"The short version of the story is that the PING i20 driver is now the #1 Driver in our review database, and that's pretty damn impressive. We do believe that the majority of golfers would probably be better served by PING's G20 driver - especially if you're wise enough to place a premium on fairways. But if you're willing to sacrifice just a little bit of accuracy, the distance gains offered by the i20 might be worth it. I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for dropping the i20 in your bag today."
The Next Step Forward
This review of the PING i20 driver represents the latest small step in the evolution of MyGolfSpy's ULTIMATE REVIEW! System. We have always advocated for custom fitting (I may have suggested that off-the-rack is for chumps), and as the golf companies we work with have come to accept and support our review system, we now have the opportunity to better fit our testers for the equipment we test. We see the introduction of custom fitting is the logical progression of our review system.
For this review we worked with PING to ensure the best fit for our pool of testers. Though 2 of our test samples are basically off-the-rack models (sometimes off-the-rack does actually work), PING had the opportunity to provide any combination of shaft and i20 head. As we continue to build and evolve the ULTIMATE REVIEW System we expect custom fitting will play a role in the majority of the club tests we conduct. We don't believe golfers should buy off-the-rack, and we don't think clubs should be reviewed that way either.
PING i20 Driver
(Written By: @GolfSpy T) Perceptions are strange things. Once you have them, no matter how far away they are from reality, they can be difficult to shake. Such was my perception of PING. When I first started playing this game, none of the golfers I knew by name were PING staffers. Lots of the LPGA players had PING in their bags, and several of my more serious golfer friends had PING irons...and so my perception of PING was born. They are a club for women and serious amateurs. Boy did I get that wrong.
There are golf tournaments that really matter, and handful of others that manage to fill the field with guys you actually want to watch play, and there are others that are nice to fall asleep to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In my mind there have been two tournaments that matter this season. The first was the Accenture Match Play Championship. While not everyone will agree with me about its significance, as the only match play event on the PGA Tour, I think it matters. It also helps me make my point so we're going to roll with it. So as I was saying...at the Accenture Match Play Championship, PING staffers finished 1,3, and 4. The dominance was so impressive it led me to start a silly little rumor that the USGA is considering banning PING clubs.
The 2nd significant tournament of the season is, of course, the Masters. While most everyone on the planet knows that Bubba Watson is a PING staff (his pink driver has gotten a little bit of press lately), many may not have realized that the guy Bubba beat in extra holes, Louis Oosthuizen is also a PING staffer. So if you're keeping track at home...on my scoreboard that's 2 big tournaments, 2 PING wins, and a whole lot of action near the top. My point is while PING might not have the biggest tour roster, and they don't crank our commercials like some of the other guys, one could make a serious argument that when it comes to the things that matter most (like actually winning a tournament) PING is the most dominant name in golf. How's that for a change in perception?
With that out of the way, can we actually talk about the Ping i20 driver? Yeah...let's do that.
The Marketing Angle
In the interest of moving this along quickly, here's what PING wants you to know about the i20 Driver:
- Aerodynamic for Distance The crown is engineered to reduce drag for maximizing clubhead speed and ball velocity, resulting in greater distance.
- Long, Forgiving Dense tungsten weights add to MOI and position the CG for low-spin, penetrating trajectories, and long accurate drives
- Classic Shape A powerful-looking 460cc head design inspires confidence in golfers of all abilities.
How We Tested
For our test of the PING i20 driver we collected detailed performance data from 4 testers who were asked to hit a series of shots on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf. As usual, testing was done at Tark's Indoor Golf, a state of the art indoor golf facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is viewable just below the performance section of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. Our testers were also asked to rate the PING i20 Driver and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, sound & feel, perceived forgiveness, and LOP (likelihood of purchase). This information is used as the foundation for our total subjective score. Testing was done using 9.5° and 10.5° drivers in stiff and x-stiff flex. Drivers were outfitted with the PING TFC 707D (9.5 and 10.5 Stiff) and the PING TFC169D Tour (X-flex), which you may recall is a stock offering on the PING G20 Driver.
Like the last several driver tests we've conducted, tests of the Ping i20 were conducted under our updated testing protocols. Full details of our testing and scoring procedures can be found here. The short version is that scores are calculated based on a point system. Points are determined per shot using a formula of distance minus accuracy. Based on previous test results, we've assigned each of our four testers a theoretical maximum point value. The percentage of that maximum theoretical score that is achieved by each individual tester represents the individual score for the PING i20 driver. The total performance score is determined by the average score for our testers. Because only 4 testers were used for this test, no scores were dropped before calculating the overall score.
