Callaway Men's Apex CF16 Iron Set Review: Is it 2017's Best Iron Set?
Apex can be considered one of, if not the most legendary brand for iron clubs, being first introduced in the 1970s.
It was really popular back then but was suddenly discontinued, until it was revived by Callaway in 2013.
The revival is not only about nostalgia - the brand Apex has now become one of the most prestigious, high-tech irons available in the market.
The Callaway Apex CF16, which will be the topic of our discussion today is the latest iteration of the Apex iron. We will review it in depth.
The CF stands for Cup Face, Callaway's new face technology/design which was first introduced in Callaway's woods released in 2015.
The Cup Face design, in Apex CF16's case, is incorporated to the 3- to 7-irons.
In A Nutshell...
It's a classic set of irons -
flexible enough to exceed the
majority of golfer's needs and expectations.
A true masterpiece.
...And Used By The Best PGAs
Kevin Isner & Sergio Garcia have this set of irons in their bags.
Garcia notably won 31 international tournaments as a professional (including 1 Players Championship and 1 Masters Tournament)
Pros and Cons of Callaway Apex CF16
- Accuracy and Forgiveness: The Apex CF16 can be categorized as game improvement irons. They still provide satisfying forgiveness. Very decent accuracy.
- Versatility and Playability: Plenty of power to strike through the tall grass, yet nimble enough to give you a wide range of workability.
- Distance: Among the longest irons in the market today, period. Very powerful, yet consistent with decent spin and stopping power.
- Size: Although it is decently one of the most forgiving irons of its class, the head is relatively small, so there is less space for misses.
- Difficulty on the Long Irons: The long irons will be relatively difficult to use, especially for light swingers. Beginners might want to replace the long irons with hybrids.
360-Degree Cup Face (CF) technology
As promised, let's dig the Cup Face technology deeper.
The previous generations of the Callaway Apex utilized a flat face welded to the front of the chassis. Now, with the Cup Face design, the weld line is moved to just behind the front end of the club.
The result? As with many high-end irons today, the face can flex more, which in turn will naturally increase the ball speed.
Yet, the Cup Face is not entirely about distance.
This design utilizes a single piece at the very front of the clubhead, creating a curved striking surface on the crown, sole, toe, and heel. Therefore, although the size of the club head is relatively small compared to other game-improvement irons, the sweet spot is still very big.
The Cup Face technology also allows usage of stronger, welded-together multi-materials. So, the head of the Apex CF16 is very durable, yet is also very flexible at the same time.
Simply put, the Cup Face technology allows a very strong, flexible, and versatile face on the Apex CF16 irons that naturally produces a lot of ball speed.
How good is the Multi-material construction in emulating all the great things (especially feel!) of the forged irons, while eliminating all the downsides?
The multi-piece construction of the Apex CF16 utilized six different pieces.
At the very core of the materials is the 1025E Forged Carbon Steel known for the strength and flexibility while being lightweight.
The forged carbon steel made the body of the Apex CF16's head.
Next, the face of the CF16 is mainly made of 17-4 stainless steel, known as one of the hardest stainless steel around.
The problem with stainless steel materials is mainly the dull sound and feedback. So, Callaway mixed some TPE and TPU aluminium to improve the sound and responsiveness.
The look? There are the thermoplastic urethane medallion and elastomer insert to enhance the look, while also help in improving the sound and feel of the club.
Those materials are laser-welded together before being forged. The result? A multi-material head that is as responsive as single-piece irons while being very durable, flexible, and serving great looks.
Advanced Forging for Soft Feel
What made forged irons so well-loved over the cast counterpart?
There can be many reasons, yet it is a common consensus that forged irons provide softer feel compared to cast irons in general.
The multi-material construction of the Apex CF16 is forged together to provide extremely soft feedback for many reasons.
Many experts agree that soft feel comes mainly from the shape of the club rather than the material, and we have discussed how the curved, front-positioned Cup Face technology is excellent in responsiveness.
Combine that with the multi-material choices, and the Apex CF16 is simply one of the best regarding feel and response.
