Two years ago, we loved Callaway’s Epic. It introduced a new design concept, Jailbreak, that paid noticeable benefits on the course. Understandably, Callaway sold a ton of drivers.
In 2018, Callaway introduced the Rogue. It was an improvement over the Epic in terms of forgiveness and was a very good driver (we liked it), but it didn’t fly off shelves the way that the Epic had. Maybe Epic owners didn’t want to upgrade their $500 drivers that quickly. Heck, maybe the teal color scheme didn’t appeal to golfers as well as the Epic’s green.
But Jailbreak truly delivered in both drivers, so when Callaway started to talk about adding its AI-designed Flash Face technology to a new Epic, we couldn’t wait to tee it up.
Watch out for Skynet! Callaway used artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to design the clubface of the new Epic Flash. Using these technologies allowed Callaway to evaluate some 15,000 iterations of the face, while a typical driver goes through 5-7 virtual prototypes. Even better, the computers “learned” from each attempt and used that information to improve the design.
Images of the face more resemble some sort of high tech imaging of barometer readings around the eye of a hurricane or possibly the moment just after a raindrop lands in an oblong container of water. Where we have become fairly familiar with face technology that puts the thickest part of the face in the center of the clubface, Callaway’s Flash Face does that but also adds another couple rings of ridges, bumps and depressions, all designed by AI to maximize ball speed across the entire face. A very cool concept.
This high-tech face gets a boost in stability from Callaway’s Jailbreak technology, which made its debut in the original Epic. Two titanium bars positioned just behind the face connect the crown to the sole and serve to stiffen and stabilize the face to (again) enhance ball speeds.
While just those two features are very impressive, Callaway has added the forward-thinking Flash Face and Jailbreak technology to a clubhead design that includes most of the cutting-edge features you’d expect to find in any top-of-the-line driver in 2019.
There’s a carbon crown that allows weight to be redistributed low in the clubhead and to the periphery of the sole. Callaway has improved the crown over the original Epic by employing a lighter triaxial carbon fabric called T2C, which enables a tighter weave. Redistributing the weight saved within the head raises MOI for forgiveness on off-center hits.
Players will be able to tune their Epic Flash drivers to their individual games using the OptiFit hosel, which allows 3° of loft adjustment. In addition, a separately adjustable ring provides a Draw and Neutral setting. One of the things that we like about the OptiFit hosel is that it allows a player to change make adjustments, like adding or subtracting loft, while keeping the shaft and grip in the same orientation (that works out nicely since the stock grip is a Golf Pride MCC Align).
In addition, a 16-gram moveable weight can be moved along an arc at the rear of the sole to promote a draw or fade ball flight. On the original Epic this sliding weight was replaced in the Sub Zero with a pair of center-aligned weights, but in this iteration the sliding arc is found in both models.
In 2017, we had some minor quibbles with the shape of the original Epic. It looked a tad large and maybe a bit long from front to back. The Sub Zero’s more traditional shape suited our eyes better.
We must be getting used to the typical geometry of these game improvement-style drivers. While the Sub Zero still wins the eye test, we don’t really mind the look of the Epic Flash, especially not when we find ourselves in the fairway a healthy distance from the tee.
With the Epic Flash, Callaway has continued the black and green theme it gave to the original Epic. In fact, much of the cosmetics are an updated version of those introduced with the Epic. The black carbon crown features a “largish” Callaway chevron alignment aid. Gone are the raised ridges at the front of the crown, replaced with a white/silver gray arc that echoes the face and serves as a secondary alignment aid. As on the original Epic, some thin pinstriping at the rear of the crown provides a tasteful flourish of styling. Though for 2019, the green and white pinstripes have been replaced with a solid green pinstripe around the back of the crown with gold segments toward the toe and heel portions. An “Epic” decal behind the hosel and visible at address finishes the look and assures that you’ll always know what driver you’re playing.
As with the first iteration of the Epic, the sole of the club has a lot going on, with the movable weight arc and bottom terminus of the Jailbreak bars. Callaway has added ample green to the sole, as well as gold trim.
The face is noticeably different this year. The stylized “X” used in the previous Epic and Rogue has been replaced by what we’ll call a high-tech bullseye. It’s evocative of a reticle you might expect to use while targeting a missile from an F-35 cockpit. It’s a little busy, but pretty cool.
