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101: What Callaway Players Iron is best for you and why

The title says it all. I get pounded with questions on what the difference is, comparable model and who should play what. Yes, we at Callaway have many options to choose from and we understand that it can get a bit overwhelming. HOWEVER, there is a method to the calculated madness.

I thought the best thing to do is break it down club by club and let the info do what it do.

Where did I land?

I have an extreme LOVE/HATE relationship with irons. In my travels with WRX, I was constantly finding new ways to combo sets from different manufacturers trying to find that recipe of ultimate playability and forgiveness. Unfortunately for me, my game SUFFERED because of it. Why? There were a few things I failed to realize about the equipment and my own game. 1) Not one iron is like them all. Like a song, they all have different feels, balance, and experiences. To deny that is foolish. My wanting to combo all these clubs was like trying to start a band with Bruno Mars, Megadeth, and Frank Sinatra. It sounds fun but it ain’t. 2) Sole width is SO crucial, to the point that I found GI irons hard to hit because the soles were incorrect for how I delivered the club. I’m a picker, a shallow picker to boot, and clubs with wide soles end up being a bag full of drivers off the deck for me. I can’t get them into the ground and present the right part of the face to the ball which in turn has me hitting EVERYTHING thin, high, floaty, and awful.

The fun thing is it forced me to go back and think about the irons I hit the best and why. After some serious soul searching, I realized I hit anything with a thin sole VERY well. Even long irons. So as I ventured into building the first Callaway bag (it’s still a work in progress) I focused on finding MY forgiveness thru turf interaction and what I’m finding is that this path is correct. I’m finding the middle more often, the ball is staying down, I’m taking divots and I can actually shape shots again…what a concept!!

As of now I’m in:

(5-7) X-Forged CB

X-Forged CB


(8-P) Apex MB ’21

Apex MB ’21

Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (Soft Stepped)

Thus far I’m really liking the X-Forged CB at the top of the set, they get thru the ground perfectly and I’m finding my start lines are really solid, I tend to hook everything and these have a great start window for me. I’ll most likely keep testing TCB, Apex Pro, etc. to dial in the 4 thru 7 irons but I’m set on the Apex MB ’21 for the short irons. The sharp leading edge, lower bounce profile of the iron has given me the feels I love and the ball is flying how I remember it’s supposed to. I’ll keep you updated on my journey as I go.

That’s great JW but what Iron is best for me?

Let’s breakdown the Callaway Players Irons so you have something to reference when you are in that deep rabbit hole looking for new sticks….you know who you are:)

Apex Pro ’21



Key Words:
Hollow body, faster face, mid/high launch, mid/low spin, forgiving
Comps: PXG Gen 4 T, TaylorMade P770, Titleist T100S

Who: VERY popular Iron on the LPGA and Champions Tour for its increased ball speed and overall playability. This iron has the DNA of a player forging but also has some serious game improvement aspects cooked in. Where the Apex Pro ’21 separates itself from the competition is 1) feel and turf interaction, thru the turf the Apex Pro ’21 doesn’t live too many houses down from TCB or Apex MB 2) the CG placement on these things is nuts, in some cases up to 90G of tungsten placed in the perfect spot. That’s an obscene amount in a player’s iron.

Apex MB ’21



Key Words: Precise, workability, spin, custom, sharp, short blade, the ownness is on the player, TOUR blade
Comps: 620MB, Ping BluePrint, P7MB, P7TW, PXG ST, Miura Baby Blade, Mizuno MP-20

Who: The Apex MB ’21 is (like Phil likes to put it) a Ferrari. Its sensitive, responsive and tries to match in flight what the player is feeling in their hands. This iron is for players that like the look of a muscle back, hit the middle of the face at least 90% of the time, and would rather trade forgiveness for spin manipulation and control. The point is, this iron will mirror the quality of your strike more than anything else.

Apex TCB (Tour Cavity Back)

Key Words: A muscle back DNA in a forged cavity back, sharp, short blade length, true players CB, shotmakers club, forgiving to a point, crisp off the face, spin control, flight control, our most played iron on the PGA Tour
Comps: 620CB, P7MC, Miura TC201, Mizuno MP-20 MMC

Who: Who? Well, to start our Apex Pro 2 Dot players IE Xander, Dylan, Leish, Wesley, etc. The Apex TCB is a TRUE player forged CB. Jon Rahm responded to these quickly for two reasons, the short blade length which represents control, and the low launch, higher spin launch windows. Shotmakers that don’t trust a muscle back enough typically land on an iron like TCB. For the gearheads, THIS is what replaced the Apex Pro ’18. If you like that iron you will LOVE TCB.