The forging also helps with sound, which we have mentioned, one of the best in class. Even better, the sound and feel are consistent throughout the iron set, so you will get the same soft feel from both the long and short irons.
Looks are important factors for many players in choosing their golf clubs. Indeed, one of the main reasons for choosing a Callaway club is for their infamous classic look.
The Callaway Apex CF16 is simply one of the best-looking irons in the market. The Apex CF16 features a classic Callaway look that is old-fashioned, yet also modern and high-tech at the same time.
The classic satin-chrome finish looks really nice, especially when you put the Apex CF16 down to address the ball, where you will immediately appreciate the classic look.
At address, the Apex CF16 frames the ball really well with the relatively compact head. The fairly slim head will give you the better player look, yet not too slim to compromise forgiveness (it's in our opinion one of the most forgiving irons available).
The offset design is progressive and is more noticeable when on the 4- irons and longer. Now, offset design can be a major turn-off for many players, yet, the offset is very modest. You can see a little cut-out on the longer irons, but it won't be a major distraction.
Performance and Distance
The Callaway Apex CF16 is simply one of the longest irons available in the market.
The thing with distance-focused clubs is that they often compromise either forgiveness or playability.
That is not the case with Callaway Apex CF16.
In our opinion, the Apex CF16 stands in-between the game improvement category and better players category (we've reviewed in depth the best game improvement irons here)
Yet, it is still very decent in forgiveness, thanks to the Cup Face technology to generate bigger MOI.
This is especially true with the shorter irons, where the offset design will help with the draw tendencies, and the forgiveness is very noticeable - making it one of the most forgiving irons of its class.
For the longer irons? Beginners can simply opt for the Apex Hybrids , which are designed to fit really well with the Apex CF16 set.
The Apex CF16 also provides a lot of control. Players with better skills will appreciate the workability, where it is very easy to bend the ball at will with the Apex CF16.
It might sound too good to be true, but the Callaway Apex CF16, in our opinion, is very close to achieving the holy grail of balance between distance, forgiveness, and playability.
Our Review of the Callaway Apex CF16
To make this review an easier read, we will divide our discussion to several aspects. Of each, we will have an in-depth look. Let us begin with the first aspect.
There are two key technologies on the Callaway Apex CF16: the Cup Face design and the advanced forging of multi-material construction.
These two might seem simple, as with most of Callaway's clubs, where the technology tends to be simple yet effective.
Indeed, the Cup Face design is very effective to address two key qualities of the Apex CF 16: forgiveness and distance - the CF16 being one of the most forgiving irons in its category.
If the face technology is about distance and forgiveness, the multi-material construction is about feel, sound, and responsiveness. As a result of this high-tech forging and excellent material choices, the Apex CF16 is successful in bringing you the soft signature feel of forged clubs and classic Callaway sound.
In short, the simple-yet-effective approach of technology allows Callaway to make one of the most balanced iron sets ever made in the Apex CF 16: one of the longest, satisfying forgiveness and control, and excellent feel.
For the technology aspect, we will rate the Callaway Apex CF16 Irons with the maximum 5 out of 5.
Our Verdict on Technology
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Simple and effective technology with the Cup Face design and a multi-material construction.
We feel that the Callaway Apex CF16 stands in-between the game improvement irons and better players categories.
Meaning, it is more forgiving compared to conventional blade irons for better players, but not as forgiving as cavity back irons designed for beginners.
This balanced forgiveness is actually a great selling point, as the Apex CF16 delivers more punch compared to others in the similar category, while also providing great playability.
As a result, the Callaway Apex CF16 offers a very rare balance of forgiveness, distance, and control.
However, the forgiveness on the longer irons is a bit lacking, which might be an issue for beginners.
To tackle this issue, beginners might opt to switch the longer irons with the Callaway Apex UT Hybrid irons, which are designed to complement the Apex CF16 with many similarities.
Nevertheless, the forgiveness is satisfying, especially for players with adequate swing speed and accuracy. We will give 4 out of the maximum 5 for this aspect.
