Written By: Tony Covey
Very quietly (by current Callaway standards anyway) Callaway has begun the process of letting the world know about their new 2014 Apex Muscleback. For now the Twitterverse is nearly mute, but give the boys time, I’m sure we’ll have a hashtag or two before the introductory period is over.
Is it the Right Time?
We know the industry is in a bad place right now, but that doesn’t mean the global release machine is going to (nor should it) come to a halt. Mizuno is moving forward. Titleist is moving forward. Callaway and Nike are moving forward too.
Given my rumored hatred for all things Callaway (you guys kill me), I’m sure some of you are expecting that I’ve come here today to bury the Apex MB, not to praise it.
So what the hell, let’s get on with it.
The language deficit continues. Shame on Callaway for playing on a series of predictable cliches that are omnipresent in the marketing of blade designs.
- The new irons are Tour Inspired
- They offer playability
- They are most premium (premium is arguably an absolute)
- And apparently unlike most irons which are manufactured, the Apex MBs are crafted…and classically so.
Yes, I am nitpicking, but if I come right out and tell you that I can’t find any real fault with what Callaway is doing here, the “how much did Callaway pay you crowd” will bury me too.
I’m trying to find some balance – My own personal Zen of Callaway if you will.
Passing the Sniff Test
In reality, Apex Muscleback has the markings of a very solid release from Callaway. If we consider the new iron within the context of everything that is going wrong in the golf equipment industry right now, the Apex MB more than passes the sniff test.
By my recollection, the last true blade in the Callaway lineup (RAZR X MB) was released in early 2011. My personal feeling is that 3 years is an appropriate amount of time between releases, so there’s not a rational complaint to be made here about Callaway flooding the market in this particular category.
There is clear differentiation between the new Apex MB and everything else in the current lineup. It’s a blade, the only blade. There’s no reasonable chance of confusing the consumer, or overwhelming him with an overabundance of overly-similar products.
The marketing…at least the early marketing…is largely BS free. The Apex MB isn’t #BerthaFast or #BerthaLong it’s not Bertha anything (probably because it’s not a Bertha), and it’s not 3, 5, 7, or 17 yards longer than Callaway’s previous blade (apparently) or any of the other Callaway irons you may have purchased 3 months ago.
It’s a true player’s blade, and Callaway is treating that with the seriousness it commands.
Yes, I nitpicked a few cliches and I don’t love High Performance Grooves, but everything has to have a clever name, and in fairness, Callaway has to say something to entice us. If they wrote it 100% as reality it would read more like this:
Even I’ll admit that if the goal is to actually sell irons, Callaway wrote it better.
Aesthetically the Apex MB is everything you’d expect from a true muscleback, and more specifically a Callaway muscleback. While the company has gradually transitioned away from the X-everything nomenclature of recent years, elements of the X-shaped back design remain.
Cosmetically that means the new irons will look nice alongside any Mack Daddy 2 (or X Forged Jaws CC) wedges you might have, or the new Apex Utility. It also means the Apex MB may not appeal to the purists who are absolute in their belief of what a blade should look like.
Worth a mention, while the X design fits well within the construct of that previous X-based marketing, the design was functional as it related to the placement of mass and the center of gravity. I’m guessing that’s still true today. At some point maybe the Callaway guys will stand in front of a coffee maker and discuss it in more detail.
From what we can tell, the rest looks pretty straightforward. Compact heads, thin toplines, minimal offset…you know the drill. What we don’t yet know (and chances are a set won’t be showing up on my doorstep) is whether Callaway has gone the progressive route and shaped the long irons a bit differently than the short.
I don’t believe they have, and here’s hoping that’s true. It’s a true muscleback afterall. There’s no need to get fancy.
The most hardcore of traditionalists will lament the fact that the pitching wedge is only 47° and that the 5-iron is an ungodly long 38″. By modern standards, however; I’d say the specs are on point. This is as close to traditional as you’re going to find. It’s time to move on fellas, the good ol’ days of niblicks and mashies are over.
At D1, the swingweight is perhaps a bit on the light side, but I’m sure Callaway’s custom department can help you with that. And while they’re at it, if you ask nicely, they can probably build off a 37.75″ 5-iron if you prefer.
Like the other 2 sets in the Callaway Apex series, the Apex MB will hit the street for the higher-than-average prices of $1099 (retail 9/12/2014). $1100 (I rounded for effect) is a lot of money, but we’re entering a new golf economy, and while the consumer is going to grumble, $1100 means both Callaway and your retailer can maintain healthy margins.
Also officially announced is the Callaway Apex Utility Iron which popped up just before The Open Championship. Street price for the Utility (available in 18°, 21°, and 24°) is $229.99.
Who doesn’t love a good blade?
I believe a true, clean muscleback should be a part of every manufacturer’s lineup. It’s the most-niche of any iron offering, but it’s the best opportunity any manufacturers has to showcase their aesthetic capabilities while creating a product that makes statement about the brand.
With Apex MB Callaway has created an iron that respectfully carries on the heritage of the Apex line while remaining true to the new identity the company has forged for itself.
Callaway’s Apex Muscleback is a statement iron; one that would look strong in any golf bag (even if you’re no Phil Mickelson).