Ben Hogan was a perfectionist. From his swing to his golf club designs, it was always about striving to get things just right. Although younger generations may not connect to the Hogan brand the same way golfers from an older generation would, I believe it is important to recognize the impact the man had on the game, golf equipment, and design.
One of the most famous stories surrounding the founding of Ben Hogan golf is how Mr. Hogan’s desire for perfection actually drove away one of the company’s initial investors when he refused to go to production with any of the prototypes produced over the first six months. That lead to one of the other partners who had absolute trust in Hogan’s approach to purchase the shares of the nervous party. It went even further in 1954 when the first production run arrived and they too were also not up to Hogans standards—this resulted in the company destroying over $100,000 worth of inventory which today is over one million dollars—not small change for a startup company.
Eventually, the production issues were sorted out, and in 1954 the original Precision iron was introduced, the rest, as they say, is history. Although Ben Hogan Golf has gone through a number of changes since its original inception, one thing has remained the same—the constant pursuit of creating the best golf clubs possible.
These are some of the finest examples.
Ben Hogan Precision – Released 1954
This is the iron that went through all of the production changes before finally coming to the market in 1954. It is “the granddaddy of all modern blade designs,” as Patrick Boyd likes to point out.
The key element of this clubhead is the mass positioned lower in the head to create the modern muscle back style we know today as well as the notched toe to position more mass in the middle of the head behind the hitting area.
Beyond some minor tweaks and shaping, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most influential club designs ever.
Some of the most iconic designs from Mizuno—including the MP-14, MP-29, TN-87, and MP-37—have all utilized this toe cut design to help move mass—you can even see it still in the MP-20s. Obviously, a lot has changed as far as production, tooling, and tolerances, but the overall shaping is easily recognized.
An interesting question is, why, after winning the triple crown with his MacGregor Personal set in 1953, Hogan chose to forgo a lot of the design cues of that set and strike his own path in design. Whatever the answer, it was obviously the right choice.
Ben Hogan IPT – Released 1963
“IPT” stands for Improved Power Thrust.
With the original version of the Power thrust released in 1960, Hogan had started to experiment moving mass away from the toe area and pushing it towards the center of the head. It helped position more mass behind the striking area and closer to the shaft axis to increase workability. The IPT took that concept further and introduced the very first Ben Hogan iron with the muscle-on-muscle design. It removed mass away from the perimeter of the head and put it where it is most effective. This design element has been a key feature of almost every Ben Hogan iron that came after it.
Ben Hogan Apex – Released 1972
The shape of the 1972 Apex was not new at the time of its release—it’s basically the same head design as the Bounce Sole irons, which debuted in 1970. What makes this iron so iconic is the name “Apex”—this was the first! The Bounce Sole was iconic in its own way, because in this era of clubs the sole had more bounce and was much more cambered than other clubs on the market.
Although Callaway owns the rights to the Apex (name thanks to the acquisition of Hogan assets when they purchased Spalding) and have rightfully done the name justice, classic gear buffs will always associate Apex with Ben Hogan. The most discussed feature of this head is the shifting weight pad to raise the CG and improve trajectory control. To me, this iron epitomizes Ben Hogan’s desire to create golf clubs to offer maximum control for players seeking precision instruments. Elements of this design are alive and well with some of the irons produced by National Custom Works.
Ben Hogan Edge – Released 1989
For Hogan iron purists, the Edge might seem like an odd club to find on this list, but let me assure you it holds an important place in the history of the company.
Up until the release of the first Edge iron, Hogan irons were strictly forged blades. The Hogan Edge was the very first full production forged cavity back iron from a major manufacturer. They were produced by Cornell Forge in Chicago, and pictures of their production process were prominently displayed when entering their facility. “Full production” is the key phrase there because Ping’s first iron the Ballnamic 69 were made from forged Golf Craft blank heads and milled out to create perimeter weighting (see below).
Ping irons actually played a big role in the development of the Hogan Edge, since it was only a few years prior in 1982 that Ping released the Ping Eye 2 iron with its perimeter weighting. These new forgiving cavity back clubs were sweeping the world of golf. Everyone from professionals to amateurs starting adapting more forgiving cavity back irons and Hogan needed to fight back. They did just that with the Edge, and if you look closely at the design with the more swept toe and offset, you can see Karsten Solheim’s Eye 2 had a big influence on the Edge.
Ben Hogan Apex – Released 1999
Jeff Sheets is the man behind a lot of important designs and breakthroughs in the golf industry, and he still calls the ’99 Apex one of his all-time favorite designs.
This is from Jeff himself on how this iron came to be courtesy JeffSheetsGolf.com
“… I was ready to pursue this project only after doing much homework, studying every Hogan design I could find and by interviewing past Hogan Company employees. In my research of studying Mr. Hogan’s design characteristics, I ended up creating the infamous Hogan iron chart using a 1-megapixel digital camera and black fabric backdrop as I photographed every iron on my credenza “photo studio”. I had two big assets available to me in the execution of the new Hogan Apex irons. The first was my CAD operator Charles Lovett who had a keen eye for blades after he had been hired away from Mizuno. The second was my prototyping contractor Tom Stites, an ex-Hogan R&D staffer who would convert our CAD files to hittable specimens. The ’99 Apex is the epitome of a Hogan forged iron design. It was the first Hogan iron to be forged by Endo Manufacturing in Japan. Stite’s group, Impact Engineering, did such a fine job on the final prototypes that we were able to laser scan them for creating the forging dies.”
