By Rob Sauerhaft
The folks at Ping Golf are not known for hyperbole. So, I took note when company president John K. Solheim announced, “golfers can expect to hit one less club into the green when properly fit for the new i500 iron,” and “the soft feel of the i210 irons is unlike any we’ve ever offered.” That’s right: Ping’s rolling out two brand new irons this summer. The i500, for scratch handicappers to bogey golfers, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: It looks like a stylish blade but packs serious heat. The i210, for highly-skilled players, serves up a large dose of shotmaking and a buttery-soft feel.
The i500 is part of a growing phenomenon of better-player irons that deliver an extra burst of power. Additional models in this burgeoning category include the Callaway Rogue Pro, TaylorMade M3 and Titleist AP3. (Expect more from this genre in coming months.) Again, what’s cool about i500 is the voltage loaded into a sleek muscleback. Not long ago this kind of product simply wasn’t possible. But manufacturing techniques have improved, and now the dream is reality.
Similar to Ping’s popular G700 game-improvement irons, the two-piece i500 head has a metal wood-like construction. The hollow, 17-4 stainless steel body is married to a forged, C300 maraging-steel face (the same material used in G400 fairway woods, hybrids and Crossovers). At impact, the clubface flexes back, which adds dynamic loft for higher-launching, lower-spinning shots. Plus, there’s no internal material (such as foam) to impede the face from flexing. The result is faster ball speeds, and impressive distance gains, compared to standard cast irons. During Ping’s testing, some golfers picked up 2 to 3 mph ball speed and up to 15 yards more carry distance than their current gamers.
Companies can make long-hitting irons by thinning the face and jacking-up lofts. But there can be tradeoffs. “We want the face to flex but don’t want hot spots, where the ball goes like a rocket when you catch it on the middle but goes nowhere when you hit a little higher on the face, or a little lower or on the heel,” says Dr. Paul Wood, Ping’s VP of Engineering. “We go through loads of iterations in the simulation phase until we come up with a design that delivers distance [power] with control.”
For the first time, Ping offers an iron model in three different loft packages: Power Spec, Standard and Retro Spec. The Power Spec is 1.5° stronger than Standard throughout the set, excluding the wedge. Meanwhile, the Retro Spec has more traditional lofts. Specifically, the 6-iron is 25.5° loft (Power Spec), 27° (Standard) and 29° (Retro Spec). Club Champion sells the standard loft version and then customizes the loft and lie by iron to match each golfer's needs. Identifying the best loft can be difficult to figure out yourself. That’s where a qualified fitter like Club Champion is a significant advantage.
The i500 isn’t just a basher, though. With the hollow head (“inner cavity”), golfers can expect more forgiveness than from the average better-player model. In addition, the milled grooves and face contribute to repeatable ball speeds and control. And, lastly, the HydroPearl Chrome 2.0 finish—gritty on the face; smooth on the sole—improves impact consistency on shots from the rough and moist conditions.
Ping’s not done there. The i210 irons (replace i200 in the lineup) should garner plenty of attention from Tour pros and other accomplished golfers. It’s made from 431-stainless steel (same as i200), which feels softer than 17-4 stainless steel. The compact head also has an elastomer insert tucked behind the hitting area. Twice as soft and 30-percent larger than before, the updated dampener elicits a sweet impact sensation across more of the face. Ping’s engineers also spread additional mass around the shallow cavity by enlarging the port that holds the elastomer in place. The i210 is slightly less forgiving than i500 but does offer a little more assistance than its predecessor.
It’s worth noting the lofts in i210 are weaker (1.5° to 2.5° per club) than i500. Ping also offers the i210 in three loft options but Club Champion sells only the standard version and then customizes the loft and lie to a golfer's individual needs.
Similar to i500, the i210 has a milled face and grooves plus the HydroPearl Chrome 2.0 finish to repel water away from grooves for more consistency on difficult lies.
Both the i500 and i210 irons can be custom-fit at your local Club Champion studio for proper loft, lie, shaft, shaft length and grip. Does either Ping iron sound intriguing? If so, call us at 888-340-7820 or request an appointment online at clubchampiongolf.com.
About the Author: Rob served on the editorial team with the SI Golf Group/Golf Magazine for 28 years. As Managing Editor/Equipment and creator of the award-winning ClubTestprogram, he conceived, produced and oversaw all equipment coverage in Golf Magazine’s monthly print and tablet editions, Golf.com, and the weekly publications Sports Illustrated Golf Plus and Sports Illustrated Golf Plus Digital. Rob’s currently working with companies on their content, communications and marketing.