Our Verdict on Forgiveness
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
CF16 has balanced forgiveness across irons, with longer irons lacking the most.
One of the main reasons to buy a Callaway is the classic looks, a fact we can't deny.
First, the head was forged to retain the classic shape famous with the Apex brand.
Although the head is slightly thicker compared to classic Apex clubs, Callaway smartly camouflaged that thickness, so you won't notice it especially when you are addressing the ball.
The head shape is consistent throughout the set. Although the 8- and 9- irons along with the wedges technically used different face technology, they still look similar.
Second, the Callaway Apex CF16 features a slightly offset design, which is usually a turn-off, especially for better players. However, the offset design is camouflaged so well. It is slightly more noticeable on the 4-iron and below, but it is not a major distraction. So, you get all the benefits without compromising the looks.
Another great thing is the retained chrome satin finish, again a Callaway's signature.
We really liked how Callaway incorporated modern graphics on the back of the head, giving the Apex CF16 the high-tech look.
Yet, the high-tech designs are done so well so it blends with the classic look without making it too flashy and modern, a common problem with a lot of clubs nowadays.
Simply put, the Callaway Apex CF16 is one of the best in its class regarding looks. For this category, our verdict is 5 out of 5. A real classic.
Our Verdict on Looks
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
One of the best looking irons we've ever seen.
When speaking of irons, distance might not be the ultimate focus.
Control and forgiveness are arguably more important features the irons should have.
However, in this modern era of power and distance play, that is not always the case.
Having an iron with a great performance in distance is clearly a benefit, as long as it doesn't compromise other aspects, such as control and playability.
Thanks to the Callaway Apex CF16's Cup Face technology, the face flexes more during impact, giving a great boost for ball speed. The multi-material construction with 1025E Forged Carbon Steel at its core also allows a very strong head, able to produce great performance in distance.
There are very few irons that can compete with Apex CF16 regarding distance. Arguably, only the TaylorMade M2 is a serious contender.
Even better, this performance in distance is consistent across the face. So, even when you are slightly off-center during impact, the produced distance won't be much different.
The Apex CF16 offers a nice balance between distance and playability. The spin is just enough to allow shot shaping and versatility, but won't sacrifice distance.
A very satisfying iron set if you are looking for power and distance. In this aspect, again we will give a maximum 5 out of 5.
Our Verdict on Distance
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Consistent performance and great balance.
Callaway Apex CF16 is not the highest regarding flight trajectory.
The Apex CF16 has a strong emphasis on distance, so the flight trajectory is slightly compromised.
To test the flight trajectory, we compare the Callaway Apex CF16 with the Apex Pro 16, which is Callaway's answer for a higher flight trajectory.
In fact, the Apex Pro 16 is known as one of the highest available in the market today, so it will be a good comparison.
We reviewed the 7-irons and 4-irons included in both CF 16 and Pro 16 sets, and here are the results.
- The Apex CF 16 4-iron launched at 11.9 degrees, while the Apex Pro 16 4-iron launched at 13 degrees. 1.1 degrees of difference.
- On the other hand, the 4-iron of the CF-16 has a significantly higher ball speed at 149.1 MPH, compared to 142.1 MPH found on the Apex Pro 16
- The landing angle of the Apex CF16 4-iron is steeper at 44 degrees, compared to the 46.5 degrees of the Pro 16.
Difference / Apex CF16 VS CF16 Pro
- The Apex CF16 7-iron launched at 18.7 degrees, compared to the 19.1 degrees of the Apex Pro 16. 0.4 degrees of difference
- The Apex CF16 produced higher ball speed at 134.1 MPH compared to 128.2 MPH of the Pro 16.
- This time, the Pro 16 7-iron has a steeper landing angle with only 52.2 degrees, compared to 53.3 degrees found on the CF16
Difference / Apex CF16 VS CF16 Pro
As we can see, the difference in launch trajectory is rather minuscule, while the Apex CF16 provides better ball speed and roughly similar landing angle.
