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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

New XXIO Prime woods, hybrids, and irons aim for lightweight power

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XXIO’s latest club offerings, XXIO Prime, looks to offer easy distance and easy accuracy for the moderate swing speed golfer, according to the company.

XXIO Prime woods

xxio-prime

XXIO Prime Woods feature a new re-designed hosel structure, and reduced stiffness at the tip of the driver shaft, which is designed to help moderate swing speed golfers to close the clubface through impact.

Forged from Super-TIX PLUS Titanium, the new cup face includes a sweet spot that is noticeably larger than previous designs, which aims to increase distance performance significantly. The Super-TIX PLUS Titanium Cup Face is thinner, lighter and stronger than previous additions, creating a maximum COR across the face, which aims to increase ball speed and distance.

According to Chuck Thiry, Vice President of XXIO USA

“The speed increases, higher launch angles, and draw bias of the new Prime will show immediate results from swing one. It’s legit lightweight power for the players that absolutely need it the most.”

Featured in the XXIO prime woods is the SP-1000 shaft, with TORAYCA T1100G carbon fiber and NANOALLOY resin, which creates a strong but lightweight club. Along with the lightness in the shaft, XXIO has made weight savings in the grip and club head, which aims to produce woods that are both fast and easy to swing.

The XXIO Prime woods feature an expanded toe and narrowed heel, a tungsten-nickel inner weight that is low and deep, a lighter hosel repositioned closer to the center of the face, and reduced stiffness at the tip of the shaft, all with the aim of offering golfers with maximum forgiveness from their woods.

The XXIO Prime woods will be available from March 1 and will cost $579,99.

XXIO Prime hybrids and irons

The new XXIO Prime hybrids feature an expanded COR and a lower center of gravity, which is designed to increase distance and ball speed while delivering a straighter ball flight.

The hybrids from XXIO contain a Forged Maraging Steel Cup Face which includes a large sweet spot which aims to increase distance performance.

Just as with the woods, the XXIO irons also feature the Super-TIX PLUS Titanium Cup Face, though along with this, they also contain a CNC milled speed groove, which significantly increases the COR, creating a larger sweet spot, designed to provide greater distance, ball speed and accuracy.

Both the hybrids and irons include the SP-1000 Shaft, with TORAYCA T1100G carbon fiber and NANOALLOY resin. The hybrids and irons also feature weight savings in the grip and club head, with the aim of increasing swing speed.

With an expanded toe and narrowed heel, plus a crown step that moves weight low and deep, XXIO claim that this is their most forgiving suite of Prime hybrids. While with two high-density tungsten nickel sole weights and an overall profile that is 3mm shorter than the previous model, the company also claims to have created their most forgiving irons yet.

Speaking on the new XXIO Prime series, Chuck Thiry stated

“XXIO Prime is, quite frankly, the most unique and beneficial product ever available to moderate swing speed players. Period. People might think that is marketing hype, but they simply haven’t hit Prime yet.”

Both the XXIO Prime hybrids and irons will hit retail stores on March 1. The Prime hybrids will cost $379.99, while a single graphite iron will be available for $259.99.

 

 

 

 

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Equipment

SPOTTED: 2019 Mitsubishi shafts

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The Diamana shaft line from Mitsubishi Chemical is probably one of the most iconic in the sport. Released in 2005, Blueboard, Whiteboard, and Redboard, were the first generation of shafts.

Photos of the full fourth generation Diamana lineup, offering new materials and technology, along with new names, have surfaced in the GolfWRX forums. Like previous generations, each color shaft offers different ball flight and spin characteristics.

“RF” is the highest launching and spinning in the Diamana line, offering high launch and mid spin, while the “BF” is the mid-launch and mid/low-spin model. Finally, the “DF” is mid/low-launching and the lowest-spinning shaft in the lineup.

All of the fourth generation Diamana shafts use updated technologies and materials that you would expect from a premium lineup. DIALEAD pitch fiber is helps reduce shaft deformation, while still producing exceptional energy transfer.

Each shaft contains MR70 carbon fiber that is 20 percent stronger than conventional materials and Boron fiber for its compression strength and shaft reinforcement. ION plating has been done before in the Diamana line, in vacuum chambers — silver alloy ions are bonded to the shaft to give it a chrome-like finish that can’t be replicated by paint.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Equipment

SPOTTED: 2019 Aldila shafts

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With the beginning of the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing on now, we are really starting to see more 2019 gear work it way onto tour trucks, and onto the range for player testing…and into our forums (in picture format, at least).

Some of the most recently spotted pieces are the 2019 Aldila ATX shafts, including what appears to be an 85g hybrid shaft and a 120g iron shaft.

aldila-2019-shafts

We can only speculate that the hybrid is a low launch shaft — based on the PGA  Tour testing being done, but this could be a shaft more suited for the growing popularity of the driving iron category vs. wood-like hybrids in the previous couple of seasons.

The 120g iron shaft has a lot of people talking, since Aldila has leaked some information in our picture thread

“It utilizes a custom prepreg made at our facility in Poway that features a “Metal Mesh” material that is combined with Carbon Fiber to help add stability and weight in the irons.”

aldila-metal-mesh

By using this custom material, Aldila could be solving the common problem that a lot of people have with graphite, and that is the club total weight — although in this case 120g is similar to a lot of steel iron shafts already being used on Tour. As prototyping goes, this material could be put to use in lighter versions of the shaft and have a greater benefit in the sub-100g category — if they plan on going that route.

For the drivers, if previous versions and colorways are any indication, it looks like we will have some new technology packed into popular bend profiles like the NV (Green) and the VS (Blue).  As some members on the forums have already discussed, these shafts will be utilizing graphene (an extremely strong carbon material) for additional stability. 

We also have new Rogue 130 MSI models following along similar lines with both a black and silver.

Here’s some additional information from Aldila

“Building off of the success of the ROGUE® Limited Edition – which featured 125 M.S.I. Graphitic Carbon Fiber, we have taken ROGUE® to performance to another level by incorporating even stronger 130 M.S.I. Graphitic Carbon Fiber. The ROGUE® Silver 130 M.S.I. is a low-launch, low-spin shaft with a low torque tip-section fortified with 130 M.S.I. Graphitic Carbon Fiber, a higher balance point, and a premium ion plated finish.”

Join the discussion in our forums

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