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.
You can (finally!) buy Rickie Fowler’s Rev33 irons: Cobra releasing limited RF Proto irons
After much anticipation, Cobra Golf is set to release the limited edition RF Proto irons—an exact replica of the Rev33 irons developed and used by Rickie Fowler on the PGA Tour.
Rickie worked closely with long-time Director of Tour Operations, Ben Schomin from start to finish to create an iron that offered him everything he ever wanted from looks, to feel, and, ultimately, performance.
The Rev33 stamp is a nod to 33 iterations the iron went through before the final design was selected.
“We worked closely with Rickie to determine his favorite features of several of his previous sets that we were able to combine into one very sleek package. These are a must-own for better players who appreciate the finest of iron craftmanship or Rickie fans who would jump at the opportunity to own the same sticks their favourite player uses.”
– Ben Schomin
If you are looking for a full in-depth discussion with Ben on the irons be sure to check out our piece from when Rickie originally put them into play: GolfWRX Insider: Inside the development of Rickie Fowler’s Cobra irons
RF Proto technology and design
The set was designed around Rickie’s preferred 7-iron look with a square/straight topline from the longest iron to the pitching wedge, which is unique since most irons progress to a more rounded shape in the shorter irons.
The RF Protos feature a distinct sharp toe profile reminiscent of many classic blades and a zero offset look thanks to a “no-taper” hosel design.
The irons are produced through a two-stage forging process and then 100 percent CNC milled to the final shaping. The milling process alone takes over two and a half hours per iron head to produce the most precise geometry possible.
The final piece of the design is the tungsten weight positioned on the toe of the iron—just like Rickie’s gamers—to locate the center of gravity and deliver a superior feel.
Price, specs, and availability
The RF Proto irons are available in right hand only 4-pitching wedge and will retail for $2,499.
Sets can be pre-0rdered starting today January 25th, at Cobragolf.com with sets shipping out starting January 29th.
The limited-edition irons are shipped in a custom box, which celebrates the partnership between Fowler and Cobra, complete with a card of authenticity autographed by Rickie Fowler.
The standard set components are KBS C-Taper shafts with Golf Pride Align grips fitted with Cobra Connect powered by Arccos, but a full selection of custom shafts and grips and also available.
New Bridgestone E12 Contact golf ball features tire technology, major performance gains
It’s not very often that a golf company touts huge technology gains with its mid-level priced products. Large scale changes are generally reserved for the premium price point and performance category, and then those technologies funnel down to the mid-price point in the next generation.
Bridgestone is flipping that model on its head, however, with the release of the all-new e12 Contact, which looks to offer one of the biggest performance jumps in the mid-price golf ball category ever developed.
Bridgestone e12: The science
The focus for Bridgestone with the e12, just like it was for the re-engineered Tour B series and its ReActive cover in 2020, is contact science—it’s where the e12 Contact derived its name from.
“Bridgestone has long been a pioneer in bringing to market unique dimple shapes, sizes and constructions in the golf industry, but up until this point that has primarily been a means of achieving optimal aerodynamic performance,”
-Elliot Mellow, Golf Ball Marketing Manager for Bridgestone Golf.
“In the new e12 CONTACT, dimples actually serve as a source of increased power and distance as well. They also contribute to minimizing hooks and slices, making the newest e12 a golf ball that provides performance you can actually see in terms of straight distance.”
The breakthrough comes in the form of a new dimple design to increase the ball contacting the face for both soft feel and additional distance. The new dimple design places a raised area in the middle of the traditional dimple, which when hit with a direct force, creates a whopping 38 percent for more face contact at impact.
- This face contact and compression promotes a longer amount of time for the ball to stay on the face resulting in more efficient energy transfer to engage the core layer of the ball which from Bridgestone’s testing has resulted in a gain of over 1.5 mph ball speed.
- On the other end of the spectrum, in the short game, the additional contact helps increase spin in the scoring clubs and compared to the previous generation results in over 600 rpm more spin.
- Although less scientific, Bridgestone also says that many players will experience a benefit when putting thanks to improved putter face contact.
Why not put this into a premium ball?
This is the million-dollar (or millions and millions of dollars) question, and it actually has a fairly simple answer—the new dimple design increases the peak trajectory of the e12 Contact and also makes it fly straighter. This makes it the perfect fit for a golf ball designed to enhance distance and reduce total golf ball curvature but less ideal for a tour-level ball designed for maximum trajectory control.
I realize that makes it sound like a negative, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite—the engineers at Bridgestone have closely analyzed the target golfers and designed a ball to fit their needs. The new e12 Contact is so efficient at creating the desired results from both distance and scoring clubs, they have eliminated the previous “Speed” and “Soft” balls and made one better with the e12 Contact.
Price and availability
The new Bridgestone e12 Contact will be available at retail and online starting February 26 at the price of $29.99 a dozen.
Beyond the traditional white version, the e12 Contact will also be available in Matte Green, Matte Red and Matte Yellow color options.
2021 Mizuno ST-X and ST-Z drivers, fairway woods: Moving Mizuno woods forward
Since 2019 and the launch of the ST190 series, Mizuno has quickly changed the perception around its metal woods. With the new ST-X and ST-Z drivers, along with the new ST-Z fairway woods for 2021, it is once again proving Mizuno isn’t just an iron company anymore.
The ST-X and ST-Z drivers represent the next evolution for Mizuno and are a culmination of a focused team effort to prove that, when side by side with the industry leaders, Mizuno drivers can both compete and win the battle of ball speed, spin, and dispersion.
A global effort to produce better (The “how’d we get here?”)
As a global brand, Mizuno used to have a small issue with market segmentation when it came to its club releases, meaning that depending on where you were in the world, there were different metal wood sub-brands to cater to various consumers.