For this category, we give the Callaway Apex CF16 a 4.5 out of the maximum 5.
Our Verdict on Trajectory
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Much of it is equal to the more expensive CF16 Pro version.
Considering irons come in a set with quite a number of clubs, we can argue that adjustability is not too important.
However, adjustability might just be the thing in the future for irons, as some products such as the Cobra King F6 iron have some form of adjustability.
That is not the case with the Callaway Apex CF16, which has zero form of adjustability.
Regardless, we won't give a rating for this aspect, as we felt it is not significant enough for rating an iron set.
The sound is one of the most important reasons for buying a Callaway.
First, we should remember that the Apex CF16 is a multi-material club, and we all know how one of the major issues with multi-material clubs is the generally dull sound.
Fortunately (and amazingly), that is not the case with the Callaway Apex CF16, thanks to the careful choices of material.
Callaway indeed used forged carbon steel and stainless steel as the main material, common culprits for dull and hollow sound.
Yet, they smartly mixed TPE and TPU aluminium, along with thermoplastic urethane and elastomer to improve the sound, while also helping with improving responsiveness.
The result? The Apex CF16 successfully produces the signature Callaway sound we all love. In fact, it is one of the best sounding irons out there. For this aspect, again we will give a maximum 5 out of 5.
Our Verdict on Sound
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Great Callaway sound on these irons.
Forged irons are known to be more expensive than the cast irons counterpart, and the price difference can be significant. So, what is the biggest advantage over cast irons?
The answer is feel and responsiveness, so this aspect will be really important for the Callaway Apex CF16 as a forged multi-piece irons.
The inclusion of aluminium and thermoplastic materials is designed to improve the sound and feel of the Apex CF16 irons.
Additionally, the Apex CF16 is forged with an advanced, high-tech process to emulate the soft feel of a forged steel material. So, how is the result?
The response and feel of the Apex CF16 are indeed very soft, giving you just enough feedback without the painful sting of a steel clubhead. The feel is of a classic Callaway irons, which is one of the top reasons for buying a Callaway. You can definitely tell if your shots are off-centered, while center strikes will give a very satisfying feedback.
Even better, the great feel is consistent throughout the set, although there is a slight difference with the 7- and 8-irons, where the feel is a little rougher.
Regarding feel, the Callaway Apex CF16 is a class act. One of the best with signature Callaway soft responsiveness. A maximum 5 out of 5.
Our Verdict on Feel
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Soft response and great feel, classic of Callaway irons. One of the top reasons to buy this set.
For irons, performance should be determined by a combination of qualities: enough trajectory to escape tall grass and traps, enough distance to get closer to the greens ASAP, enough playability for both shot-shaping and trajectory control, and finally, enough forgiveness to allow consistency.
So, how do the Callaway Apex CF16 fares in all those categories? One of the best qualities of the Apex CF16 is the balance.
The Apex CF16 is decent in forgiveness, especially on the shorter irons. They are also some of the longest in the business, so there is no question regarding distance. Playability? They are also very versatile, allowing exceptional shot shaping, trajectory control, and stopping control.
So, in our opinion, the Callaway Apex CF16 almost reached the holy grail of balance, very balanced in almost all categories except forgiveness. The forgiveness of the Apex CF16, as mentioned, is not the best especially on the longer irons, where the consistency might be an issue for higher-handicap players.
In all other aspects, the Apex CF16 is exceptional. For this category, we will give a 4.5 out of maximum 5.
Our Verdict on Performance
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
Superior balance, although not perfect when it comes to forgiveness.
On The Driving Range
For the driving range, there are three factors that are important: looks, because the driving range is a place to build image and prestige; distance, because the driving range is all about distance; and finally, consistency in performance.
Regarding looks, we have discussed how the Callaway Apex CF16 is truly exceptional with classic Callaway looks, so it is clearly a winner.
Distance? The Apex CF16 irons are simply some of the longest available today.
Consistency? Can be better with more forgiveness, but they are decent nonetheless.
