In this Callaway Apex Pro Irons Review, we’ll take a look at this new Apex model from Callaway and discuss why we think Apex Pro 21 will become one of Callaway’s best-selling models ever for skilled players.
Callaway Apex Pro 21 Irons
- Stunning design
- Great sound and feel
- Good forgiveness
- Impressive distance
Historically, the types of irons that have been marketed to scratch and low-handicap golfers tended to be sleek, muscleback designs that rate high on the “workability” scale, allowing skilled players to shape their shots, but very low on the “forgiveness” scale. The sweet spot on those blade-style irons is extremely small, which explains why only expert players can use them effectively.
But even the best players miss the sweet spot occasionally and, when they do, they pay a price in how the iron performs. So several years ago, recognizing this potential new market, club manufacturers began designing and offering a new breed of irons to low-handicappers: irons that visually appeal to better players (smaller overall profile, thinner toplines, etc.), but which incorporate some of the design features that improve the playability and forgiveness of the club.
This new category is referred to as “Players Distance” clubs, with the name highlighting the fact that, like blades, these are irons that will appeal to better players aesthetically, but unlike blades, they incorporate design elements that offer a bit of forgiveness and a boost in distance.
For low-handicappers, that’s the best of both worlds – they get the look of a player’s iron but with the playability of a cavity back club.
This relatively new Players Distance category has become extremely popular and is arguably the fastest growing category in irons.
Into this Players Distance category comes the new Callaway Apex Pro 21 irons. This new version, which replaces the predecessor Callaway Apex Pro 19 version, was just released in January of 2021 and is almost guaranteed to be a huge seller with the single-digit handicap crowd. Why? They look incredible and perform even better.
How It Began: Callaway Apex
Seasoned golfers who’ve been around for a while may remember the name Apex. It was initially made famous back in the early 1970’s when the Ben Hogan company introduced the line that would go on to be regarded as one of the greatest irons ever made. To this day, the Ben Hogan Apex irons are still highly sought after as a collector’s item.
So it’s nice to see that the legacy of this still-revered Apex name is being carried forward today. Back in 2003, Callaway acquired the then-dormant Ben Hogan company at auction. And although they ultimately decided to sell that asset, they elected to retain the rights to the original Hogan model names – including Apex.
A few years later, in 2013, the name was re-born when Callaway introduced the first iteration of their Apex irons. Those Standard (non-Pro) irons, and the subsequent Apex models that have since been added to the line, have become the flagship iron line for Callaway, and are considered to be some of the best irons on the entire market.
Callaway Apex Pro vs other Callaway Apex Iron Models
For the first time ever, Callaway has re-fashioned their entire Apex product line to provide an Apex option for every level of golfer. The Apex Pro 21 irons take their place among an entire series of Apex irons that now includes the following models:
|Callaway Apex Model||Category||Target Golfers|
|Apex MB (muscleback)||Muscleback Blade||Handicaps 4 and below|
|Apex TCB 21 (tour cavity back)||Players Iron||Handicaps 4 and below|
|Apex Pro 21||Players Distance||Handicaps 9 and below|
|Apex 21||Game Improvement||Handicaps 16 and below|
|Apex DCB (deep cavity back)||Ultra Game Improvement||Handicaps above 16|
Callaway Apex Pro Irons Review: The Features That Make It All Happen
If you’re a single-digit handicap golfer with a love of a more traditional design, but also one who appreciates a little forgiveness when it’s needed, then the Callaway Apex Pro 21 irons MUST be included in your analysis when it comes time to get a new set. They are that good.
What makes them so good? They have a stunning look, a beautiful soft feel, and excellent performance. It doesn’t get any better than that, right?
Let’s take a look at the Apex Pro 21 features that produce such impressive performance…
Features and Benefits: Callaway Apex Pro 21 Irons
The predecessor to the Apex Pro 21, the Callaway Apex Pro 19, was itself a hugely popular and extremely successful model for Callaway. But they were determined to up the ante with the follow-on model, and to provide a set that is superior in several important ways. Several key features combine to make the Apex Pro 21 the premier iron that it is.
Features are fun to read about and the manufacturers love to tout them, but we know that smart buyers of golf equipment recognize that features are only important in terms of how they translate into benefits for the player.
So let’s look at the important features of the Apex Pro 21 irons, and their associated benefits:
Quite simply, this is a beautiful iron. One glance at the Apex Pro 21 and you know that you’re dealing with a serious golf club. It’s got a classy and elegant appearance.
