Pros: One of the most forgiving models in its class. The Apex Pros offer fantastic looks, feel and workability, and they’re great from the rough. They’re also pretty long for a blade-style iron.
Cons: The price point ($1,099) might turn off some buyers and durability of the satin finish is questionable.
Bottom Line: These are one of the best sets of players irons introduced this year. The Hogan-inspired “Apex” name seems fitting for this set of irons, which offers all the good looks and feel golfers would expect from that name, as well as a little extra distance and forgiveness that they might not have expected.
Callaway’s Apex Pro irons for 2014 retain all the aesthetics golfers want from a set of blade-style players irons, but they add a few dashes of technology to make them playable for golfers who don’t hit shots on the sweet spot time after time.
The Apex Pro irons launch higher and fly farther than their predecessor, Callaway’s X Forged ’13, thanks to the extensive milling process that makes their faces 17 percent thinner. That allowed more weight to be moved where Callaway engineers wanted it:
- Lower and deeper in the long irons for a higher launch and more forgiveness.
- Higher in the short irons for a penetrating trajectory with more spin.
The long irons get an additional boost in performance thanks to the tungsten inserts added to the soles of the 3, 4 and 5 irons, which gives those clubs an even higher launch and more forgiveness. Adding technology to a set of players irons like the Apex Pros usually comes at the expense of feel, but engineers fixed that with a polymer insert behind the impact area that gives them the acoustics golfers associate with irons that have good feel.
The Apex Pros also have Callaway’s new 37WV groove that’s wider and uses fewer grooves than previous iterations to create a more consistent launch and spin from less-than-ideal lies.
The irons come stock with KBS’ Tour-V shafts, which are new for 2014 and are designed to give golfers the mid-launching, low-spinning trajectory that most better players prefer in a weight range that’s 5-to-10 grams lighter than other tour-quality steel shafts. They’re available in three flexes: regular (100 grams), stiff (110 grams) and x-stiff (120 grams).
The Apex Pro irons ($1099 with steel shafts) are available in 3 iron through AW. The 3 iron has a stock loft of 21.5 degrees, while the PW measures 46 degrees. The 5 iron has a stock length of 38 inches and the clubs are built with a swingweight of D1 to D2, depending on shaft selection. They’re also available with UST Mamiya’s Recoil 95 or 110 graphite shafts for $1299.
This set checks all the boxes for better golfers who demand absolutely everything from a set of irons. Workable? Check. Soft and solid? Check. Penetrating trajectory, forgiving, distance? Check, check, check.
Honestly, it’s not often you come across a club that doesn’t have some significant opportunity costs. Distance irons often lack feel and workability and struggle to be aesthetically pleasing. More player-oriented irons may look runway spectacular, but can be unforgiving. The Apex Pros have all the upside and very little, if any, downside. These are the “have your cake and eat it too,” all that and a bag of chips, wunderkind of irons.
In terms of performance, you really start to run out of superlatives for these. They performed remarkably on the range, on the course and in launch monitor testing. Aside from one small exception, there is nothing I needed an iron to do that these couldn’t.
Distance control with irons is paramount to scoring and you can’t score well if you can’t consistently manage your distances and trajectory. This is where the Apex Pro irons excel. The stock trajectory for me was mid-to-high, but the ball flight was penetrating. I never had any issues trying to keep the ball low when needed, but I wasn’t able to hit these as high as I have with similar forged cavity backs, probably due to the stronger lofts. This was my single and isolated concern regarding performance.
For low-spin players, the Apex Pros may cause concerns if you’re seeking a higher ball flight. High-ball hitters, on the other hand, will likely be singing their praises.
Well struck shots resulted in consistent carry distances. And when I say consistent, I mean to the yard. I literally hit the same exact carry number far more often than my swing should be able to produce. Consistency breeds confidence and these clubs have that in spades.
Where these clubs really shine is out of varied lies. During my on-course testing, the performance from different lies in the rough was sublime. Other than the super gnarly lies, I was able to generate plenty of spin and flew the ball only a few yards shorter. On average, carry distance decreased by 3-to-4 yards for a standard lie in the rough. There is no cure for the flier lie and these clubs are no exception, but I don’t think you can hold that against them — or anyone for that matter — and I did seem to get slightly fewer fliers thanks to Callaway’s new 37WV groove.
About distance: I’m not entirely sure what the cause was, but the effect was a full club gain in distance for me. I’d be inclined to think it was because of a reduction in spin from the Tour-V shafts, the slightly stronger lofts or both, but in the final analysis is that they just carried farther than the other forged cavity backs that I’ve played. As confirmed by FightScope, I gained a full 8-to-10 yards of carry per club. This was the largest obstacle for me in adjusting to these clubs. Initially it was hard for me to trust the yardage and let the club do the work, but once I was able to do this it was game on.
Looks and Feel
Out of the box, the Apex Pros look dead sexy. The soft satin finish coupled with minimal offset, thin topline and rounded toe screamed excellence and luxury. For a bit, I wanted to simply stare and admire them. And for a bit, I did.
The cavity portion is a bit busy for me, but if we’re honest, when do you really spend time looking at the cavity of a club? I’m not wild about the sticker inserts, as they tend to wear and peel overtime, but no biggie. Understanding the current importance of brand awareness, it’s logical to have some visible promotional labeling.
That said, two weeks, five rounds and several range sessions later, the Apex Pros looked simply abused. What was once pristine now looked heavily gamed. The finish did not commensurate with the price tag at all. There’s an argument to be made that wear and tear on a set of irons adds to their beauty, character, whatever, but if I’m going to spend $1100 on a set of irons I don’t want them to wear like a $130 wedge.
As for the feel of the clubs, the sensation at impact is exactly what you want from a forged club. It is soft, but not at all mushy. It is solid, but not too dense. It is hot, but not metallic. Pured shots are worthy of the “hot knife through butter” metaphor and it’s never felt so good to feel so little.
Given a blind test, the feel of these would certainly hold up against any of the renowned forged clubmakers in the world.
At this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some kudos to the Callaway customer service department who did everything except move heaven and earth to make sure my irons lived up to top-shelf standards. That meant sending me another set of Apex Pros, which I hope will wear better.
Aside from the durability of the finish, these clubs are almost perfect. They are easily one of the best, if not the best performing forged players iron on the market this year. They do everything golfers ask of them, and then a little more.