For performances on the driving range, we will give the Apex CF16 a maximum 5 out of 5.
Our Verdict on The Driving Range
Callaway Apex CF16 Iron Set
CF16's looks, distance and consistency all make it a great tool for the driving range.
Comparison With Other Iron Sets
We have discussed how the Callaway Apex CF 16 Iron set performed in all the different aspects, along with our verdict. So, how will it compare to other similar iron sets in its class?
Below, we have chosen several comparable iron sets that are also popular, to give you a better insight in making a better purchase decision.
Callaway Apex CF16 VS Callaway Apex Pro 16
The difference between these two models might seem obvious: the Pro version is designed for better players compared to the CF16.
Yet, is that truly the case?
Contrary to popular beliefs, there are more differences between the Apex CF16 and Apex Pro 16.
The Pro 16 will indeed give players more responsiveness and workability, significantly producing more spin compared to the Apex CF 16.
On the other hand, the Apex CF16 set consistently performs better in the distance category, mainly because of the Cup Face technology, which naturally produces more ball speed.
During our tests, this difference in distance is consistent throughout the set. For the 7-irons, for example, the CF16 shows 10 yards more average distance gain compared to the Pro 16.
On the other hand, the Pro 16 7-iron produces 200 RPM more spin, allowing better shot-shaping for skilled players.
The CF16 is also indeed more forgiving, again thanks to the Cup Face technology for a bigger MOI.
Another thing you might to consider is that the Apex Pro 16, which is more expensive, comes with a nicer overall package.
Not that the package for CF16 is not decent, but it is bulkier, and feels less professional.
So, the Callaway Apex CF16 is for players who are looking for powerhouse irons, being one of the longest in the market.
Players looking for more control and playability will prefer the Callaway Apex Pro 16.
Due to the fact that the Apex CF16 is significantly more forgiving, beginners will also benefit more from the CF16 compared to the Pro 16 version.
Callaway Apex CF16 VS Callaway Steelhead XR
Another one from Callaway, showing the prominence of the brand for the irons market.
The Steelhead brand is also a legendary name comparable to the Apex and was also recently revived by Callaway after a long hibernation.
The Steelhead XR is released one year after the Apex CF16, so is newer always better?
Let us take a deeper look.
As the name might suggest, the Callaway Steelhead XR used a cast steel head instead of a forged multi-material head of the Apex CF16.
As usual, cast irons are generally cheaper than the forged ones, and that is also the case with the Steelhead XR, which is more affordable compared to the CF16.
The Steelhead XR is technically a game-improvement iron, featuring the same 360 Face Cup technology found on the Apex CF16.
So, so you can also expect the increased ball speed and the increased COR on the Steelhead XR.
As a result, the Steelhead XR also offers an excellent distance, although the Apex CF16 is overall longer.
The slight difference in distance is compromised by the fact that the Steelhead XR is more forgiving. The head of the Steelhead XL features more offset compared to the Apex CF16, designed to help beginners with draws.
The hosel of the Steelhead XR is also designed for more performance, which is actually a classic S2H2 (Short Straight Hollow Hosel) from Callaway. The shorter hosel improves MOI and moves the center of gravity to the center of the face. As a result, the Steelhead XR is more consistent in forgiveness throughout the face's surface.
However, the Steelhead XR clearly loses to the Apex CF16 in the feel, sound, and responsiveness categories.
The fact that the Apex CF16 is a forged iron (and very beautifully forged), allow softer response and classic Callaway sound.
Also, keep in mind that the Steelhead XR produces significantly more spin compared to the Apex CF16.
More spin usually translates for more playability, however, the Steelhead XR is a game-improvement iron without much focus on workability, so the increased spin can actually be a hindrance.
Therefore, the Steelhead XR is more suited for beginners with mid to low swing speed. The Apex CF16 will bring more benefit for players with adequate swing speed looking for more responsiveness, distance, and versatility.
Callaway Apex CF16 VS Taylormade M2 Irons (2017)
TaylorMade, of course, is another big name in the golf equipment market, arguably being the biggest contender of Callaway.
