2021 Callaway Apex Irons & Hybrids – Key Takeaways
- Apex family expands to three models: an upgraded Apex and completely new Apex Pro and Apex DCB
- All feature Callaway’s A.I. Flash Cup Face
- Apex Pro features a new hollow-body design; Apex DCB (Deep Cavity Back) made for forgiveness & distance
- Apex hybrid line expands to standard and Pro models
The 2021 Callaway Apex irons and hybrids are an upgrade that’s not fooling around. That, dear reader, is a good thing.
We’re in the midst of a product launch avalanche, and nearly all of them are what you’d expect: evolutionary updates just different enough to be worth talking about. The new 2021 Callaway Apex irons and hybrids are all that and then some.
The 2019 Apex is at the end of its two-year mission. While the 2021 standard Apex iron is a nice upgrade, Callaway is giving us a completely made over Apex Pro and a brand-new Apex DCB (we’ll tell you what that means later). Additionally, we’re getting standard and Pro versions of the Apex hybrid.
That’s a lot of new sticks, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all dovetails with the rest of the Callaway lineup. But when you’re golf’s biggest company, making sense of the lineup isn’t something you worry about all that much.
2021 Callaway Apex Irons – A.I. Flash At Work
You read that correctly, the Apex lineup is expanding to three distinct iron sets. Callaway says it’s the first time its A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) designed Flash Cup Face is in a forged iron.
We should say quasi-forged. The body of each iron is a 1025 carbon steel forging. The face, however, is thin, high strength steel with Callaway’s unique Flash Face Cup design. Callaway calls it a 21st-century forging.
“We’re going to go to the tools we’ve been pioneering,” says Callaway’s R&D chieftain, Dr. Alan Hocknell. “We’re stretching the cup face designs using Artificial Intelligence. And we’re going to use weighting technology that allows us to move the center of gravity. It’s all designed to give us increased performance and consistency with great feel and great looks.”
A.I. design isn’t unique to Callaway anymore. Several major OEMs are now using super-computers to help them iterate variable thickness face designs to optimize performance.
“We’re very much ascending the learning curve in applying this A.I. design tool to irons,” says Hocknell. “The face is a really important part of the design for us to generate the distance we want, as well as distance forgiveness.”
The A.I. Flash Face Cup is consistent among the new Callaway Apex irons, along with urethane microspheres and a hell of a lot of tungsten.
I know it has been seven years, but it’s still weird seeing the Apex name on something that doesn’t say Hogan. Oh well, it is what it is.
First introduced in 2013, the standard, non-Pro Apex has been Callaway’s quasi-forged, multi-material flagship iron. That’s an oddly specific category but hey, it’s Callaway. In last year’s Most Wanted Players Distance Iron testing, the Apex was long but struggled in strokes gained. For 2021, Callaway is gunning for even more Flash Face Cup-fueled distance, but Hocknell says forgiveness, spin consistency and ease of launch are equally important. And that’s where all that tungsten comes in to play.
Specifically, five times more tungsten than the 2019 Apex. And as you’d expect, Callaway has a name for it: Massive Tungsten Energy Core.
“We want weight all the way across the bottom part of the iron,” says Hocknell. “The toe and heel regions add to MOI as well as to lower the center of gravity. We’re managing launch angle and spin rate using a combination of the Flash Face and this tungsten weight technology.”
Callaway jammed 64 grams of tungsten in the Apex nine-iron, and the amount of tungsten goes down as the irons get longer: 48 grams in the seven-iron, 40 in the five-iron and 34 in the three- and four-irons.
The weight is low and deep in the long irons. But as the irons get shorter, the weight moves up for better spin control. The pitching and gap wedges have the highest placement, but also have the least weight, with only 14 grams each.
“Each iron is individually tuned through the combination of face characteristics and exact weight position,” says Hocknell. “That gives us a more optimal balance of launch angle, spin rate and ball speed for every iron in the set.”
Specs & Availability
So, what’s different from the 2019 standard Apex irons?
Well, there’s the standard mantra of more ball speed. But also, thanks for the Flash Face, Callaway says the sweet spot is larger. And the tungsten weighting has also helped move it lower.
“Both of those are really good things for improving ball speed when you don’t quite hit the center of the face,” says Hocknell. “A lot of players hit low on the face when they miss, so we’ve been really emphasizing the low face ball speed performance.”
Callaway isn’t giving any specifics on how much longer the new 2021 Apex is compared to the 2019 version. But since the loft structure is essentially the same, any gains are coming from the new tech.
“Regardless of loft, we have a specific idea of how we want a six-iron to perform in terms of spin and launch angle, and that will give us six-iron flight,” says Hocknell. “We use a combination of loft, weighting position, the amount of weight and the A.I. face to achieve that.
