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The greatest Ben Hogan irons of all time

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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).

Photo: Second Swing Golf

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.

Special thanks to Patrick Boyd of National Custom Works and Boyd Blade and Ferrule Co, for his help with this piece. He is a walking encyclopedia of classic forged iron knowledge.

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Ryan Barath is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Dbeyr Orsee

    Sep 7, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    What an obvious marketing scam. The current Ben Hogan company has NOTHING to do with Ben Hogan’s company. They bought his name from Callaway, nothing else. The new company had some serious up and coming club designers back in 2015, when they went bankrupt. They are back as nothing but a fake marketing company – finding money spent on marketing has a better pay back. JJ Henry is the only “pro” using their clubs and he stopped winning tournaments right after switching to BH. He is no longer listed in the top 1,000 golfers, making just $23,160 – not enough to pay expenses. Not a single review of the best irons in 2020 included anything from the new and fake Ben Hogan.

    The Ben Hogan company has nothing to do with the company and clubs of last century. Heck, it has nothing to do with the 2015 Ben Hogan company and clubs. They’re just high priced knock offs. At first, they sold clubs designed by Terry Koehler using his highly rated SCOR golf clubs (he’s now Edison Wedges). It’s like how some company just bought the Pier 1 name in the bankruptcy auction. Not the same people, not any of the systems, and of course not the same products. Just the name.

    “The old myth about forged and cast iron heads is that forged heads are easy to bend, cast heads are not. Most forged iron heads are VERY easy to bend, some up to 4 degrees. Again – material dependent. There are quite a number of OEM iron heads that are difficult if not impossible to bend. Most if not all of these are cast heads.” Cast clubs tend to be more distance accurate. However, it’s only but geometry and material differences. The idea “forged” is special is a myth for people slow to learn. gameimprovementgolf.com/bending-forged-and-cast-irons-know-the-truth/

  2. stephen hall

    May 6, 2020 at 12:21 am

    I had a set of HOGAN EDGE GS irons, had for about 25 yrs until they were stolen great irons Hogans are the best…

  3. Joe

    May 2, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    Why can’t tour pros (PGA) play cool, quality irons like they are still producing today? IMO the PGA WITBs are quite redundant with every player signed to like 5 companies. Those ICON irons look SICK.

  4. Billyjack

    Apr 30, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    Loved my Apex Ii irons with that Apex shaft. That wedge! Sad day when some crook stole them.

  5. Richard Douglas

    Apr 30, 2020 at 12:28 am

    The Hogan Edge changed everything. Until then it was forged blades or 17-4 steel cavity-backed irons. The Edge brought the two concepts together.

    This iron was my first real set of irons. I loved them, but went to even more forgiving clubs in a couple of years. But they were beautiful!

  6. Kevin

    Apr 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    So, where do the Apex PC irons (circa 1985) fit into this thread? I have a set inherited from my father, 1 through E. I played them for years before changing to the recent Fort Worth 15 irons. Not sure the newer clubs have improved my game (about a 6 handicap). Those old blades are sweet to look at when addressing the ball. Given that 1, 2 and 3 irons are so rare these days, I’m never giving them up.

  7. BingHogan

    Apr 29, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    I currently have a NEW set of Hogan PC’s. I played 9 holes with them about 5 years ago with the Apex shaft number 4 when I went back to Ohio to one of my old boyhood courses. I walked in the Pro shop and asked if I could rent some clubs etc.. to bring back some wonderful memories. They said they only had a few rentals that weren’t that good. But, we have a nice set of Hogan’s right there behind you for sale 3-E. Original grips and $35! Only the 8 iron and E were hit one time.

    A great day!!

  8. Jack Ryan

    Apr 29, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    I’ve had two sets of the +1s, two through wedge (one is in still in the garage). I had a set of the Edge–they were nice but heavy and the top line was too thick. I have a set of 92 Apex–also in the garage currently. I am currently playing the Ft Worth 15 and loving them.

  9. TacklingDummy

    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    I had the Hogan FTX player forged irons. Progressive offset cavity back, but not much offset. Excellent set. Bagged them for several years until moving to Titleist AP2 then to the CBs.

  10. Mark

    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    I have owned 3 sets of Hogans – Apex II, Apex Grind and Apex 1999. All were very good but the 1999 model was a standout in my opinion and it’s the set I wished I would have kept. I have played Mizuno for years now but I sure do miss that set.