The cavity back design that was featured in its predecessor is now gone, having been replaced by a hollow-head design that makes it look more like a blade. Hollow heads have become very popular in the past few years (a’ la the TaylorMade P770’s, the Ping i500’s, the PXG 0311’s, etc.) because the designers can engineer into the head new options for looks, spin and forgiveness that they can’t do nearly as well with a cavity back.
The overall profile would not be considered small, but it definitely has a sleeker, more compact shape than the game improvement irons that mid-to-high handicappers prefer. Its topline and sole are also thinner, in line with the preferences of most low-handicap players.
Feel and Sound
There are a few things Callaway has done that contribute to the wonderful feel and sound you get at impact.
First, the head is 100% forged, using mild 1025 carbon steel. As a result, shots feel solid, but have an almost pleasingly “cushioned” feel. Good players love this feature, as the ball seems to stay on the face a fraction longer, helping them to feel like they’re better able to shape their shots.
Second, Callaway has placed into the hollow-head what they refer to as Urethane Microspheres. Essentially these are a pocket of a specially formulated urethane, infused with approximately 500,000 miniscule “microspheres,” positioned behind the clubface.
These microspheres absorb some of the unwanted vibration at impact, adding to the smooth, soft feel you get when you hit a shot. They also play a role in providing the club’s great sound.
There’s a number of key performance-related features that have been added to the design of the Apex Pro 21.
Probably the one feature that is gaining the most attention is the addition of a tungsten bar within the hollow head. Callaway calls this the Tungsten Energy Core. In the Apex Pro 21, this bar adds up to 90 grams of weight that they have strategically placed to optimize the position of the center of gravity.
What’s the benefit of having this tungsten bar precisely positioned in the head? Because of this bar, and how they position it, they are able to optimize the launch conditions. This bar also simultaneously serves to enhance forgiveness by making the sweet spot effectively larger.
For the first time in an Apex iron, Callaway used sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) computer technology to design and engineer the club face. The resulting design is something they call the Flash Face Cup.
The unique Flash Face architecture in each iron creates a high “Coefficient of Restitution,” a fancy term that simply pertains to how fast the ball comes off the face at impact. The high COR on the Apex Pro 21 means there are fast ball speeds, which translates into added distance.
Specifications: Callaway Apex Pro 21 irons
|Apex Pro 21||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||P||A|
|Stock Shafts||Steel: True Temper Elevate ETS – 115g|
Graphite: Mitsubishi MMT – 80g / 90g / 105g
|Stock Grip||Golf Pride Z Soft – 50g|
Are the Callaway Apex Pro 21 Irons Right For You?
As we stated previously, the Callaway Apex Pro 21 irons are targeted at a specific range of golfers. While they do offer some forgiveness for shots that miss the sweet spot, they nonetheless have a fairly compact head, a thin top line, a relatively narrow sole, and reduced offset — all features that favor better players and tend to work against those with higher handicaps.
Consequently, these are irons that ideally are recommended for single-digit handicappers. Can those with handicaps above 9 use them? It’s possible, if you’re one of those mid-handicappers who tend to find the center of the club face on a pretty consistent basis and who has a reasonably fast swing speed.
Callaway Apex 21 Pro Irons Alternatives
As golfers move higher on the handicap index scale, there is obviously a tendency to mis-hit more shots so, if you have a 10-handicap index or higher, you would be better advised to look for an iron that provides a little more help and game improvement, such as the Apex Pro 21’s sibling, the standard (non-Pro) Apex 21.
There is another option, though, for those in the 10-15 handicap range. There’s a trend that has been gaining popularity in recent years, and it may be a great solution for this category of golfers: putting together a “combo” set in which the shorter irons (perhaps the 7-iron through the PW) consist of better-players clubs, while the longer irons (3-iron through 6-iron) are comprised of more forgiving irons from a game-improvement model.
In the case of the Callaway Apex line, this scenario might result in a set that combines the Apex Pro 21 irons for the short irons, along with the standard Apex 21 (non-Pro) irons in the low end of the bag.
For years, low-handicap players have been mostly limited to muscleback blades that certainly look great and perform well…as long as you hit the center of the clubface. When you don’t, though, you’ll be penalized.
But with the advent of this new hybrid design — irons that are a blend of a player’s iron and a game improvement iron — skilled players can now enjoy the best of both worlds. If you look closely enough, you’ll even see this style of iron in the bags of some PGA Tour players (because even they like a little forgiveness, particularly with the long irons).
The Callaway Apex 21 is one of the top irons in this Players Distance category. Stunning looks, great sound and feel, impressive distance, and some forgiveness on less than perfect shots. That’s a pretty tough combination to beat. We highly recommend these irons for our low-handicap readers.
Callaway Apex Pro 21 Irons
- Stunning design
- Great sound and feel
- Good forgiveness
- Impressive distance