Pros: The Apex irons are incredibly long and forgiving. Slimmer short irons make the set more appealing to better players. The Apex Pro long irons are higher-launching than golfers will expect. They offer an impressively soft feel and the feedback better players want.

Cons: Given the large distance gap between the Apex and Apex Pro irons, some golfers may be left wishing for a tweener model.

Who they’re for: Almost anyone can play the Apex irons. They’ll be most appreciated by better golfers in search of more distance, as well as those who want maximum performance, but still value looks and feel. The Apex Pros are for golfers with single-digit-or-better handicaps. They’ll work best for those who already hit their irons a sufficient distance, and place a premium on shot shaping and trajectory control.

The Review

In terms of performance, it’s hard to do better than Callaway’s Apex irons. Millimeter for millimeter, they could be the longest irons in golf, but that’s just one of the reasons they’re one of the most recommended iron models by many leading custom-club fitters. They’re noticeably larger in size than the company’s Apex Pro irons, which are used by the majority of the company’s PGA Tour players, but not so much that they’re unsightly. It’s that balance of not too big, not too small, that’s a key in their popularity.

I know a lot of golfers — good and bad players — who have put the Apex irons in the bag because of how they look. “They’re beautiful,” they say. Others care more about the performance: “They’re almost as long and forgiving as the ‘shovels’ my friends are playing.” And a few can’t get over the feel. “They’re forged,” they say, adding a vocal exclamation point.

Related: Learn more about the technical features of the Apex and Apex pro irons.

Of course, the Apex irons aren’t forged in the same way as the Apex Pro irons, which are hammered into shape from a solid block of steel. The Apex irons have Callaway’s signature 360 Cup Faces, which means that an extremely thin piece of steel is wrapped around the forged body of the irons (3-7), creating a trampoline-like club face that allows golfers to hit the Apex long and middle farther than the Apex Pros. The Apex short irons and wedges (8-SW) use a slightly different construction, which doesn’t create as much distance.

You can see just how much farther I hit the 4 and 7 irons in my testing below, but also notice that something interesting happened when I tested the pitching wedges.

The Numbers

My testing took place at the Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., on Trackman, and used premium golf balls. All irons were bent 1-degree strong and 1-degree flat from Callaway’s standard specifications, and both had KBS C-Taper 125S S+ shafts (standard length, same grips).

CallyApex2015_4iron CallyApex2015_7iron CallyApex2015_pw

The Apex irons are long, but they’re not just one-trick ponies. The long irons are distance monsters, the short irons are tame, and the middle irons bridge the gap. That progressive distance design, which also includes progressive sizing — the irons appear smaller as the set moves toward the wedges — is what makes them playable for a wide range of golfers, from aspirational high-handicappers all the way to PGA Tour players.

As you can see in Trackman numbers, I hit the Apex 4 iron 20 yards farther than the Apex Pro 4 iron. I also hit the 7 iron 10 yards farther, but the pitching wedge flew just a few yards farther. Such a design allows golfers to extend the narrow distance gaps that are typical of their long irons, without creating a wide distance gap at the transition point between their highest-lofted iron and lowest-lofted wedge.

Related: Callaway’s Apex Black irons

So why would a golfer prefer the Apex Pro irons to the Apexes? While the Apex Pros can’t win a distance battle with the Apexes, there’s no denying that the Apex Pros will look better at address to low-handicap golfers. They check all the important boxes in a set of tour-quality irons: they’re more workable, have less offset and offer better feedback. Miss a shot one groove low on the face? Golfers might not feel it with the Apexes, but they will with the Apex Pros. It should be noted, too, that as far as blade-like irons go, the Apex Pros offer an impressive amount of forgiveness.

Since Callaway’s 2013 X Forged irons, I’ve been continuously impressed with the forgiveness Callaway has been able to add to its solid-face players irons. The long irons seem to just fly bit higher than others I have tested, too, and when I slightly mishit them, they do an admirable job holding their line.

Of course, it’s not fair to compare the forgiveness of the Apex and Apex Pro irons. But if you hit your irons on the screws most of the time, the Apex Pros can make more sense. Do you take pride in your ability to hit squeeze cuts or punch draws? You’re probably an Apex Pro player.

An argument for better turf interaction could also be made for the Apex Pros. Their soles are narrower, and cut through bad lies like Samurai swords. The curvature of their soles also makes them glide when others might stick in the turf post impact, provided you’re angle of attack isn’t ridiculously steep. It’s due to their large heavy camber, or sole curvature from front to back, something also used on the X Forged ’13 irons and the Apex Pro ’14 irons.

