Callaway Epic Forged irons max out distance with familiar metal's fundamentally different design
The Callaway Epic Forged irons might raise eyebrows with their price, but what really should garner attention for is how they pursue new kinds of distance with a face made of a stainless steel that has been around the game for half a century.
Rather than trying to justify its $300-a-stick price point by using some bizarro super metal alloy recently added to the periodic table, the Epic Forged makes its case for a bigger ticket with a more direct push: proven materials, intense engineering and the kind of distance in an iron set that makes sense through the entire bag.
The key to this performance rests in new thinking about how Callaway’s proven wraparound cupface piece could be further developed. Instead of the relatively common approach of a face insert made of a flat forged or pressed sheet of metal, the Epic Forged irons benefit from face topology, the unique variable thicknesses that move from thick to thin and back to thick again to optimize trajectory and spin for ideal distance. In all, there are four different face designs on the Epic Forged irons, said Scott Manwaring, Callaway’s director of iron design.
“We spent a lot of time trying to exceed the performance of 17-4 and we chased this to the bitter ends of the world,” Manwaring said. “We could have delivered a sexy material story, but with what we were able to learn from changing the topology profile, 17-4 would deliver the sexy performance story.”
What also fuels that performance story is how the Epic Forged irons borrow the suspended tungsten weighting first seen in the super game improvement Big Bertha irons to use in the long and middle irons. So not only do the Epic Forged irons build a more sophisticated face design than Callaway’s popular players distance Apex irons, they also deliver the Big Bertha’s kind of extra game-improvement iron type launch thanks to a tungsten slug wrapped in urethane filled with microspheres. That base improves feel and allow the face to flex at the same time. These game improvement irons actually use more tungsten than the super game improvement Big Bertha irons to lower the center of gravity (CG) further for distance-creating launch and spin where it’s needed depending on the loft of the iron.
The system of tungsten in thermoplastic urethane microspheres frees up the design to allow the weighting to be positioned uniquely for each iron. It’s the first time that system has been used in one of the company’s forged irons.
“As you gain control of that topology you get to choose where you want to have launch angle and spin and where you want to focus on speed and launch angle, where you might want to have speed and spin. So with the 3-4-5 irons you want to weight it towards distance and your 8-9-P you might want to weight it more towards stopping power.”
The mix of club-specific tungsten and face designs as well as constructions allows the Epic Forged to feature the strongest lofts in the Callaway family of irons. That includes a 27-degree 7-iron, which is six degrees stronger than some comparable irons. Manwaring said the strong lofts create a platform for ball speed, but the other elements make sure that speed works in concert with launch and spin. It creates new possibilities for an old—but reliable—material like 17-4 stainless steel, Manwaring said.
“There’s a reason cavity back irons evolved to be what they were,” he said. “It’s driven by getting the CG position right. We genuinely believe that the ability to lower the CG at the same time as adding speed gives us access to stronger lofts in a way that don’t play as strong as some other people’s strong lofts.
“You can say it’s a 3-iron based on the specs, but when we see average golfers hit these clubs, the quality of the shot and the potential for miss is actually closer to their 5-iron. It’s amazing that people still hit that 5-iron that well, but we’ve done all these technology enhancements and that lets them hit it better than they hit their 3-iron. So they start to associate it as a 5-iron because that’s the quality of shot they’ve seen with their 5-iron.”
The Epic Forged irons feature a body and hosel forged from 1025 carbon steel to further enhance feel. The tungsten weight is higher and closer to the face (through resistance welding) in the short irons to provide further control of launch and spin, but the face cup design runs all the way through the pitching wedge for the first time in a forged iron for Callaway.
Completing the luxury package is a high-end focus on shafts. The stock offering will be the Aerotech Steelfiber FC, with the Mitsubishi Tensei AV Silver in graphite.