The Callaway Epic Driver is the newest driver from the company and promises to offer golfers more distance, forgiveness and accuracy than any other club in their lineup. If you’re still using a driver that doesn’t allow you to hit your ball straight, then it might be time for an upgrade. Read on for our review of this new driver!
For 2021, Callaway have brought back the Epic family of drivers, with those streaks of lime green brightening the shelves of pro shops worldwide, not to mention many bags belonging to some of the world’s top golfers.
Jon Rahm recently gave a ringing endorsement for his new Epic Speed Driver. That’s the very same model being used by Phil Mickelson who at the time of writing has just won the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island (Well, almost the same – it wouldn’t be Phil without a few tweaks would it?!). Either way, we definitely wanted to give it a crack and see what’s what.
If a driver was judged purely on looks, then hands down this new Callaway Epic is a winner. All three head models are topped with a stunning crown upon which the intricate carbon fiber mesh patterning is enhanced further with delicate green specks that sparkle in the sunlight.
The overall Epic colour palette of black, grey, white and lime green is smart and befitting of the premium product it aims to be. The Callaway “V” on the crown provides a simple but effective alignment cue helping us to ensure we address the ball in the centre of the face.
In terms of shaping, both the Max and Max LS (Low Spin) heads are remarkably similar, whilst the Epic Speed is noticeably more squat, almost resembling a muscle car that sits down on its back wheels before powerfully speeding into the distance. Let’s hope that’s a metaphor that stands true under testing!
Callaway are keen to bring your attention to their redesigned “jailbreak system” – the metal rods positioned behind the face that they say have enhanced the stability of the head in all directions combined with a new thinner “Flash Face” that leads to increased ball speeds across the face. Reading between the lines, this suggests they believe the head is more forgiving on off-centre strikes.
Certainly, the Epic models were competitive, for example slightly outperforming the new PING G425 in testing, with ball speeds higher by around 2mph on average. If all other launch factors remain consistent that may equate to around 4-6 yards.
Interestingly though, despite the Epic Speed head being designed specifically with aerodynamics in mind (and at the expense of sliding weight adjustability), it didn’t appear to produce any greater ball speed/distance than the Max LS.
Accuracy / Forgiveness / Control
We all want to hit the ball a long way, but also then be ideally placed to play our next shot. The further we hit the ball, the more accurate we need to be to find the fairway.
The most forgiving driver model – the Epic Max, comes with a 16g sliding back weight helping position the centre of gravity further back and lower to increase stability and accuracy for off-centre strikes. If anything, barring a couple of shots to the right (my normal miss), the Max LS with its 12g sliding weight was more accurate. By contrast, the PING G425 Max comes with a full 26g back weight, and both felt and performed better than both in the accuracy stakes when looking at overall dispersion.
Then we have the Epic Speed. Callaway have taken weight out of the toe area, replacing it with ultra-light carbon fiber to give this a slight draw bias. True to their word, every shot I hit with this finished left of centre, and all bar one imparted a controllable amount of draw spin on the ball. For those of you who prefer to see a draw shape, this is the model I’d recommend you to take a look at first.
In terms of forgiveness with off-centre strikes – all models performed well, with my worst strike only losing around 4% ball speed. A figure that closely matches the G425 in this regard.
It’s always interesting talking about feel in Drivers, and of course, ultimately, it’s a personal preference aspect. For example, with Titleist you tend to get that slightly softer thud on impact, PING usually offer a fairly solid feel with acoustics to match. I’d describe these Callaway Epic models as having a lighter feel on impact and producing a slightly more melodic “ting” sound.
It’s certainly by no means offensive though, and honestly, if the performance is good then I doubt the feel/sound will dissuade you from making that investment.
Price-wise, the Callaway Epic is positioned in the market above the PING G425 but below the new Titleist TSi range by a similar amount. Ball speed-wise, it seems to marginally outperform PING so perhaps this is fair, and we’ve yet to test the Titleist so that will make for an interesting comparison next time.
When customers come to us for fitting, we often get asked to recommend a brand or a model, and in truth it’s not to say that one is better than another, it’s about finding the right combination of head and shaft to match your swing. Ultimately when procuring a new driver these days, regardless of which make/model you go for, it’s going to be a considerable investment and so the value will depend on the performance you get out of it. Certainly, the Epic is competitive though and appears to represent reasonable value for money.
If operating on a budget, don’t discount the latest models from Mizuno and Cobra which are positioned at a considerably lower price.
Golf Insider Verdict
Whenever Callaway release a new driver, you know it’s going to be a product of top quality. The question will always be how it stacks up against the offerings of rival brands. In terms of appearance and ball speed, the answer is very well indeed.
I was however, left feeling a little disappointed by the lack of distinct differences between the various head options and adjustability. In addition, it could be argued that the limited amount of stock shafts further reduces the ability to cater to a wider range of swing types. By contrast, Mizuno stockists will have a far greater array of shaft options to fit with for the new ST line of drivers.
