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Graphite shafts in irons, the final frontier?

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By Trevor Gliwski

GolfWRX Contributor

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking forum”

Technology in golf has evolved at a frenetic pace in the past decade.  Golf balls, driver heads and even groove designs have reached new heights and in most cases reached their governed limits.

Perhaps the last frontier of performance in golf is composite graphite shaft technology, particularly iron shafts. Golf is the last major sport that hasn’t opted for composites in a wholesale approach, choosing to hold on to the older, cheaper steel shafts. Of all the hockey sticks in the NHL, 100 percent of the players use composite graphite hockey sticks and the Tour De France contestants all ride composite graphite bicycles. Major league baseball cannot move to composite graphite because it would make all baseball parks obsolete. Professional golf tour usage of composite graphite reflects this shift in technology in terms of woods, but has a much lower percentage of usage in irons. According to the Darrell Survey 99 percent of woods played on the PGA Tour are composite graphite, while only 12 percent of graphite is played in irons.

Whenever the concept of why a professional or good amateur player isn’t playing graphite in their irons, the usual statement is that “steel is more consistent than graphite.” The most peculiar thing about that statement is that your driver and woods are statistically less consistent than irons in a natural way. The greater the distance from the target, the longer the shaft length and the wider the dispersion pattern. This is why the NBA awards three points from behind the three-point line and only two points for closer shots.

Chris Nolan, executive vice president of global operations for Matrix Shafts, said that not all graphite shafts are created equal, but when designed and manufactured properly, the composite materials available today provide superior structures when compared to steel in both dispersion and distance control.  Daniel You, chief designer and engineer for Matrix Shafts, added that when comparing composites to steel, composite materials of equal weight to steel are up to six times stronger, allowing designers much greater latitude in their designs while providing superior overall structures.  Additionally, the ability to cross-pollinate each shaft with varied materials such as in Matrix’s Inter-ply technology allows for structures that may have a similar design function while possessing a difference in feel alone. You also said that from a design standpoint, graphite allows him a significantly greater amount of possibilities for different overall weights, flex points, tip stiffness, balance points and torque.

TJ Shelton, director of the Rick Smith Golf Academy Fitting Center, hitting a 6 iron in the pictures below.  On the left (red shirt), Shelton is hitting a leading brand’s steel shaft (stiff). On the right (blue shirt), he is hitting a matrix program 130 graphite shaft (stiff).  Both shots were solid, the pictures are eye opening.

 

From a teaching standpoint, graphite allows for a much wider range of weight and profile playing characteristics. For these reasons, I have an overwhelmingly better ability to get my student’s equipment to a place where they not only hit it better immediately, but also help their golf swing dynamics to develop long term.  One of the most common examples of how critical this is to my teaching is that many players who cast from the top of their swing and scoop at impact are able to retain wrist cock and create lag, in many cases, much easier when they swing a much lighter shaft.  It is not unusual to see a player’s swing dynamics improve instantaneously. We quickly start to see an increased attack angle and lower dynamic loft as well as improved visual dynamics on video.

A great analogy of how weight affects dynamics in the golf swing is to compare it to bowling.  If you grab a ball that is too heavy you will drop it behind you — too light and it might fly through the air.  Most of us have a dynamic need for a certain weight that allows us to release at the proper point in the stroke.  In bowling that weight is measured in pounds. In golf it’s measured in grams.  Although having a club that is perfect for your dynamic needs does not guarantee a perfect swing, a club that is not in your wheel house of overall weight, swing weight and flex gives you almost no chance of anything good happening consistently.

Composite graphite has improved astronomically since it was first introduced to golf shafts in 1977. It was put in play for good players way too early. Yes, they immediately hit the ball farther, but because the stability wasn’t there dispersion patterns were enormous and as a result graphite shafts were quickly pegged as “inconsistent.”  In 2012, graphite composite shaft technology is in a whole new league.  In fact, the graphite composite used in the first space shuttle is not considered good enough for a K-mart club by today’s standards. It is crazy that the stigmatism of graphite continues to exist even after today’s extensive research. However, slowly but surely, much like persimmon woods going to metal, it will begin to disappear forever.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking forum”

Trevor Gliwski is the Director of Instruction for The Rick Smith Golf Academy at Tiburon Golf Club in The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples, Fla. He is a Matrix Shafts Advisory Board Member and the 2009 South West Florida Chapter Teacher of the Year.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. WmTipton

    Oct 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I do a little club building on the side and while Im a rookie golfer I have definitely noticed that graphite shafts gain distance but at a cost of accuracy.
    The only graphite shaft Ive used that seemed to even touch the accuracy of my steel shafts was so stiff and rigid and heavy that it may as well have been steel.

