Callaway Epic 21 Driver Review – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”That’s what I thought last year when I saw that Callaway had moved away from the Epic name to introduce the new Mavrik metal woods.
In my opinion, ‘Epic’ is the perfect descriptive word for a golf club, whereas the fact that Mavrik was spelt wrong annoyed me a little and I don’t think it really represented the average golfer either. I don’t think as many people could relate to it.
A maverick is said to be ‘an unorthodox or independent minded person’… but I’d say most golfers like to fit in rather than being different, don’t they?
For me, the first Epic Driver moved the needle in terms of the brash name, and most importantly the performance backed it up, it worked. When I was on Tour, it made me jealous of the Callaway Staff players as I new it was hot.
I even remember trying one out on the range at the Ladies Scottish Open in 2017 as everyone was raving about the speed of it, telling me how ‘Epic’ it really was!
The Epic name is back for 2021, and these drivers are once again gunning for the top spot as the number one driver in the game. After a strong end to 2020 for Titleist with the introduction of TSi, Callaway need to come out fighting in the new year.
They’ve made a good start to that by announcing Jon Rahm as their new main man and will be praying that he adds a major to his already impressive trophy collection very soon. Whilst you will probably see him with a new Epic headcover in his bag, it’s more likely to be the proto Triple Diamond which isn’t available for mere mortals like you and me to try.
What’s It All About?
Callaway’s big message with these new drivers is that they are “framing the future of speed” by combining their AI and Jailbreak with a brand new Speed Frame to increase distance for everyone. So it’s not only Phil Mickleson who is going to be hitting bombs in 2021.
As with all Callaway releases these days, you get the benefits of their AI super-computer in the Callaway factory, which runs through thousands of different design simulations in order to find the setup that best provides maximum ball speed and forgiveness.
This produces the Flash Face SS21, which we saw in last year’s Mavrik Drivers, with a unique and individual design for every single head and loft in the range in order to improve ball speed and ‘spin robustness’.
The new Jailbreak Speed Frame not only provides a stiffened body vertically but also improves stability in the horizontal and torsional direction too, which is said to keep ball speeds up across a wider area of the face.
This new frame is clearly visible on the sole of the club as there are now four framed medallions, rather than the two on previous models.
The Epic Speed Driver boasts a new Cyclone Aero shape which is designed to promote less drag, with the Triaxial carbon crown covering a larger portion of the crown and the toe. This makes the head much lighter than a titanium head and so this means that Callaway can distribute weight elsewhere in the head to improve MOI.
As always with Callaway drivers you get the benefit of the Optifit hosel, which allows you to change lofts, lie angle and shot shape to best suit your own swing characteristics. This can also be done without having to rotate the shaft.
At Golfalot we were also sent the exploding heads of the new Epic so that we could see all of the different components of the driver head. I think the Jailbreak technology makes a lot of sense because the bars immediately remind me of stability and strength, and the design just looks like it’s clearly going to make things more stable.
It’s also pretty cool to feel all of the lumps and bumps on the driver face to show that each Flash Face is different to another. Equipment manufacturers always talk about making things lighter and the effect of a carbon crown, but when you actually get the chance to hold one then you’ll appreciate just how light they really are.
There are 3 different models available in the new Epic range:
Epic Speed Driver – This replaces the Epic Flash Driver, and whilst also having a 460cc head it differs in shape from the Max S due to a ‘taller ribbon and flatter crown’ which is said to make it the fastest head in the Epic family.
This driver will be suited to a wide range of players and has a more medium spin rate which is less fade-biased due to more weight being redistributed towards the heel. A Triaxial toe patch also helps to add a little bit of draw bias. It is available in 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees.
Epic Max LS Driver – This replaces the Epic Flash Sub Zero and is aimed at mid to low handicap golfers who are looking for lower spin combined with more workability but still retain high workability. It is Callaway’s most fade-biased driver with adjustable perimeter weighting that they say can alter ball flight by up to 13 yards. The lofts available are 9 and 10 degrees.
Epic Max Driver – This is the most forgiving Epic driver, with the Triaxial Carbon crown saving 19 grams compared to a titanium head in order to produce a deeper CG, even more draw bias and a higher MOI for straighter drives.
The adjustable perimeter weighting allows the 17g weight to be moved across the head to promote the desired ball flight, and combined with the Optifit hosel it can enhance shot shape correction by up to 20 yards. This may not be a long driver, but it will help with those slice shots and if you hit more fairways, your ball should run out further anyway. The Epic Max is available in 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees.
Callaway also offer a customisation option in order to change the colours of your driver head, so for a minimal upcharge you can opt away from the Epic’s distinctive lime green and white.
I visited the Belfry in December to take my first look and swings with the Epic range around the PGA National. I then was sent the fitting pack from Callaway where I fitted myself into the correct shaft and tried the drivers inside at LSH Auto, Mercedes Benz Stockport using Trackman 4 and Titleist Pro V1x balls.
I then decided my favourite head and took the club for some more extensive testing during my rounds of golf over Christmas and New Year.
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Callaway Epic 21 Drivers Review
Looks and Feel
First things first, the green is back, although in more of a lime green than last time, whilst the yellow of the Epic Flash has gone completely. The crown has a more simple look with most of the carbon ‘mesh pattern’ gone although the glossy black finish remains, and it still looks pretty recognisable as a modern Callaway head.