Torn between the Apex and Apex Pro? Callaway has a third option, an Apex-Apex Pro Combo Set ($1199).

Because golfers generally want more distance from their long and mid irons, and more control from their short irons, the company adjusted the lofts of the Apex (3-7) and Apex Pro (8-AW) irons to bridge their distance gaps at the transition point between the 7 and 8 iron. Another nice touch was giving the combo-set Apex Pro irons a satin chrome finish, which matches the satin chrome finish of the Apex irons (the standard Apex Pro irons have a chrome finish).

The Takeaway

For the majority of golfers, the Apex irons are going to be the clear choice. They’re one of the longest irons in golf, but also one of the most well rounded in terms of looks, feel and versatility in the distance-iron category. Of course, some golfers don’t need or want to hit their irons farther, and the Apex Pros are made for them.

If you’re on the fence at all between the Apex and Apex Pros, at least consider Callaway’s Combo Set. The performance of the Apex long and mid irons is simply stunning, and can change the way golfers feel about their iron game.

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals.

He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

49 COMMENTS

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  1. I acquired a set of the CF16s about August of this year, and couldn’t be happier. They will be in my bag a long time. I find them easier to hit and longer, with great feel. Coupled with KBS Tour 90s I have increased distance, raised trajectory and improved accuracy over previous irons.

    I was strongly considering the TM M2 Tours, but after trying these, abandoned that idea. Glad I did.

  2. I had a set of the combos with all matte finish and Steelfiber shafts and they were impressive clubs. In the end, they did not spin enough and I kept going over the back. I cannot blame the clubs entirely, as it was a shaft fitting issue more than anything. As a low spin player, the heads just hit lasers. I was amazed by how forgiving the Pros are. Compared to the 716 AP2’s, I found the Apex Pro 16’s to be more forgiving by a large margin. I’m on to a set of iBlades now, but the Apex Pro 16’s and the combo set especially, are a nice set of clubs. I agree that the Pros look overly work only after several rounds. If you’re ok with that, then fine, but if you like your clubs looking new for a long time, you may want to go with Ping or something more durable. I don’t think it effects performance though.

  3. Zak, how are the apex pro’s 16 holding up for you? I recently ordered a set with steel fibers used that luckily matches my fitting numbers right down to the swing weight and lie loft tweets for $700 from one of the few reputable eBay vendors. (They are also on this site for reference and I should have them next week). I ordered them used because I am coming from Miura tournament blades and now that I play to a 3 versus my +3 from ten years ago when I acquired the Miura blades I felt it was time to try something more forgiving. I ordered these because of the feel offered versus mizuno which no longer offer LH models for a “better player” iron. I am just looking for your updated opinion on the pro’s as I have read in a few places that quality is not so good and there are some hot spots across the face even with center struck shots. I care little about distance etc I am just looking for tight shot dispersion and accuracy. I am traditionally a high ball hitter and feel that these might ballon a bit versus my board like low spinning shafted Miura tournament blades. This test set for me is my hope for finding a club that can aid in the prevention of pulling the trigger on a $3000 set of LH Miura Y grind cavity backs where there is little to zero review information available on the net! Quite a pretty penny to drop with little to no information even the top club fitters in my area do not carry the LH fitting set from Miura. Sorry for the rambling post I am just interested in your opinion as a great reviewer for this site! Also, if you feel that the Miura are far superior in cavity back design I would happily pull the trigger I am just blind to the Miura cavity backs now available for LH golfers and very skeptical about spending three large on clubs that I have not had an opportunity to hit first!

    • Jim,

      There are definitely no hot spots in the Apex Pro ’16 irons! They do offer a little different look, sound and feel than Miura’s blades and compact CB irons, but in terms of performance — when compared loft to loft — the biggest difference is probably going to be the sole grinds. The Apex Pros are great for diggers. Miura’s blades and smaller CB irons are a little bit more geared for pickers.

  4. Zac and everyone else,
    I got the combo set earlier this year replacing a set of XR pro’s. All my golf buddies said I would lose distance going to forged clubs, the complete opposite happened. I got these with the same shafts (project x 6.5) and I hit them if not too the number, but possibly a couple yards farther than the XR Pro’s. The lofts are exactly the same in the combo set as the xr’s but the difference in feel is amazing. These irons are butter compared to the XR pro’s.
    Your review is spot on, I am a lower Hdcp and am very happy with all aspects of these irons.

