Callaway Epic Speed – Official MGS Forum Review by MaxEntropy
First, thanks to MGS and Callaway for the opportunity – it is always an honor to be able to see how new products perform in the hands of an “ordinary Joe.”
My name is Blake and I am a 53-year-old living in Akron, Ohio. I caught the golfing bug after graduating from college in 1991 (Go Zags!) and generally played a couple times per month through the 1990’s into the early 2000’s, with a few years of playing in leagues that got me on the course more. With the help of a couple friends and a single lesson that corrected a huge swing flaw, I got my “unofficial” handicap down to around a 14 (18 holes). At that time, my game was all about distance. I could not hit a wood to save my life, so 4i was my go-to off the tee. A solid strike was usually in the 240-yard range, so I saw no need to really worry about woods.
Life smacked me in the face pretty hard in the mid-2000’s and my clubs stayed in the basement for the better part of ten years. A friend encouraged me to get out with him a few times in the mid-2010’s and I’ve become fanatical about golf since then and I joined MyGolfSpy in 2017 in my pursuit of learning more about equipment, techniques, rules, etc.
By the time I started playing again, age had started catching up with me and I had become more out of shape than I would prefer. I can’t even hit a 4i anymore, much less get 240 out of it, so it became apparent to me I needed to figure out how to hit a driver.
For my age/handicap, I am pretty long and being an official tester for SuperSpeed last year was a great help. My baseline swing speed was 102 mph and I peaked at 120 mph near the end of the test period. I have taken the PRGR radar to the course with me a few times, and I will still typically be in the 110-mph range. Not bad for an out-of-shape old(er) fart! I’ve been in a league now for 4 years – I started as a 10 HC (9 holes) and have dropped steadily to the point that about 3 weeks ago I dropped to a 6. In my opinion, there are two primary reason for the improvement: 1) I am slowly figuring out how to swing a driver (trial and error); and 2) I have become more risk averse when I am in trouble. I used to favor the “spectacular” shot with the low probability of success because DAMN it feels good when you pull it off that 1 time out of 50! Now, I’m more likely to take my medicine and rely on scrambling to minimize the damage. Even then, execution is sometimes an issue.
I wish I could say I have an Ernie Else or Fred Couples swing, but I don’t. I tend to have quick-ish tempo with an aggressive transition. See for yourself…
This video was taken the day after going to the gym for the first time in over a year – not optimal swing, but you get the idea.
My typical ball flight is high, usually with some fade to it. Historically, the banana slice has been my big miss, but over the last few years, I’ve developed a terrible two-way miss when swinging driver with near equal probability the ball is going left or right.
It’s not as bad as it seems, though…oh who am I kidding, it SUCKS! How do you play to your tendency when there isn’t one?!?!? The image above is all drives since I started using Arccos (Aug 2019). The left misses tend to be less tragic than the right on average, so I still play for the ball wanting to go right. From my fitting, I learned that my path is fairly consistent (at least it was that day), so getting/keeping the face where it needs to be is a big issue, which leads to driving being my biggest weakness. The closer I get to the hole, the stronger my game becomes with putting being my biggest strength.
Arccos also tells me that, even though my accuracy off the tee is detrimental, my distance is a strength. Over the last 20 rounds:
My current gamer is a TaylorMade M5 9* I purchased from @MattF in the offseason after he bought his new Titleist. He was playing it with an EvenFlow Blue (stiff), but it also came with a Tensei CK Orange (stiff). Although I had never been fit, I had played around enough at hitting bays in various stores to know that something about the CK Orange agreed with my swing. It didn’t take me long to figure out the CK Orange was my clear choice. I have one of the weights in the “low” position and the other set to “draw”. This has resulted in much better ball flight so I can now get some roll out of my drives! I also love the sound the M5 makes on solid contact. I don’t even really know how to describe it, but it almost seems wood-like rather than metallic to me. Whatever it is, it’s a great sound!
I have this strange mental conflict when it comes to pulling a driver – I know the stats generally say SEND IT and I probably get myself into more trouble than I should by being aggressive (especially with the width of my dispersion cone), but my primary goal with driver is pretty simple – hit the ball as far as I can and hope it ends up some place that leaves me a shot at the green. Most of the courses I play don’t have super long rough, so there really isn’t too much of a penalty for missing the fairway – just give me a shot and I can score better.
I typically play tees in the 6200-6500 yard range. At that length, I probably have the ability to reach about half of the par 5’s in two, depending on the course. At our league course, reaching 3 of the 4 of them in two is not a problem with a decent drive and the 4th is gettable with two perfect shots (which means I’ve never reached in 2). Our league course also happens to be relatively short (5900 yards from the tees we play) so many of the par 4's are little more than a wedge to the green if my drive is in play.