Ultimately, if increased distance is your ultimate priority, then the Callaway Epic 2021 drivers are well worth a look. If versatility and control are more important to you, don’t discount other offerings as you may find a better overall package elsewhere.
Callaway Epic driver shaft options
The standard stock options in the Epic models come in the form of two Project X shafts – the HZRDUS Smoke iM10, and Cypher 40, as well as the Mitsubishi MMT. Callaway also offers a wide range of aftermarket shafts, some at no upcharge but we’ll focus on the above three as these are the ones you’re most likely to be able to physically try in your local pro shop.
In a nutshell, the Smoke iM10 is a mid-launching, mid-spinning shaft across 3 different weight categories (50, 60, 70g) each for which the exact weight depends on the shaft flex. If you’re looking to reduce spin, consider the MMT which again is mid-launching but lower spinning. This can be quite a potent combination in optimising carry distance in faster swing speed players.
The Cypher 40 is an ultra-light shaft aimed at slower swing speed players and will help launch the ball higher with more spin to maximise the carry distance for lower ball speeds.
Ultimately, everyone swings the club differently, and so you will benefit the most by visiting a qualified PGA Professional who can expertly fit your driver ensuring the best combination of head type, head settings and shaft.
Head options for the Callaway Epic Speed
There are 3 distinct head options in the new 2021 Epic Drivers. The Max, Max LS and Speed. To begin with, let’s outline what Callaway state about the differences between the three.
Starting with the Max, this is the head with the heaviest sliding back weight (16g), and according to Callaway, the highest launching, highest spinning, and most draw-biased head of the three options.
We then have the Speed which sits in the middle in terms of launch, spin and draw bias, but doesn’t have sliding weight adjustability, followed by the Max LS (Low Spin) which does have it (12g weight), but is designed to be the lowest launching, lowest spinning and most neutral in terms of clubface angle.
Another point of note is the difference in lie angle between the 3 options, with the Max head most upright at 59 deg, the Speed at 58 and the Max LS at 57. This is significant for a couple of reasons and it all makes sense:
- Typically a more upright lie angle has the potential to close the face more effectively. Callaway wants the Max head to be the most draw-biased, and Max LS the most neutral.
- The flatter the lie angle, the easier it is to create a shallower angle of attack, launching the ball higher with potentially reduced spin loft and thereby reducing spin – the goal of the Max LS.
Here is what I found (All heads tried with same shaft in either 10 or 10.5º loft)
In terms of launch angle and ball speed, there was very little difference to tell between each of the heads. Where Callaway’s claims do stack up better is in terms of backspin generated, with the Max LS the lowest of all, and on average 436 RPMs lower than the Max.
Interestingly, the Epic Speed appeared to be the most effective in closing the face and resulted in a dispersion that on average was the furthest left of centre.
As is customary with modern Callaway drivers, the hosel provides adjustability in terms of loft and face angle. You can adjust the stated head loft between –1 and +2 degrees, and select between a neutral or draw-biased face angle.
With the Epic Max and Max LS, a sliding weight allows you to move weight into the heel or toe area. Typically moving weight into the heel will encourage the clubface to close faster and create a draw-biased shot shape, with the opposite effect occurring from the weight in the toe.
With the Epic Max, when pushing the weight into the heel I was to gain on average around 200 rpm greater draw spin with my shots, however to my surprise when additionally setting the hosel into draw mode, this gain actually decreased.
Now this may very well be down to user error, bearing in mind that my natural shot shape is a fade. But to disregard this information would be to completely miss the point, we are not robots and ultimately the aim here would be for the most draw-biased driver set up for maximum draw to deliver a greater performance benefit in this regard.
With this in mind, for those struggling with an unwanted fade/slice shape, I would, first of all, recommend looking at the PING G425 SFT head as this was particularly effective, but if your heart is set on Callaway, look first at the Epic Speed head. You can also check out our full review of the best drivers for reducing your slice.
Frequently asked questions
Is the Callaway epic driver forgiving?
Yes, the Callaway Epic drivers are very forgiving. However, in our testing, we would suggest the Ping G425 Max is even more forgiving for off-centre hits.
Which Callaway Epic driver is the best?
There are three drivers in the Callaway Epic range, all are there to target golfers with different needs. The Epic Max is best for forgiveness and reducing a slice. The Callaway Epic Max LS is designed to produce a lower ball flight with less spin, resulting in longer drives.
As always, try to get a custom fitting to find out the best driver head and shaft combination to suit your swing.
Should I get a 9 degree or 10.5 degree driver?
There is an optimum launch window and spin rate, based on your clubhead speed. Most golfers with average swing speeds will actually hit the ball longer and straighter with a higher lofted drive. It is best to book a custom fitting to find out your current launch and spin, and to test how much yardage you could gain when this is optimised.
That rounds up our review of the Callaway Epic driver range – exceptional distance, but the head models don’t offer noticeably contrasting performance. For more on driving check out our guide on how to hit a driver straighter and longer.
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