Scott Kramer, Forbes.com Contributor
Scott Kramer is a veteran, Southern California-based writer primarily versed in golf and personal technology. His review originally ran on Forbes.com.
I cover golf, luxury technology, and the intersection of the two. The year has just started, and there’s already been a slew of new drivers introduced to golfers across America. I’ve had the chance to already preview several of them. Many I’ve liked, thinking they’re probably worth the upgrade if your current driver is older than three years. You’ll probably find that you’ll get more distance and find more fairways with one of the latest models.
One particular club I tried a few weeks ago and really liked was Callaway’s Epic Flash, which goes on sale to the public this morning. It’s made with artificial intelligence and machine learning -- no fooling. Its Flash Face aims to help golfers get more ball speed for more distance. Callaway engineers bought a $5 million computer to help them design the inside of the clubface, feeding the machine information on what exactly they wanted with respect to ball flight. After cycling through 15,000 iterations of the clubface, the software came up with unique mapping on the inside of the clubface that consists of dozens of seemingly random and subtle ripples flowing from heel to toe. Believe me, I saw one of the faces and there was no visible pattern to it. I found it quite fascinating, actually. It's common for the underside of driver clubfaces to have muscle thickness, but it's usually in a notable pattern. “The ripples and waves of this face appear to be random, but they aren’t,” says Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development. “The result scared the hell out of me. My first thought was that if it doesn’t work, I wouldn’t know how to modify it to make it work.” Thankfully that wasn’t an issue.
Officials say the computer insisted this was the best use of face wall thickness to optimize ball flight. The size, height and configuration of the ridges work in concert—that topography results in a significant ball speed boost for a noticeable distance increase when you make solid contact. The face is forged from a special titanium and heat-treated. The driver also incorporates proprietary Jailbreak technology behind the face -- vertical bars stiffen and stabilize the lightweight triaxial carbon crown with the sole, placing more impact load on the face to promote faster ball speed.
All I can say is I was crushing the driver on the range at Callaway’s headquarters. And everything just felt so solid. And who knows: Maybe A.I. is the way manufacturers will design golf clubs from now on. The driver also has adjustable perimeter weighting, with a 16-gram sliding weight that you can position anywhere along the rear track, to fine-tune in the ball flight that works best for you. That lets you shape draws, fades or a straighter flight. The company is also selling the Epic Flash Sub Zero driver that was likewise designed using A.I. It retains the low spin and high MOI combination that previous Sub-Zero drivers generate, for more forgiveness and long distance.
I really like looking at the clean, dark finish at address. It’s a nice traditional appearance that seems so inviting. There are also matching fairway woods that also boast the Flash Face. They also felt and performed well for me in my testing.
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*Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.