After reading off all the names involved with this project, it’s no wonder this is still considered one of the greatest Hogan irons of all time. Jeff went on to design for Golfsmith and still operates his own design consulting company to this day. Tom Stites’ Impact Engineering was purchased by Nike and became Nike Golf, which is why it was located in Fort Worth of all places, and the master shaper at Impact was none other than Mike Taylor of Nike and now Artisan Golf.
This iron holds a special place in Hogan fans’ hearts because it was the first club released after Spalding purchased the brand in the late ’90s. Many diehards fans worried Spalding would just use the name to sell inferior lines of clubs on the back of the Ben Hogan name and in a way disrespect the legacy built by Mr. Hogan. This design by Jeff Sheets put those fears to rest, and thanks to the backstory behind it, has lived on to become a highly regarded set.
The Future of Ben Hogan Golf
Today, Ben Hogan Golf exists as a direct-to-consumer brand, and they continue to push the boundaries of design and develop clubs for both discerning players and those looking for a little extra forgiveness. Their newest iron, the Icon, combines a lot of the key elements of previous Hogan irons, and the question is now whether it will earn its place among others on this list.
Bridgestone launches special First Tee edition e6 ball
Bridgestone Golf has launched a special First Tee edition e6 golf ball, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to First Tee, a youth development organization that helps kids and teens build their strength of character through golf.
The special First Tee edition ball is available now exclusively through PGA Tour Superstore and comes in both white and optic yellow color codes.
“We’re very pleased to offer this special First Tee edition e6, exclusively at PGA Tour Superstore. For decades, First Tee has done very fine work, helping young people learn and grow through the game of golf, building strong individuals and communities. It is an honor to create a dedicated product where the proceeds from the sales will bolster their charitable endeavors.” – Dan Murphy, President and CEO, Bridgestone Golf
As a reminder, the e6 is the longest-running model in Bridgestone’s current lineup. The latest model, new for 2021, features a larger, softer core in design for a more responsive feel added distance for moderate swing speed players.
The new design, which is specifically tailored to modern players who value a ball that provides a very soft feel at impact, retails for $21.99 per dozen.
Adidas unveils new Stan Smith golf shoe in classic colorway
Adidas Golf is bringing the classic Stan Smith colorway to the course, with the new unmistakable white and green golf shoe.
Building upon the new PimeGreen upper made with high-performance recycled materials1 as part of Adidas’ mission to End Plastic Waste, this version is also waterproof (one-year warranty) to help keep golfers dry both on and off the course.
The new Stan Smith golf shoe features a PU cushioning in targeted areas in the midsole to go alongside a PU die-cut sockliner in a bid to provide maximum comfort.
The shoe also contains an adiwear spikeless outsole that features lugs inspired by the shoe’s original sole design, offering some added traction for all course conditions to go along with their style.
“When we were talking about bringing this shoe into golf, the original white and green colorway was a must-have as part of our planning. The Stan Smith silhouette is known throughout the world for being so versatile from a fashion standpoint, so we’re excited to give golfers that same style and versatility for when they head out to the course, now in a more sustainable way.” – Masun Denison, global footwear director, Adidas Golf.
As an ode to the traditions of the past, Adidas has also included a removable white kiltie to provide players another way to wear their shoes and give off some added flair for their round.
This classic white and green colorway of the Stan Smith Golf will be available on adidas.com, through the Adidas app, and at select retail partners worldwide beginning Saturday, May 1.
Lob wedge or no lob wedge? – GolfWRXers discuss
In our forums, our members have been discussing the necessity of a lob wedge. WRXer ‘rickybooby25’ kicks off the thread, saying
“Do you use a Lob wedge in your current set-up or not? Players nowadays immediately default to using a LW when playing a chip shot around the greens. I currently have a LW in the bag but have been debating on taking it out completely because it creates bad habits when facing a chip shot. What are your thoughts?”
And our members have been sharing their thoughts on the subject in the forum, with some very interesting responses.
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.
- Chadwickog: “I am in the NO lob wedge camp, it simplifies the decision making when it comes to wedge play, and all shots are still possible if you know how to hit them.”
- jholz: “I’ve always looked at the lob wedge as a specialty club for special situations. Lower lofted wedges (54* or 56*) are the ones I use for the vast majority of generic chip shots.”
- timmekang: “I’ve mentioned this in prior posts, but I carry 2 lob wedges. Not all lob wedges are created equal to don’t be afraid to bring more than 1 out on the course with different bounce/grind/etc. and see what works best depending on your lie and circumstances.”
- lefthack: “I bought one, learned to hit it, but didn’t find a need for it in my bag when there are other clubs I would use more.”
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