Callaway Apex 21 Irons Review

50 Words or Less

The Callaway Apex 21 irons are stunning at address.  Very high ball speed potential.  Excellent forgiveness, especially for its size.

Introduction

The Callaway Apex were one of the first, and have consistently been one of the best, players distance irons.  But since the first introduction of the Apex, this category has exploded and now includes a wealth of hollow-body irons boasting big time ball speed and forgiveness.  Does the Apex still rule the category it created or has it been left behind?

Looks

When I first looked at the Apex 21 irons, I was a little leery.  The Apex is one of the original modern irons to eschew bright colored paint fills, and Callaway has kept the branding minimal and classy.  However, the cavity looks fairly deep, and the iron has a lot of soft, rounded edges which made me think that it could be a little bulky at address.

My concerns dissolved the instant I put these irons into the address position.  They are every bit as compact and “player-ish” as you would want them to be.  The top line is slim and there’s very little offset.  I typically prefer a more square appearance, but I’m in love with the way Callaway shaped the Apex 21.  Bravo.

Sound & Feel

The Apex 21 iron delivers the level of feedback that players expect from a forged club.  On center, it feels fairly soft and has a quiet impact sound.  When you move away from the center, the feel firms up substantially and contact gets much louder.  The character of the impact sound varies, too, from a “snap” on center to a “clap” when you mishit a shot.

Performance

The hallmarks of the Apex irons have always been extra distance and excellent forgiveness and consistency relative to its size.  In the Apex 21 irons, distance is still front and center, but the consistency is even more impressive.

The two technologies that drive this improved consistency are Flash Face Cup and the Tungsten Energy Core.  Apex 21 has five times more tungsten than the previous generation which means more precise CG placement.  The real world benefit is that launch and spin are remarkably robust whether you’re striping it or working the edges of the club face.  The A.I.-designed Flash Face Cup makes sure that ball speed – the most important ingredient in distance – stays high on all types of strikes.

Two specific elements of consistency stood out during my testing.  The first is that I did not experience any low spin “jumpers.”  If you’ve spent much time with modern, low spin irons, you’ve probably seen that occasional shot that went 10 yards beyond your best.  While that shot can be amusing on the launch monitor, it’s maddening on the course.  I didn’t see any with the Apex 21.  Also, the distance gapping through the set is consistent and sensible.

The lofts of the Apex 21 irons are the same as the previous generation of Apex irons.  They’re not traditional, but they’re not the strongest either.  The Apex 21 lofts are typically 0.5 degrees weaker than the Apex DCB 21 irons [review HERE] and 2 to 2.5 degrees stronger than the Apex Pro 21 [review HERE].  Callaway has a wealth of combo sets available that make use of these three models and the Apex MB [review HERE], so you can dial up the exact combination that suits your taste and ball striking needs.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that due to the strong lofts, the spin on the Apex 21 irons is fairly low.  For me, a low spin player, they were on the low end of what I could play.  The low spin gives them extra distance and allows shots to fly straighter.  Of course, the tradeoff is that low spin makes it harder to hold a green.  As always, make sure you get fit to find the right shaft to pair with these irons.

Conclusion

Just as the name implies, the Callaway Apex 21 irons are at the top of the players distance category.  Everything about this set is impressive, but the consistency is what elevates it above the rest.  For the stronger player who still wants forgiveness or the aspiring player who wants a more compact iron, the Apex 21 irons are hard to beat.

Visit Callaway Golf HERE

Callaway Apex 21 Irons Price & Specs

Matt Saternus

53 Comments

  1. Matt, as we’ve learned from drivers, isn’t it true that low spin is LESS accurate, not more? We see that low-spin driver shots do not fly straighter when side-spin is added, but a ball spinning “higher” actually holds its line better.
    So, I’m confused about the statement that, “…low spin… allows shots to fly straighter.”

    • Matt Saternus

      Paul,

      Where did we learn that low spin drivers are less accurate?

      -Matt

    • Paul, at a certain point, drives that are really low spin will drop out of the air and not maximize your distance. Not something to be concerned about on irons. I’ve never heard anything about low spin and losing accuracy, though.

    • I hear you Paul, unless we are missing some fine details here, the argument is more (back) spin = less sidespin = less chance of hitting a banana.. Often used as the reason to hit a 3 wood off the tee if your driver goes all over the shop. Maybe there is a myth to be busted?

      • Matt Saternus

        Pite,

        The problem is that there is no such thing as back spin and side spin, there is just spin and axis tilt. I’m certainly open to the idea that more overall spin makes it harder to tilt the axis but I don’t know that to be the case.

