After roughly a year and a half, PING is replacing the G30 driver.
Are they out of their damned minds?
G30 was a huge hit it retail - it spent most of 2015 as the best selling driver in golf. And while it also received plenty of awards and accolades, what PING's R&D team both appreciates, and takes great pride in, is the gratitude expressed by golfers for how well they're playing because of the G30.
If success can be measured in happy golfers, G30 was arguably a once in a decade..maybe a once in a generation kind of club.
So when PING told us that they planned to replace the G Driver early in 2016, my initial questions was this:
Why the hell would you do that?
The Reality Check
As with nearly everyone else in golf, the truth in the answer lies somewhere in the need to compete. In today's market, 1.5 years is practically an eternity, and with some of its competitors nearly double-digits deep in the number of drivers released since G30 column, arguably PING had to roll out a new driver.
That said, the G Driver isn't one of those because the other guys have a new driver kind of releases. PING speaks a unique language within the industry. It talks of performance over features. That's not to say PING makes featureless drivers, but in contrast to a good bit of the rest of the industry, PING only adds a feature when said feature has a measurable impact on performance for a majority of golfers.
So while it's not necessarily a story that PING (or anyone else) has a new driver, what's worth talking about is that PING's G Driver is anything but your standard fare 2nd generation model. The gains PING realized in evolving from G25 to G30 were again realized in the evolution from G30 to G Driver. What G30 was to G25, G Driver is now to G30.
If you're the rest of the golf equipment industry, that's not just impressive, it's scary.
Inspired by Nature
Chapter one of this story starts the same way as nearly every other new driver. Prepared to have your mind blown because I'm about to talk about weight savings.
Stay with me guys. This stuff actually matters.
The bulk of PING's newfound weight savings come from what the company calls the G Driver's Dragonfly Crown. The origins for the updated design lie in a photo of a dragonfly sent to the R&D team by PING Chairman & CEO John A. Solheim. Inspired by a dragonfly's wings, the Dragonfly crown, which PING likens to an exoskeleton, is made up of a system of ribs and supporting structures that effectively allowed ping to thin its crown to .43mm. For reference, that's the thickness of 3 sheets of paper.
While this bit of biomimicry is new to PING, it should be noted that TaylorMade (thick-thin crown), Cobra (Cell Technology), and others use similar structures in their crowns.
Why do they do it?
These type of structures still offer exceptional stability (durability), while at the same time offering a tremendous reduction in weight. In this particular case, PING was able to save 8 grams of crown weight compared to the G30. For a company already playing hardball in the low/back CG space, 8 grams is an almost obscene number, especially when you hear what PING did with it.
Low and Back CG
If you've followed along with us at all, you're already aware that PING is producing the highest MOI (most forgiving drivers) within the mass market industry and it's doing it while its center of gravity locations relatively low (lower than a substantial percentage of the industry). In the real world this translates to high launch, manageable spin, and best of breed forgiveness.
With the extra 8 grams saved in the G driver' crown, PING was able to lower the center of gravity by 1.27mm while pushing it 1.8mm deeper (towards the back). These may sound like little numbers, but they represent a fairly substantial jump over a single generation.
We'll try and get this on our CG Chart in the coming weeks, but what PING is telling us is that the G Driver's center of gravity sits a mere 1.3mm off the neutral axis, while the CG of the LS Tec is less than .5mm off the neutral axis.
In addition to improved energy transfer, PING realized a net improvement of 1% in heel/toe MOI, and 6% top/bottom MOI.
While top to bottom MOI isn't generally discussed with the same fervor as heel toe MOI, it, along with material properties, and bulge and roll, is critical for maintaining consistent spin across the whole of the face. PING's Marty Jertson calls it Spinsistency, and what it does is allow fitters to fit golfers closer to their minimum spin threshold without fear of producing too low spin (unpredictable flight) on high toe shots.
In summary, with the G Driver, PING has made significant mass properties improvements to what was already an outstanding driver. Nothing else using all-titanium construction is even close.
Aerodynamics & The USGA
With the success of PING's G30 and the recent announcement of Callaway's XR
3016 (did you hear Callaway worked with Boeing on that one?), aerodynamics have moved to the front of the performance discussion.
What I love about aerodynamic improvements is that they serve as the definitive argument against those who say that the USGA's limits make it impossible to make a driver that generates more distance than any other.
Let's be clear about this. The USGA's test is completely static. There is absolutely nothing they do that considers aerodynamic properties or any other dynamic force that allows the golfer to swing the club faster. So even if you don't buy that off-center performance not only differs (it does), or that it matters (it does), you can't reasonably pretend for half-a-second that the USGA gives any consideration to aerodynamics. They don't...not even a little.
If you can swing the club faster (which the USGA doesn't regulate), you will generate more ball speed, and ultimately more distance, and every bit of those aerodynamically-driven performance gains happens within the confines of the USGA's .830 box.
What I don't love about aerodynamics is that whatever improvements are achieved are disproportional to higher swing speed players. Thank the physics guys, or I suppose the universe, for that. Since speed benefits are proportional to Velocity2, guys who already swing the club faster get more extra clubhead speed.
You get a little bit, Bubba gets a little more.
Damn you, math. Damn you.
With the G Driver PING has three distinct aerodynamic stories...one familiar, two new, for 2016.
