EquipmentSeptember 29, 2015

Callaway's Apex family gets an update, addition

New cupface and blade irons, plus players-style hybrid

Callaway’s latest versions of its Apex and Apex Pro irons are more different than just their constructions.

While both feature elements of forged 1025 carbon steel, the Apex is a multipiece technological smorgasbord, while the Apex Pro is an updated classic, one-piece forged blade. The result of those different constructions are two irons that have a different approach to the idea of distance. Like its successful predecessor, the new Apex focuses on enhancing distance, while the new Apex Pro is focused on controlling it.

The big story behind the Apex iron is the addition of Callaway’s proven cupface technology to a forged 1025 carbon steel frame. The cupface design, in which the iron’s face plate wraps around the sole and topline, is used in the mid and long irons to enhance the areas of the face that produce the highest spring-like effect. The Apex’s cupface design, which like Callway’s fairway woods and hybrids reaches the USGA limits for rebound effect, increases the amount of unsupported face for an ancillary benefit that resulted in a change from the previous Apex.

“We’ve noticed that with the flexible faces we’re launching the ball a degree and a half higher,” said Scott Manwaring, Callaway’s director of R&D for irons and hybrids. “That’s partly why we removed the tungsten. We were getting more launch angle and better ballspeed without the tungsten.”

In fact, because the cupface design creates more unsupported face area, that saved metal was pushed to the heel and toe to improve stability on off-center hits, essentially accomplishing similar benefits to using tungsten without any of its manufacturing complications, Manwaring said.

Also, unlike the original Apex from two years ago, the new version uses a specially heat-treated version of 17-4 steel in the cupface, rather than the Carpenter 455 face insert. Manwaring said Carpenter 455 might be a stronger steel than 17-4, which has been a fairly common material in cast irons over the years, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better in this application, particularly when it comes to enhancing spring-like effect. Manwaring said that 17-4 “can be extremely brittle or extremely flexible depending on how it’s heat-treated” during manufacturing.

“We found that the bending properties of the heat treated 17-4 we’re using matched extremely well with the 1025 carbon steel body,” he said. “Matching those properties and getting them to bend evenly is much more important than simply strength in terms of COR [coefficient of restitution, or face flexing].

“The whole key to COR is to keep the ball from absorbing all the energy because it does a poor job of it, and try to do it with the metal. It’s not just how thin you can make the face, it’s about how all the pieces are working together.”

The 1025 carbon steel frame also contributes to enhancing feel. It’s also used in the two-piece construction of the short irons, which feature a face insert rather than a cupface in the 8-iron through gap wedge. Manwaring said a more compact shape on the short irons was a particular area of focus in this updated version of the Apex.

“We progressed the topline a little thinner through the set, and progressed the blade length shorter as you go up to the A-wedge,” he said.

The effort with the Apex Pro is a traditional one-piece 1025 carbon steel forging in a players cavity shape. The Apex Pro is more about tuning the center of gravity location for each iron to better bring out elite player’s talents. That includes placing tungsten in the soles of the 3- through 5-irons to lower the center of gravity, while the shorter irons utilize a higher CG location to dial in trajectory and spin.

The shape of the irons is better controlled through what Callaway calls a “quadruple net forging” technique, which essentially means the iron is struck four times in the forging process so there is less grinding and polishing to achieve the finished shape.

The Apex line also will include new hybrids that employ Callaway’s cupface technology in the more compact shape preferred by better players. “We’re trying to get the ballflight more iron-like with an upright curvature,” Manwaring said. The Apex hybrid features the forged Carpenter 455 cupface technology found in other Callaway metalwoods, but matches it up with a blade-length and a neutral center of gravity that’s more like an iron. Both of those are designed to promote the kind of workability better players find in their irons. Internally, the sole features a weight pad that arcs toward the face to position the CG to control spin.

The new Apex ($1,200 in steel. $1,400 in graphite) and Apex Pro ($1,200 in steel, $1,400 in graphite) irons will be available for pre-order Oct. 16. The Apex hybrid ($220) is offered in four lofts (2-iron loft through 5-iron loft) and is scheduled to be in stores in Dec. 4.

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