Those familiar with the Taylormade brand will know that the M2, along with M2 is the current flagship brands of Taylormade.
The M2 clubs are designed for distance and forgiveness, and the M2 irons are no different.
With the M2 irons, the first impression you will get is how the ball is launched really high, with excellent ball speed to ensure maximum distance. That is true for almost all the M2 clubs out there, and what we really liked about them is how the landing angle is so steep, so they are easy to control even with all the power.
For the 2017 model, the biggest improvement on the M2 irons is the lower center of gravity, 7% lower than the previous model, allowing more forgiveness and even higher flight trajectory.
Therefore, as you can see, the TaylorMade M2 is very similar to the Apex CF 16 regarding distance and forgiveness.
Here is the catch: the TaylorMade M2 is slightly more forgiving, at the spare of feel and playability of the Apex CF16, while both are excellent regarding distance.
So, the TaylorMade M2 might be a better choice for players struggling with accuracy, as the forgiveness is indeed excellent. Slightly better players looking for shot-shaping workability will benefit more from the Apex CF16. Although it is a matter of preference, the Apex CF16 also offers better sound and feel.
Callaway Apex CF 16 vs Cobra King F6 Irons
The brand Cobra has seen an increase in popularity during the past few years.
They constantly produced high-quality clubs synonymous with a high-tech approach and flashy designs, appealing especially the younger players.
With that being said, the Cobra King F6 Irons are rather unique - technology-wise -, because each of the clubs in the set is tailored differently to achieve the most proper center of gravity for each numbered irons.
This approach is achieved through four different head constructions and three different groove shapes throughout the set.
Therefore, the forgiveness level is more consistent throughout the set compared to the Apex CF16.
We have mentioned how the longer irons of the Apex CF16 set might be too difficult for beginners, but the Cobra King F6 long irons are tailored differently, featuring full open cavity head for more forgiveness (and louder sound).
Another interesting thing about the Cobra King F6 iron set is the inclusion of a sand wedge, not found on the Apex CF16 set and most sets in the market.
So, here is the catch: the longer irons of the Cobra King F6 is definitely more forgiving with decent performance.
Regarding the mid and short irons, we felt that the Apex CF16 is more satisfying in almost every category. The Cobra King F6 will appeal to beginners willing to use long irons instead of hybrids, and for those interested to also buy a sand wedge.
In other aspects, the Apex CF16 is a better pick: better distance, better control, and better versatility.
Another thing to consider is that the Cobra King F6 Iron set is significantly cheaper compared to Apex CF16 set, and even to other sets we have compared above. The affordability will definitely be a big selling point for some, especially for beginners who are just willing to learn the game.
Bottom Line and Final Verdict
Standing between the game improvement category and better players category, the Callaway Apex CF16 provides a very nice balance in almost all category.
They provide an excellent performance in distance, in fact they are some of, if not the longest in the business. They even sometimes happen to be better than some of the best game improvement irons out there.
They offer excellent shot-shaping playability and trajectory control, very important for iron sets. Last but not least, they are very consistent with decent forgiveness throughout the set.
However, the Callaway Apex CF16 can definitely do better with more forgiveness, especially for the long irons. Players with 6 to 10 handicap will appreciate the versatility and performance of the long irons. However, players with high handicap might want to switch the long irons with hybrids.
Yet, the short irons are very decent and satisfying even for beginners.
Last but not least, the most important aspects of the Callaway Apex CF16 irons are the feel, looks, and sound of a Callaway, which is represented so well. If you are looking for a forged Callaway iron set with excellent performance and feel, the Apex CF16 will be an excellent choice.
If you'd like to get more details on irons, and more particularly game improvement irons, we've released a review of the best game improvement irons.
We hope this in-depth review will be useful for you to make a better purchase decision. If you have any question regarding the Apex CF16, suggestions, or your own experience with the iron set, don't hesitate to leave a comment below. If you find this article useful, please don't hesitate to share it with your fellow golfers.