You're probably already familiar with the G30's Turbulators. For the G Driver, PING re-examined its Turbulators. While the company didn't phone a friend (Airbus maybe...) it did take a second (actually it's probably like a 37th) look at the size, height, and angle of the G-Series most distinctive feature. In what I suppose qualifies as a good news/bad news scenario, PING's additional research found that its Turbulators were already fairly well optimized.
An ever-so-slight change has been made to the angle at which the Turbulators sit, but otherwise the design is unchanged from the G30.
Clean & Smooth (Eye of the Beholder)
Next PING did a bit of reshaping. It smoothed the transition between the face and crown; making it less blunt. It raised crown up a bit near the leading edge, providing a bit more contour to help further reduce drag. The refined shaping gives the G Driver a more rounded, and arguably more traditional (Turbulators not withstanding) shape at address compared to the G30.
It should appeal more to traditionalists...again, Turbulators and Dragonfly crown not withstanding.
The most noticeable visual distinction between the G30 and the G Driver is most certainly the latter's addition of what PING calls Vortec technology. As with a good bit of what's in this story, the inspiration for Vortec came from an unusual place.
Consider a tractor trailer. It's a huge and blunt box on wheels that comes to a most unceremonious and abrupt ending. It's box and then nothingness. From an aerodynamic perspective it's a terribly inefficient design that results in a significant amount of vortex shedding - basically turbulent airflow swirling around at the end of trailer.
For a semi the vortex shredding increases the net drag force, ultimately resulting in decreased fuel mileage, while also creating a measurable amount of instability or wobble for the truck.
To smooth the airflow off the back, cargo trailers are now being outfitted with what's called trailer tails. I can't believe it's a real thing either (trailer tails, I mean. I'm good with Vortex Shedding). PING wondered if the trailer tail concept could be applied to the trailing edge of the driver.
After some initial computer simulations and player testing, PING decided it could. The design was finalized and the soon to be famous (among PING fans anyway) VORTEC technology was born. The Vortec Cavity - a hole, or dent of sorts, in the trailing edge of the driver - works in conjunction with Turbulators to help eliminate wake.
Instead of shedding vortices, the G Driver's Vortec cavity, shreds them.
PING's in-house player testing found that the addition of a Vortec cavity improved dispersion area (more consistent shot patterns). While it's a bit more difficult to quantify, there is some indication that the Vortec cavity provides a dynamic reduction in the oscillation of the clubhead through the downswing, which some players report as more stability and the feeling of more speed through the downswing.
Your actual mileage may vary on that one.
Better than G30?
The full impact of the improvements to the G Driver can only be born out (or not born out) through head to head testing, but the numbers themselves are compelling. Compared to the G30, the G driver provides a 37% reduction in drag when the face is in the square position (as we'd like it to be at impact), and an 11% reduction during the downswing.
All of that aerodynamic blah blah blah manifests itself as .7 to 1 MPH increase in clubhead speed for guys in the 90-100MPH range. As we've said, faster swings will see a bit more, slower swingers, a bit less.
Absolutely worth a mention, this is almost exactly the same increase PING realized in moving from the G25 to the G30.
Keep in mind, these are average numbers. Each of us has our own unique swing DNA...positions, release, etc.. All of that impacts the real-world aerodynamics of the club, which is why 2 guys with the exact same swing speed can achieve very different results.
Orders of Magnitude
You might (barely) recall that when G30 launched we shared with you that, in order to get the same aerodynamic benefits as the G30, (assuming all other design features remain unchanged) the G25 would have to be scaled down to 362cc.
There's a huge MOI hit that comes with that.
Now consider, again using the G25 as our basis for comparison; to achieve the same aerodynamic advantages as the G driver, the G25 would need to be reduced to 197cc.
Effectively G driver gives you the speed of a small head with the performance (MOI) of a bigger one...and then some.
As with the G30, the G Driver will be available in a Standard model, along with LS Tec (Low Spin), and SF Tec (Straight Flight) variants.
- The Standard G Driver is available in 9° and 10.5° with a stock swingweight of D3.
- The LS Tec, which has a lower and more forward center of gravity (lower spin) is also available in 9° and 10.5° with a stock swingweight of D4.
- The SF Tec, an extension of the K Series, is draw-weighted for slice correction. It's available in 10.5° and 12° with a stock swingweight of D1
All models are loft adjustable (+/- .6° or 1°).
Stock shaft offerings include the high balance point PING Alta 55 (45.75" - SR, R, S, X) and the PING Tour (45.25" - 65 & 80g, R, S, X) for $30 up-charge.
A New Headcover
Finally, PING has joined the fancy headcover craze, but they've taking it a step further by adding patent pending loops that make it a bit easier to pull the cover over the driver. It's a small thing, but it's definitely cool.
Specs, Pricing and Avaialability
MSRP for the G Driver is $435. Retail availability begins 2/11, but golfers can get fit and demo the product before that at authorized PING fitting accounts.
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- Driver: Cobra KING LTD w/ 75g Aldila Rogue Silver 125 MSI X
- Fairway: TaylorMade SLDR S Mini, 12° Fujikura Speeder X
- 3-4H: TaylorMade SLDR TP S
- 5-GW: PXG 0311 w/ KBS C-Taper S+
- SW: TaylorMade Tour Preferred EF Tour Grind (54° bent to 55°)
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- Putter: PING Karsten TR ZING