Callaway’s New Great Big Bertha Epic Metalwoods

Callaway Epic Driver (Photo courtesy Callaway Golf)

Carlsbad, Calif.

There is a deafening buzz around Callaway’s new Great Big Bertha Epic metalwoods. Buzzzzzz.

Golfers everywhere are talking. Can you hear them? Just listen to some of the news reflections:

  • Rory McIlroy puts a new Epic Sub Zero driver and Epic Sub Zero 3-wood in his bag. Callaway doesn’t mention McIlroy’s name because he hasn’t signed a contract with the company.
  • Phil Mickelson, a frequent club switcher, goes to an Epic driver and Epic Sub Zero 3-wood.
  • Henrik Stenson replaces his trusty Callaway Diablo Octane 3-wood with an Epic 3-wood. This is particularly newsworthy because Stenson relied heavily on the Diablo Octane 3-wood (14-degree loft) when he won the 2016 Open Championship. Many stories were written about the club, as if it had a human personality all its own.

According to some reports, Stenson’s old 3-wood finally was forced into retirement by a fracture in the clubhead. Such cracks occur with some frequency in metalwood heads used by fast-swinging touring professionals.

Both Mickelson and Stenson have contract deals with Callaway, so the company can act as a cheerleader as much as it wants. Indeed these are terrific clubs, but there clearly are lessons to be learned from Epic.

Sub Zero, for example, is a designation that translates into low spin. Why would McIlroy and Mickelson each choose a Sub Zero 3-wood while Stenson prefers the standard Epic 3-wood?

The answer lies in testing. McIlroy and Mickelson obviously liked what they saw in the Sub Zero model, while Stenson had a different perspective. Most amateurs can benefit from additional spin (higher trajectory, additional carry distance) and are better served by the Epic model rather than the Epic Sub Zero. Touring pros, however, can lose distance with too much spin. Still, this remains a matter of choice.

Amateurs need to be honest with themselves. The best formula is to find a qualified fitter and carefully evaluate the role of spin. Every golfer will benefit from hitting test clubs or demo clubs to determine exactly which clubhead model and which shaft are most suitable.

What more can we learn from all this hoopla?

The biggest lesson in my opinion: Don’t lavish all your attention on drivers when versatile new fairway woods are right there in front of you. Drivers are sexy. They are show-off clubs. All golfers want to drive the ball longer. But fairway woods often are money clubs. They make it possible to hit greens in regulation on long par-4 holes.

Callaway has always been a company that produced extraordinary fairway woods. In the early 1990s, after the Big Bertha metalwoods were introduced, Callaway dominated fairway wood sales in the United States.

These new Epic fairway woods are special. Furthermore, Callaway does something that should please all golfers — the company makes and sells a huge variety of fairway woods. It’s not just 3-wood, 5-wood and 7-wood.

With the Epic model, six fairway wood choice are available — 3+ (13.5 degrees), 3 (15 degrees), 5 (18 degrees), Heavenwood (20 degrees), 7 (21 degrees), Divine Nine (24 degrees). The suggested retail price of the fairway woods is $279, while the drivers are $499.

By the way, the Heavenwood is an amazingly versatile club. And the Divine Nine can easily be used to hit the ball either high or low.

Some of us miss the days when Callaway sold a 4+ (15 degrees with a longer shaft), but, what the heck, we can’t have everything.

Looking ahead to the major championships of 2017, I intend to closely watch Stenson. Many observers believe he is the best iron player in the world, and an accurate 3-wood makes him even more dangerous. Will his new 3-wood perform as well as the previous one? This is a legitimate question, because for most golfers the 3-wood is the single more difficult club in the bag to fit.

Stay tuned. It will be fun to watch.

One more thing

As much as touring professionals are raving about Callaway’s new Epic driver, let’s be honest. The club doesn’t swing by itself. It still needs a highly qualified operator.

Callaway inserted two titanium pins (or bars) inside the driver head. These pins serve to stabilize the crown and sole and incorporate their performance with that of the face.

Early reports cite amateur golfers, particularly smooth-swinging seniors, who are getting more distance with their Epic metalwoods. Looking at the overall picture, though, it makes sense that the Epic design would enhance accuracy and forgiveness.

I love what Callaway has done, but you know what is often said about golf inventions: If you look hard enough, you will find somebody who previously did something very similar. Few concepts in the golf equipment arena are brand new without previous attempts to do the same thing.

Callaway says this about the Epic driver: “The key structural components of a driver – crown, sole and face – deform at impact. Because they’re connected, they influence each other’s dynamics. Jailbreak (technology) incorporates two slender titanium bars positioned parallel to each other behind the face, connected to the crown and sole. The size, strength and position of each bar creates a new dynamic relationship between the crown, sole and face. The result is a profound change in how the head, as a whole, behaves at impact, resulting in more speed across a much larger area of the face.”

And I’m here to tell you that golf club designer Dave Boone said much the same thing about 15 years ago. Boone was the chief designer for Lynx, and he moved over to Zevo after Lynx declared bankruptcy.

Here was Boone on Zevo’s Compressor driver, which contained an internal compression device made of a material called Zylon. This device, designed for stability, connected the sole and crown of the driver.

“Without this technology, you have expansion and movement of the driver head,” Boone said at the time. “You’re dissipating energy.”

Manufactured in Japan, Zylon was said to be 40 percent stronger and 12.5 percent lighter than carbon fiber. The Zylon compression device, weighing less than 2 grams, was connected to the sole on one end and the crown on the other, using aerospace fasteners. Tension that compressed the two together was applied with a precisely calibrated torque wrench.

Well, that is today’s lesson in golf club history. And it’s the truth. However, it doesn’t diminish what Callaway has done here. In fact, the concept validates the role of stability in driver performance.

If Epic emerges as the home-run club that some people believe it will be, there should be a nod of the cup to Dave Boone.

Meanwhile, golf club technology continues to get better and better, with Callaway right there at the forefront.

—Jim Achenbach                  achenslice@aol.com