irons, while the higher-lofted wedges will have additional spin for more control around the greens.

The Stealth wedges come in 17 loft-grind combinations, as listed below:

  • SS Grind (46-12, 50-12, 52-12, 54-12, 56-12, 58-10 and 60-10)
  • WS Grind (54-14, 56-14, 58-14 and 60-14)
  • TS Grind (58-06 and 60-06)
  • ES Grind (54-08, 56-08, 58-08 and 60-08)

They come stock with either Ping’s AWT 2.0 steel shaft ($150) or Ping’s CFS graphite shaft ($175). Additional shafts are also available at no upcharge.

Click here for discussion and more photos of the wedges

Vault 2.0 putters

Ping’s new Vault 2.0 putters have a greater focus than ever on fitting. Using a new custom-weighting system, the putters are available with either steel sole plates, tungsten sole plates that are 15-grams heavier than steel, or aluminum sole plates that are 15 grams lighter than steel. Putters between 34 and 36 inches use steel, putters 36 and longer use aluminum, and putters 34 inches and shorter use tungsten. This allows golfers to have a putter with the correct feel and balance no matter the length.

The 100-percent-milled putters also use Ping’s True Roll technology in their faces, evident by the pattern of cross-hatched grooves that are varied in depth across the face to increase speed on off-center hits. The goal with this face design is to get the speed the golfer needs on longer putts, even if the contact is on the heel or toe.

Five of the putter models (aside from the Ketsch) are made from 303 stainless steel and are available in three finishes: Stealth, Platinum and Copper. The Ketsch mallet is available in two finishes, Stealth or Slate, and combines a 6061 Aluminum body with a stainless steel sole plate. Grip options for the putters include the PP60 (a midsize design with foam under-listing), the PP61 (an “exaggerated pistol” with a rubber under-listing), the PP62 (over-sized with a rounded profile) or the CB60 (the standard counterbalanced grip).

Get the specs for each of the new Vault 2.0 putters below, which sell for $325 apiece.

Vault 2.0 Dale Anser

The new Dale Anser is “inspired by one of the original Anser putter molds created by Allan Dale Solheim and detailed by his father, Karsten Solheim,” according to Ping.

  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc
  • Standard length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 4 degrees

See more photos here.

Vault 2.0 Voss

  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Finish: Available in Stealth finish (Copper or Platinum available on special order)
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degree
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 4 degrees

See more photos here.

Vault 2.0 B60

  • Weight: 355 grams
  • Finish: Available in Stealth or Copper finish (Platinum available special order)
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 4 degrees

See more photos here.

Vault 2.0 ZB

  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Finish: Available in Platinum (Copper or Stealth available special order)
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 4 degrees

See more photos here.

Vault 2.0 Piper (Mid-Mallet)

  • Weight: 360 grams
  • Finish: Available in Stealth finish (Copper or Platinum available special order)
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc or Straight
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 2 degrees

See more photos here.

Vault 2.0 Ketsch (Mallet)

  • Weight: 365 grams
  • Finish: Available in Stealth finish (Slate finish available special order)
  • Toe Hang: Slight Arc or Straight
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie Angle: Adjustable +/- 2 degrees

Click here for discussion and more photos of the putters.

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Equipment

Ping’s new G700 irons are its “longest, highest flying” irons ever

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On the same day Ping launched “the most forgiving driver in golf” with its G400 Max driver, it also launched the company’s “longest, highest flying irons to date,” according to Ping. To achieve that level of distance and forgiveness on the G700 irons, Ping gave them hollow-body constructions with 17-4 Stainless Steel bodies and maraging steel faces.

The hollow body and geometry of the G700 designs, according to Ping, positions weight away from their faces. Like the design of a metalwood, this allows the face to flex, thus raising ball speeds on shots hit all over the face. Also like Ping’s metalwoods, the G700 irons use C300 maraging steel — “one of the strongest alloys in the world,” according to Ping — on its faces. Since the material is so strong and the faces can be made thinner, the faces flex more than previous Ping irons, without sacrificing durability; this leads to greater ball speeds and more forgiveness on off-center hits.

“The desire for golfers to hit their irons farther continues to grow,” said John Solheim, president of Ping. “We want to provide options that greatly increase distance without sacrificing other performance attributes, such as consistency, forgiveness and feel. With the G700 iron, we’ve been able to accomplish all of that in a very appealing design with a sound that screams distance from the moment golfers hit it.

The high-performance construction also comes in an iron design that is aesthetically reminiscent of the iBlade, although the G700 irons have a larger profile, more offset, and thicker soles for more forgiveness through the turf. The lower and more rearward CG (center of gravity) will also help the ball fly not only straighter and farther, but higher, as well.

Like Ping irons of recent years, the G700 irons also have a HyrdoPearl chrome finish that enhances something called hydrophobicity, or the ability of an object to repel water. That means the irons are designed to reduce the effect of water between the golf and the golf club.

The G700 irons (4-9, PW, UW and SW) comes in 10 different color codes, or lie angles, and they come stock with either Ping AWT 2.0 steel shafts (R, S and X), or three different graphite options: Ping’s Alta CB (counterbalanced), UST’s Recoil 760 ES SmacWrap or UST’s Recoil 780 ES SmacWrap. The irons, which are available for pre-order now, will sell for $160 per iron in steel or $175 per iron in graphite. Additional after-market shafts are available for no upcharge, including True Temper’s Dynamic Gold series, Project X LZ shafts, Nippon’s N.S. Pro Modus 105, KBS Tour shafts and more.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the Ping G700 irons in our forums

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