    Im not bashing graphite, not in the least, but as a newer player I personally feel that my game needs the accuracy over distance for now.

    I was using graphite shafted Cobra driver I bought last year for driving and was losing half a dozen balls per round.
    I took the graphite out of the head and reshafted it with a low end ($5) Apollo steel shaft cut as stiff as possible and shortened to 42.5″ (the shaft itself) and the next two rounds I lost maybe one ball per round and kept almost every tee shot with it either dead down the fairway or in the first cut of rough.

    Im a beginner, but even I have seen the evidence that steel is more accurate over graphite, so I can understand why the pro’s stick to steel in their irons.

    • Wanda

      Nov 5, 2012 at 2:09 am

      You sure do know what you’re talking about. Man, this blog is just great! I can’t wait to read more of what you’ve got to say. I’m relaly happy that I came across this when I did because I was relaly starting to get bored with the whole blogging scene. You’ve turned me around, man!

  2. Robin Arthur

    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Greetings –
    It’s great you folks are arguing camera attributes in an effort to get the real “picture”…but I think missing the point of Trevor’s comments which for the most part are accurate. Maybe the picture is perhaps an exaggeration of the bends, but I don’t think to any degree that makes them irrevelent. I remember a slo-mo shot of Michelson’s 5-iron in GDigest w/in the last year…and it showed an almost identical fwd. bend, maybe not quite as pronounced but eye-opening none the less.

    In a golf swing, given the offsets of center of gravities of the head, the offset axis of the shaft to the CG of the head, the tensile and centrifugal (and even centripetal) forces being applied to the shaft – all relate to the bending dynamics through out the swing and esp. at impact. The mechanical properties of each of the three components of the club system – shaft, head and grip obviously affect those bending dynamics as well.

    But that’s just part of the story. First a couple comments on the history of carbon fiber (graphite) shafts.

    While it’s true that the first graphite shafts were the rage because of increased distance but were quickly discounted because of dispersion; but also because of shaft-to-shaft consistency. The reasons for this are simple.

    1 – the designers at the time had zero idea of the influence on torsional resistance in their shaft designs and how it affected both longitudinal bending and twisting during the swing and at impact. Some of the first shafts were 6+ degrees of “torque” – although in classical engineering terms the way the golf industry uses that vernacular is incorrect…

    2 – manufacturing techniques were not up to par either. It’s a fact that most companies in those days and even into the early ’90s designed very stiff shafts and simply sanded them to a particular flex. Can you imagine trying to take an X-flex and manually sanding it consistently to say an S-flex, or weaker flex? Hardly an ideal manufacturing technique for process control.

    Now fast forward to the mid-’90s and the introduction of shafts like Loomis’ tour irons and even my LBPs irons (low balance points) into the Tour ranks. Again, there were two problems w/ these shafts….well actually three.

    1 – to get the shafts heavy enough, Mr. Loomis/his Tech. Director Jeff Meyer and myself had to make the walls of the shafts SO thick to get the weight up that the result was a composite structure that dampened SO much of the energy supplied by a Tour pro, that the feel/feedback was so unlike a steel shaft and even sometimes called “dead”. Great players in any sport rely lot on feel and feedback and if that’s minimized, or even eliminated, then consistent swings can be marginalized, as can one’s confidence in the equipment. This phenom added greatly to a common Pro statement and misnomer (and pounced upon and exaggerated by the steel folks) that , “I don’t know if my 7-iron is going 150 or 160 yards when I’m using graphite…”.