On the face, a new X pattern has been added to the central circle which illustrates how the new Jailbreak Frame is working across a larger part of the face.
The sole reminds me of a combination of the Epic Flash colours, but with the simplicity of the Mavrik in shape and writing. You can clearly see the four Jailbreak medallions and the different weighting of the three models.
In terms of feel, there’s not a huge difference between these drivers in comparison to the 2019 Epic Flash but for me that’s a good thing. They are perhaps slightly firmer off the face, which made me think that the Jailbreak Frame was probably working in providing some more stability.
I hit the first few shots and said out loud “This feels quick, I think I can get some high ball speeds with these drivers”. Let’s find out if I did…
After a bit of trial and error I settled on the Hzrdus Smoke 55g shaft in stiff flex complete with a Golf Pride Align grip (that comes stock with the Epic drivers). I played these grips for my entire time on tour, and a lot of the other players do too because it’s a really easy reminder of where the grip should fit in your fingers. It’s usually a nightmare for adjustable hosels but not with Callaway’s Optifit as the hosel rotates, not the shaft.
Epic Max LS – Normally I would say I am a low spin driver player but Callaway’s Sub Zero models of the past typically gave me crazy low spin, and so most female tour players and amateurs didn’t go near it. However Callaway assured me this driver was easier to hit and they were right.
My numbers were very similar to the Epic Speed in terms of distance and spin, with the spin rate actually slightly lower in the Epic Speed than the Max LS. Because of the change in CG, the launch was slightly lower in the LS and as Callaway suggested there was more of a fade bias when you look at the dispersion.
However I was pleased to say that it was much easier to hit, and much more forgiving, as the Epic Sub Zero and Epic Flash Sub Zero.
Epic Speed – As I said above, the numbers were similar between the Epic Speed and the Max LS for me which makes me edge towards this head as Callaway say it is more forgiving and mentally that helps me. Both drivers were carrying at about 210 yards on average and so there’s no compromise to be made in order to get the extra forgiveness, which is why the Epic Speed edges it for me.
The dispersion did tend to favour the left hand side but I would rather see that than anything right off the tee, because I want my ball to be turning over and drawing as that is where I get my longest drives. I also didn’t see any shots that were lost too far left that they would be in any real trouble which was reassuring.
Epic Max – I went into the testing with a feeling that this driver was not really aimed at me and I was proven to be right. It launched higher at 16 degrees, the draw bias meant that it favoured the left side of the range, it spun up higher at nearly 3000rpm and the carry distance was down by more than 5 yards.
This shouldn’t be a surprise however, because it is a driver aimed towards higher handicap golfers and those who don’t strike the ball as consistently who are looking for an easy launch and plenty of forgiveness over low-spin bombs!
Interestingly however the Epic Max produced a 2mph faster clubhead speed than the other two heads despite using the same shaft in the head. For me it didn’t lead to more ball speed, but it is worth noting that the potential may be there for when you get fitted.
Due to the English lockdown 3.0 I didn’t manage to give the Epic drivers as extensive of an on-course test as I would have liked to. During my round at The Belfry I hit the Epic Speed, and in wet conditions it flew straight and I felt comfortable with it in my hands.
I did also manage to sneak the Epic Speed into my bag over the Christmas period too, and my impression from the first couple of rounds when playing with my mates was “that sounds great”.
It is such a stable driver and the distance was good too. I found it to be pretty much neck and neck with the Ping G425 although neither were quite as long as the Titleist TSi3, which at 216 yards carry and 135 mph ball speed is clearly the hottest that I have tried so far.
I can’t help but think that if I went through an extensive Callaway fitting process with one of their experts, I could probably squeeze a couple more yards out with the Epic Speed too. I’m not sure it’ll be quite as long as the TSi but it is certainly as forgiving as the Ping G425 drivers, which is a major compliment.
Callaway Epic 21 Drivers Verdict
The Epic’s new Jailbreak AI Speed Frame is a game changer for me and the new horizontal bars make total sense. Callaway have always been among the longest with the drivers but this added stability is putting it alongside the Ping and Cobra in the dispersion category.
It looks like a classic Callaway head and I’m sure it will be a head that most people will be easily able to swap into. You still see the Epic Flash in the bag of plenty of Tour players instead of Mavrik as lots of them just didn’t think it was that much better.
When I saw the performance of 2019’s new staff players Matt Wallace and Franceso Molinari going downhill with the Mavrik in the bag, whether it was a coincidence I have to be honest and say that it didn’t fill me as a professional with a great deal of confidence.
But this throwback to the Epic name feels like a win-win for me, you get the comfort of the Epic name but with the new, advanced technology which is supported by some impressive numbers.
I’d expect the tour players to put the Epic drivers in the bag right away, and I also think that amateurs will love these drivers too.
Would I Use Them?
Definitely. The Epic Speed was a driver that I think you can throw into the bag and you should feel confident using it straight away. It looks great and performs really well, with great forgiveness levels which didn’t leave me worried about not hitting it out of the middle.
All three drivers are priced at £499, which is a little more than the Ping and TaylorMade counterparts but slightly less than the Titleist TSi which is over £500. Does that extra cash buy a few extra yards? That one is for you to find out…
- Much better looking than the Mavrik
- Epic is a name that we can trust!
- Golf Pride Tour Align grip is fantastic
- Great quality headcover
- I expected the Max LS to be slightly lower spinning
- Not quite as long as the Titleist TSi drivers
By Sophie Walker – Golf A Lot