By Mike Stachura
The Callaway Mavrik line of metalwoods certainly takes a cue from its name. The designs are a “maverick” kind of rebuke to past ideas about metalwood designs, fueled by an explosive expansion of the company’s initial foray into artificial intelligence and machine learning. But just like the name removes unnecessary letters, these designs also are streamlined to fit the specific requirements of individual player types, not the one-size-fits-all philosophy of the adjustable driver era.
The key is how the company’s team of engineers are using supercomputers to take clubhead design, both in terms of the face and the head’s internal structure, in a new direction.
“We think the use of artificial intelligence allows us to explore areas of design that are maybe unconventional to us and to the standard ways of thinking about golf club performance,” said Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development, referencing the A.I. influence on last year’s top-selling Epic Flash drivers. “It’s not just about buying a big fancy computer and doing lots of calculations, it’s about how we integrate that into our design process to produce a tool that is not only extremely capable of doing the more advanced forms of analysis to produce a new design, but it’s also about manipulating those designs to the needs of different golfers. We’ve tried to do that better than we’ve ever done before. We want to take performance and individualize it.
“So in that sense it’s not the computer takes over, it’s more that the computer stretches our way of thinking and not only does it stretch our way of thinking it stretches our way of manufacturing golf clubs, as well.”
That stretching is not just theoretical. The Callaway Mavrik driver lineup includes three distinct head shapes (Standard, Sub Zero and Max), as does the Mavrik fairway wood line and the Mavrik hybrid family (Standard, Pro and Max). And each of those heads employs unique A.I.-generated face thickness patterns that vary by model and even by loft. Those faces are wild, undulating topologies that would appear random. Of course, they’re not.
“Each of the faces is uniquely optimized for that head geometry, for that player type, for that expected impact location, for those expected head speeds,” said Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s director of research and development for metalwoods. Gibbs noted that the faces are more varied and specialized because the company’s A.I. processes have gotten stronger. Where last year’s Epic Flash driver face was the result of thousands of iterations that cycled four or five times in the months-long design process, the new A.I. method takes barely more than two days to run through a complete cycle.
“Not only could we not take this face and put it into a competitor product and have it perform optimally, these faces are specific to the model and loft,” Gibb said. “This really shows how unique these face thickness profiles are to the surrounding geometry and expected player type.”
Those unique faces with their complex geometries are forged at a separate factory and their intricate shaping also required the use of a high-strength titanium alloy stronger than typical 6-4 titanium. That alloy previously had been used only for special driver models played on tour.
The Mavrik driver lineup’s most unusual departure is the aerodynamics-driven shape of the standard model. The problem with aerodynamic designs is that by raising the crown and sides of the clubhead to make it move through the air more efficiently, the shape also raises the center of gravity to typically produce more spin. But Gibbs said the Mavrik’s more forward center of gravity, combined with a faster aerodynamic shape and a face that flexes more effectively across a greater area, solve that problem in a novel way. It’s what he called “unconventional forgiveness.” Gibbs said that while the CG on the standard Mavrik is somewhat forward and higher, it creates more consistent spin across the face. That spin consistency means more consistent distance, something that you might expect from a driver with CG farther away from the face in a larger shape that produces a head with a higher moment of inertia (MOI) for more stability on off-center hits for better energy transfer. Instead, on the compact Mavrik, that ballspeed is maintained by the A.I.-enhanced face design.
“It really had the forgiveness that was matching a much larger shape with a much higher MOI,” he said. “For most mid handicap to better players, it will perform as forgiving as anything with a much larger shape and higher MOI, but without the penalty slowing the head down because you’re using a very large shape.”
Callaway’s design team also employed its supercomputer to excavate the interior of the driver family to improve the acoustics with sound ribs that control vibration while using a minimal amount of mass.
The Mavrik metalwood lineup also includes Callaway’s traditional “Sub Zero” model, which features a low CG for reduced spin and the flatter lie angle that better players will prefer. New to Callaway’s approach is the third driver in the family, the Mavrik Max, which features the largest footprint at address in terms of a front to back measurement and the highest MOI of any of the three drivers to go along with draw biased weighting. Both the Sub Zero and Max models use two screw weights in the sole. On the stouter Sub Zero (326 grams in total weight or 18 grams more than the stock weight of Mavrik or Mavrik Max), those weights (14 grams and 2 grams) can be flipped between front and back locations on the sole to tweak trajectory and spin. On the Max, the 14- and 2-gram weights are in the rear and heel section of the sole to either bolster stability or increase draw bias.
The Mavrik drivers continue Callaway’s established approach to weight savings and face deflection. The crown is made of a triaxial carbon composite, while the new face designs also save four to six grams compared to past models. In addition, the internal structure of the head features the trademark vertical bars joining the crown and sole called “Jailbreak.” That structure, first seen in the company’s Epic drivers introduced in 2017, is designed to concentrate greater flexing in the face.
The A.I. influence is no less elaborate on the Mavrik lineup of fairway woods. These feature cupface designs that reach what Gibbs described as driver-level spring-like effect, yet each is specific to one of three models, as well as each loft within the family. It makes for a total of 16 different designs in the family. According to Gibbs, the standard Mavrik features the company’s highest spring-like effect on a fairway wood ever with a slight draw bias across its five lofts. The more compact Mavrik Sub Zero features front and back weights that can be flipped to tweak ballflight and spin, while the Mavrik Max is oversized at 200 cubic centimeters and achieves the highest MOI of any of the Mavrik fairway woods. Generally higher launching, it includes options that stretch to 26 degrees.
Those face designs are made more effective thanks to the use of a maraging C300 high-strength steel, as well as the company’s internal “Jailbreak” bars that join the crown and sole.
The “jailbreak” structure and cupface are also key elements of the design of the Mavrik family of hybrids, which like the fairway woods feature face designs optimized through A.I. by loft and head type. This three-headed collection includes the mid-sized, square toe standard version, the large volume, deeper CG and easier-launching Max and the Pro, which features a flatter lie angle and a smaller, fairway wood-like head design with a more cambered sole shape. Altogether, the collection comprises 14 heads and a range of lofts that runs from 18 to 33 degrees.
The Mavrik drivers come with Callaway’s eight-way adjustable hosel, which allows players to tweak loft by plus two degrees and minus one and offers draw and neutral face angles (Standard and Max: 9, 10.5, 12 degrees; Sub Zero: 9, 10.5 degrees; $500). The Mavrik fairway woods (Standard: 14, 15.5, 16.5, 18 and 21 degrees; Sub Zero: 13.5, 15, 16.5 and 18 degrees; Max: 14.5, 16.5, 19, 22, 24 and 26-degrees and 20-degree Heavenwood; $300) and hybrids (Standard: 18, 20, 23 and 26 degrees; Max: 19, 21, 24, 27, 30 and 33 degrees; Pro: 18, 20, 23 and 26 degrees; $250) feature fixed hosels.
The Mavrik lineup will be in stores Jan. 23.