The Back Story: Callaway's Jailbreak Technology

Callaway GBB Epic driver Callaway

The Back Story: Callaway's Jailbreak Technology

Equipment

The Back Story: Callaway's Jailbreak Technology

With this new series, The Back Story, Golfweek hopes to shed some light on the inspirations and beginnings of some of the game’s most popular gear.

When a driver is named Epic, the bar is set pretty high. Callaway’s 2017 GBB Epic driver has delivered, gaining popularity among Tour players and recreational golfers.

The driver features a carbon-composite crown and sole, a sliding adjustable weight and an adjustable hosel, but Callaway says the key to Epic’s ability to help deliver distance is the company’s Jailbreak Technology.

Golfweek’s David Dusek recently sat down with Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development, to get the back story on this unique feature.

Callaway GBB Epic driver

Under the carbon-composite crown, a pair of 3-gram titanium bars connects the sole and crown of the GBB Epic driver. (Callaway)

 

David Dusek: What got you and your team thinking about adding posts to the inside of a driver and connecting the crown and sole?
Alan Hocknell: Well, it certainly did not start out as something that provided an obvious ball-speed advantage. It was a completely different thing.

We had the Big Bertha Alpha driver (in 2013), which had a gravity core in the center of the head. The gravity core sat vertically inside a carbon tube that was connected to the crown and sole. We didn’t have any other drivers that had that kind of internal structure, and in that form it did not provide a ball-speed advantage. It was just there to house the gravity core.

Callaway Big Bertha Alpha

The gravity core built into the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha sparked research that lead to Jailbreak.

But in computer models, we did notice that it did something a little different, in terms of the way the head did or did not flex. It had an extra stiffness in the middle. We could have ignored it and said to ourselves, “Well that’s interesting, but let’s move on,” but we do have a group of people who are looking, full time, at things we don’t understand. We put this on their list, then used computer systems to manipulate it a little bit.

DD: When did the advanced research team start looking into the effects of posts that connect the crown and sole based on what you discovered in the Big Bertha Alpha?
AH: Probably before that club hit the market. We had already figured out that there was something unusual going on. At that stage it was still a curiosity, but before the Alpha launched we modeled other forms of vertical stiffness in the head. We looked at different locations, and then trade-offs of adding that. We started with a carbon tube that was about the diameter of a golf shaft, then made them skinnier, down to a couple of millimeters in diameter that were bonded in.

We looked at how many to use, and where. Proximity to the face turned out to be interesting. We discovered that if you put these closer to the face, the effect we’d see in the back was amplified. It changed the relationship between the way the face flexes and the body flexes during impact.

The question then became, could we make it? We prototyped a few of these carbon tubes and bonded them in, and they survived a few impacts, but as soon as you went up to Tour-level head speeds the whole thing fell apart. At one point in the development, we thought we were following a phantom, but luckily we pulled an iron out of the fire when we started casting the parts out of titanium as part of the body. It wasn’t going to be a second part that had to get welded or bonded in. We didn’t think it was possible and our suppliers were screaming, but it was the breakthrough that we needed.

Callaway GBB Epic driver

Casting the titanium posts as a fixed part of the head helped Callaway bring Jailbreak to life. (Callaway)

DD: So what was the timing of that?
AH: The GBB Epic launched in January 2017, and we didn’t solve this until June of 2016.

DD: Wow … You were that far down the road and right up against deadlines and did not have everything worked out?
AH: I had that conversation with Chip (Brewer, Callaway’s president and CEO) and said to him, “I don’t think we’re going to get there.” He looked at me and said, “Well, it would be bad if we didn’t.”

We knew it was going to be complex and costly, but we were willing to risk the cost portion of that because if we were able to capture most or all of the benefits we’d seen in the prototypes, then we’d be good. People would be able to get that instant noticeability. We had been talking a lot about forgiveness, aerodynamics and adjustability, which are all still important, but Jailbreak gave us a real gain in speed.

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