It had been a long -- no, really, a LONG -- time since I had gamed Ping irons.
As in, when I was a teenager, back when Ping still made persimmon woods, which were amazing.
I've since had, and still have in my basement, Hogans. I've played Mizuno's finest blades. I've put sets from Bridgestone, Nike and Wilson into play. I had TaylorMade's impressive RSi2 irons in the bag when the i irons arrived.
(And I plan on giving sets from Mizuno, Cobra and Callaway a try before the year's through.)
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Needless to say, I'm a different -- and not just older -- player than the last time I played Ping irons. And that's why I was so excited to get my hands on the Ping i irons.
The i irons are the latest in a better player's iron. It's the first time Ping engineers used 431 stainless steel in a set, allowing for a larger clubhead. However, the heads get progressively smaller through the set, down into the short irons and wedges to offer better control.
In the mid- and long irons, a tungsten toe weight, which has become a popular design element, increases perimeter weighting and improves forgiveness.
The clear theme in the design elements in the i irons is forgiveness. So, how did they perform on the course?
Ping sent the irons with the Red Dot configuration, including an oversized grip and standard-length, stiff CFS Distance Steel shafts.
Coming out of the box, they have a different, more matte look than the TaylorMade RSi2 irons that had been in my bag. It's a classic Ping look, and it's one that's really helpful in the fading light of the day. No chance of getting blinded by sunlight off the face.
You notice a subtle bumping up in size of the heads through the set, with the wedge more resembling a blade size (though still bigger) and the long irons carrying a noticeable offset with bigger heads and wider soles.
The irons fly comparatively to the RSi2, which was a full-club increase in distance over my Mizuno blades. What used to be a 155-yard 8-iron can become a smashed 9-iron. The 6-iron can go 200 yards, where it used to be a struggle with a blade to get it out there 185.
The long irons haven't flied quite as far as the RSi2s, but they're within a few yards. I still have confidence executing the same shots with the same sticks at the common spots I'm in on my home club. The offset, which looks bigger than the RSi2s in my eyes, isn't distracting like I thought it might be. It does take some adjusting, but it's a worthwhile trade off to have a 3-iron in the bag. I may be a relic who prefers the long irons over hybrids, but it's a delight to have, and it doesn't cost me any yards.
The mid-irons fly very well, comparable to, even longer in spots, than the RSi2s. However, the short irons are about the same, if a little shorter, but within a tight range, which is critical for scoring.
Compared to the blades, and even the RSi2s, the soles look really wide, even clunky. But they don't play that way. The grind allows the wider sole, especially in the mid and long irons, to get through the rough while not harming performance from the fairway.
At first, the sound at impact was a little offputting, compared to the most consistent, perhaps more pleasant sound, from the RSi2s. However, the i irons offer a more audible feedback, which is ultimately what a player wants. Within a few rounds of playing with the i irons, it was clear how well the shot went because of the noises.
What I really like about the i and RSi2 irons is their forgiveness, especially with the mid-irons. It makes longer par 4s a little easier, particularly if I'm wayward with my tee shot. Shots that miss the inside-middle of the face still carry almost all the way to the target, creating birdie putts instead of pressure-mounting up-and-downs. That's exactly what better players want: the forgiveness that makes up for gaps in their game or their practice routine.
The Ping i irons do just that, and they're a fun play, combining throwback looks and configuration, with a modern, progressive shaping.
The Ping i irons are available in 3- through 9-irons, a pitching wedge and utility wedge. Irons with the PING CFS Distance steel shaft (available in four flexes) cost $135 per club. Add on $15 per club for the Ping CFS graphite shaft. Four after-market shaft are available at no extra charge.