Callaway Golf… have they ever come a long way since vintner and textile innovator Ely Callaway became involved with golf. Having initially invested in a brand called Hickory Stick USA it was later re-branded as Callaway Hickory Stick USA Mr. Callaway purchased half ownership of the former in 1982. By the time 1984 rolled around Mr. Callaway would purchase the company in full launching Callaway Golf as we now know it today. In 1991, golfers saw the release of the Big Bertha driver a game changer named after the massive artillery piece created by the Germans during World War I. Long-distance bombs! Here we are decades and generations of Big Bertha and Great Big Bertha later. With 2017 the golf industry has seen the launch of the Callaway Golf Great Big Bertha Epic (Epic Sub Zero) driver.
My experience with the Epic driver goes back to a cold day in late December. I was about 3 hours from in a little place called St. Thomas, Ontario visiting a golf shop that i had been meaning to go to for the longest time. It was then that I heard someone say “I know that guy” and it was Callaway Golf Area Rep Brent McClung. Of course, we exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me if I wanted to see something. Being the “gear head” (and responsible golf writer) that I am I said of course. This was when I would see parts of the 2017 product range from Callaway Golf. But the Epic I was immediately drawn towards with its carbon composite crown, Project X HAZRDUS shaft and sharp green accents (which reminded me of RAZR Fit Xtreme). I was blown away by how terrific it looked in the address position. So having been won over by the aesthetics of it Brent showed me the cut away and that was when I first saw their “Jailbreak Technology”. I knew that due to the embargo period I couldn’t Tweet a pic of it but asked anyways. No pictures were taken. But I knew that I was beyond intrigued and had to swing the Epic. Anything that looked that good and set up so well I had to swing… and wanted to swing right there that day.
So a month passes and the day finally came. Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Resort and Lodge which to me is the “crown jewel” of the PGA Merchandise Show. The Epic was very high on my “Must Swing List” especially considering I had a time arranged to meet with David Neville Senior Director Brand Management for Callaway Golf during show week. In advance of the meeting I made sure to make a few passes at the Callaway Golf booth just so I knew what it was like in advance. But more on that later. Before continuing on I just want to give a little bit of background information on The Epic and Epic Sub Zero drivers.
GBB Epic – The 460CC Epic driver features what Callaway Golf calls “Jailbreak Technology” which is innovative technology that “changes how the head and face behave at impact to promote more speed across a larger area of the face for increased average distance. Innovative combination of titanium Exo-Cage and triaxial carbon crown (lightest ever in a Callaway driver) and sole create unprecedented forgiveness in a high-launch, low-spin design”. The Epic driver also features a redesigned track which originally seen in the 2014 edition of Great Big Bertha. The Epic driver also claims to have faster head speeds due to the company’s upgraded aerodynamics featuring Callaway’s “proprietary Speed Step” which can be seen on the leading edge of the crown. Premium shaft options are endless with the likes of HZRDUS T800, Aldila Rogue M*AX, Mitsubishi Diamana and Fujikura Pro Green all being available for no up-charge. As to be expected Epic also features their OptiFit shaft adapter which allows golfers and fitters to find their optimal configuration. Standard lofts come in 9, 10 and a high trajectory 13.5 degree model. Standard length is 45.5″ and Epic has a swingweight of D-3 which allows for feeling the head through impact.
GBB Epic Sub Zero – “The GBB Epic Sub Zero Driver is a true paradigm shift: a powerful, low-spinning Tour-level driver that’s also incredibly forgiving — an unheard of combination. Its high-speed / low-spin characteristics make it particularly appealing to Tour pros, yet it’s so exceptionally forgiving and easy to launch that a wide range of players will want to play Epic Sub Zero.” While the GBB Epic Sub Zero features the same Jailbreak Technology and the same “Exo-Cage Construction” and streamlined aerodynamics what GBB Epic Sub Zero does not have the same is the sliding track on the trailing edge. Instead the trailing edge is “clean” and there are two interchangeable weights (12g and 2g) to allow golfers the ability to tinker with trajectory and spin rates. For lower spin, golfers would want to place the 12g weight in the front. Stock shaft offerings again are the Aldila Rogue M*AX, Fujikura Pro Green and Project X HZRDUS T800. The head size is 460CC and Sub Zero comes in two loft options (9* and 10.5*) and come in the same standard 45.5″. The swingweight is different however in that it comes in at a slightly heavier D-4.
So now that I’ve dispensed with the technical jargon what exactly happened when I got to swing the GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers?
The weather at Demo Day this year might have been the best conditions that I have seen there in my 5 years attending the show. Totally clear and sunny with the temperature being in the mid-70’s. A day which was absolutely perfect!! As far as geography on the 360* range at Orange County National the Callaway demonstration area was in a position that had a helping wind slightly over the right shoulder. Upon picking up the GBB Epic I was immediately reminded of the first time in December. The club felt great in my hands and I couldn’t wait to make swings. So I warmed up with a few passes with a Mack Daddy wedge and some swings with the new Steelhead XR irons.
GBB Epic – Warmed up nicely, I switched to the GBB Epic. To reiterate, I love the look of the Epic in the address position. The carbon-composite crown shimmers in the sunlight and the glossy black head and black face seemingly blend together while the “Speed Step” on the leading edge is not intrusive. I found the overall footprint pleasing although I thought that the was a little on the bigger side (but not like Big Bertha Fusion). The pairing of the PX HZRDUS makes Epic look “mean”. A gorgeous driver. I would make swings with the 9* head with all of the settings “stock”. My first swing resulted in a drive that just went straight and long. It was definitely a tee shot that I would take on any driving hole on any golf course in the world. The ball flight was a little higher than I prefer but not in a way where it was ballooning and that was proven with the descent angle. I did see some nice rollout on the tail-end of my drives. It seems to me that all that GBB Epic wanted to do was hit high, long drives which is what it was designed for in the first place. Shot-shaping can definitely be achieved. Acoustically, the GBB Epic was “muted” but the feeling was “hot and sharp” and ever so solid. With the GBB Epic I don’t recollect a single shot that was a low hook (my miss) or anything that was a slice. Perhaps, this speaks volumes of its forgiveness.
GBB Epic Sub Zero – Picking up the Sub Zero I immediately felt a degree of comfort. I really did like… and prefer the smaller footprint. This was a club that I really was looking forward to swinging because it boasts everything that I look for in a driver. I must say that Callaway designers did an “utterly fantastic” job in hiding this 460CC head in a chassis that appears to be smaller (430-440CC). The Sub Zero for whatever reason had a much better feel in my opinion and I figured that it was the slight difference in swing weight. I am and always have been picky about feeling a club through impact and this driver fit that need. I used the Sub Zero in its neutral settings again with a 9* driver. I observed a lower ball flight with a flatter trajectory. All of the launch conditions and trajectory were “spot-on” as far as what eyes like to see. You can really feel this driver kick through impact and I attribute that to the D-4 swingweight. This driver performed magnificently and again no low hooks or slices. Controlled little draws and cuts on command. The Sub Zero is a very workable, forgiving driver “that packs a lot of low-spin punch”. Have you ever looked at a driver and imagined what it would sound and feel like? I have and the Sub Zero was everything that I envisioned it to be.
In closing, I would love to spend some course time with the GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers from Callaway Golf. These are high=performance drivers that deliver performance in every way that a golfer would want. Great shaft options, great looks and seemingly perfect flight characteristics. If you’re in the market for a new driver this golf season give the Epic a look. The Epic is very well-deserving of its name and is simply…epic.
Until The Next Tee!