    • Dean Mitchell

      Apr 30, 2020 at 6:32 am

      The 99s are the best clubs I’ve ever played golf with, and I also wish I’d kept mine. The most playable and beautiful muscle backs ever made.

  11. cody

    Apr 29, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    You forgot to add the 1992 (I think) channel backs… some what copied by both Callaway in the prototypes and Mizuno with the MP5…

  12. chip75

    Apr 29, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Callaway make some nice sticks, but I’m not sure how they’ve done the Apex name “justice”? They bought Spalding (which I think was for the Strata ball) and acquired the Hogan assets, they kept the Apex name and repurposed it for nostalgic brand recognition.

    • Stacey Uchtman

      Apr 29, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      Agree, they should have let that name go with the brand.

  13. Suncoast 9

    Apr 29, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane Ryan. My first top of the line set was Hogan Apex in 1973. After switching to Ram Tour Grind in ’87 I answered the cavity-back siren song with Hogan Edge in ’94. It was back to musclebacks with a 1999 set of Hogans, which finally gave way to my current Mizuno MP69s. I still have the ’99 Hogans tucked away in my basement, along with a PC 1-iron that I actually could hit half decently once upon a time.

  14. Mark

    Apr 29, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Love Hogan clubs. My first set of golf clubs(bought used) was the 1959 version of the Starburst. Since then have sets of Percussion PC5, Bounce Sole, Round Sole, Producer, Radials (’83 version), Radials (’87 version), and Apex Redline. Most have been from ebay, with some bag chatter and some scuffing, but if you check them out before buying and with some cleaning, paint fill, re-grooving, and loft and lie adjustment they look and play well. While some of the 2, 3, and maybe 4 irons from these are displayed on the wall, I play the others. Still working on filling in the gaps by finding others, like Power Thrust, IPT, PT III, etc. Currently have 5 and 6 Radials and 7-Equalizer Round Soles in my bag. With the higher lofts when compared to current GI clubs, I am closer to having something like a 6.5 iron to Gap with these. The Radials are the most forgiving “blade like” club ever. (Shot my lowest 9 hole score ever last year with 5 – E Radials in the bag. OK, from the shorter tees since I am getting old and can’t hit it far enough anymore, but so what.) The Round Soles have “fairly” wide soles and set up nicely based on the sole curvature. In many ways, Mr. Hogan was ahead of his time. I would love to find a book or some kind of literature that would document the history of all clubs from the Precision to the mid to late 90s while Mr. Hogan was still active with the company. Anybody aware of that – I would love to know.

  15. Mike

    Apr 29, 2020 at 10:54 am

    The ’99 Apex were my first blade irons… every set I’ve acquired since then are held to that immeasurable standard.

    On a side note, I truly enjoyed the series of articles Tom Stites penned about his experience coming up at Hogan, but they seemed to end abruptly. Did this series end prematurely?

  16. CaryK

    Apr 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I had a set of the original 1972 Apex irons. Great feeling clubs for their era. To me, though, the 1984 Hogan Apex PC (Percussion Center) might be one of his purest designs. The 1988 Apex Redline irons were also very beautiful as well. Hogan’s 1983 Radials were an interesting design too that might have been ahead of its time.

    But my all time favorite is the 1952 Personal/Precision irons. I have a friend that has the limited edition boxed set that Hogan made in the 80’s. Just plain gorgeous!

    • Tom54

      May 4, 2020 at 4:34 pm

      You are indeed correct. I remember these too as I thought that they did not resemble any Hogan irons I had ever seen. I was never a fan of Ben Hogan irons but these were like a thousand dollars back in 83 a price unheard of at the time. Occasionally they will pop up on EBay but you will have to part with some serious cash for them. As I recall they were stunning looking irons.

  17. Dave Burdette

    Apr 29, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I have a set of Slazenger Precisions forged in England. I’ve been trying to get information on these for the past 5 years. They are exactly like the 1954 irons with the exception of Slazenger on the soles and red leather grips. If you have any history of these, I’m all ears.
    Thanks. Great article.

    • Suncoast 9

      Apr 29, 2020 at 11:59 am

      I had a set of Hogan clubs in 1973 that had Slazenger labels on the shafts. My understanding was Slazenger was licensed to manufacture (assemble?) Ben Hogan clubs outside of the US. The pro who sold me the clubs said the Slazenger label would be my proof to Canada customs that the clubs were bought in Canada.

