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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

TOUR REPORT: Collin Morikawa debuts new TaylorMade “P7CM” prototype irons

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Welcome to this week’s Tour Report from Albany in the Bahamas for the 2022 Hero World Challenge. The week started with an unfortunate update from tournament host Tiger Woods, who was forced to withdraw from the event due to pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

As reported by PGATour.com, Woods will not seek surgery, instead opting for a “stretch and relax” approach. He still plans on playing in the upcoming PNC Championship and The Match, however, and we also got a brief look at his current golf swing, as I’ll get into below.

Aside from Woods, there were a few notable gear updates from the Bahamas, including Collin Morikawa debuting two brand new iron models, Corey Conners finally switching drivers, and Tony Finau showing off one of the coolest custom staff bags I’ve ever seen. Justin Thomas made yet another putter change, as well.

Let’s dive into this week’s Tour Report from Nassau, Bahamas.

JT makes yet another putter change

After making several putter changes throughout 2022, the Justin Thomas putter saga ultimately came full circle, ending the year with the same putter that he started off the year with. Before moving into several different 1-of-1 long-neck Scotty Cameron T5 prototype putters, Thomas began the year with a Scotty Cameron X5 Tour Prototype with a short flow neck. And that’s what he had in the bag at the 2022 Hero World Challenge this week, as well.

Also, here’s your reminder that Thomas’ custom Titleist 621.JT Forged irons have zero offset, and they’re bone chillingly intimidating to look down at from address.

Shivers.

Justin Thomas’ full WITB from the Bahamas

Morikawa’s new TaylorMade prototype irons

Typically, Collin Morikawa doesn’t change irons unless he’s playing in extremely firm turf conditions over in Scotland. This week, however, he debuted an entirely new combo set, including TaylorMade “P7CM” prototype short irons (7-PW), and new “P7MC” long irons (5 and 6).

As we highlighted in our Equipment Report over on PGATour.com this week, Morikawa worked closely with TaylorMade to dial in his new P7CM irons, which are obviously named using his initials. While the irons have a similar look to the company’s previous P7MB blade irons, they appear to show a combination between chrome and raw finishes.

Here’s what Morikawa told GolfWRX on Tuesday about the irons, and why he switched out his 4.5-year-old TaylorMade P730 blade short irons:

“They’re brand new,” Morikawa told GolfWRX.com. “I’ve been using them for probably two weeks now. They’re not too far off from the P730’s that I’ve been using pretty much since I turned pro. I was fortunate enough to do some iron testing with TaylorMade – which I’ve never done – and go into the whole sole pattern, and bounce, and width of an iron. There’s nothing wrong with 730’s, I … love them, that’s why I played them for probably 4.5 years now. But there’s just certain shots here and there that come out of nowhere.”

In addition to the new blades, he also debuted new TaylorMade P-7MC irons, which have a different design in their back cavities compared to the previous iterations of P7MC irons. Morikawa said it was an “easy transition,” but we’re yet to hear more details from TaylorMade about specific technical information or possible release dates.

We’ll keep you up to date should we learn more about the TaylorMade P7MCs that Morikawa had in the bag at the Hero.

Collin Morikawa’s full WITB from the Bahamas

Tony Finau’s absolute HEATER of a golf bag

Whether you’re a Utah Jazz basketball fan or not, I simply refuse to believe anyone can say this 1-of-1 Vessel-made staff bag isn’t one of the coolest of all time. The all purple colorway, Jazz logo, and jersey-style “Finau 7” stitching on the front make this bag absolutely pop. The icy blue zipper colorway was a nice touch, too.

Finau teed it up in Wednesday’s Pro-Am alongside former NBA all-star and current Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge, and Finau certainly did not disappoint.

@golfwrx Tursky says Tony Finau’s @Utah Jazz themed bag is the coolest bag he has ever seen. Do you agree? #golf #golftiktok #golfwrx #utahjazz ? original sound – golfwrx

According to Finau, he’s going to autograph and giveaway the golf bag at the upcoming Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz game on Wednesday. If you have a chance to become the owner of this bag, I sincerely wish you good luck.

See what GolfWRX members are saying about the bag in our forums

Corey Conners finally ditches his driver from 5 years ago

Conners, who’s statistically one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour for the last several years, finally switched out his previous Ping G400 LST for a new Ping G430 LST. According to Conners, he started using the G400 LST at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and he hadn’t switched it out since, although he did go through about 10 different heads throughout the 5 year stretch.

He told GolfWRX.com on Tuesday that although he actually found his previous model to produce slightly more speed, the new G430 was significantly more forgiving on off-center hits, so he gave it the nod this week at the Hero. The new driver is also equipped with a 1-of-1 UST Mamiya Linq shaft.

For more information on his switch, head over to the PGATour.com Equipment Report by GolfWRX.

Tiger Woods competes in the “Hero Shot” challenge, despite foot injury 

No one would have blamed Tiger if he didn’t compete in the Hero Shot challenge this year, especially being that he withdrew from the actual event. As the tournament host, however, he sucked it up to help put on a great show for the fans (and for social media).

Although he failed to advance to the second round against the five other competitors, it was still great to see his swing and enjoy the festivities.

 

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For those curious, he used a TaylorMade MG3 56-degree wedge for the 87-yard shot, and he was wearing Nike Metacon 8 sneakers. I took a deep dive into Tiger Woods at the Hero Shot earlier this week, if you’re looking for further insight.

Caddies everywhere, take notes

As a former club caddie myself, I fully respect this move from an Albany caddie during the pro-am. Instead of writing down the players approximate yardages in a yardage book or on piece of paper, he writes them down on a square slab and velcros it to his caddie bib for instant visual access.

This is a true veteran move. I’m questioning the yardage gapping for that particular player, because something seems off, but the point is that it’s a great caddie trick regardless.

And with that, we say goodbye to the Bahamas. Legendary GolfWRX photographer Greg Moore will be on location at the PNC, so look out for more WITBs and inside-the-ropes photos soon.

Check out all of our photos from the 2022 Hero World Challenge

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Equipment

Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (12/2/22): Ping i59 irons

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At GolfWRX, we are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways.

It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buying and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a set of Ping i59 irons.

From the seller (@zacharya): “PING i59 4-PW with KBS 130X and GolfPride MCC +4 standard grips. +1/2” length, standard loft and lie. There is some rock damage on the 7 as pictured but doesn’t affect playability at all.  $800.”

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Ping i59 irons

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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Whats in the Bag

Justin Thomas WITB 2022 (December)

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Driver: Titleist TSR3 (10 degrees @9.25)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Blue 85 TX

5-wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees @19.5)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4), Titleist 621.JT Forged (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 (46-10F, 52-12F @52.5, 56-14F @57), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks Proto (60.5 T, 60.5 K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 (52-60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron X5 Proto
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

More Justin Thomas WITBs

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