Just as a casual FYI, only 4 testers were used for this evaluation because Tim is now out for the season with injury (look for his replacement in upcoming reviews), and our senior tester did not participate because there is no loft/flex option in the PING i20 lineup that would offer even a satisfactory fit.
Distance & Launch
Given that our two shortest hitters did not participate in this review, it should come as no surprise that overall averages are higher than any previous review. Our 4 testers averaged 270.80 yards of total distance (256.17 yards carry). Noteworthy is that all 4 testers achieved distance totals that are above their historical averages, while two of our testers put up some of the biggest numbers they've ever achieved. Sufficed to say, looking at pure distance numbers, the PING i20 is at or near the very top of our all-time longest list.
Contrary to what many might believe, most golfers will find that the PING TFC 707D is actually the lower launching of the two stock shaft offerings for the i20 (the Project X black is the other). While our testers might generally be classified as low ball hitters, the majority posted vertical launch angles that are slightly higher than their averages (Nick has had amazing run of low bullets of late, so it was nice to see him moving closer to an optimum value - though he still has a ways to go).
As a group our testers averaged 11.44 degrees of vertical launch, with 13.27 on the high end and 9.69 on the low. In my particular case PING recommended the X-Stiff shaft, I assume, to help keep my runaway spin numbers in check.
Though it counts for nothing, I spent some time with our newest tester getting him ready to start testing for real. On one swing he carried the PING i20 almost 330 yards; the longest of any driver he hit for me...and probably the longest I've ever seen on the simulator.
Accuracy & Spin
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that PING's i20, a driver designed with the better player in mind isn't quite as accurate as either the G20 or other drivers with more of any everyday golfer slant. Our 4 testers missed the center of the fairway by an average of 17.65 yards. Our most accurate tester (and lowest handicap golfer) missed by 15.11 yards, while our least accurate tester missed by 21.25 yards. As you can see from the chart below, consistency, and grouping aren't quite as good as they've been in some other recent tests.
All things considered, the accuracy numbers are still pretty good. I mean...17.65...that's solid, and we're talking about a driver that's not really intended for mid-high handicap golfers.
Spin is perhaps the most intriguing of all the numbers we looked at with the G20. If anything, our tests suggest that PING's efforts to better fit our golfers (note: the fitting recommendations were based on previous results, not on a traditional, in-person fitting) resulted in spin numbers that were actually less than ideal. Though as a group our testers averaged 2460.07 RPM worth of backspin, one of our testers average just a little more than 2000 RPM, another managed an astonishing low 1678, which suggests that a softer shaft, or at least one with a softer tip, may have some benefit for him.
Still, even with lower spin numbers (good news if you're looking to reduce spin), the overall results were damn near awesome.
We look at driver performance as a delicate balance between raw distance and accuracy. While the accuracy numbers for nearly all of our testers were down slightly, the big distance numbers were more than enough to offset it. Anecdotally, what we discovered is a driver that might be the longest on the market today, and does a decent job of mitigating minor mistakes (5 years ago...maybe even 3 this would have been one of the most forgiving drivers on the market). Like most any other driver, the i20 will punish you for your mistakes, but the severity of that punishment is perhaps a slightly harsher than what you'll get from some of the other drivers we've tested recently. Still, I expect many of you will take the distance and except your spanking with a smile. I would.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 94.99
The Interactive Data
The charts below show the individual and group averages (black dotted line) for each shot our golfers took during our test of the PING i20 Driver. If you click on the "PING i20 - Test Range tab, you can see where each shot came to rest on our virtual driving range. Hovering over any point will give you all the details of that particular shot. You can use the filters on the right-hand side to show and hide individual golfer based on handicap and clubhead speed. Clicking on the " PING i20 - Raw Data" tab will show you the individual numbers and group averages for our testers.
PING is another company whose drivers haven't always fared well with our testers when it comes to the subjective stuff. I attribute that to design elements more than anything else. PING is known for making among the most forgiving drivers in the game, and certainly there are some associated aesthetic considerations. Of course, to PING's credit, they never really jumped on the square bus, or got involved in any of the triangular nonsense. While not always 100% traditional, the designs have always been mostly conventional...just not as pretty as some others.
