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Today I’ll be reviewing the Callaway Apex Pro 21 iron.
The Apex Pro 21 is considered the “better-player” entry in the forged Apex 21 line, aimed at scratch and single-digit handicappers. Instead of a cavity back, it has a forged hollow-body construction with a thinner sole and more compact profile compared to the standard Apex 21.
How does the Apex Pro 21 iron stack up when put to the test? How viable is it for golfers who want high workability and flight control? Is it worth putting a set in the bag?
Read on to find out what you need to know to make an informed decision.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, stock shafts and stock grips are used when evaluating this club. In most cases, the golf clubs reviewed on Golfstead are acquired temporarily for testing purposes and are not purchased. The review that follows is based on the personal experience and research of the author. Because everyone’s swing and body are different, results with a particular club may differ from person to person.
What are the reviews like?
Professional critic reviews are very positive, and on top of that, many people find the Apex Pro 21s to be demonstrably better than not only the Apex Pro 19 irons, but also many modern players offerings from Cobra, PING and Mizuno.
What People Like
- impressive distance and forgiveness for a players iron
- high-quality construction
- looks amazing in the bag and at address
- workability and controllability are hard to beat
- feedback is excellent without mis-hits feeling too unpleasant
What People Don’t Like
- long lengths and high ball speeds of these irons don’t always mesh well with the need for precision control
What are the features?
The Apex Pro 21 irons have more or less the same features as the Apex 21 and DCB 21 irons:
- A.I. Flash Face Cup: designed by artificial intelligence, this consists of a complex face architecture that is unique for every iron in the set. It results in high CORs & ball speeds, distance control, and spin robustness.
- Forged Hollow-Body Build: the 1025 carbon steel hollow-body chassis is designed for super-soft feel, while proprietary urethane microspheres help absorb mis-hit vibrations with minimal deterioration of feel and sound.
- Tungsten Energy Core: up to 90 grams of tungsten are contained in each iron, which is the most of any Apex iron. It leads to optimal launch conditions throughout the set as well as an unprecedented amount of forgiveness for a players iron.
Aside from a large amount of tungsten (90g) and hollow-body construction, what sets the Apex Pro 21 apart is shape. As you would expect from a players iron, the Pro 21 has a more compact profile, narrower sole and top line, and minimal offset.
While the Apex Pro 21 has the slim look that many golfers love, the substantial amount of internal tungsten weighting (the most in the 7-iron) goes a long way in improving launch and stability, thus appealing to a wider range of players.
There are many set configurations to choose from, from the 3-iron all the way to the approach wedge and everything in between. The 4-PW set is a common choice. Individual irons are, of course, available.
The stock steel shaft is the True Temper Elevate ETS (115g), and the stock graphite/composite shaft is the Mitsubishi MMT (80g/90g/105g). 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 length, lie angle, lofts and grip wraps.
Below are the specs of the Apex Pro 21 irons. Click or zoom to enlarge. Note the much weaker compared to the standard Apex 21.
How do the irons perform?
First off, it’s worth noting that the although the Apex Pro 21 uses technologies such as the Flash Face that maximize COR and ball speeds, it’s not intended to be a distance iron.
When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. Scratch golfers and Tour pros aren’t usually concerned about more distance in their irons, but rather consistency and control on every shot.
Having said that, I did find in my tests that the Apex Pro 21 tended to be slightly longer/hotter than the Apex Pro 19 throughout the set, and when you can pull this off without sacrificing trajectory, it’s a very positive thing.
Distance control is among the best I’ve seen in a players iron of this class. The Apex Pro 21 irons provide a level of consistency and spin control, even in mis-hit areas, that would make any skilled player happy to put them in their bag as their new gamers.
In short, control and consistency is at least as good as in previous Apex Pro models, and performance on mis-hits is unquestionably better.
In my view, the biggest improvement in the Apex Pro 21 irons over previous Apex Pro irons lies with mis-hit forgiveness.
No, they aren’t quite as forgiving as the Apex 21 or Apex DCB 21 models, but they do definitely set a new bar for players irons. Slight mis-hits give almost identical results to solid center strikes, and moderate mis-hits still have a great chance of ending up on the green or just off of it.
It’s this forgiveness that makes the Apex Pro 21 iron a viable option even for some double-digit handicaps.
I suspect that when you’re not playing your best, the Apex Pro 21 is going to pick up a fair amount of slack for you.
Thinner, more compact irons can sometimes have trouble getting through the turf, especially if your swing speed is lower.
The Apex Pro 21 irons do very well in this regard. In most cases, the longer blade lengths and grooves get their hairy lies nicely without you having to overexert yourself.
Moreover, shots can be shaped easily without needing to make exaggerated swing movements. Because the Apex Pro 21 iron was designed with Tour feedback in mind, you can be sure that it can accommodate even the most zealous shot-shapers in the game.
What about look, sound & feel?
Callaway did a superb job in making the Apex Pro 21 a little more forgiving without sacrificing the slim, sleek look that people love in a players-performance iron.
Despite all the technology packed into it, the Apex Pro 21 iron looks very modest: a long, narrow sole, thin top line, and just a touch of offset. The blade frames the ball nicely.
Compared to the Apex Pro 19, the Apex Pro 21 has a satin (non-shiny) finish instead of a chrome finish, which will help to mask smudges, nicks, scratches and other surface imperfections.
The Sound & Feel
Feel in any iron is determined largely by the geometry of the head. Because the Apex Pro 21 irons have a very similar shape to previous Apex Pro models, they also feel very similar.
At the same time, because these irons have a hollow-body construction, they have a more consistent feel across the face (still with great feedback), but they also tend to have a hint of clickiness to them, which some golfers will like less than a muscleback type of feel.
The very fact that I’m using the word “clickiness” in a review of a players iron shouldn’t turn you off — it’s very mild, distinctly different than what you would get from a cavity-back GI iron, and in my opinion, appealing in its own unique way.
The sound can be described as a little bit sharp and on the quiet side. It’s not as crisp in mis-hit areas. In fact, I would say that the variation in sound is greater than variation in feel across the face.
Where should you buy these irons online?
You can also get the Apex Pro 21 irons in “Mixed“, “Player” or “Triple Play” combo sets that may include Apex 21 or Apex DCB 21 irons. Except for the Player set, which introduces Apex MB irons, these sets emphasize the shorter irons and wedges of the Apex Pro 21.
Although the Apex Pro 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 one of the best online golf equipment stores.
The Apex Pro 21 irons aren’t as “elite-oriented” as, for example, the Apex MBs or X Forged irons, but they’re an excellent option for single-digit handicappers or for any golfer that doesn’t want to play a thicker, clunkier GI iron.
I do think they’re a clear improvement over the Apex Pro 19 irons. The face is slightly hotter, you get a little more distance, and there’s more forgiveness.
Moreover, the Apex Pro 21 has more of a blade-like appearance with a thinner top line, not to mention a brushed finish that hides imperfections and is easier on the eyes in sunlight.
In general, I definitely think it’s worth putting these irons in your bag or upgrading from a previous Apex Pro model.
Thanks for reading this review. Have you played the Apex Pro 21 irons yet? What do you think about them? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.