Today I’ll be reviewing the Callaway Apex 21 iron.
The Apex 21 is the latest installment in Callaway’s Apex line of irons, succeeding the Apex 19. It has a forged construction and both game-improvement and players performance elements.
The Apex 21 is the first Apex iron and first forged iron to feature Callaway’s Flash Face technology, designed with the help of artificial intelligence. It’s also the first Apex iron to utilize a Tungsten Energy Core.
How does the Apex 21 iron perform at the end of the day? How does it compare to previous Apex models? Is it worth putting a set in the bag?
Read on to find out what you need to know to make an informed decision.
What are the reviews like?
The Apex 21 irons have been widely praised by consumers: a 4.8/5 (96% recommended) average rating on the Callaway store, and a 4/5 aggregate rating on Amazon, with only one low score from a customer that experienced a shipping mishap.
The professional critic reviews that exist are very positive and paint a picture of excellent consistency, good launch, and a spin rate that allows for great controllability.
In addition, the Apex 21 iron is endorsed by pro golfer Xander Schauffele, who says that it’s “everything you want in a forged iron”.
What People Like
- new technologies reliably squeeze out extra performance.
- very consistent ball speeds.
- a little more forgiving than previous Apex models, while retaining all of the characteristics that make Apex irons great.
- slim, clean look with a feel that is solid yet soft.
- cheaper than the Apex 19 was at release.
What People Don’t Like
- still too expensive for many players.
- some feel it’s not enough of an improvement over previous Apex models.
What are the features?
You may already know what defines Apex: big distance, great forgiveness, and pure feel. The Apex 21 iron takes these benefits to a new level with Callaway’s latest technologies.
A.I. Flash Face Cup
The Apex 21 is the first Apex iron to incorporate artificial intelligence in the Face Cup. This is based off a technology first seen in the Epic Flash drivers.
The Flash Face Cup consists of a complex face architecture that is unique for every iron in the set. It’s designed to boost ball speeds to unprecedented levels, increase spin robustness across the face, and improve controllability.
The Flash Face technology is built on top of the 360 Face Cup, which delivers more face flexion at impact and translates to even more ball speed.
Tungsten Energy Core
The Apex 21 is also the first Apex iron to implement Callaway’s Tungsten Energy Core, resulting in five times as much tungsten as the Apex 19.
The tungsten weighting precisely positions the center of gravity (CG) within the head, resulting in increased forgiveness and optimal launch throughout the set. This will be greatly appreciated by better players in particular.
Forged Blade Feel
The Apex 21 iron provides the feel you would expect from a 100% forged construction.
The 1025 mild carbon steel body contributes to superb sound and feel. In addition, proprietary urethane microspheres, which consist of over one million tiny air pockets, help absorb mis-hit vibrations without sacrificing feel or sound.
The shaping of the Apex 21 has also been changed slightly in an effort to improve turf interaction.
There are many set configurations to choose from, from the 3-iron all the way to the gap wedge and everything in between. The 4-PW set is a common choice. Individual irons are, of course, available.
Also available are the Apex 21 irons for women (5-AW). They have the same technologies as the men’s Apex 21, but the stock swingweights, shafts and grips are designed for women to maximize their performance.
The stock steel shaft is the True Temper Elevate ETS (95g), and the stock graphite shaft is the UST Recoil DART (70g). The stock grip is the Golf Pride ZGRIP Soft.
There are a ton of different grips and custom shafts to choose from. You can also customize your lie angles and lofts.
If you’re interested, full information on shafts, grips and other customizations can be found on the Callaway website.
Below are the specs of the Apex 21 irons for men and women. Click or zoom to enlarge.
How do the irons perform?
The Apex irons are meant to give you a good amount of everything: speed, forgiveness, control, consistency, and looks.
Knowing that, how do the Apex 21 irons fare in these categories relative to previous entries like the Apex 19 and Apex CF16? Let’s take a look:
The best way I can describe it that the Apex 21 gives you a ton of distance with controllability.
This is really what you should be aiming for. After all, you’re not trying to hit the ball as far as possible; you’re trying to get it close to the pin.
In particular, spin is high enough to where you never really get any jumpers or flyers, although the Apex 21 generates fairly low spin in general.
In addition, compared to the Apex 19, there’s even less ball speed variance across the face, which you can thank the Tungsten Energy Core and Flash Face technology for.
The Apex 21s have just as much stopping power as the Apex 19 irons (the lofts are identical through the set), but you are able to squeeze out a little bit more ball speed, particularly towards the perimeter of the face.
