Callaway have had the title of number one hybrid in golf for years, and they don't intend to give it up. The brand focused on the idea of game-improvement in 2020 with the friendly Big Bertha range, but 2021 is the players' year.
Building on the success of the Apex range over the last few years, Callaway are introducing the new Apex and Apex Pro 21 Hybrids, featuring the new Jailbreak Velocity Blade technology for the first time.
What's It All About?
You may have heard of Callaway's Jailbreak technology by now, which is used to increase ball speeds by adding extra stability right behind the club face, and this has now been improved thanks to the use of their AI super-computer.
The result of this is the new 'Jailbreak AI Velocity Blades' (very 2021 sounding isn't it...?), which are designed to provide better forgiveness lower on the clubface as this is a common strike location for many golfers when hitting fairways and hybrids (particularly off the deck).
The blades allow the Face Cup to flex on the crown, which should help to make the spin rates more consistent across the face, while the bars are spread a little further apart to give more 'torsional stiffness' - essentially, leading to more forgiveness across the face.
The AI design also means that every single Flash Face is designed to be unique in order to match the head shape and loft, as the 19 degree hybrid should perform differently to the 27 degree model.
Each hybrid features plenty of tungsten weighting added to the club head to lower the centre of gravity (CG), making the Apex range easier to launch and more forgiving if you don't quite catch it out of the middle.
The Apex hybrids also come with adjustable hosels (not the Apex Pro), allowing you to fine-tune your club's loft, trajectory and control.
There are two different head options available, and I've tested them both:
Apex Hybrid - The standard hybrid is designed to help with forgiveness and launch thanks to a bigger sole, with the weight pushed further back and a bigger profile to both the head and face. It has an adjustable hosel and is available in 19, 21, 24 and 27 degrees.
Apex Pro Hybrid - As the name suggests, this is aimed at the better player with a smaller, more iron-like head, face and sole to suit their preference. The weight is further forward than the standard Apex for a more penetrating flight and it comes with a fixed hosel. The face is made from a high strength forged 455 steel to provide strength and speed to the Cup Face.
It available in 18, 20, 23 and 26 degrees.
I visited The Belfry in December for a round with the new Apex range on the PGA National course.
I then took both heads back to LSH Auto, Mercedes Benz Stockport to collect some numbers on my Trackman 4 with Titleist Pro V1x balls, to discover whether these hybrids are ideal for the better player.
You can watch my full review via the Golfalot YouTube channel here:
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Callaway Apex 21 Hybrids Review
Looks and Feel
Comparing the Apex 21 Hybrids to the 2019 head, there isn't too much difference in the design although I think the new darker grey and gunmetal black finish does look a little more premium.
The weight on the sole has been increased from 7g to 10g, whilst the Jailbreak medallions are now more rectangular than round with a slightly bigger gap between them.
Both the Apex and Apex Pro heads feature pretty straight faces which are more like an iron than a wood. The Apex has a bigger footprint which is large at address, although the look down by the ball is better than last year's Mavrik thanks to less offset and more subtle lines.
The Apex Pro has moved away from the teardrop shape of the Mavrik Pro to the iron shape. Interestingly, last year Callaway said that this was done in the Mavrik because the tour players wanted a softer shape in the Pro model whereas this year it seems to have switched around.
You can't keep a Tour Pro happy for long!
On paper, the Trackman numbers suggested that the Apex Hybrid was best suited to me, but the more shots I hit the more I realised that I preferred the look and feel of the Pro. Maybe I sit somewhere in the middle of these two clubs...
With the Apex Pro I was producing a pretty consistent fade shape, although this is what Callaway will have wanted as lots of good players are typically put off by losing the ball left with hybrids.
It took a little bit of time for me to get warmed up with a slightly stiffer shaft than usual, but towards the end of my testing session I really began to find my groove and had two shots which carried out to 176 yards which is pretty impressive for me.
Of course the trade-off with a smaller hybrid head like this is that you're giving up a bit of extra forgiveness but I think the new Jailbreak Blades perform really well, and my strikes felt solid and pretty consistent throughout.
The Apex Hybrid was certainly easier to hit than the Pro and it flew a little further too, around the distance that I'd like to see from a 19 degree hybrid (although the lighter shaft probably did suit me a little better too).
Despite a lower loft it was able to launch a little higher thanks to Callaway's strategic weighting lower in the head for easier launch, although the spin rate was actually a lot lower than with the Pro which made it around a club longer when both hit well.
Unfortunately I couldn’t take these clubs out to complete me usual on-course testing as UK lockdown 3.0 was announced the night before I was due to play. This is shame as turf interaction and versatility is important when trying out a hybrid so I'd always recommend trying to hit a hybrid on a course from different scenarios and lies before you make any decisions.
Callaway Apex 21 Hybrids Verdict
All of the main manufacturers nowadays have a whole suite of club types which aim to suit every golfer, and you only have to look at Callaway's hybrid range, including the new Apex 21 heads, to see that this is evident.
The Apex Hybrid is great at getting the ball in the air with ease and should be better suited to the 'average golfer'. The Apex Pro was the one that I enjoyed hitting more due to the look and feel and is being used by the likes of Alex Noren, Eric Van Rooyen and Georgia Hall, but the yardage wasn't quite there for me. The 20 degree was going the same distance as a 4 iron which suggests I'd probably need to do a bit of tinkering with shafts to get one that suits my swing speed.
When Callaway describe a club as a 'Pro' model I think this might be in part to try and make you feel better about your game. Yes, they're aimed at better players but with the new Flash Face and Jailbreak Velocity Blades helping you out, you don't have to be a tour player to hit them.
It's a bit of a shame that the Apex Pro doesn't have an adjustable hosel as I would like the chance to play around with the loft and shafts in order to get perfectly fitted for it. The hybrids are among the most important clubs in my bag and I am pretty specific about the way I want to be able to work them, and the distance I want them to go with different swings.
To be honest, I'd say that the jury is still out for me with Callaway hybrids as I've never found a shape and performance that really does suit me, and this was the same with the Apex 21 range. I'd pick the Apex on yardage, but the Pro gave me the feel I was looking for. Maybe you can the best of both worlds...
Apex Hybrid Pros
- Looks are a big improvement on the 2019 version
- Very forgiving across the face
- Adjustable hosel is great for proper fitting
- Lots of loft options available
- Great quality headcover
Apex Hybrid Cons
- Larger head shape will not suit everyone
- £249 is expensive for a hybrid
Apex Pro Hybrid Pros
- Same price as the standard Apex, unlike some other brands
- Great look at address
- Workable ball flight
Apex Pro Hybrid Cons
- No adjustable hosel unlike the Apex
- Forgiveness levels weren't quite as high as the Apex
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