  5. A couple of opening comments:

    Comparing lofts on 7-irons (Calla and others)…
    X20: 33° / CF16: 31° // X20 Tour (my current): 34° / Pro16: 34° // TM SLDR: 32°
    Note that COG-loft-shaft interaction have a lot to do with launch angle and distance

    Know what you mean about the XForged from 2013: The first modern forged blade I could actually get airborne. But, the XHot Pro went 15 yards farther.
    ———————–
    Got to test out the new Apex family irons in April and May demo days. Of note, I had been favorably impressed with the original Apex when I grabbed a 6i as a warm-up club before hitting some drivers a few months back.

    Our senior teaching pro went to Callaway, and I got to hit his Apex Pro16s in April. Combined with the Recoil 95/110 series shafts, the ball flew fairly well. Strangely, the 4i flew much better than 7i. The standard Apex seemed to be easier to hit.
    Last weekend, I went to a second demo day, and I hit several Callaway items. Again, the Apex with an XP95 seemed to fly better overall – easier to use – than the A.Pro16 with a PX 5.5 (a bit heavy for me?). Comparatively, I could do a basic fade or draw with either iron as long as I swang smoothly. – Really, you can do that with most any iron if you understand how golf clubs work.

    If I went with either Apex, I would need some launch monitor time with different shafts for each. I had the PX in my X20 Tours originally, but had them reshafted with a much lighter NS Pro 8950.
    It’s really been interesting, the new clubhead designs plus refinements and variety in the Recoil shafts.

  6. Interesting data on distances, I would howevervlike to see manufacturers quote the loft of the testing irons, i bet the 7 iron being tested is the loft equivelent of yesteryears 5 iron!

    • So? It does t matter Anylonger about club loft now vs then. It’s all about your yard ages and that you can ah e the separation YOU need. Don’t be a dinasour. I’ve played every type of iron and who would want to play with some butter know each you can’t hit anywhere with Neanderthal shafts in them when today’s gear gives you way more workability, forgiveness, it easier to adjust trajectory and so much more forgiving on mishits!!!
      It’s not directed at you but at all the idiots that are going to say how their 1367 irons are still better and they don’t realize they look like idiots. Go try and play new equipment and you’ll play better and shoot lower!!! 35yrs in the industry and that’s just the truth!!

      • I find your reference to idiots interesting – 35 years in the game – I am sure you are a good player – and probably never got skinned by that guy with ugly sticks – equipment is key as technology makes even an old man like me still able to play a decent game – but as a past guy willing to wager a tad, I know the hustle, mouth loses out to game every-time. Of course all lies that there are guys who have so much natural talent they beat you with a shovel – and then give you ups on the emergency nine – then standing in the parking lot as your beautiful clubs are loaded into his trunk, you still think, can’t happen – seen it.

  7. I’m scratch. Switched from a set of MP64s to the Apex irons this spring. Threw in some SteelFibers and won’t ever go back. I have no problem working the ball, baby fades, punch draws, whatever you like. I’m nearly two clubs longer with the Apex irons and it’s changed the world for me. I likely would have gone with the pros in the 9i/PW, but didn’t want to mix finishes at the time and in the end I don’t mind the Apex short irons.

    To those worried about spin, it’s a non-issue. Remember that you’ll likely need to compare the Apex irons to competitors longer irons. Don’t look at spin/launch for an 8i, for example, but look at spin/loft from 165.

    • The AP1s are larger and have wider soles. A golfer will definitely have a looks/feel preference for one or the other. They’re both 5-star irons, when properly fit.

    • If you are referring to the Maltby Playability Factor then the reason the CF16 is supposedly less forgiving when comparing 6 irons is because it has a slightly higher vertical center of gravity. Maltbys MPF rating system is a great guide but it has its limitations.

  8. I bought the Apex (CF16) as a combo set, so the 8 – PW were from the PRO set but finished in the same finish as the APEX. I used them for 15 rounds before I sent them back to Callaway as the finish on the 8 – PW was coming off and they looked like I had used them for 2 years. Callaway just sent them back with a note saying ‘normal wear and tear’. I think the clubs are very good and I enjoyed playing with them (I play off 5), BUT Callaways response has soured the enjoyment of these irons. They shall be up for sale and no Callaway iron will ever be placed in my bag again. Back to a decent company – Titleist.

  9. 237 yards with a 4 iron? Is this Disney or Golfwrx? Love the look of the standard head but not so the Pro which looks very old fashioned. Thing is in my club Cally is not seen as a maker of low hcp irons anymore. Ping, Mizuno, TM and Titleist dominate and all are less expensive.