The stock shaft is the new True Temper Elevate ETS 95 steel shaft in R and S flexes. True Temper categorizes Elevate 95 as a high launch, high spin shaft, and ETS (Enhanced Tip Stability) is the newest offering in the line.
The stock graphite shaft is the brand-new UST Mamiya Recoil Dart 75. Recoil is announcing the new Dart on its website February 1st, but we do know Dart stands for Dual Action Recoil Technology.
The stock grip is the Golf Pride Z.
The standard Apex irons will retail for $185 per club in steel, $200 per club in graphite. They’ll be available for fitting January 26th and will hit retail February 11th.
The updates to the standard Apex irons are nice, but it’s the new Apex Pro irons that grab you by the shirt and yanks you out of your chair. According to Callaway, it’s a completely new-from-the-ground-up hollow body forged (sort of) iron.
Oh yes, with A.I. technology.
“The hollow body gives us a greater stiffness in the back of the head,” adds Hocknell. “And it allows us to do a few different things with weighting and in the design of the A.I. Face Cup.”
As you’d expect with a “Pro” version, the head is smaller than that of the standard Apex, and the lofts are a little weaker (33-degree seven iron). And there’s a butt-load more tungsten: 90 grams in the seven-iron down to 53 grams in the three-iron. Surprisingly, there’s no tungsten at all in the 8-iron through gap wedge.
“This player is placing a greater premium on spin and launch angle consistency, hitting shots targeted to a specific flight window,” says Hocknell. “We use the tungsten and the face design to tune that more precisely.”
Hollow body design allows for even greater face flexing, but it comes with a sound and feel trade-off. That’s where Callaway’s urethane microspheres come in. Hocknell says the goal is to make the Apex Pro feel like a single piece forging without impeding face flex.
“(Microspheres) do that by having a unique collapsible characteristic,” he says. “It doesn’t impede the motion of the face when it comes in contact with the ball. And once the ball and face have parted company, it stops the vibration that would result in a sound that’s too loud.”
Specs & Availability
As with every other “Pro” model, the 2021 Callaway Apex Pro is the better-player version, with smaller heads, thinner top lines, weaker lofts and less offset. The three- through seven-irons feature the A.I. designed Face Cup, while the eight- through gap wedge have steel faceplates welded to forged heads.
“Each iron in a set performs a different job,” says Hocknell. “For some, there’s a priority on speed and launch angle. Others have more of a priority on spin and consistency.”
While the standard Apex sits on the better player side of Game Improvement, the Apex Pro is aimed at low single-digit ‘cappers all the way to low teens. And if you’re thinking about combo sets, Callaway is way ahead of you. Way, way ahead of you, as we’ll see shortly.
True Temper’s Elevate ETS 115 is the stock shaft, in R, S and X flexes. And the stock graphite shaft is the Mitsubishi MMT, a mid-launch, mid-spin shaft with a 304 stainless steel mesh integrated towards the tip. It’s available in R (85g), S (95g) and Tour-X (105g) flexes. The Golf Pride Z is the stock grip.
As with the standard Apex, the Apex Pro retails for $185/club in steel, $200/club in graphite. They’ll be available January 26th for fitting, February 11th at retail.
So, we have an updated standard Apex and a dramatically upgraded Apex Pro. Do we really need a third Apex iron? Callaway seems to think we do.
Enter the Callaway DCB, or Deep Cavity Back, for golfers who want a forged (sort of) iron loaded with game-improvement features.
“The goal here is to take the core Apex values and expand them to the player who needs more help,” says Hocknell. “Someone who could benefit from a wider sole, a longer blade length, maybe more offset, more generous lofts with a priority on launching the ball easily and when you don’t hit the center of the face.”
If you’re thinking a forged (sort of) Mavrik, you’re thinking correctly. The Apex DCB has all the tech the other two irons have – A.I. Flash Face Cup, a crap-ton of tungsten, urethane microspheres and a 1025 forged head – all packed into a larger head with a wider sole. While Callaway would have easily called this iron the Mavrik Forged, it’s clearly designed to fit with the rest of the Apex family.
“Those players in the teens and above handicap range have a real choice to make,” says Hocknell. “If you need a little help, if your contact is suspect and your impact location varies, you’ll get more help from the DCB irons.”
As you’d expect, the stock shafts are lighter than the standard Apex or the Apex Pro. Callaway is using the lighter True Temper Elevate ETS 85 in R and S flexes as the steel option. The UST Mamiya Recoil Dart 65 in L, R and S flexes is the graphite option.
Pricing is the same – $185/club in steel, $200/club in graphite – as is fitting and retail availability.