    2 – again, manufacturing techniques were still not there to produce a 100% consistent product. The designs weren’t like the old days (1 flex for all and sanded), but this new weight class requiring a lot more material patterns and their own unique mandrels (VERY thin in the lower/tip section) had its own set of challenges.

    And –

    3 – the steel folks, esp. TT, absolutely jumped onto these difficulties that were soon solved, and made a PR campaign to protect their steel turf. (One should know, or remember….that the manufacturing of steel shafts is no more consistent than that of some companiies’ graphite shafts – the steel folks SORT their shafts to obtain consistent tolerances and ALSO make them over-length then tip/butt trim to achieve final lengths and closer tight butt freqs…it’s not magic or an inherently better process…).

    And finally a word about the designs themselves and proper fitting.

    While it’s true to a degree what Trevor said about finding the right flex and weight. That’s a bit limiting and narrow in scope in that it doesn’t address the nature of graphite shafts and their deign possibilities as Chris and Daniel of Matrix pointed out (although the “superior structure” comment is a bit PR based…).

    What I mean is that when one looks at a shaft design, it’s not the flex and torque that the manufacturers report – a lot of that, esp. the torque values, can def. be an effort in mktg. fairy tales. And we all know one company’s s-flex can be NO WHERE near another company’s s-flex. <>.

    What IS important is how the stiffness, weight and yes torsional resistance is DISTRIBUTED along the axis of the shaft and how THAT distribution affects swing A vs. swing B. While the bowling ball example takes into effect TOTAL weight, the center of gravity of all balls are in the same place. NOT so the “system” of shaft, head and grip. So it’s important for a club fitter, coach, club pro etc. to get to know and understand the differences between a finite number of shafts/brands as there’s just way to many to understand all. <>. That now bridges the gap between art, and science to a much higher degree.

    Finally three more points:

    1 – It is definitely true that graphite irons are coming back strongly, have a LOT more design potentials, and we’ll see more on the PGA Tour to compliment Chris Hillary’s AeroTech designs. I guarantee it. i personally have 2 VERY unique designs that I’m keeping close to the vest that are Tour ready in both design and manufacturing consistency (But am doing so in anticipation of some financial backing to get my products and message of truth out on tour the right way).

    2 – expect another barrage of steel PR (more than likely dubious) that will try to put down any major intrusion on their monopoly. I wish them luck nd myself and a couple other Kats will be swinging back…

    3 – Carbon fibers from the earliest shuttle designs more applicable to the golf products sold today at Targets? Not true. I should know. I helped design and build a lot of those structures…

    R

    Robin D. Arthur
    Pres./CEO
    Arthur Xtreme Engineering

    Home of the XCalibers and the…
    TRUTH

  3. Walden

    Jul 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Aerotech Steelfiber. I don’t care what your rolling shutter speed says.

    Pros are actually moving to fiber (Kuchar, Mahan are the most prominent). I think it’s interesting to at least test out.

    Good article.

  4. J.J.

    Jul 11, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I think if you look at history the pros are always the last to use game improving technologies. It takes people willing to take a risk at succesively higher levels of the game to turn the mindset of the elite player. This was born out with steel shafts, solid-core balls, metal wood heads, graphite in the woods, long putters and oversize putter grips. I would hope that the upcoming generations of pros will be used to the idea of technological changes being worth trying because they will have grown up with the attitude that it’s okay to try them. I can’t imagine to many more revolutionary advances in steel but both the present and future of graphite seem pretty exciting to me.

  5. Adrian

    Jul 8, 2012 at 2:41 am

    That is a rolling shutter problem at with those pix plain and simple because the shaft in no way kicks that violently….not even a womens flex. Had you been further away those pix would not have looked like that. The shaft droops but no one’s shaft contorts like that…..they even have analysed Jamie Sadlowski’s shaft under the force of his swing on youtube and showed that his shaft was not flexing like that at all.

    The point is though that graphite shafts are being produced that are of better quality than steel….but is the current cost of those shaft appealing at the moment….probably not. Sure Matrix Program shafts are great, but they are also 90 bucks a shaft.

    Now when the prices come down I’m sure there will be a mass exodus from steel to graphite but remember not everyone owned a microwave when they were 800 bucks but now that they are 60 everyone has one…It just takes time to catch on.