X-Forged CB

Key Words: Longer blade length, crisp off the face, mild offset, easy to hit players cavity back, mid-launch, Tour iron
Comps: Ping I210, T100, ZX7, JPX 921 Tour, P760

Who: This is where it gets interesting as the TCB and X-Forged may appear to live in the same bucket. They do…and don’t. X-Forged CB is an iron that players seek out more than others. You are kind of looking for something if you land on this club. Traditionally this profile has had a longer blade length, a touch more offset, and has been easier to turn over. On TOUR the players that run to this iron seem to look at the ball in the air to choose an iron rather than down at the address position. What I mean by that is, the iron needs to fly a certain way before the optics become important. Don’t get me wrong, how they sit is important but in my experience players that like the X-Forged profile will work into the look if the ball flies correctly. I love these irons and have them in the bag now.

My boy Kellen Watson did a great bullet point breakdown based on what he sees out on the big show, this is cool:

Apex MB

  • Classic Blade look
  • Solid feel from the movement of weight to a central location
  • Very suitable offset for the better player
  • Easy to maneuver the golf ball – high, low, cut, draw

Apex Pro ‘21

  • These are an interesting lot:
    • Most tour players will shy away from the look of the offset incorporated in the iron
    • The long irons seem to gain traction out here for the ease of launch paired with the increase in distance with the faster face
    • In the same terms, the speed of the face limits the efficiency of the shorter irons because of the variance of carry yardages

Apex TCB

  • Classic look with limited offset
  • Increased feel and sound from the movement of weight to central hitting location
  • Launch and spin numbers are right on when moving from older or different models
  • An essential grab and go iron for almost every player on this Tour
  • Shape and offset stayed the same from Apex 2 Dot
    • We limited the option of the groove configuration
    • Shifted CG location to better enhance feel and sound whilst making the builder and fitter’s lives much easier

X Forged CB

  • The X Forged player is one that likes the idea of the TCB iron but prefers to see a bit more offset
  • The increased offset and blade length provide an ease of closure rate of the face for most players
  • The increased offset also allows some players to flight shots down easier

Any questions fire away:)

JDub

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Todd Manley

    April 27, 2021 at 5:40 am

    I’ve gamed the AP21’s for the past 2 months after spending ~18 years in Mizuno blades (MP-33 until the grooves wore out and then a set of MP-18’s). I’m super excited to investigate the TCB’s more.

    You analysis around sole width is exactly the same thing that happened to me when I tried the MP-20 HMB’s. Quickly ran back to them MP-18’s and the sole was the trick. Could you rank the sole width of the irons you talk about above? I’d be curious to see how the TCB’s compare with the AP21’s. Extra kudos if you’re able to throw the offset numbers in there too!

    And keep up the great content – it’s been great to follow your journey and the passion you bring to all you do.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 27, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks for the kind words my friend!! ill keep it going:)

      • Avatar

        Brad Britton

        June 25, 2021 at 5:05 pm

        Having a tough time figuring out what I need. Played full-time professionally for years now I’m a senior so I’m looking for something easier to hit. Most importantly I would like to try graphite shafts to help with the pain in my shoulder and wrist joints at impact. What would you recommend?
        Keep up the great work!

    • Avatar

      Dave Freeman

      May 2, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      I’m in that similar boat Todd, except I haven’t been able to make the transition away from my MP-32s despite needing to. I guess it’s kInda like a fav pair of high-end shoes, when they fit and wear just right, it’s hard to get out of them and into a New pair. I’ve hit several, but can’t seem to find the ‘one’ that offers the feel, forgiveness, look, and (lil) extra distance I want.
      The search continues…

  2. Avatar

    Josh Biohl

    April 27, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Had a go with the TCB’s. I’m a + cap am and a good ball striker but my miss is toe side and the TCB’s punished that tremendously. Have a set of X Forged CB’s in the way. Hoping they will provide most of what the TCB did with that little extra forgiveness.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 27, 2021 at 3:08 pm

      That should do the trick. Longer blade length will def help toe misses.

  3. Avatar

    Jeff Sanders

    April 27, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for this, looking to get the x forged CB. Currently have Apex cf16 with pxi 5.5. Just need TXG to open to get the set dialed.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 27, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      nice!!

  4. Avatar

    John

    April 28, 2021 at 1:19 am

    Where do the AP 21 fall compared to say, an i500/P790? Less 💥 type shots? They look pretty tasty! Miss the WRX stuff, but this is quality content as always!

