Today’s Ben Hogan irons are a reflection of the legend himself: Stylish in their own way, quietly powerful, sourced and built with the same exacting attention to club-to-club quality that Hogan himself invested in his swing.
The man also designed his own clubs both during and after his competitive playing days. He started his original Fort Worth, Texas-based club company with an eye toward producing golf weapons that blended tradition with technology. His run as a clubmaker probably hit its zenith in the 1970s; I still have an old mid-decade “butter knife” Apex 1-iron that, when called upon, can drill a tee shot 230 yards down the middle if the player treats it with a mix of gritty rhythm and respect for that tiny but rewarding sweet spot.
The rebooted Ben Hogan Golf Company keeps that philosophy very much in play with its two newest iron models, the Edge and Ft. Worth Black. Both are forged to produce that soft, crisp feel. Both are beautiful in the bag and at address, both perform up to the standards one would expect from the Hawk’s namesake outfit. Both were an absolute blast to test head-to-head — 6-irons and 9-irons — on a practice range under “normal” golf conditions, with a light breeze blowing from left to right.
EDGE: GAME EN-SMOOTH-MENT
After warming up with a couple new Hogan Equalizer wedges — look for my review soon — I grabbed the Edge 9-iron and took dead aim at the range’s 150-yard stick, know that, at my high desert elevation of 4,500 feet, that was closest to my idea average distance with this stick.
In terms of head size, flange width and “comforting,” slightly offset look at address, the Edge definitely falls into the game improvement realm but it’s by no means a “don’t bother unless you’re an 18-handicapper” club. I’m an 11-and-change guy who has played everything from Miura blades to old Ping ISIs over my decades in battle, and the Edge fit perfectly into my go-to range in terms of forgiveness and feedback. If I managed to catch one close to the middle of the face after a nice, rhythmic move, I’d get that buttery report at impact, followed by a dead-straight or baby fade into my target’s 10-yard radius. If I strayed to my typical toe-hit, the Edge would still produce a shot of serviceable distance, this time with the expected pull-draw.
That’s the benefit of perimeter weighting, by no means a recent invention but Hogan engineers found a way to advance the process, using two separate forged parts. The hosel and back frame are forged first, then the forged face is laser-welded into place to create exceptional perimeter weighting inside the club head. This allows the thickness of the club face to be varied from club to club. The longer irons with stronger lofts have a very thin yet strong face for exceptional distance, even on shots struck on the toe or heel, while the mid and short irons’ progressively thicker face provides for a solid feel on scoring shots.
The sample Edge 6-iron illustrated this feature quite nicely, conjuring the same soft feel as the 9-iron, coupled with the higher ball flight average players like me need to hold more greens. It exceeded my distance predictions, too, consistently clocking in near 175 yards, a good 10 more than I’m used to and in line with Ben Hogan’s assertion that, as a set, the Edge out-blasts the company’s PTx irons by 12 percent. Both designs put Hogan’s V-Sole technology into play — high bounce leading edge, low bounce trailing edge to assure better contact on all turf types.
In sum, I’d put the Edge into my bag tomorrow and set my sights on regaining that single-digit handicap status I lost a few years ago. They retail for $735 per 4-iron-through-pitching wedge set.
FT. WORTH BLACK: SLINGIN’ BLADE
Were I already in the single-digit zone with my sights on scratch (not bloody likely but a man can dream), I’d seriously consider the newest version of a gorgeous, sleek Ft. Worth iron that was introduced in 2015.
Boy, do these throwback-style heads look great at address, with their Tour-thin top line, smaller face a Diamond Black Metal finish that contrasts well with the ball to help alignment while eliminating any chance of glare on even the sunniest day.
Ft. Worth irons also incorporate V-Sole technology, though the narrower sole demands more precision through the hitting zone. The reward for that precision is great distance via a lower, more “boring” ballflight, more explosive launch angles off impact with the longer clubs (like the 6-iron, whose trajectory resembled that of my regular 4-iron) and pleasing softness with the shorter ones. It took the most relaxed swing I could muster to coax the same mix of distance and soft feel from the 9-iron, but when I caught it flush — boy, what a lovely sound to the ears and vibration (or lack thereof) through the hands.
The Ft. Worth Black isn’t a blade, per se — a “Depression Cavity” of ever-increasing depths from shorter to longer clubs tells that story. And even with their reduced hitting area and lower profile, Hogan’s PreciseLoft system assures true lofts through the bag, allowing more predictable distance control than even the Edge irons. That’s exactly what your better player (and those like me who aspire to more rounds in the 70s on the board) are looking for. And at $700 for a 7-club set, they are a comparative bargain.
So, which new Hogan irons takes the honors? The day-to-day side of me says the Edge edges out Ft. Worth, but the part of me who truly appreciates the classic beauty of throwback designs gives the nod to Ft. Worth.
Here’s a tip: Test them both, as I did, and break the tie in your own way. Somewhere The Hawk is watching and waiting for the verdict.