  6. Rod

    Jul 2, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Blah, blah blah blah, I know more than you….

    Come on, the pictures nor the equipment that took them is the issue here.

    If the graphite was Superior, don’t you think we would see more of it in the PGA?

    • Naomi

      Nov 5, 2012 at 2:43 am

      I saw a guy at the range hitting what sodnued like a fantastic driver, so I had my nephew run over and ask (I was doing some chipping practice) what he was using and it was a machspeed driver I HAD TO HAVE IT. This video is what made me actually buy BOTH the machspeed and dymo drivers at the same time shortly after viewing last week. Keep it up, as this is the ONLY video on youtube providing any substantial information regarding both clubs and how they truly sound w/o any marketing crap! A+

  7. JS

    Jul 1, 2012 at 8:41 am

    BAM! Now what fellas? Oops, we had no clue what we were talking about with the camera and Trevor did. *crickets*

  8. Trevor Gliwski

    Jun 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Just wanted to clarify a few things regarding the photos: Rolling Shutter effect because of the lag can be minimized in a few ways. Since not all Rolling shutters are created equal, it is important to use a camera such as the Exilim EX-F1 Pro as I have done since it employs “parrallel readout” of the CMOS chip, negating the effect. To further enhance the quality of the image, you can shoot the image in portrait or landscape depending on whether your camera has a horizontal shutter if it is vertically scanned so as to offset the imaging problems. This does not completely negate the artifact but if impact frames are what you are looking for, it will clean up the shot dramatically, even with a entry level camera. Also of note should be that even if the images I included in the article had not been shot using both, please remember that the rolling effect is linear and non bi-direction. This means that even if you do not use these technologies or techniques, the skewed image should have a bowing which is either constant or chopped. Never should any part of the image “fall behind” such as in the steel photo. The pronounce “S-curve”, which is a well known term in golf (along with droop) is a stability problem of the shaft, not the camera.

    The larger point of the article is that as better players continue to move toward graphite in the irons (%200 increase in the last 10 years), the unjustifiable stigma of playing graphite will disappear, just as it did with hybrids. Also, as a side note, the truly serious player that is completely dedicated to every aspect of their game doesn’t see cost as the deciding factor. It’s the reason why many of us had a multi-thousand dollar sound system in college and ate “Top Ramen” every night. We want the best. It’s certainly not enjoyable to shell out more money for performance, but even those increased costs in golf are worth it if your aim is to strive towards greatness.

    • Chris Downing

      Aug 18, 2013 at 2:02 am

      I came across this thread looking for some evidence that graphite is a valid option – and nothing much seems to have happened and another year passes. It is truly amazing that since graphite was almost completely dominant on the Seiors Tour a few years ago that steel has managedto roll back the clock. There’s no steel or wood left in the Tennis Tour, Badmington, Squash, Hockey – but good old conservative golf hangs on in there.

      One of the big issues has become availability. Just try to find a good deal on graphite shafted clubs. And then try to take advantage of the correct technology for your swing – the right shafts from hundreds that are available – well you will offered two max on a set of irons – and chances are they will be special order – then when you trade them (something the other sports don’t do much of) they will be difficultto sell on. So we compromise and settle for what is easy for the suppliers and manufacturers – steel in stepped/rifle x regular/stiff.

  9. Cody

    Jun 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I have wanted to play graphite iron shafts for a while. But the problem was and still is that it is difficult to find the stiff enough for me.

  10. Rod

    Jun 28, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Graphite shafts are an option but this reminds me of the wedge BS. Buy new gear because you want to and not because the geniuses are leveraging insecurity and doubt.
    If there was a clear advantage, wouldn’t the pros all be using graphite?

  11. Frank

    Jun 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I guess none of you guys took physics in college, cause that is exactly what happens when you hit a golf ball. Things like the harrison shot maker were created to minimize shaft deformation at impact. Do your homework before you jump to conclusions.

