I've received some questions about what type of vintage irons that golfers should go after, so I wanted to put this in a blog so people can refer to it for help. First, I suggest that if you're going after some vintage irons, make sure that they are forged irons. Cast irons probably became popular in the mid-80s and most of them had a tremendous amount of offset and you can only bend cast so much. Clubfitters are usually averse to bending irons much either way, but the reality is that you can bend the forged irons a ton and not every worry about them snapping.
Also, check to see what type of shafts are in the vintage irons. You'll probably want to change your shafts if you become serious about using vintage irons outside of practice. But I would stay away from the aluminum shafts which were prevalent back then because they are very light and have a poor feel to them.
I've also been asked about shafts that were 'pinned' in some vintage irons. Back in the 60's and earlier, Hogan company would put a 'pin' in the hosel of the shafts to keep the shafts from falling out. Some golfers think that it made Hogan's irons 'special' but the reality is that back then the epoxy was not very good at keeping the shafts in place, so Hogan went a step further and just pinned them so the shafts wouldn't fall out. I spoke to Jim Kronus at the Iron Factory about the process of re-shafting pinned irons and he said it's quite easy as they just re-shaft like they normally do with modern epoxy and weld the pin hole shut and all he charges is $1 extra per club to do that.
I highly recommend the Iron Factory for their work. Not only do they do tremendous work (Shawn Clement recommends them as well), but their chroming process is such that they can add weight or take off weight with their re-chroming. Almost any other re-chroming process takes some weight off the clubhead.
Lastly, I will only be recommending blade, muscle back irons. Although the forged cavity back design hasn't been around that long, I think for the purposes of trying to improve your swing, motor skills and hand-eye coordination...it's best to go with blade style irons.
In Part I, we will look at the Hogan company irons.
As you may already know, I currently carry a set of 1963 Hogan IPT (Improved Power Thrust) blades that I like quite a bit. I think the Hogan forgings are excellent and better than most of the other forgings of other OEM clubs outside of probably Mizuno. I believe that Hogan designed the irons personally until the '63 IPT's cam out. I am pretty certain that the last line of irons that Hogan personally designed were the 1962 Power Thrusts.
As I've explained before with the line of Hogan irons from the 60's, you'll find that they look somewhat like today's blades and then from the 8-PW the clubhead becomes very round. But I actually like the way those short irons perform. They also have very sharp leading edges, longer hosels and are about 1/2" shorter than today's irons.
I really dig most of the Hogan irons from the 60's, but my favorites are probably the Bounce Sole 1+ irons.
The 70's was an excellent decade of clubmaking for Hogan's company. Just some real gems here. You should also see some slightly longer shafted irons as well, about +1/4" longer which is about the length of today's standard length muscleback irons.
It's tough for me to choose a best one from this decade, but I really like the 1972 Hogan Apex. You can tell those are the 1972 as the back stamping has 'Apex' on top.
I get a lot of questions on the Apex II line, which is an excellent line. I've spoken to a few Hogan irons afficianados and they believe that the Apex II irons are the softest of all Hogan forgings. There's a 'white cameo' and a 'black cameo' and from what I've been told is that the 'white cameo' was, at the time, meant for the higher skilled golfer. Why that was I have no idea.
Hogan irons in the 80's tried to be more 'user friendly' and it was probably the downfall of the company as 'user friendly' irons were mastered by Ping until Callaway came along. However, they made some gems in the Hogan Apex 'Redline' irons.
I vividly recall the Redlines being the skilled golfer's club of choice when it came to blade style irons. There's also the Hogan Apex PC, which is supposed to be a very difficult club to hit.
I get some questions about the 'Medallion' line of irons. I have hit both the '78 and '82 Medallion irons, but I preferred the '82 Medallions.
Then there's always the 1983 Hogan Personal irons. Those were a re-make of the 1958 Precision irons.
The Personal irons design was a precursor to the Mizuno MP-29's which were wildly popular. The problem with the Personal irons is that a used set goes for about $750 and you can find some new sets, but they go for about $1,200.
In the 90's Hogan still went the Game Improvement irons path, but still the company was able to produce a few more good muscleback irons.
The Hogan company I believe moved their forging house from Ft. Worth to Virginia and then moved back to Ft. Worth and then back to Virginia. The general consensus is you want the Ft. Worth made clubs. Hogan made an FT model which looks very similar to the '88 Redlines, but it will say 'FORGED' on the back stamping and say 'Fort Worth' on the hosel.
I would say that the best of the 90's musclebacks are:
- Hogan FT (pic above)
- Hogan Grind (back stamp says 'GRIND')
- Hogan Channelback (pic below)
After that, the '99 Apex's are pretty good, but they don't have that feel that the Ft. Worth forgings had.
The 21st century Hogan's pretty much saw the company die out as Callaway had taken over and could not re-create the old magic of Hogan irons.
NEXT UP, MACGREGOR IRONS