The Epic Flash sounds solid, but has more of a traditional titanium driver sound than many composite heads deliver. It’s maybe a tad louder than the Epic, but not overly so.
Callaway has given us three models of its latest driver: the standard Epic Flash and the lower spinning Epic Sub Zero (both of which are tested here), as well as the low-spin, fade-biased Epic Sub Zero Triple Diamond. (With a name like that latter, we’re really happy the Callaway dropped “Great Big Bertha” from the Epic moniker this year.)
We tested a 10.5° Epic Flash driver with a 6.0 60-gram Project X HZRDUS Smoke shaft and an Epic Flash Sub Zero with 6.5 75-gram Project X HZRDUS Smoke shaft.
The Epic Flash, Epic Flash Sub Zero and Epic Flash Sub Zero Triple Diamond all run $529.99 with stock options. If you don’t like green, you can even customize the colors for an additional $70.
As you can tell from the technology section, Callaway has packed a lot of speed enhancing features into the Epic Flash, and that should translate into a lot of pop. Spoiler alert: the Flash has plenty of firepower.
On both the launch monitor and on (soggy) courses, the Epic Flash delivered. Spin was solidly within the range (2,000-3,000 RPM) that I’m looking for, and overall carry distance was greater than or equal to other recent models tested under the same conditions.
A cold outdoor range session yielded the numbers below. The thing to note is that even though I was bundled up (i.e., restricted) and not swinging quite as well as I should, the Epic Flash still provided ample distance compared to two very recent vintage top-end models (one of which was my go-to gamer just a few weeks ago).
On the course, I found the Epic Flash to fly the ball a long way. Though balls were plugging on nearly every tee shot, they were carrying considerable distances. Despite -1 yards of roll (plug and rebound back) on a par five I regularly play, I was able to reach the green in two. It’s not a long five-par, but it plays uphill so I usually only reach it in dry conditions.
In warmer weather, the Epic Flash is a launcher, providing ample rollout despite the high launch and ball flight it generates. Carry and overall distance is very impressive. Variance from the center line was better than many models we tested and overall performance is right there with anything you can throw at it.
Even on mishits, the Epic Flash tends to move the ball a long way. That Flash Face is apparently more than just marketing hype. Especially in terms of distance, this driver provided better than average forgiveness on just about any shot hit anywhere around that Flash Face. Shots low on the face and off the heel produced the worst results, as you’d expect, but still went a surprising distance compared to what some other drivers deliver on these mishits.
Good swings and contact either hit the fairway or just missed. Naturally, if you block one or flip your hands, nothing is going to save the shot. But if you align correctly and get the face close to square, the club’s MOI is more than likely going to put you in a decent spot from which to play your approach.
A Word on the Sub Zero
As a higher ball-speed player, with an X-flex shaft (which has more to do with my transition than anything), the Sub Zero model has long been the favored variant for me, and the Epic Flash’s version does not disappoint in this regard. Balls come off high but flat, and get to height and coast. Into the wind, the driver continues to drive the ball forward without ballooning.
Yes, the Sub Zero version is a bit less forgiving on mis-hits. If you’re a high-spin player who isn’t a great driver, you may benefit from reducing spin via shaft selection over choosing the Sub Zero. As with George, I found the Rogue a minor disappointment, and echo everything he says about the Epic Flash: it’s not a generational leap forward, but it is progress once again over the Epic, which is all we can ask for these days. If you bought an Epic, do you need a Flash? No. But there are a few more yards out there for you, particularly on mis-hits, which is what the original Epic did so well already.
The Callaway Epic Flash is another great driver from Callaway. The company has produced a steady stream of high performing big sticks lately. The Epic Flash also has a ubiquitous presence on Tour, thanks in part to marketing but also to its ability to perform.
There are a lot of good drivers on the market today, and the Epic Flash compares well with its competition in every category of performance.
The 2017 Great Big Bertha Epic practically flew off the shelves of pro shops. The 2019 Epic Flash is both longer and more forgiving than the original. The price point may be a bit of shocker for some, but the playability and distance will make that a lot more palatable.