The Combo Mambo
If you’re thinking “Hey, this setup is made for combo sets,” give yourself an epic star. Looks, playability and loft structure are designed for mixing and matching.
“We get asked all the time how to mix an iron as powerful as the standard Apex with a Pro iron that has a little less priority on speed,” says Hocknell. “That’s why we have different variants in order to blend with the standard Apex more accurately.”
So, what kind of set fits your fancy? Callaway has four options:
- Apex Mixed: standard Apex in three- through seven-irons; Apex Pro in eight-iron through gap wedge
- Apex Sweet Spot: Apex DCB in the four- and five-iron; standard Apex in six-iron through gap wedge
- Apex Triple Play: Apex DCB in the four- and five-iron; standard Apex in six- through nine-iron; Apex Pro in pitching and gap wedge
- Apex Player: Apex Pro in three- through seven-irons; Apex MB in the eight-iron through gap wedge
Hybrids almost always get the short end of the stick at launch time. But as with the irons, the Apex hybrid is getting more than just a cursory update.
What you used to know as the Callaway Apex hybrid is now known as the Apex Pro. The all-new Apex hybrid, meanwhile, is more of a game improvement-type hybrid, sitting somewhere between the Apex Pro and the Mavrik Pro hybrids.
“The intent is for the standard hybrid to be useable by players who would have either the standard Apex or the DCB set,” says Hocknell. “It’s distinct from the Pro model, which is now more true to its original player goals and objectives.”
The new standard Apex is a built-for-distance game-improvement hybrid. It combines a flotilla of Callaway’s latest tech: an A.I. designed Flash Face SS21 face, new Jailbreak Velocity Blades, an adjustable hosel and a lot of tungsten, particularly in the toe.
“We learned from the Super Hybrid about using a large amount of tungsten,” says Hocknell. “A rearward, low location is good for MOI and lower center of gravity. And the toe bias is there to offset the weight of the hosel.”
As for the ominously named Jailbreak Velocity Blades, Callaway says the new design further stiffens the body low on the sole of the club to create more speed on low face impact.
“The computer suggested to us there were certain things that would be nice to add in over the original Jailbreak,” says Hocknell. “We can retain a lot of vertical stiffness, but we can add stiffness in other directions, too – particularly torsional stiffness.”
In English: more stiffness where you want it and less where you don’t, which optimizes face flex so you can send your ball to Jupiter.
Apex/Apex Pro Hybrid Specifics
The Apex Pro hybrid is the more compact of the two, made for Tour players and low handicaps. It’s an iron replacement-type hybrid as opposed to a mini-fairway wood, meaning it’s lower launching and higher spinning.
The Apex Pro hybrid has most of the same tech as the standard model, just with a little less tungsten and it’s not adjustable.
The standard Apex hybrid will be available in 19-, 21- and 24-degree models in both left- and right-handed. A 27-degree model is available for righties only.
The Recoil Dart 75 in L, R and S flex is stock, as is the Golf Pride Z grip.
The non-adjustable Apex Pro hybrid is available in 18-, 20-, 23- and 26-degree models for both lefties and righties. Mitsubishi’s MMT is stock graphite in R (75g), S (80g) and TX (85g) flexes. Again, the Golf Pride Z is the stock grip.
Both 2021 Callaway Apex hybrids will retail for $269.99. Availability is the same: January 26th for fitting, February 11th in stores.
Not for nothing, here’s the current tally of Callaway irons and hybrids, from SGI to Tour-level…
Irons: Epic Forged Star, Big Bertha 21, Mavrik Max, Mavrik, Mavrik Pro, Apex DCB, Apex, Apex Pro, X-Forged CB, Apex MB, plus seven additional women’s sets.
Hybrids: Epic Flash Star, Big Bertha 21, Super Hybrid, Mavrik Max, Mavrik, Mavrik Pro, Apex, Apex Pro, plus four women’s models.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 10 to 17 iron sets and eight to 12 hybrids. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot. From Callaway’s point of view, if you can’t find something in that lineup that fits your wants and needs, maybe golf isn’t your game.
You have super lightweight, super forgiving, super long and better player offerings in both cast and quasi-forged irons, each with matching hybrids. And don’t underestimate the fact that all those irons take up a lot of shelf space at retail. While it’s fair to ask how many irons sets and hybrids does a company need, it’s really the wrong question to be asking. The real question is this: what’s the downside?
The upside, of course, is you have something for everyone. Also, you eliminate reasons for customers to look at your competitors. But the downside? Well, brand fatigue is definitely a concern. But other than that, as long as all the offerings perform to expectations, there really isn’t one.
Your opinion, however, is the one that matters. What say you, Golf Spies?
For more information, visit the Callaway website.