The words Ben Hogan and Icon go together like velvety and smooth. Hogan was arguably the greatest ball striker ever and damned near every forged iron his company produced was, well, iconic.
The circa-1999 Apex blade may have been the most iconic. They, along with the Apex Plus, were perhaps the last great iron sets released by the original Hogan Co. Those Apex blades were designed by Jeff Sheets during Spalding’s ownership of the brand and featured the distinctively Hogan-esque blade-on-blade styling.
If you find yourself yearning for that iconic look, yearn no more. It’s back today with a new blade, the Ben Hogan ICON.
See what they did there?
Ben Hogan Icon – A Modern Throwback
“That was really our design intent,” says Hogan CEO Scott White. “To get back to the traditional and classical styling Ben Hogan blades have been known for.”
The Ben Hogan ICON replaces the Fort Worth, Hogan’s first release during its 2015 resurrection. As was the case with last year’s PTx PRO, the ICON styling looks updated and retro at the same time. There’s a clear and intentional Hogan family consistency.
“We try to marry form with function,” says White. “It’s a traditional, sort of elegant, look. If you look at the entire product line, everything sort of fits and flows together, like you’d expect from Ben Hogan.”
The ICON is a muscle-back blade so there’s only so much technology that can be stuffed into it. The blade-on-blade look was used by the original Hogan for years but that 1999 Apex made it look stunning.
“This feature provided a thicker mass behind the face while keeping the center of gravity more heel-ward for easier workability,” wrote Jeff Sheets for MyGolfSpy back in 2010. The design also allows for a larger face and a larger hitting area. That should translate into more confidence and – for a blade – more forgiveness.
“The weight pad on the back has a different geometry for each individual club,” adds White. “It puts more mass behind the golf ball so you get that great feeling a blade can provide when you hit it squarely.”
Hogan calls it the Progressive Center of Mass Weighting System, a fancy name for a simple concept: the center of mass gets lower as the irons get longer. For scoring irons (8-9-PW), the center of mass is higher, producing lower, more piercing shots without ballooning. As irons get longer, the center of mass gets lower, so you get the ball up easier.
“It’s a pretty forgiving blade,” says White. “It’s not just a piece of metal on the end of a stick.”
Can You Even Blade, Bro?
Forgiving and blade go together like haddock and ice cream so, in this case, you have to look at it relatively. The company says it’s tried to make the Ben Hogan ICON as playable as possible. Blades are sexy to look at and fun to play if you have the game but in the words of Clint Eastwood in his role as Detective Harry Callahan, a.k.a. Dirty Harry: “a man’s got to know his limitations.”
“You really have to know what you’re doing here,” says White. “These are not golf clubs with training wheels by any stretch of the imagination.”
The ICON is designed for advanced ball strikers and competitive golfers but White says they’ve tested well with high single-digit handicappers, too.
“They’ve played really well with them, especially the short irons, which are so easy to hit. You’re looking at serious, improving golfers, but probably not much more than a six- to eight-handicap player.”
That leads to the question of possible progressive sets. For now, Hogan isn’t saying yes, but it isn’t saying no, either. Unlike some Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) brands, Hogan does have a four-person, U.S.-based design firm under contract to handle its R&D so you can expect several new Hogan products this spring and throughout the year.
Due to COVID-19-related shipping delays, Hogan will begin taking pre-orders today for the ICON chrome irons. Black DBM (Diamond Black Metal) versions will follow within a few weeks. And, sorry lefties, the ICONs will be available only in right-handed models for now and the immediate future.
“We hear the same rumblings from southpaws that everyone else hears,” says White. “I get it, but it’s hard to justify bringing out lefty clubs to sell, at most, six to eight per cent of the right-handed offerings. It’s something we’re looking at but I don’t want to commit to it.”
The ICONs also feature Hogan’s V-Sole®. Lots of OEMs have variations of the same theme: a high-bounce leading edge and a lower-bounce trailing edge for versatility and to minimize digging.
The Big Picture
If product launches are any indication, Hogan’s Direct-To-Consumer model has long since passed the experimental phase. It now qualifies as standard operating procedure.
“We’ve had exponential growth since launching this model in 2017,” says White. “We’re still a niche brand and always will be but the DTC concept is being accepted by more golfers. It’s resonating.”
Hogan recently formalized a national agreement with Club Champion and other regional and local fitters. That alleviates a significant barrier for some golfers. In addition, Hogan is officially expanding into Europe and the U.K.
“We have an agreement with a sales, marketing and distribution agent based in London,” says White. “We tried in 2019 to do that on our own but without boots on the ground, it’s hard to do from Fort Worth.”
White says Hogan sold product into 26 countries last year almost by accident. And it’s announcing a new European website, BenHoganGolf.eu.
“I don’t think we’re going to change our core being,” he says. “The Ben Hogan brand has always been niche. When highly accomplished or serious players go looking for new clubs, there’s a pretty short list of brands they look at. I think we’re starting to be included but five years from now, I hope it’s automatic that they think of Ben Hogan.”
Ben Hogan Icon – Price, Availability and Options
As mentioned, Hogan is taking pre-orders for the ICON irons in chrome starting today with pricing at $770 for a seven-piece set. The black DMB ICONs remain a few weeks out (thank you, COVID-19) and will sell for $800.
As has been Hogan’s practice, there’s no upcharge for graphite over steel. Available shafts include KBS Tour V (S, X), KBS Tour 90 (R, S), True Temper Dynamic Gold (R300, S300, X100), and UST Recoil 760 (A, R) and 780 (S). The Hogan-branded Lamkin Z5 in standard or midsize is stock. Hogan does not offer alternative grips. Length and lie adjustments are free of charge.
So what do you say, GolfSpies? Can you see these blades finding their way into your bag?