        Also, the idea of 3W being straighter than a driver has been dispelled, particularly with modern equipment. People perceive it as straighter because it’s shorter.

        -Matt

    • Been waiting to upgrade the Apex CF16 I have. Skipped the 19 version. Can’t imagine these 21’s are much different than the 16. Nothing transformative?

    • Jim Pecoraro

      This is exactly right. More spin makes it more difficult to tilt the spin axis in the same way that old “spinning bicycle tire” experiment worked. Gyroscopic inertia or whatever. I think this is to a point, though.

  2. Hi matt great review. How do they compare to the epic forged irons in terms of forgiveness and overall feel? Which feels more “forged”? Thanks!

    • Matt Saternus

      Dennis,

      The Apex feels “more forged.” Beyond that I don’t think it’s fair to compare them: the Epic Forged is an extreme distance iron that’s much larger than the Apex.

      -Matt

  3. SHAD GOLDSTON

    Great review Matt! Just wondering if the lofts will match up enough with the new Apex Pro’s, to do a mixed set? On your recommendation, I went with the Cobra King Forged TEC, over Taylormade 770/790, also because the 770/790 combo set was hard with lofts to match up. Hoping Callaway fixes the combo issue! Thanks, Shad

    • Matt Saternus

      Shad,

      Callaway offers a lot of mixed sets. The lofts of the Pro are 2-2.5 degrees weaker, but they may smooth that when you order a combo set.

      -Matt

    • I was curious about how they did this, too. Callaway says for the split sets, the Apex Pro has “separate tooling.” So they strengthen the lofts for the Apex Pro irons in the set, starting at 8 iron, down to PW, and the standard Apex irons in the set are the same. I don’t know if that means they just bend ’em, or whether they’re building entirely distinct heads. Standard Apex Pro 8-iron is 37º and in the split set the Apex Pro 8-iron is 34.5º. Callaway has been doing split sets for years so, I doubt there’s an issue there. Those Forged Tecs are fantastic irons. Enjoy!

  4. Is there an Apex Pro 21 review coming very soon, please?

  5. How do the Apex 21 and T200 compare in terms of spin and spin consistency?

    • Matt Saternus

      Brad,

      I don’t have head to head data, but my recollection is that they’re comparable in spin. I would give an edge in consistency to the Apex 21.

      -Matt

  6. How do these compare to the forgiveness of the i210’s or i25’s (I think you actually had both of these irons in the bag)? Much appreciated 👍🏼

    • Matt Saternus

      Will,

      I think the i210 and Apex 21 are comparable in forgiveness.

      -Matt

      • And then the i25’s would be a little less forgiving than those two?
        I ask as I am gaming the i25’s and have almost pulled trigger on i210’s (as I’m long time Ping user) but the apex 21’s look amazing and am considering making the switch to them.

  7. Matt,
    I have Apex 19’s, any significant advantage to upgrading to 21’s?
    Tks

    • Matt Saternus

      Guy,

      It depends how you define significant.
      I don’t think, barring a fit issue, that you’d see a noticeable difference on the course.

      -Matt

  8. How would you compare these to Apex CF19 Irons? Worth upgrading?

  9. Hi Matt

    How would you rate the dcb with the regular apex, is there a noticeable difference for the higher handicap golfer?

    • Matt Saternus

      George,

      I haven’t tested the DCB enough to make a judgement on that. I will have a full review of the DCB some time this spring.

      -Matt

  10. Hi Matt,

    How would you compare the Apex Pro 21 vs Titleist 718 AP2s? I know the lofts are of by 1 degree, but it seems like these might be a little more forgiving. Thanks

  11. Corky Belobraydich

    In regards to forgiveness, how would you compare the APEX 21 to the Titleist 718 AP3?

    • Matt Saternus

      Corky,

      I haven’t tested them head to head. I suspect the AP3 might be slightly more forgiving, but that’s only a guess.

      -Matt

  12. Once again I enjoyed your review of these Cf21 irons. Good things to consider. On a past review I also noticed you seemed to like the PXG series 3 as well. With price being no motivation , which iron did you like better? Or put in the bag first? Thanks again.