    • I dont understand your point about 237 yards. Is that long? If yes, its not that long. Plenty of tour players can hit it quite a bit farther then that. If you are saying it is short, then that’s not very nice. Tour players arent even very long compared to what is possible.

    • I purchased the CF16 irons. In my opinion they are a better than the 2014 model. I feel that the CF16’s are much more consistent with distance control. The feel of the Apexs are nothing like the PXG’s. I thought the feel of the APEX pros were extremely soft almost Mizuno like whereas the APEX while soft has a different sound to it especially in the long irons which I attribute to the cup face design. I put in recoil shafts which mutes a little feel and they seem great to me but if you are after a Mizuno feel I would go with the Apex pro if you like PXGs I would try one of the new Ben Hogan designs. I tried all of the these irons and I cannot honestly say one is the best but coming out of Mizuno MP54s which were amazing irons the reason I switched to the CF16 Apex was because of the lower spin I got in the mid to long irons made a big difference playing in heavy winds and I got to experiment with graphite shafts which finally came in at steel weights and flexes without being upcharged.

  10. Looking at the Apex numbers, why would you want your PW to launch so high (26*) and spin so little (8300). You really want to have more spin on a PW, more like 9300 and 24* launch. If Zak is spinning the PW so little with his swing speed, its going to be even worse for the guy with an 90 mph driver swing speed.

    • Thanks for the comment, Clifford. Keep in mind that the irons were fit to my swing. The lofts are 1-degree strong of Callaway’s standard, and the KBS C-Taper S+ is a low-launching, low-spinning shaft. I absolutely did not want any higher ball flight from the Apex and Apex Pro, because they were stopping quickly in my on-course testing. As you stated, however, other players may need more launch and spin to optimize their distances, and that’s easy to do with the proper lofts and shafts.

      • When you have a club that’s been bent (stronger or weaker) and ground it, does the loft go back to the original? Seems like it would with adjustable clubs but I’m not sure about irons.
        Anyone that knows please answer

      • Wow, how amazing. The Apex Irons are longer than the Apex Pro irons. Let us have a look.
        The Apex 4 iron has 21.5 degrees loft;
        The Apex Pro has 24 degrees
        The Apex 7 iron has 31 degrees loft; The Pro has 34 degrees.
        All Apex irons have less loft than the Pro counterpart.
        Zac, given identical shafts, less loft = more distance.
        Calloway are not the first company to reduce loft and claim greater distance
        Zac, go straight to the dunce’s corner

        • Except your argument of lowering lofts to simply gain distance would imply a lower ball flight and inability to stop the ball on a green. Manufacturers have figured out how to strengthen lofts and RAISE launch angles. That’s why you get longer distances while still being able to use them to play golf.

          Just look at your own argument, you site a 3 degree difference in the 7 iron lofts…but magically, trackman shows only a .4 degree difference in dynamic launch angle.

          You have to stop ignoring real launch when making loft arguments, it’s time to catch up with the tech.

  11. I know I couldn’t be happier with the set of Apex Pro’s I have. The 3-5 irons launch and feel like nothing else. The whole set feels like butter out on the course.

  12. I was fit for the Apex irons and went with a blended set.

    5-6 Apex CF16
    7-8 Apex Pro
    9-PW Apex MB

    I couldn’t be happier. I was worried about loft difference originally but I haven’t had any problems with the way my carry distances are spread out.

    I’m very happy with my set and I wouldn’t worry about loft differences until you hit these for yourself and see how they fly.

    • for me a 9 iron carries 155, so I really like starting the blades there so I can really control trajectory and distances inside 150 yards. Plus the blades usually give me a better shot at clean contact from the rough when I’m in scoring distance which becomes huge when I bomb a drive and miss the fairway by a yard or few….

  13. Looking at the specs, you should’ve compared the Apex 8 iron to the Apex Pro 7 iron and so forth. Now it’s just another pointless story of how some irons are “longer”. Another option would be to give the clubs to a consumer the Apex and other GI/SGI clubs are targeted (maybe 80 mph clubhead speed) and then figure out which club he can hit efficiently.

    If he can hit the Apex 5 iron efficiently (mostly carry and 10+ yards longer than the 6) but can’t hit the Apex Pro 4 iron, then we can talk about the Apex actually being longer.

      • If the irons fly perfectly, why are stronger lofts sad?

        Jason Day uses a 44-degree pitching wedge. Lee Westwood’s is 45 degrees. Jordan Spieth’s is 46 degrees. Rory McIlroy’s is 47 degrees. J.B. Holmes’ is 48 degrees. Tiger Woods’ is 49 degrees.

