100-Year-Old 5-Iron Test

Since this antique 5-iron was manufactured, the United States has won two world wars and fought in over half a dozen others. What does the passing of four generations of people mean in terms of golf equipment? To find the answer we compared this antique 5-iron to its modern counterpart.


The antique 5-iron we selected for this test is a hickory-shafted Windsor Mashie Chromium. This 5-iron features a forged head just like its modern counterpart we tested, a Callaway Apex 2019. Though, this is the end of the similarities between the two clubs. The Callaway Apex 2019 has a specially weighted head that distributes the mass to create more forgiveness. Likewise, the leading edge of the club has a smooth grind that prevents the club from digging into the ground. In comparison, the Windsor Mashie Chromium is a true blade design. It features no specific weight distribution. The grind on the leading edge is also very sharp.


Due to the design of the Callaway Apex 2019 being superior to that of the antique club, we expect the Callaway 5-iron to be more consistent, go farther, and have a lower launch angle.


We began by obtaining both 5-irons in question. One is a stock Callaway Apex 2019 5-iron and the other is an antique hickory shaft Windsor Mashie Chromium 5-iron. We then brought the irons to the Player Performance Studio at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. There, Calvin Carpenter, a golf teaching professional, hit 3 sets of 3 range balls with each club. This combined for a total of 18 shots. A TrackMan Doppler radar system recorded the shots and allowed the data to be interpreted.


The Callaway Apex 2019 5-iron traveled over 42% farther than its antique counterpart. Additionally, the launch angle was over 25% lower on the Callaway Apex Iron than that of the Windsor Mashie Chromium. The spin rate on the antique club was also almost twice that of the Callaway. Calvin, our tester, remarked that the antique 5-iron felt like a wedge mixed with a modern 9-iron. Finally, the Callaway 5-iron was drastically more consistent in every category we tested it in.


All in all, the results are what we expected. The antique 5-iron performed noticeably worse than its modern counterpart. Technology has definitely contributed to better golf irons. Unfortunately, the hickory shaft snapped on the final shot with the antique club. Calvin believes he caught just a little too much turf and the sharp grind of the club produced enough friction to snap the shaft. This brings about another comparison between the two clubs. Modern golf equipment is much more durable than the equipment from the past. Steel and graphite shafts are less prone to snapping, bending, or splitting than hickory. Next time you tee off, maybe be thankful for your modern equipment and the forgiveness it offers.

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