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Equipment

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

Jimmy Walker spotted testing a Titleist prototype driver?

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As spotted by GolfWRX Forum Member “anthony007,” Jimmy Walker was shown on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive hitting an unidentified driver at the Warrior Open.

In anthony007’s forum post, along with the photo, he asks the question “Is this a new Driver from Titleist?”

Well, it’s hard to tell from the grainy photo exactly what the driver says on the sole. But then Jimmy Walker himself posted on Twitter saying: “Great catch! Its always fun to test new prototypes and the [Titleist on Tour] guys have given me some cool toys to play with that are incredible – but unfortunately I can’t talk about them yet!”

While the response is a bit cryptic, it does seem that Walker confirms he was indeed testing a Titleist prototype driver.

What do you think?

Click here to see what GolfWRX members are saying about the photo.

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Whats in the Bag

UNLV Rebels WITB: 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship

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The University Of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Men’s Golf team is participating in the 2018 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30. Representing the Mountain West Conference, the team is led by Head Coach Dwaine Knight.

To see the team’s full roster, click here

Below, we highlight the clubs and shafts that each of the players on the team are using at the championship.

Shintaro Ban

Driver: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 70TX

3 Wood: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue 80TX

Hybrid: Callaway Epic (20 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Steel 115

Irons: Callaway X Forged (4 and 5 iron), Callaway Apex MB (6-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Fourteen RM Raw wedge (50, 55 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (50 and 55), S400 (60)

Putter: Odyssey O-Works 7S

Harry Hall

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 70TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917 F3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue M-AX 65TX

5 Wood: Titleist 917 F2 (18 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue M-AX 65TX

Irons: Titleist 718 AP2 (3-9 iron)
Shafts: KBS Tour V 120X

Wedges: Titleist SM7 (48, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S300

Putter: Evenroll ER5 Hatchback (36.5 inches)

Jack Trent

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-TP 7X

3 Wood: TaylorMade M2 Tour (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 8TX

Hybrid: Titleist H2 818 (17 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 105X

Irons: Titleist T-MB (4 iron), Titleist 718 CB (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (50, 56 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X5R
Grip: SuperStroke Flatso 1.0 (35 inches)

Justin Kim

Driver: TaylorMade M2 2017 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-TP 7TX

3 Wood: TaylorMade M2 2017 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-TP 8TX

Driving Iron: Titleist 712U (3 iron)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 105X

Irons: TaylorMade P-750 (4-PW)
Shaft: KBS $-Taper 130X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Sm6 (50, 54 and 58)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Justin Chong

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-IZ 6X

3 Wood: TaylorMade M3
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X

5 Wood: Ping G30
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X

Hybrid: TaylorMade M1 (21 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD 85X

Irons: Miura CB-57 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (52-09 F Grind and 58-08 M Grind)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Odyssey V-Line Fang O-Works

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Garrick Higgo

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue Silver 60X 120MS

3 Wood: Titleist 917F3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana Black 70 TX

Hybrid: Titleist 816H2 (18 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue 85H X-Flex

Driving Iron: Titleist TMB (2, 3 and 4 iron)
Shaft: KBS C-Taper 130X

Irons: Titleist AP2 (5-PW, GW)
Shafts: KBS C -Taper 130X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 Matte Black (55 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: KBS C-Taper 130X

Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X7M Black Tour Only

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

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Equipment

Spotted: New Aldila Rogue Silver 130 MSI shaft

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The official Tour launch of the Aldila Rogue Silver 130 MSI shaft is this week at the 2018 Forth Worth Invitational at Colonial, and we were able to snap a few photos on the range. MSI stands for millions of pounds per square inch, and basically, it refers to how stiff the fiber is — the higher the number, the greater stiffness it has.

Headed to retail later this summer, according to Aldila, the lower-launching, lower-spinning Rogue Silver 130 MSI is the successor to the Rogue Silver 125 MSI.

Per the company, the new Rogue Silver 130 MSI will feature the same tapered butt-counter-balanced design as the 125. The stronger 130 MSI carbon fiber produces slightly lower torque, however, and is the strongest material in a Rogue shaft to date.

Several Tour pros have already made the switch to the new shaft:

  • Jimmy Walker put the 70 TX in his driver for the first time at The Players. He had been gaming the 80 TX in his fairway wood since the Masters.
  • Kevin Chappell has been playing the 80 TX in both his 3 and 5-woods.
  • Martin Flores has put the 70 TX in his driver
  • Chez Reavie put the 60 TX in his driver at the Masters.

We’ll bring you more details as they become available closer to launch. Click here to see what GolfWRX members are saying about the new shaft in our forums.

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