  13. I’ve now had the Apex 21 for two weeks with the Elevate R 115 shafts. I’ve hit the range probably 10 times and played on the course 5 times. I tested different clubs and shafts for almost 4 weeks before settling on these clubs. I picked the Apex 21 because I wanted the tightest shot dispersion and that’s where these clubs were great for me. There are some definite cons. Now when using the entire set, instead of 1-2 clubs for testing, I find the clubhead with the tungsten weight to be a lot heavier than I expected. I know I could have a lighter shaft, but my previous shaft was 110. The difference in weight has cost me at least 10 years per club even though the tungsten weight is meant to increase the smash factor. This also means that I am having to recalibrate all the club distances as there also seem to be some gaps. Second, the most important thing for me is the shaft. I really like the KBS shafts which are low/mid-launch. True Temper Elevate is a mid-launch and spin, but once out on the course, I fail to see any increase in the launch. Finally, to really get the most out of the Apex 21, you need to have an awesome swing – that is perhaps the benefit in that I’m forced to fully use my core to max my swing, and improve my tempo, instead of being lazy and using more arms…it’s forcing me to swing better or else.

    • Mark Laskin

      Funny I have exactly the same problems I found them very heavy and the longer irons and actually mine or 1/4 inch short of standard so I traded them in I enjoyed the cf16 is a lot better with the XP shaft

  14. Hey, my Ben Hogan irons did it first! Even the name is the same!

  15. Matt, is the elevate 95 true to flex.? I believe this is the standard stock offering for Apex 21.

  16. How would you compare these to the PXG 0311p Gen 3?

    • Matt Saternus

      Andrew,

      I think that’s a pretty good comp. I prefer the feel of the GEN3 slightly, and the GEN3 may have a little more ball speed and forgiveness (I’m making a guess, I haven’t tested head to head), but I think they’re going to be quite close.

      -Matt

  17. Matt, looking at the Sim2 Max irons. How would you compare them to the Apex 21s? Rob

    • Matt Saternus

      Rob,

      I prefer the feel of the Apex 21, and I think the Apex 21 may be a touch smaller. Performance from both is excellent.

      -Matt

  18. Matt- Thanks for the great review, it helped me narrow my search a great deal. After shoulder surgery, I got a “new and improved” fitting which resulted in my switching from the X Forged 18 to the Apex 21, from the KBS Tour V to the KBS C Taper Lite(same flex). I didn’t notice a big difference in appearance at set up (top line etc….). Obviously there are differences but they aren’t overwhelming . They both frame the ball really well, look great at address and let you know when you have a mis-hit, and are really smooth. The biggest difference I found was the distance and forgiveness of the Apex. I definitely lose some distance on the mis-hits and REALLY gain it when I hit it pure. Distance and distance control is really easy with these. Through it all, the accuracy remained right on the money. With all the forgiveness, it’s really difficult to have a exceptionally poor shot. I’ve never had a problem with the fade but the draw was a little less consistent. With these its easy to flight it high/ low, fade/draw with little or no effort. IMHO-These are great irons and well worth the investment.

  19. Hi Matt! Now that you have had more time to test these irons and do fittings. How would you rank P790 irons vs Apex 21 irons in terms of performance and forgiveness?
    Thanks,
    Joe

  20. Hi Matt,
    Great review as always.
    I know its completely subjective, but if you were single digit h/c coming from an old set of Mizuno JPX850 Forged, and looking to upgrade to a similar iron, would these Apex 21 be in the same ballpark ? Being a lefty the 921 Forged aren’t an option and I’m considering the Apex 21, Srixon ZX5 and maybe the T200 – presume these are all comparable irons (broadly speaking) ?
    Many thanks

    • Matt Saternus

      Warren,

      Yes, I think you’ve targeted a good group of irons there. Now make sure to get fit before you buy!

      Best,

      Matt

    • Coming of JPX850 as well (with regular stiff shafts) to 21s with darts now (regular) and for me (somewhere <18 player) they are somewhat easier to hit despite bits smaller face (off center are more conistent, longer and spray less than Mizunos) and bits longer. I liked the sound of Mizuno's much better to be frank though. 21s are bit "clicky" and even hit spot on bits "mushy" compared to Mizunos though they carry longer. However, every time I pull out my 850s on the range I put them back and go to 21s though the flush hits with Mizunos are definitely the sweetest.

  21. Mark Laskin

    Hi Matt nice review I found the longer irons with tungsten very heavy and I was surprised that they short 37 and 3/4 in 5 iron I thought of putting an extension in them to bring them to standard but didn’t want to pay the price

  22. Robert Ruiz Jr.

    I have apex iron’s still elevated 95 it has a low kick I like to know if it has a medium kick shaft .

  23. Terrance Jones

    Great review! Now I know why my irons sound the way they do and, that it’s not just me…. If you keep writing, I will certainly keep reading! Thanks!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *