Have you ever had a club you wish to hell you’d never got rid of? For me, it was a set of Y2K Hogan Apex Plus irons. They didn’t have much sentimental value – I bought them on eBay for about $75. They had plenty of bag chatter, some nice wear marks right on the sweet spot and felt like a foot massage from a young Kathleen Turner. Loved the look, too, with the Hogan signature and the Sunburst logo – just the sight of them made my heart do the Rhumba.
I don’t know who’s holding them now, but I want them to know I still love them and miss them terribly.
For any old-school Hoganistas out there who loved the Spalding-era ’99 Apex blade or ’00 Apex Plus, you might be in for a little flashback with this week’s release of the new Hogan PTx PRO forged irons.
They take you back a bit, don’t they?
Hello Old Friend
“We spent a lot of time on the graphic presentation as much as we did the technology,” says Hogan CEO Scott White. “We wanted to get back to the Hogan history and heritage, and we wanted something people would instantly recognize as being a Ben Hogan design.”
The new new Ben Hogan Company has had a bit of a branding problem. The Ft. Worth blades, the old PTx cavity backs, and last year’s Edge game improvement irons, while all fine sticks in their own right, had no branding consistency. They’re all members of the same family but look like they all came from different fathers.
The new PTx PRO still doesn’t fit with the other two irons sets, but it does look enough like the Apex Plus and its Spalding/Callaway progeny Apex Edge and Apex FTX to be listed as a direct descendant on Ancestry.com.
“If I have any criticism of our product line is there’s not a lot of consistency in how our irons look,” says White. “Going forward you’re going to see more and more products that look like and have the aesthetics of the PTx PRO.”
The original PTx irons were released in 2016, the last club released by Hogan before it declared bankruptcy in early 2017. Since rebooting in August of that year, the PTx has been Hogan’s best-selling iron, but three years later, it’s due for an update.
The obvious updates are aesthetic, but there are a couple of things under the hood that should matter to you.
If you define forged irons as an iron forged from a single piece of steel then no, the PTx PRO doesn’t qualify. That line, however, continues to be blurred by OEMs offering multi-piece heads with forged components. In that sense, Hogan isn’t breaking any new ground with the new PTx PRO’s. In fact, other than aesthetics the long irons in both the old and the new PTx irons appear to be virtually identical. Both sets’ long irons feature hollow-bodied, three-piece co-forgings, with forged 1025 carbon steel frames and forged MS300 faces. Tungsten weights are placed in the toe area to fine-tune CG, launch angles and spin.
The scoring irons (8-PW) are also fairly similar in construction to the original PTx irons. Like the old irons, the new PTx PRO feature the forged frame and face, with lighter titanium cores to help lower the CG, but there are slight differences.
“Feedback we received from users of the original PTx was the short irons had a tendency to balloon a bit,” says White. “The new irons have titanium cores of different sizes and geometry to lower the CG, so new they’ll deliver a much more penetrating trajectory compared to the original set.”
Hogan calls it Linear Center of Mass Weighting, which keeps the CG as a consistent level throughout the set for consistent launch. “We had it in the original PTx irons, but we think we’ve perfected it in the PTx PRO,” says White. “You’ll get consistent mid- to higher-trajectory with the long irons and mid- to lower-trajectories with the scoring irons, which is what most accomplished players want.”
As was the case with last year’s updated Ft. Worth irons, Hogan has modified PTx PRO V-Sole, with a more aggressive bounce on the leading edge and a softer bounce on the trailing edge.
“It not only allows a good player to manipulate the clubhead for any lie, but it really reduces turf interaction,” says White.
Specs, Pricing, and Availability
We haven’t seen or tried the new PTx PRO irons yet, so there’s no practical feedback we can give. The original PTx was included in our 2017 Most Wanted Player’s Iron testing and scored very well in ball speed and carry distances, but both the long and short irons dropped off when it came to accuracy. The technical updates to the scoring irons, Linear Center of Mass Weighting and V-Sole are helpful tweaks that should address those areas, but certainly seem to be playing a supporting role to the obvious aesthetic upgrade.
The loft structure remains what purists would consider more or less traditional, and are identical to the original PTx irons, starting at a 22-degree 4-iron with four degree loft increments up to a 46-degree pitching wedge.
