Callaway Senior VP of R&D Alan Hocknell sits down with GOLF to answer questions about Callaway's innovative 360 Face Cup Technology, which is featured in the company's most recent iron models.
GOLF: Callaway's 360 Face Cup technology has been a game changer for the company in terms of designing both irons and woods that create a noticeable increase in ball speed and distance. Can you explain exactly what it is?
Dr. Alan Hocknell: The 360 Face Cup utilizes a single piece at the front of the clubhead that encapsulates a curved striking surface on the crown, sole, and heel and toe. The entire area is one piece of metal. This gives us a lot more control of the design of the clubhead than we would have with a face insert that is welded together, for example. This means we can choose a material for the Face Cup that's a lot stronger than the rest of the body and create a lot more flexibility all over the entire face, which in turn creates more COR and more ballspeed.
GOLF: Having the ability to apply the 360 Face Cup design to irons allows you to design models like the Apex, which is forged and longer than past models. How much more difficult is it to design traditional looking irons that produce big distance than it is to do the same with woods?
Hocknell: The principles are the same but the ability to fit the technology into an iron, which is obviously a much smaller area than a driver, is one of our greatest technological achievements. We had to work a lot harder to achieve the same effect in a tighter shape and we did so by engineering the topline and sole of the irons to somewhat recreate a fairway wood or hybrid shape. So the irons do function more like woods than traditional irons. We also had to move material and weight away from the face without moving it somewhere that would be detrimental to the overall performance of the club. The two-piece head with the 360 Cup Face being one piece and the frame of the cavity being the other has given us a great method for controlling the shape and the performance.
GOLF: How long has the 360 Face Cup design been in development?
Hocknell: The real pioneering work was done in drivers around 15 years ago. The nonconforming ERC drivers that came out around that time had forged titanium face cups that allowed for a COR above the legal limit, which produced extremely high ball speeds and distance. We knew the principles then but couldn't figure out how to put it into a smaller fairway wood or iron design at that time. Over the years we refined that design into what is now the 360 Face Cup that not only produces higher ball speed in the middle of the face but all over the face.
GOLF: The first iteration of the forged Apex iron was successful. How is the newest Apex CF 16 model superior to the original?
Hocknell: The first generation Apex was very long for a forged iron but the new model with the 360 Face Cup is easily a half club longer throughout the set. We didn't use the 360 Face Cup in the short irons because the loft of those irons somewhat nullifies the usefulness of the technology, but in the long and mid irons it creates significantly improved launch, ball speed, and distance than dead faced, traditional forged irons.
GOLF: You mentioned that the 360 Face Cup technology is also applied to fairway woods and hybrids. How significant are the performance gains in those clubs?
Hocknell: When we applied the face cup to our X Hot Fairway woods a few years ago we picked up around 17 yards of distance over the previous fairway wood models and continued to make improvement in the X2 Hot and the XR and XR 16 models. We also used the technology in the Big Bertha irons that came out at the time and found that players were getting up to two clubs more distance through the set. The hybrids have also seen very significant gains making them useful both from the tee and the fairway.