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 28, 2021 at 1:27 am

      Yes. I’d call it a fast-ish, forgiving players irons.

  5. Avatar

    matt

    April 28, 2021 at 5:54 am

    rank newest callaway irons in least forgiving to most forgiving? combo set be nice with 4-7 apex pro and 8-p mb. or too much of a difference?

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 28, 2021 at 6:43 am

      Least to Most
      Apex MB, TCB, XFCB, Apex Pro

      Apex Pro into MB is a great set up actually. For me I’d go 4/5/6 AP and 7-P MB

  6. Avatar

    null

    April 28, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    I have read a lot of what you have written and we have similar tastes in irons (still miss my 962bs that were stolen). I am also a picker and like irons with thin soles (962b, Ping s56 are 2 of my favorites). Currently in Wilson Staff model blades and have been really happy with them but they are getting worn and looking for something new. My issue is i have good gaps through the 7 iron but the 5-6 irons get a little close. So i would like to get a little more speed to spread out the gaps. Curious why you have chosen the forged CB over apex pro? Was it just the sole? How is the gapping as you blend the sets. I am looking at the MB from 7-p and blending the 5-6 iron in.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 28, 2021 at 4:21 pm

      In all honestly, I haven’t enough time to test them. I’m back in CB in a week and imma dive in deep on all of them.

  7. Avatar

    Max

    April 28, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    Been loving the XFCB, but the blade length and offset is a bit much in the short irons (both visually and causes some over draws). I tried to order 8 thru aw in TCB but was told I had to order all the way through 4i.

    What gives? I guess I can go combo with the MBs but the TCB short irons are what I want. Any way to hook a guy up?

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 29, 2021 at 9:01 pm

      Unfortunately, I cant hook anyone up and the TCB is sold in a full set for a reason. Its a limited run set of clubs and there isn’t enough inventory around to split sets up. Only the TOURs can pull off those requests….for the most part.

  8. Avatar

    Arin Teter

    April 30, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Im playing Apex pro 19 double dots with the extra groves. Is there advantage to trying to go to the TCB?

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 30, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      I think the TCB feel better than 2 dot

  9. Avatar

    E

    April 30, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    My name is E and I am a gearhead… I really appreciate these posts since I have toyed a bit (or a lot) with my bag over the past year. I love blades, but as I get older, I have started to combo sets. I used up my last set of irons which was X-Forged 18 (4-6) and Apex MB 18 (7-PW). I tried the Apex Pro 19, but didn’t like the face cup feel (the dots weren’t available when I got them) except for the 3i.

    When the X-Forged 21 and Apex MB 21 came out, I got a set of each with the plan to combo the set the same as the ’18s. It wasn’t optimal for me and I ended up with Apex MB 21 from 7-PW, X-Forged 21 5 & 6, and an Apex Pro 21 4 iron. The Apex Pro 21 4i was a juiced option for the longer par 3s out there, and was swapped for an X-Forged 18 UT 24 (bent to 22.5) if the course demanded it for better probabilities. The ball flight worked, but it felt like I was doing two different setups with long and short irons due to the different offsets, and that wasn’t optimal. Some players are OK with offsets, it messes with me a little more than I care to admit.

    On the plus side, it forced me to slow down and really focus on a solid pre-shot and setup check, but the downside was always having to “think” (Mongo no think good) about the clubface through impact and holding it open to avoid various degrees of left miss. I like to set up with a degree or two slightly open face, and always have tried to eliminate the left side of the fairway most of the time. Having to focus more on setup has really improved my ball-striking. It forced me to dump some of my lazy habits I got away with for so long, so the journey improved my game.

    When I got a chance to try out the TCBs from a visitor at my club from the UK back in March, I found perfection. I appreciate the coolness of Callaway to offer the TCBs in the US, and when I was afforded the opportunity to buy a raw set, I took it. The results were well worth it. Now I have continuity in my set of TCBs from 4-PW (KBS C-Taper 120 hard-stepped, D4). I am very happy with the set. They have the same soft feel as the X-Forged 18, along with the shot-making precision and ability to easily work the ball like the Apex MBs. The distance and ballflight are spot-on, and the shape of the club head is perfect with my eyes. Well done Callaway!

    It is a great time for performance irons with so many great choices from Callaway. Everyone is different and has different wants and needs in an iron, so the 2021 irons really deliver something for everyone. Thank you, Johnny, for your write-ups. It is great to see the “behind the scenes” and the insight from the tour players, builders, and minds at Callaway.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      April 30, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      I Love this post lol

  10. Avatar

    Len

    May 2, 2021 at 3:39 pm

    To complex for me a high handicapper(16) that is just looking for an easy to hit iron with forgiveness? Thx.