    • Setieyani

      Nov 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      J-U-N-KPinemeadow, Acquity, Walter Hagen, Nextt, Intech, etc are all junk.It’s in your absolute best ieretnst to do what you can to get your hands on some name brand product. If you’re looking for something under $500 for a full set, then your best bet will be. You can at least go here to purchase something that’s a few years old, but the quality is 100x better than Pinemeadow. Name one golfer on any pro tour who plays Pinemeadow clubs (or any of the others mentioned above? (There aren’t any.)

  12. poser

    Jun 28, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Have to agree with Michael I’m amazed someone at this level of teaching has no idea that the images are caused by rolling shutter speed. The shaft isn’t really flexing like that at impact. Not knowing something so simple seems to discredit anything else in the article….

  13. Michael

    Jun 28, 2012 at 4:19 am

    While I agree with a lot of statements in the article, the stuff with the pictures is just wrong. Pictures like that have to do with shutter speed and – if it’s taken from a video – frames per second. You need high speed video equipment with somewhere around 10.000 fps to really see, what a shaft does during a golf swing and at impact. And it’s way less, than what you would think.

    Regards,
    Michael

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Equipment

2021 Callaway Epic Speed Launch Day Report: Everything you need to know about the new equipment from Callaway

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It’s the official launch day of the all-new Callaway Epic Speed line of metal woods, which includes both driver and fairway wood models—Epic Speed, Epic Max, and Epic LS. To summarize the newest releases, Callaway engineers are taking their artificial intelligence as far as they ever have by using it to optimize both the face and body of the driver to deliver forgiveness and distance increasing ball speed across the face like never before.

If are looking for in-depth information, on the ins and outs of the new designs and the technology that makes them possible, check out our full launch pieces below.

The new 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver

The Epic Speed is the fastest swinging driver Callaway has ever made. The elevated Cyclone Aero Design gives players a clubhead that gets through the air and down into impact faster creating even more ball speed opportunities.

2021 Callaway Epic Max driver

The new 2021 Callaway Epic Max driver is a heater, but more than anything, it’s forgiving. Using all the tech bells and whistles from Epic Speed (AI-designed Jailbreak and Flash Face), Callaway made the Epic Max crown lighter with even more triaxial carbon, saving 19 grams of discretionary weight, which allows them to create an even deeper CG and higher MOI. A rear sliding 17-gram weight in the trunk to tune in launch and shape and the OptiFit hosel provides up to 20 yards of shot shape correction.

2021 Callaway Epic Max LS

Out with the Sub Zero and in with the most playable players driver Callaway has created. With a neutral shape and weight configuration that is the more fade bias of the Callaway family, the new LS has a very high MOI (8,400+) for a tour-inspired driver. The idea was to give high speed players something fast all while mitigating the big miss better players fear. Yes, we all fear a big miss, but at high speeds, the foul ball is, well, a bit more foul. The new triaxial carbon crown saves 13 grams of weight, which was redistributed to increase MOI and lower CG.

Perspectives from the GolfWRX forums

  • bcflyguy1 – I’ve also found the Max head to be excellent when lofted down and weight pushed to the toe; becomes surprisingly neutral when configured as such. Obviously can see where many will prefer the more muted sound/feel and compact footprint of the Speed head or may need the greater fade bias from the Max LS and its Trip Diamond-ish shaping. However, the Max offers a VERY rare combination of tons or horsepower but with sufficient traction control to keep even me from figuratively wrapping it around a light pole.
  • noodle3873 – Just got back from hitting balls. My local Pro was breaking in his Epic LS 9° against his Mavrik SZ TD 9°. Both heads were built/hotmelted to the same weight. He was using GC Quad and brand new Srixon range balls (not ideal but numbers are like for like). On average he was getting more launch, more ball speed and a couple more yards out of the LS.
  • mtp –  I hit the whole lineup today. Not a fitting.  Just trying them out. Was using the HZRDUS Smoke Green. LS was best for me. Prefer the shape, sound and feel over my current Sim Max.
  • zeke66 – This thing is a beast. Hit it with a Paderson ballistic tp. I was swinging awful with all 3 drivers I was hitting including gamer, and wouldn’t leave the hitting bay until I started hitting it better. So I grabbed the Max Ls 9.0 and worked through it. Average ball speed was around 177 low 120’s with spin around 2100-2200, launch 12-15. When you catch one on the screws… it goes as good as anything I think.

More from the GolfWRX forums

GolfWRX’s resident equipment tester, Brian Knudson of the Club Junkie podcast, had this to say

Epic Max driver: A lot of draw bias, but easy to launch high and takes some right side out even with a neutral weight. Sound and feel are improved over Mavrik, much more muted and solid feeling. Center strikes are hot, and even misses carry some good ball speed.

Epic Speed driver: The best looking of the Epic drivers. Offers the most penetrating flight. Seems to be pretty low spin and easy to work the ball in either direction. Misses don’t stay online as well with more curvature. It is long and going to be a really good option for skilled players.

Epic Max LS driver: Very forgiving and offering a straighter flight than Max. Slightly lower trajectory as well. Toe misses hold their line better than the other two. Shots low on the face don’t get up as high as expected but still carry. Misses off-center still have good carry distance

Here’s what the biggest YouTube testers and reviews have to say on the newest Callaway Apex line

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Equipment

Best utility iron of 2021 – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing 2021 utility irons. WRXer ‘Krod10359’ kicks off the thread, saying:

“Just want to know your opinion on what new utility iron you have hit this year. Looks like a lot of solid offerings out right now from Ping, Srixon and Callaway. Let me hear what you have to say about these clubs.”

And our members have been sharing their thoughts in our forum.

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.

  • hypergolf: “This…(photo above)”
  • TigerInTheWoods: “Sim Udi is a beauty. Launches a bit higher and is a bit more forgiving than the P790 UDI which was really the benchmark for this kind of club.”
  • craz-e: “Hard to go past the Srixon for performance and value. The current offerings from Titleist (u500 & u501) and Mizuno (HMB) are also great options and worth trying.”
  • Golfingfanatic: “The new Callaway one is pretty good.”

Entire Thread: “Best utility iron of 2021”

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2021 Callaway Epic driver: Epic Speed, Epic Max & Epic LS drivers

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Callaway Golf introduces new Epic driver lineup for 2021—Epic Speed, Epic Max, and Epic Max LS drivers—giving us the best of everything.

When it comes to a hot face, Callaway Golf has been at the top of the heap since its introduction of Jailbreak Technology back in 2017. In simplest terms, Jailbreak allowed Callaway to vertically stiffen the face, which allows the face to absorb a ton of energy and release it right back into the golf ball.

When Epic hit the market, it was instantly the driver of that year due to its ball speeds and forgiveness across the face, but most importantly for Callaway, it gave the company a strong foundation to build from for models to come.

In 2020, with the help of artificial intelligence, Callaway engineers were able push that idea a bit further with the successful Mavrik line. This time, artificial intelligence took Jailbreak and found ways to make it even more efficient with the addition of the Flash Face.

Now, in 2021, using every piece of tech at its disposal, Callaway officially launches the new 2021 Epic Speed, Epic Max, and Epic Max LS drivers.

The new AI-designed, carbon-loaded, MOI machines are the culmination of now four iterations of Jailbreak technology, and in my opinion, Callaway has its fastest but more importantly—most golf-course friendly—driver ever.

Let’s dive in…

The new 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver

New 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver

The Epic Speed is the fastest swinging driver Callaway has ever made. The elevated Cyclone Aero Design gives players a clubhead that gets through the air and down into impact faster creating even more ball speed opportunities.

New 2021 Callaway Epic Speed Driver, Cyclone Aero Shaping

In addition, the AI-designed Flash Face SS21 and the new look Jailbreak Speed Frame create stiffness not only vertically across the face but east and west as well. The result? Speed, stability, and a ton of forgiveness.

The new 2021 Callaway driver, face on

“Spin robustness” is another key term in the 2021 Callaway campaign. What this means for us is giving players spin where we need it (i.e. off the heel spin stays down, off the toe spin stays up, out of the middle the ball goes forever).

Another key aspect to notice across the line is the enhanced composite crown. The new 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver has a triaxial carbon crown that covers even more real estate allowing Callaway to redistribute 16 grams of discretionary weight. The larger carbon surface area also innately created a way for Callaway R&D to make the Epic Speed a bit more draw friendly without having to add external weight to the heel.