        • Correction: Jason Day uses a 44-degree short-iron. It would be an 8 iron with some sets.

          The letters on the clubs are becoming more and more meaningless, I think if people could get past the Hogan style of having lofts on the bottom we’d see far better comparisons.

          Unless you compare clubs of equal length, shafts, swing weight, loft and lie then you’re really not comparing them. I’m not criticising you personally, Zak, just the process in general, taken to extremes you could compare a 4 iron muscle back with a 4 hybrid, it wouldn’t really be a comparison (I’m sure the hybrid would out perform the blade in general), it would be an entertaining read, but not really worthwhile, as both clubs are designed to achieve different results.

          Unless the clubs you’re comparing are identical, you’re just getting enjoyable range and monitor time.

          I think a lot of readers would be very interested to see comparisons with equal clubs.

            • Typical good folks. On the attack again.. I make a comment admittedly with a little jab and you do your best to be hateful… Just remember I’m at home laughing, you’re in your mom’s basement angry. WINNING!!!
              Bet at least 80% of the people that read what’s above sees the point I was making and agrees with me… And even more thought it was funny

          • Is that the Royal ‘WE’? I’m glad you speak for everyone. Anyway the suggestion (I certainly wasn’t complaining about Zak’s hard work) was that some members would love to see comparisons of equally made-up clubs … rhetorical questions notwithstanding. Have a better one.

  14. You mention that the 4 iron is 21.5* and the 7 iron is 31* on the apex. I think they need to get away from iron numbers and just stamp degrees on these irons. Getting insane.

    • You understand of course that 99% of golfers (the ones who aren’t Golfwrx loft nerds) would have absolutely no clue what loft means what. If the club numbers bother you so much (the 1%), put a piece of lead tape over it.

  15. I hate to state the obvious, but of course the CF16 is longer than the Pro. The lofts are a club different. The Pro 4 iron, for example, has the same loft as the CF16 5 iron. If you look at the head to head, the Cf16 4 iron launches lower and spins less. Much like a 3 iron.

    • Thanks for the comment, Steve. The point you’re making is an important one. I’m not sure if you’re considering the effect of added ball speed, though. The Apex has 7 mph faster ball speed in the 4 iron than the Apex Pro. That’s a HUGE difference.

      So despite the slightly lower launch angle and spin rate, the descent angle of the Apex 4 iron was nearly as steep as the higher-launching, higher-spinning Apex Pro. Yes, the Apex 4 iron may have been going to distance of a 2 or 3 iron, but it was landing like a 4 iron should. That’s exactly what the Apex irons are designed to do.

      • But also the smash factors are much lower on apex pros…. perhaps the tester didn’t hit apex pro solid due to smaller size? PW data isn’t too far off from each other since the smash factor numbers are the same

        • Smash Factor is a ratio of ball speed divided by club head speed. While its possible due to poor strikes after testing both of these clubs since it was a human and not a robot I believe the answer actually is in the iron designs. The CF16 is at the usga limit for COR due to the cup face design in the 3-7 irons whereas the Apex pro is more in line with tour irons around the .79 to .81 mark. Once you get to the 8 irons through AW in both sets is where you will start seeing more similar numbers between clubs.

      • Ball speed is impacted by actual loft as well as club design and clubhead speed. You were swing the regular apex faster and it has a lower actual loft so if the ballspeeds should be higher. All clubs with a lower loft within a given iron design should create higher ballspeeds due to less speed lost to loft.

        • Exactly. So theoretically, lower-lofted irons will have higher smash factors.

          I hit all of these shots solid, so the smash factor differences were based on design, not off-center hits.

          • The smash factor differences were based on loft more than design. The Apex 4i would be at 21.5* while the Apex Pro 4i would be at 24* (or the same loft as Apex 5i before being bent 1* strong). As both clubs should’ve been at the same length, the 2.5* of loft difference is the primary driver of the higher smash factor, lower launch, and lower spin for the Apex.

            A proper scientific test should only allow for one variable at a time while everything else is held constant. In golf, the variable is the human swinging the club. Once you add in clubs with different lofts, it’s not a fair fight and any comparison between the two is meaningless.

            If you want to test the technology, put the same length shaft in an Apex 5i vs an Apex Pro 4i. You’ll also have to bend the Apex 5i flatter to level out the lies. Once you have two clubs with identical loft, lie, and shaft length, only then can you test to see which is a “better” club.

      • My comment wasn’t actually criticism of jacked up lofts. My own irons have them. It’s more that your test isn’t head to head as advertised. As mentioned above, the test should have been 5 iron to 4 iron.

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