After a career-defining season, here’s why Francesco Molinari loaded up on new gear
The clubs Francesco Molinari used to power his way to victory in the Open Championship last summer aren’t the ones he’ll use in his attempt to defend his title in mid-July. After years of experimenting with various brands (beginning from the time his prior gear patron, Nike Golf, ceased manufacturing clubs in 2016), Molinari went full Callaway at the beginning of this calendar year, with the deal becoming official just before the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March. Talk about hot starts: Molinari won that week at Bay Hill and followed it with a drive to the semis in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and a T5-finish at the Masters. “I’m lucky enough to be a guy that doesn’t get emotionally attached to clubs,” says Molinari. “Even last year, I think I went through three different drivers and tinkered with the shaft weight a little bit. I joined Callaway because I was impressed by their equipment and had been testing it for years. It was pretty much a dream start from the beginning.” If Molinari is able to hoist a second consecutive Claret Jug, he’ll have these Callaway offerings to thank.
DRIVER: CALLAWAY EPIC FLASH SUB ZERO (9 DEGREES, $530); MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL TENSEI CK PRO BLUE 70X SHAFT
“The first testing we did in October was basically with the Epic Flash driver. The heads were just coming out. I decided to test it with the Callaway Chrome Soft X ball and compare it to the driver/ball combination that I had last year. The jump in speed was immediate.” Credit the jump to Callaway’s Flash Face, developed using an AI-powered supercomputer. The face geometry is unlike anything the golf gear world has seen: a “non-intuitive” thickness pattern formed by subtle ripples flowing from heel to toe. The Sub Zero model that Molinari uses tends to decrease spin, a boon to fast swingers or any golfer looking for more control.
3-WOOD: CALLAWAY EPIC FLASH SUB ZERO (13.5 DEGREES, $300); MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL TENSEI CK PRO BLUE 80X SHAFT
“The 3-wood is a difficult club to change out when you find one you like. It’s a situational club. You need one that produces a strong ball flight off the tee but also allows you to launch it high and soft when you’re going for par-5 greens in two. My 3-wood last year, to be honest, was never my favorite club. I went to different heads and different lofts, trying to find something that would work better. The Epic Flash Sub Zero has been really good.”
HYBRID: CALLAWAY APEX (20 DEGREES, $270); MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL TENSEI CK PRO BLUE 90X SHAFT
The new Apex hybrid is a serious stick. More traditional shaping hides Callaway’s innovative Jailbreak Technology, which creates a stiffer body, more face flex at impact and faster ball speeds.
IRONS: CALLAWAY APEX PRO 19 (4-IRON, $1,299/SET); CALLAWAY APEX MB 18 5-PW, $1,399/SET); TRUE TEMPER DYNAMIC GOLD TOUR ISSUE X100 SHAFTS
“I’ve been a blade player for most of my career, hence my decision to go with Callaway’s MB model. The last blades that I played with Nike were kind of in between blades and cavity backs. The Callaway MBs are the real deal. My numbers were great right off the bat. I love the sound and the feel of the sole through the ground.
“I’ve got a blade 4-iron as well, but so far, I’ve been using an Apex Pro at the top of my set. This model gives me a little bit more ball speed than the MB and helps to bridge the gap between my 5-iron and my hybrid. [The regular Apex iron is likely to appeal to a wider variety of players. —Eds.] It’s a setup that I’ve had for roughly three years now. By leaving the 3-iron out of the bag, I have more options down in the wedges.”
WEDGES: CALLAWAY MACK DADDY 4 (50-, 52-, 56- AND 60-DEGREES; $150/EACH); TRUE TEMPER DYNAMIC GOLD TOUR ISSUE X100 SHAFTS
“I’ve really taken to the Mack Daddy 4 wedges. Even last year, when I wasn’t under contract with Callaway, I had the 60-degree in my bag. I’ve since added the 50-, 52- and 56-degree. If you’re a weekend player and you think four wedges is too many, think again. It gives you tighter gaps, so you’re rarely between clubs in the scoring zone.”
Callaway offers 21 loft/bounce combinations in the Mack Daddy line, and three head-turning finishes. But keep your eyes on the grooves: Each wedge has Groove-In-Groove Tech, meaning smaller grooves are sandwiched between the larger, more traditionally shaped grooves. The result? More shot-stopping spin and control than ever before.
BALL: CALLAWAY CHROME SOFT X ($45/DOZ)
“More than anything, I’m enjoying playing the Epic Flash Sub Zero driver with the Chrome Soft X ball. The ballspeed gains that I’m getting are really unbelievable, and my drives don’t spin any more than they did with my previous combination, which is great. It’s not often that you find a ball that immediately launches in the right window. Honestly, it’s the best one that I’ve ever played.
“The other surprising thing is the feel around the greens—it’s softer than what I was expecting. It checked all the boxes during testing: spin, feel and launch.”
PUTTER: ODYSSEY TOULON AUSTIN; STROKE LAB SHAFT
Molinari erased a five-shot deficit with a final-round 64 to claim his first title of the PGA Tour season at Bay Hill, pouring in more than 146 feet worth of putts during the round—the best of his career—and making everything from
inside 15 feet. He did it all with a Toulon Madison Stroke Lab putter, which had replaced his trusty Bettinardi just two months earlier. (He has since switched to a similar Toulon Austin putter, which he still uses now.)
“Last year’s putter has a special place in my heart. It helped me win a major and go 5-0 at the Ryder Cup. But the transition to the Toulon Madison was easy. The feeling is different, but when you’re making putts and controlling speed, that’s all the convincing you need.”
The multi-material Stroke Lab shafts are approximately 40 grams lighter than standard. Weighting is concentrated in the tip to promote a smoother motion.