Why did I sign up for the Speed rather than the Max LS? When the announcement first came out, I was attracted to the Max LS due to its design goal of killing spin. Then reading Tony Covey's release article, I saw the following statement: “LS is a relative term. The Epic Max LS is low spin relative to the Epic Max but should generate appreciably more spin than the Mavrik Sub Zero did. In fact, if you’re looking for a new Callaway driver that offers launch and spin characteristics on par with last year’s Sub Zero, your best bet is the buy the Epic Speed and turn the loft down by one degree.” He also made a comment to the effect that the Speed version should be the best fit for the majority of golfers. Good enough for me!
Disclaimer: I have preconceived notions about Callaway – I am not really a fan of the company as a whole. They strike as more of a marketing machine than someone making technological advances and letting the product speak for itself (right or wrong, that’s my perception). A friend has some Apex CF16 irons that I’ve hit a few times, and I don’t like them. The ball test 2 years ago (and the backlash from Callaway employees on social media) did nothing the dissuade my thoughts. With that said, I played a RAZR Fit 3 wood for a few years that I absolutely loved and have considered testing it against my current Bridgestone 3W. I am also a fan of the Stroke Lab putter I tested a couple summers ago, so even with my thoughts about the company, I like to think I am open-minded enough to play what helps me score better.
These days, even though the marketing hype around Jailbreak/AI Speed Frame and Flash Face are substantial, the technology behind the marketing at least sounds legit to me. According to Callaway, both Flash Face and AI Speed Frame are intended to help with forgiveness by maintaining speed on off-center strikes. Is this true? So far, I have seen some very good forgiveness on balls hit very high on the face, so that’s encouraging. Nothing in on the heel or too far out on the toe just yet, so we’ll have to see.
I understand my inability to hit a driver consistently is very much a “me” thing, but the questions I have is will the forgiveness built into these heads help? What role will playing a shaft that is closer to optimized mean for me? I won’t recap my shaft fitting – it’s described in detail in the comments, but I ended up with the Epic Speed 9* with the MMT 70 X-stiff. I ordered an Align grip, but due to an error in the build, it is currently on a MMT 70 Stiff shaft sitting in my basement. I blew a fairly new SuperStroke Cross Comfort Midsize off my old SW and it is now on the Epic. The good news is that, time permitting, I can do some testing with the Stiff version to help determine if any improvement is related to the shaft, the head, or both.
In the short time I have played the M5, I have grown to like it, so in order for the Epic Speed to kick it out of the bag, I am going to need to see something substantial to warrant it. For me, that means a measurable (statistically significant) improvement in dispersion, preferably with similar distance. I need something that finds less trouble! I saw a comment from @chisag in one of the threads related to distance. Something to the effect that a shot on the same line as his 260-yard drive in the rough that carries 300 will find a lot more trouble. This fact is not lost on me and had me concerned during the SuperSpeed testing. Specifically, that I was going to find myself in more trouble in new places that were previously unreachable to me. Fortunately, I can only think of a couple occurrences where that has likely been the case, but I hope the Epic Speed is able to help as much as it can in the hands of someone like me.
Let’s get on to the pictures….
The glossy black carbon fiber crown is very attractive to me. I typically prefer more of a matte finish because smudges show up so easily with high gloss. With the black MMT shaft and gray grip, I think the package looks very good to me.
The head shape is nice and looks good behind a ball. One thing I have noticed is that if I let a driver sit on the ground how it wants to naturally, the M5 wants to open up the face, whereas the Epic Speed stays pretty neutral. I wonder if this tendency has any effect on me psychologically, thinking I have to try to get the face square knowing it wants to be open. Real effect or placebo, I have no idea, just a thought.
I tried to do my best to make sure the perspective was the same in the above pics. Although I failed, I think it does illustrate my point – the M5 naturally wants to sit open.
The graphics on the sole are OK – a little busier than I prefer, especially without any weight tracks to add to it, but I do like the color scheme. This is of no concern to me as I never see the sole except when I am taking off/putting on the head cover (or posing it for pictures).
I really like the head cover. Yes, it is a tight fit initially, but it has already started to loosen up some. My only concern is it being primarily white – me and white don’t mix. I’m sure I’ll find a way to spill coffee on it even though I almost never have coffee on the course. I am being careful, though. I want it to look as pristine as possible for as long as possible.
My primary intention with testing is to rent some simulator time to get firm numbers on both drivers – hopefully enough swings to determine whether any differences are statistically significant. Do those numbers translate to the course?
Thanks again to MGS and Callaway. It's time to have some fun!
Driver: M5 10.5* (set at 8.5*) Tensei CK Orange
3W: Tour B JGR 15* Recoil 460ES
3H, 4H: Tour B JGR 19*, 23* Recoil 780ES
4-AW: Tour B JGR HF2 Modus3 Tour 105
SW: Zipcore Black Satin 54*
LW: Zipcore Black Satin 58*
Putter: Stroke Lab Marxman
Bag: BigMax Dri Active Lite
Ball: TP5x Pix
Pushcart: BigMax iQ+
2021 Test - Callaway Epic Speed