There is a clear improvement in forgiveness over previous Apex irons. As impressed I was at the MOI and stability of the Apex 19, the Apex 21 manages to take it to a new level.
Unless you’re bashing the very edges of the clubface, you’re going to get a good launch and decent results even if you miss the optimal impact location.
In terms of numbers, during my tests, most of my mis-hits lost no more than 7-12 yards of carry as compared to a solid strike in the center of the face. The tungsten in this iron really goes to work in creating a strong and consistent face.
Having said all this, forgiveness is not the main focus of the Apex 21. Compared to the Apex DCB 21, your bad strikes won’t perform as well, but it really offers as much forgiveness as you could ask for given how strong it is in other areas.
Playability & Workability
There isn’t really anything to complain about here. The Apex 21 irons are very playable out of any lie you might face on the course — turf interaction is great and the club head gets through the rough nicely.
The ability to shape shots doesn’t stand out to me as being much different than the Apex 19 or Apex CF16, but the margin for error seems to be a little higher, which is a nice plus.
I should say that the Apex (a “players-distance” iron) may not be the best choice if you already have a lot of length off the tee and don’t need help reaching on your second shot.
This is because the added distance will tend to reduce stopping power into the greens, and the fact that the Apex 21 irons have strong lofts doesn’t help either. Be aware of this and know your limits before you throw these in the bag.
One more thing worth noting is that the shorter irons offer great touch and precision into the greens without being too difficult to hit.
What about look, sound & feel?
Callaway continues the tradition of using no coloured paint fill in the design of the Apex 21 irons.
The badge layout is more similar to that of the 2014 Apex irons, with a fairly deep cavity, but what’s unique is that the branding is oriented vertically instead of horizontally.
It’s worth noting that the offsets are practically identical to the Apex 19s. The top line is also similarly thick, but it does seem that the Apex 21 irons have sharper edges and corners — a matter of preference, but I like it myself.
These irons look good both in the bag and at address. There’s really not much more you could ask for out of the latest Apex model.
The Sound & Feel
The sound & feel of the Apex 21 irons are of the same calibre as the Apex 19s, and are determined largely by Callaway’s urethane microspheres.
You won’t be displeased with any hollowness or clickiness here. Strikes in the center of the face are soft yet crisp. Mis-hits are comparatively firmer and louder, but there are little to no vibrations to speak of.
I was optimistically hoping for some kind of improvement over the Apex 19 in terms of mis-hit feel (even though it’s already at a very high level), but I really couldn’t distinguish any difference during my testing. I suppose you can’t win all the time, right?
In short, the Apex 21 delivers the premium sound & feel you expect from a modern players-distance iron.
Where should you buy these irons online?
If you want a brand new set of (or individual) Apex 21 irons with custom shafts, grips, lengths, lofts, etc, definitely head over to this page on the official Callaway website before it gets removed.
If you’re interested in the women’s Apex 21 irons, go here. You can also get the Apex 21 irons in mixed combo sets that include Apex DCB 21 and Apex Pro 21 irons. If you’d like to put the shorter irons of the Apex 21 in your bag, look at the Sweet Spot or Triple Play combo sets.
Although the Apex 21 irons are cheaper than previous Apex irons were at release, they’re still expensive. If you want to find good savings, definitely look on eBay.
Alternatively, look at what’s available on Global Golf, which is arguably the best dedicated online golf equipment store.
The Apex 21 sits at the top of the forged Apex line, either maintaining or improving on the best aspects of previous Apex models.
It has terrific distance, better forgiveness than ever, great looks, and a fairly slim profile that will appeal to better players.
With that said, if you own and are happy with previous Apex iron models like the Apex 19 or even the Apex CF16, you may find it difficult to justify putting down the money for an upgrade unless you can get a good trade-in value. Helping in this regard, however, is the cheaper initial price.
These irons are best suited for low and mid-handicappers, but they can certainly be viable for some high-handicappers too because they’re very long and nowhere close to the extreme “elite” end of the spectrum that is dominated by musclebacks.
Thanks for reading this review. Have you played the Apex 21 irons yet? What do you think about them? Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences.
Callaway Apex 21 Iron
Sound & Feel9.9/10
- Just as long as the Apex 19 with even better consistency
- Makes a noticeable improvement in the forgiveness category
- Soft yet solid feel that isn't overly jarring around the perimeter
- Cheaper at release than the Apex 19 irons
- Strong lofts aren't for everyone
- Still too expensive for many golfers