Achenbach: The legend of Apex
Perhaps my voice is an echo from the Stone Age, but Apex is one of my all-time favorite golf names.
I was excited when I discovered that Callaway, despite selling the Ben Hogan brand to the Perry Ellis apparel empire, had kept the Apex trademark. And that excitement escalated when I heard Callaway was about to introduce a new forged iron called Apex.
What’s in a name? Oh, about a million memories.
I remember vividly the day I first saw an iron with the Ben Hogan name on it. It was the late 1950s. This golf club was hypnotic, with all the splendor and mystery of Excalibur the sword from Arthurian times. I felt I might be invincible if I could buy a set of these irons.
Invincible, as it turned out, was a huge overstatement, but this flirtation was the start of a lifelong golf affair with Ben Hogan clubs and later with the Apex name.
Apex was not the first Hogan iron. It came after Hogan had honed his clubmaking skills.
The first Hogan iron, from 1954, was called Saber. As the story goes, Hogan inspected an early shipment of these irons and was greatly displeased with the quality. So he ordered roughly $100,000 worth of inventory to be destroyed. He was a perfectionist at making golf clubs as well as playing with them.
Over the years, I purchased and played several sets of Hogan Apex irons. The heads were beautiful, with a clean jewelry-like look. Later Apex would become a platform for different weight distribution schemes and sole designs, as Hogan expressed his vision and his creativity.
He was a man ahead of his time. The Flash Reaction steel shaft was one of the industry’s first proprietary shafts. Then came the Apex shaft, made of steel alloy and sometimes called golf’s first lightweight shaft.
In 2008, when the U.S. Golf Association Senior Amateur was played at Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, director of golf Mike Wright led me into a back room where he had gathered hundreds of golf clubs. All had belonged to Hogan, who spent much of his time at Shady Oaks.
Touching a Ben Hogan club that had been swung by Hogan himself is a religious experience, if indeed golf can be classified as a religion. It was one of the most memorable days of my life.
One of my prized possessions is a wall poster that pictures just about every Ben Hogan iron model ever made. I still own several sets of Apex irons with Apex shafts. They are only for viewing, for holding, for waggling. I suppose I am living in the past, but in this case I don’t mind.
Hogan clubs made a deeper impression on me than any other golf clubs I ever saw.