    • Avatar

      Erik Hanson

      May 3, 2021 at 12:30 am

      Apex 21 or Apex DCB. Or combo the two. I was about a 15 hdcp when I got my Apex CF16’s. Found them easy to hit and pretty forgiving. Now I am about an 8 hdcp and just upgraded to Apex Pro 21’s.

      • Johnny Wunder

        Johnny Wunder

        May 3, 2021 at 5:46 am

        If anything add Apex 21 to 4 and 5 irons and keep Apex Pro 6-P

  11. Avatar

    JAC FITZENZ

    May 2, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    Been a Cal fan for decades, think Fusion. Switched to Mizuno years back before Cal offered forged irons. Now with PXG. One thing seldom addressed in club analysis is the shaft. Shafts are SOOOO important due to flex, kickpoint, etc. Great blades with the wrong shaft doesn’t work. Still have Cal Epic driver/fairway Rogues.
    P.S.
    Phil forever.
    P.S.
    I’m 88, started with persimmon words and Wilson staff blades (1950) as thin as a butter knife.

  12. Avatar

    Paul Vieth

    May 3, 2021 at 12:53 am

    I’m now a senior player and getting older and looking to replace my mizunos with 120g KBS tour shafts. If I hit a 6 iron with the apex pro 21 with the Mitsubishi MMT shaft and an apex pro with the same shaft, which will carry further? A little more offset with the apex pro 21 , but probably not material.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      May 3, 2021 at 5:45 am

      You should carry the MMT further, it’s lighter by about 10-15G

  13. Avatar

    Ryan

    May 9, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Went into an iron fitting looking to try t100, zx7, and wilson staff cb. Hit them ok (no wilsons at club champ). Fitter handed me an x forged cb and I was like ugh (really wanted the t100 and wasn’t a huge fan of x forged look aAT THE TIME) but after hitting them I couldn’t stop smiling. They were the most consistent for me and felt so soft out of the center. I cannot wait to get them out on the course. 4-PW with accra i series steel m5 125g.

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      May 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm

      I love this post LOLOLOLOL!!!!

  14. Avatar

    Ryan

    May 13, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    I see you compared TCB to the double dot, what about the single dot apex pro? Those were incredibly soft, moderately forgiving… just a great overall CB… If I played those or am still playing those will I like the TCB?

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      May 13, 2021 at 7:37 pm

      For sure, you will be giving up a bit of forgiveness and ball speed though. Not a bunch but enough to notice. Probably add spin as well all things being equal.

  15. Avatar

    Ryan

    May 14, 2021 at 1:57 am

    How did I just find out about this site!?!?? I don’t know if I have been reading the staff newsletters!! Out of curiosity what is the difference between the double dot apex pro and the single dot apex pro from a season ago?

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      May 14, 2021 at 3:40 am

      2 dot has less offset in the short irons, weaker lofts, no flash face cup in 3-7

  16. Avatar

    Brad

    May 19, 2021 at 7:24 am

    Hi JW
    I love all your updates on the Callaway clubs, especially the explanations on why pros choose the clubs they do! I have been using X-Forged 18 for 2-3 years now, however I am not a huge fan of the offset (and the roundness of the short irons). I am about to order either a set of MB 21 or TCB. How would you compare the TCB vs the XF18? I have always played my best golf with blades, despite trying heaps of CBs – the XF18 were the first CBs that have stayed in the bag more than a few rounds!

    • Johnny Wunder

      Johnny Wunder

      May 21, 2021 at 2:01 am

      X forged players like a bit of offset and a longer blade length. TCB Apex Pro 18 players lie a more compact head, a bit more spin and less offset

  17. Avatar

    Sandy

    May 23, 2021 at 2:38 am

    I am almost 81 years old. Was a scratch in my youth. Still a very good ball striker, but short game has left me, so high single digit now. Have been a Callaway guy for years throughout the bag, except for my Vokey wedges. I am in love with my CF 16’s and haven’t found anything I like better, but they are getting worn. What do you think would be my best new Callaway option?
    Thanks

  18. Avatar

    Blake

    June 28, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    As I have been working to shallow out my swing. I have been realizing that my thicker soled long irons are having the same result that JW described above, whereas my thinner soled 7-PW moved through the turf smoothly. Never thought it might be the sole width.

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