  18. Michael

    Apr 29, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Over the weekend, I was able to score a set of Edge CFT irons from a guy cleaning out his garage. They may not be fully forged (just the faces) like the sets listed in this article but they’re in great shape and very playable. My next find will hopefully be a set of the Apex irons you mentioned. Thanks for sharing this article- even this forty-something year old has a special affinity for classic Ben Hogan irons!!

  19. Bob Jones

    Apr 29, 2020 at 9:42 am

    I bought a set of the 1999 Apexes and had them fitted for me. Wonderful clubs. When I was shopping, I tried a Ping i3+ and it felt just like the Hogans, but they looked funny and those 1999 Apexes appearance-wise are the tuxedos of the iron world.

    I also bought a set of Red Lines (1988) on eBay and had them retro-fitted. I like them even better and for good reason. The Grinds (1990) are well thought of, too. At his death, Hogan had set of Apex II (white cameo) irons in his bag.

    • Cary

      Nov 23, 2020 at 8:41 pm

      I have hit both the the Ping I3+ and the Hogan ’99 blades and for me the Hogan’s were butter but also gave great feed back and I could tell exactly where on the face I hit them, but the I3+ were kind of numb feeling and I had no idea where on the face I hit them unless it was so far on the toe.

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Equipment

New 2021 Titleist T-Series irons begin tour seeding

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In our forums, our members have been reacting to the latest irons from Titleist.

On Monday, Titleist posted photos of its new T100, T100S, T200, and U505 irons, which begin seeding on the PGA and European Tours this week. Our members have been sharing their thoughts on the latest additions, with the early impressions being very positive.

 

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“The New Titleist T100, T100•S, T200, and U•505 irons are now on tour! This marks the start of the tour validation process by some of the world’s best players – a critical step in the development of all high-performance Titleist golf equipment. Stay tuned to see some first impressions and more updates throughout the week.” – Titleist

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.

  • thebishop: “Wow. Those look really good. And the transition is complete now. We’ve gone from visible tech to hiding it all under the hood.”
  • Matty01984: “They look so so good! The thing that I always struggled with when it came to the original T100 was the look at the back. I got over it because they quite simply look incredible behind the ball, but Titleist has taken that up a notch with how they look.”
  • mtnbiker5: “Clean…”

Entire Thread: “New 2021 Titleist irons”

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (06/21/21): Honma TW-PT blade putter

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At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buy and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a Honma TW-PT blade putter. ($325)

From the seller (@nova6868): “You may recognize this putter if you follow Mike Malaska, it’s the same one he rolls. This is Honma’s take on the milled Anser 2 design.

– Soft Stainless SUS303

– Ported neck to save weight

– Tungsten weights added to the sole to increase MOI and forgiveness

– Headweight is 360 grams

– 34 inches, I can add 1″ extension if you want 35

– Stock grip still in plastic, never used

– Stock headcover, never used

– Putter is new, never been outside. Mint/New condition as you can see. These were $450 brand new and I don’t think you can even buy them anymore.”

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Honma TW-PT blade putter

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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Whats in the Bag

Jon Rahm’s winning WITB: 2021 U.S. Open

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Driver: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond LS (10.5 degrees @10.2) (Std. CG, 7 GF, 7 GB)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Green 75 TX (45.25 inches, tipped 1 inch, D4)

3-wood: Callaway Epic Speed Sub Zero Triple Diamond T (@14.2 degrees) (14 GF, 10 GB)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Green 75 TX (43.25 inches, tipped 1.5 inches, D3.25)

5-wood: Callaway Epic Speed Sub Zero Triple Diamond T (@18.1 degrees) (14 GF, 12 GB)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI (Black) 8 X (42 inches, tipped 2 inches, D4)

Irons: Callaway Apex TCB (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: Callaway Jaws Forged “Rahmbo” (52-10, 56-12, 60-10)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie S (Micro Hinge Star insert, steel stepped shaft, 37 inches, 2.5-degrees loft, 68-degree lie, 544 grams overall weight)
Grip: Odyssey 56 pistol

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X (2020) #10

Grips: Golf Pride MCC (red/black)

(Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder)

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