This worked OK for the individual markets, but overall, it wasn’t working worldwide for one simple reason—more designs meant Mizuno engineers had to stretch their biggest resource, time, thinner. It also didn’t create a lot of continuity in the products, which from a consumer-level, always made it feel like Mizuno’s approach was just “let’s give this a try!”, and it really wasn’t working.
This brings us to the “New Mizuno.” Since the original ST190 series was released in 2019 (don’t forget development started long before the release date), Mizuno has had a fully dedicated team in place working on metal wood development and technology. This has allowed engineers to work tirelessly on creating drivers that win on both a technology front as well and where it matters most: in fittings and on the course where golfers care about performance.
The technology inside the 2021 Mizuno ST-Z and ST-X drivers
- SAT2041 beta-titanium faces: This titanium material is not new to the world of aerospace engineering, but as golf clubs are concerned, it had mostly been found previously in high-end JDM (Japanese domestic Market) drivers because of cost but was first used last year in the ST200 series drivers. SAT2041 has higher strength and rebound properties allowing Mizuno engineers to improve the multi-thickness areas behind the face for higher ball speed, and save mass to reposition around the head.
- New CorTech face design: Now, speaking to the faces, thanks in part to the material and Mizuno engineers’ ability to tweak and adjust based on continuous R&D, the faces of the ST-Z and ST-X drivers have been made thinner in certain areas to further optimize CT and COR, which contributes to more consistent ball speeds and additional discretionary mass.
- Using discretionary mass differently: A few grams here or there mean a lot in the golf club design world, especially when it comes to drivers. Mizuno shaved mass around the head to boost MOI in both of the new drivers and create performance separation in how they will work best for the intended players. Both of the new drivers have a carbon crown and also feature carbon panels around the sole skirt to help precisely locate the center of gravity.
Meet the 2021 Mizuno drivers
Mizuno ST-Z driver
The ST-Z replaces the ST200 and has been designed to offer the highest MOI possible without sacrificing lower spin—this driver is all about stability. Mass saved around the head, thanks to the carbon panels, along with the better-optimized face has allowed the designers to position the CG as close as possible to the neutral axis, to raise MOI, and create a neutrally biased driver.
Compared to the ST-X, the Z is longer heel to toe and slightly shallower to once again use any and all available options to maximize performance and playability.
Mizuno ST-X driver
Although the new STX driver shares a similar name to the previous ST200X designed to be an exclusively lighter weight draw-biased driver, the new STx is for any golfer seeking slightly more spin compared to the STz and also greater workability, thanks to a center of gravity positioned slightly more forward and closer to the shaft.
From the bottom, the easy way to separate the ST-X from the Z is the reduced amount of carbon on the sole and slightly more heel-biased back weight to aid the engineers in repositioning the CG.
The ST-X’s slightly deeper face and shorter heel-to-toe length help to make the driver ever so slightly more draw-biased than the ST-Z but also happens to make the driver more workable.
For those still in need of a premium lightweight option, the new ST-X has the ability to be built to a lighter and longer spec similar to the ST200X thanks to the adjustable weight in the sole, which goes from a stock 11-gram weight to just four grams when built to J-Spec. This brings the head weight to 194 grams vs. 201 grams in the standard ST-X configuration and 204 in the ST-Z. When matched with the M-Fusion shaft, you get a driver that competes against any other in the ultra-lightweight category.
2021 Mizuno STX and STZ drivers prices, specs, and availability
The ST-X and ST-Z stock shaft options are directly driven from popular profiles on tour and feature a familiar story of high, mid, and low launch. The drivers will also carry a fourth shaft option, which is a carryover from the previous ST200X.
High Launch – Project X Riptide CB 50g and 60g
Mid Launch – Fujikura MotoreX F3 60g
Low Launch – ProjectX HZRDUS RDX Smoke Black 60g
High Launch and ultra-lightweight – M-Fusion
Mizuno will also continue to offer upcharge shafts options including:
- Tensei CK Pro Orange and White 60 and 70g
- Fujikura Ventus Blue and Black 60 and 70g
- Graphite Design Tour AD Di6 & 7 along with XC6 & 7
STX and STZ drivers will be priced at – $399.99
The Mizuno STX and Z driver’s pre-sale starts today January 25th, with products on retail shelves starting February 18.
Mizuno ST-Z fairway woods
Technology and design
- 3rd gen MAS1C high strength steel face: Last year, with the ST200, Mizuno completely overhauled the internal structure of its fairway woods, and the ST-Z is the next evolution. Similar to the driver, engineers have improved the CorTech multi-thickness pads behind the hitting area to raise ball speeds while also improving sound and feel
- Carbon crown: When it works, it works, and the carbon steel crown of the ST-Z fairway woods reduces mass from higher in the head and gives the engineers the ability to better position it to deliver the performance variables they are searching for.
- New shaping: After all the material and sciencey stuff were figured out, the last part of the new fairway woods to consider was the shape. It seems simple, but the shape not only has a huge impact on the club’s physical performance, but it plays a major factor in how golfers perceive it in the address position. The leading edge and the hosel transition have been adjusted to appeal to the target players and make it more efficient from the turf, which is where most players will use their fairway woods the most.
Specs, prices, and availability
The ST-Z fairway woods will be available in the lofts of 15 and 18 degrees, and with Mizuno’s Quick Switch adjustability, the fairway woods can go up and down two additional degrees.
The stock shaft configurations for the ST-Z will be the Fujikura MotoreX 7 in stiff flex and the ProjectX RipTide CB in regular.
The ST-Z fairway woods are priced at $299.99 with pre-sale and fitting tools available starting today January 25th with the product on retail shelves on February 18.
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