Hogan is making the PTx PRO available in 5-, 6- and 7-piece sets, depending on how long of a long iron you’d like in your bag. With Hogan’s direct-to-consumer pricing, the 7-piece set (4-PW) sells for $770.00, the 6-piece set (5-PW) sells for $690.00 and the 5-piece set (6-PW) sells for $600.00.
Per usual with Hogan, all loft/lie alterations and grip options are no extra charge, and there’s no upcharge for graphite shafts. Hogan’s shaft offering is quite limited: KBS Tour-V, KBS Tour 90, True Temper Dynamic Gold and UST Mamiya Recoil, which White says can fit about 99% of the golfers who call in. “We do get calls for some of the exotic and more expensive shafts, but we’re still trying to keep our cost structure under control, and we can’t inventory every shaft in the world. If we lose an order because of a shaft we don’t carry, well, I can live with that.”
Hogan is also introducing a new Flat Rate International shipping option. Any order over $400 can be shipped almost anywhere in the world for a $40 flat rate – not including duty or taxes (those remain the responsibility of the buyer). White does say there are a few places, such as Australia, where the flat rate is $50, but for Europe and most other parts of the world, it’s only $40.
The PTx PRO irons are available today on the Ben Hogan website.
Filling the Bag
It’s been a busy spring for Hogan. A couple of weeks ago the company released a quartet of putters – three blades and a mallet – the first Hogan putters of consequence since the Bettinardi-made lineup, again from the Spalding era.
“It would have been easy to just whip up some investment cast putters and stamp the Ben Hogan logo and the back and be done,” says White. “But that’s not what we wanted to do.”
The new Precision Milled Forged Putter line features the Hogan Sunburst logo on the heel of each milled face and the iconic Hogan signature on the back, but it’s the forged part that piques the curiosity. According to Hogan, the putter head itself is CNC milled, but it’s milled from a forged hunk of 1029 carbon steel as opposed to an investment cast hunk of steel.
“99.9% of the putters on the market right now – even some of the high-end putters – start with liquified metal that’s poured into a mold. That’s the block you start with,” says White. “We start with a piece of metal that’s been forged. The grain structure hasn’t been compromised; it’s been hammered into place.”
The milling process after that forging isn’t all that different from the process with a piece of cast metal. It’s all a case of what you’re starting with.”
White says the difference is primarily in feel, sound, and consistency. Whether there are any actual performance benefits is an open question.
“We don’t expect, nor do we have any ambition to challenge the market leaders,” says White. “But we know these are great performing putters for those people who are kind of tired of the same old run of the mill putter.”
Hogan’s Precision Milled forged putters feature a Diamond Black Metal finish, are available on Hogan’s website for $250.00. Length and lie alterations and your choice of one of three SuperStroke grips are included in that price.
18-Month Health Checkup
Hogan 3.0, the reorganized, factory-direct company that rose out of bankruptcy court in August of 2017, in reality, is a 20-month old virtual startup. As such, the company is intent on staying lean as it grows. The assembly and shipping team at its Fort Worth facility is small, and the company outsources many of its core functions, including finance and some R&D. It’s trying to avoid out kicking its coverage, as its immediate predecessor did.
“We had a great year in 2018,” says White. “The factory direct or Direct-to-Consumer model absolutely, positively works. More people are visiting our website and placing orders, so they understand they can buy premium equipment without retail markup.”
And while you can’t go into a store and demo anything Hogan, you can try its 14-day Demo Program: for $20 you can demo a 2-club set for two weeks ($30 if you’re in Europe). Startups such as New Level and Sub70 offer similar programs, as does Bridgestone. While it’s not the same as whacking a handful of shots into a simulator while shopping for balls and tees, you do get to try the clubs on the course for a couple of weeks. Hogan says over 70% of the people who try product via the Demo Program wind up buying.
And Hogan isn’t done this spring. White says you can expect a specific progressive/combo iron set sooner rather than later. Instead of cobbling existing irons into a hodgepodge, White says the combo set will be specifically designed as a unified irons package. You’ll see other additions as well – again sooner rather than later – but the company is keeping mum about what those might be.
“I think going forward you’re going to see more and more products that look like and have the aesthetics of the PTx Pro,” says White.