Callaway Epic Speed driver, address

2021 Callaway Epic Max driver

Sole view of the new Callaway Epic Max driver

Yes, the new 2021 Callaway Epic Max driver is a heater, but more than anything, it’s forgiving. Using all the tech bells and whistles from Epic Speed (AI-designed Jailbreak and Flash Face), Callaway made the Epic Max crown with even more triaxial carbon, saving 19 grams of discretionary weight, which allows them to create an even deeper CG and higher MOI. A rear sliding 17-gram weight in the trunk to tune in launch and shape and the OptiFit hosel provides up to 20 yards of shot shape correction.

The New 2021 Callaway Epic Max Driver, Sliding weight

The New 2021 Callaway Epic Max Driver, Address

2021 Callaway Epic Max LS

Incorporating the AI-designed Flash Face SS21 and Jailbreak technology, Callaway has created a new more forgiving profile in a players driver.

Out with the Sub Zero and in with the most playable players driver Callaway has created. With a neutral shape and weight configuration that is the more fade bias of the Callaway family, the new LS has a very high MOI (8,400+) for a tour-inspired driver. The idea was to give high speed players something fast all while mitigating the big miss better players fear. Yes, we all fear a big miss, but at high speeds, the foul ball is, well, a bit more foul. The new triaxial carbon crown saves 13 grams of weight, which was redistributed to increase MOI and lower CG.
Like Epic Max, LS also has a sliding weight to tune in adjustability.
Inspired by the Triple Diamond tour heads of the past, Callaway decided to go away from cranking spin down to oblivion and offer a driver that was actually closer to what the tour leans towards. Yes, they love a low spin head, but not too low spin. The Triple Diamond heads were basically a Sub Zero shape in a higher MOI profile. If you go through our tour photos, you will see more Triple Diamonds than anything. Obliterating launch and spin sounds good for Trackman, but it’s hard to play that way on the golf course all the time.

Initial Tour Reaction

I had a chance to chat with  Callaway’s PGA Tour Manager Jacob Davidson on the early response and this is what he had to say.

JW: In early testing, what is the first thing players are seeing with Speed and LS?

JD: Early feedback from the tour guys has been a noticeable difference in an increase in ball speed across the face but more importantly the dispersion has tightened down range. Many guys have also quickly fallen in love with the sound of the new metal woods.

JW: What most excited you with the new line?

JD: We knew early on with this product launch that we had an exceptional driver. To start- the look of the heads and the shaping allows the clubs to sit beautifully at the address position. From there the overall feel and sound matches exactly what tour guys prefer. The guys we have worked with have converted into the new woods extremely quickly with very positive feedback. For us, we are excited to have some great starting lines, a competitive ball speed advantage, and an increase in forgiveness.

We are constantly studying what makes world class drivers of the golf ball world class. After much research, we determined the ideal spin/ degree of launch and worked closely with our R&D team to reach these numbers. We were absolutely amazed to see what they came back to us with. Using AI they were able to figure out how to increase the MOI in this line of drivers while also focusing on more ball speed. It truly is remarkable the new frontier of technology we are using in our drivers to help our players play their best golf.

Overall Thoughts

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Epic Flash (acoustics), and Mavrik was solid but didn’t blow me away. This new 2021 Callaway Epic line of drivers is exactly what players want: a golf club that is playable all while providing the distance and performance we have gotten used to over the past few years. It’s a new trend in the market that I’m loving. Drivers are becoming golf course friendly again. We tried to kill spin—when ultimately it was our best friend in the long run.

Specs

At Retail: 2/18

Lofts: 9, 10.5, 12 degrees (Epic Speed) 9, 10.5 degrees(Epic Max & Epic Max LS)

Price: $529.99

Stock Shaft Offerings

  • Epic Speed Driver: Project X Cypher 40g (WMS, L). Smoke IM 10 (50g – R,S. 60g – S)
  • Epic MAX Driver: Project X Cypher 40g (WMS, L). Smoke IM 10 (50g – R,S. 60g -S)
  • Epic MAX LS: Mitsubishi MMT (60g – S,X. 70g – S,X)
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