Since the validation of “distance irons” by PGA Tour players in the late 1980s, golfers have had two choices when choosing irons.
Did they want to play forged irons that offered more consistency and feel, or did they want to play oversized cast irons that hit the ball higher and farther, but didn’t feel quite as good at impact.
Callaway’s new Apex irons are a serious contender in both categories, combining a forged framework with the company’s extremely hot 455 Carpenter forged steel faces to deliver explosive distance and a solid forged feel.
The Apex isn’t Callaway’s first attempt to blur the line between distance and forged irons. In 2010, the company released its Diablo Forged irons, which featured a similar construction. And Callaway isn’t the only company that’s claiming to have bridged the gap between distance irons and forged irons, either.
Titleist has had tremendous success on the PGA Tour with its version of a forged distance iron, the AP2, which uses high-density tungsten weighting and a 1025-forged construction to create an iron that offers increased distance, feel and forgiveness. Ping has attempted the same feat with its Ping Anser Forged irons, as has Nike, with its VR_S Forged irons.
But Callaway Manager of Performance Analysis Evan Gibbs said that Callaway has a leg up on its competitors because of its experience with its specially processed and treated 455 Carpenter steel faces.
Above: Callaway’s 455 Carpenter Steel faces were the focal point of the company’s award-winning X Hot fairway woods.
Gibbs said that since the release of Callaway’s Diablo Forged irons, which received rave reviews from consumers and are played by several members of Callaway’s Tour Staff, the company has gained a new level of expertise on how to get the most from 455 Carpenter Steel.
“We’ve treated the material to get the most ball speed possible,” Gibbs said. “And the geometry of the forged cavity that holds the face was designed with ball speed in mind as well.”
Above: Apex irons have a deep undercut that improves forgiveness and ball speed.
To create the Apex irons, Callaway welded 455 Carpenter steel faces to the irons’ 1020 carbon steel frames. Each iron goes through a 40-minute milling process to position weight low and deep in the iron head, as well as around the perimeter. Rubber material was also added in the cavity, along with the Apex’s badging to further reduce vibrations, which helps replicate the one-piece forged iron feel that many golfers prefer.
Above: The Apex irons have a “rolled leading edge” sole grind, which helps improve turf interaction from tight lies.
According to Gibbs, the long irons, which also feature tungsten weights in their soles to further lower the CG of the irons and help golfers launch them higher, offer 2-to-3 mph more ball speed than the Diablo Forged irons, which equates to about 4 to 6 yards of extra distance.
Despite the improved performance of the irons, which Gibbs said will have the lowest center of gravity of any 2014 Callaway iron model, he doesn’t expect that all of Callaway’s Staff Players will flock to them.
He said that several tour players might switch to the Apex irons to replace a hybrid or their one-piece forged long irons. That would be similar to the trend set by many Nike Staff players, who have switched to the company’s VR_S Forged irons for their 2, 3 and 4 irons but have been hesitant to switch in their mid and short irons.
Gibbs also confirmed the existence of a smaller iron slated for release by Callaway in early 2014, the Apex Pro, which he said many tour players would feel comfortable using throughout the set. He would not reveal any more specifics about the Apex Pro irons, however.
The Apex irons have a head size that is between the company’s current X Hot and X Hot Pro irons. They also have progressive face thicknesses through the set to help with distance control and lofts similar to the company’s 2013 X Hot Pro irons: the 3 iron is 19 degrees, the 6 iron is 27 degrees and the pitching wedge is 45 degrees.
The iron’s medium blade lengths and top lines, as well as their moderate amount of offset gives them a look and set composition that is much different than the Ben Hogan Apex irons for which they are named. But they are “the ultimate in forged performance” according to Gibbs, which he said makes them worthy of carrying the legendary Apex name.
“I think this iron, more than any iron in our [2014 lineup] is going to appeal to the broadest consumer base,” Gibbs said.
The Apex irons have Callaway’s wide-spaced 30-degree grooves, which Gibbs said maximizes spin for golfers from the rough.
They’ll be available in stores on Dec. 6 and cost $1099 with True Temper’s XP95 steel shafts (R and S flexes), and $1299 with UST Mamiya’s Recoil graphite shafts, which are available in UST’s 660 (regular flex) and 680 (stiff flex) models.