It wasn't too long ago that I said something along the lines of "If PING has ever made a pretty golf club, I haven't seen it". Actually I probably said that before the Anser Forged irons came out, and after seeing the Ping i20, and listening to my tester's feedback, you'll never hear me say such a thing again.
Compared with the last two PING drivers we've reviewed (G20 & K15), the i20 is definitely more refined, more traditional...really just a whole lot nicer to look at. The most significant change/enhancement is the matte black crown (think Cleveland Hi-Bore). While companies who have moved to lighter crowns talk about contrast, what the matte finish completely eliminates both glare and shadows. No other finish does that nearly as well. It also happens to look really good.
The only knock on the crown is PING's alignment aid. Though perhaps more effective than most at its intended purpose (actually providing alignment rather than simply promoting the brand), it has never been the most popular with our testers. Quite honestly, I am slightly surprised they put it on what is offered as the driver of choice for better players.
The sole is largely smooth with only "PING and "i20" disrupting the flow of the majority of the surface area. Two tungsten sole weights are visible towards the rear. Visually they break things up a bit, which is good. They also make for visible technology, which golfers like, especially when it's the kind of technology you can only see when you want to see it.
Finally, the stock TFC 707D and Project X Black shafts make for very attractive black on black design, which is almost always popular with our testers. Honestly, I think all the elements are here for a perfect score, but get enough guys in a room, and one of them is bound to argue that Giselle Bündchen is a pig, so you know...
MGS Looks Score: 99.44
Sound & Feel
Overall our testers rated sound and feel above average, however; perceptions actually varied quite wildly. One tester, who believes he didn't hit it that well (he's wrong) told us he thought the driver was slightly loud and slightly harsh. In my estimation he's probably right...which is why I absolutely love the sound and feel of the PING i20.
In my opinion, for balls struck on the sweet spot, the PING i20 is absolutely the best feeling, and likely the best sounding driver we've ever had in for review. Seriously. The thing about the i20 is that when you miss that sweet spot by even just a little, the feel changes dramatically...it gets a little harsh, and a little clanky. You absolutely know you've missed. I love that too. There are no surprises that stem from a ball that wasn't as well struck as one thinks. Isn't that what feedback is all about?
And really, apart from massive distance, shouldn't there be some reward for perfect contact? With the PING i20 there absolutely is.
MGS Sound & Feel Score: 88.69
Last time we tested a driver I had some pretty insulting things to say about our testers who gave a club far lower forgiveness scores than I thought they should. This time around the forgiveness scores are even lower, but I'm inclined to agree. Looking at the dispersion patterns alone on our range chart suggests our testers weren't excessively consistent with the PING i20. Small mistakes are more pronounced and big mistakes don't show up on the map.
For what it is, it's still a very forgiving driver, but when you consider that PING actually offers two drivers more forgiving than the i20, it's neither a knock nor a surprise that this one isn't among the best in the forgiveness category.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 77.94
Likelihood of Purchase
Considering 2 testers told me they didn't hit the i20 well, I fully expected LOP scores to be low. Of course perceived performance is only a small part of the LOP equation, and having a club golfers like the looks of can go a long way towards enticing them to actually drop it into their bags.
While one testers rated the club a 7 (incidentally he put up his best score ever with the Ping i20 - though it is admittedly derived more from distance than by accuracy), everyone else scored it either an 8 or a 9, which in the grand scheme of things around here, is a pretty solid indicators that our testers liked the club.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 86.00
While I'm not the least bit surprised that our testers still haven't found it in them to rate a PING driver an overall "A" on our subjective scale. It's pretty clear our testers like what they see in the Ping i20, as this is as close as any PING driver has come to date.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 89.63
The Ping i20 is without question my favorite PING driver, and probably the first one for which I've loved the looks, the sound, and the feel as much as I've appreciated the performance. Even our testers who didn't hit the driver particularly well (or so they thought) put up some pretty impressive distance numbers. That said, it's not a driver I'd recommend to those of you who have trouble consistently finding the center of the club face (and yes...I'd count myself among you). The i20 simply isn't as straight as some of the more average joe-friendly designs on the market today, although it's unlikely you'll find a more forgiving driver targeted at better players.
If however, you're a better player...one of those annoying guys who constantly hits the center of the club face, and consequently not only hits it far, actually puts it in the fairway with regularity, then even if you wouldn't call yourself a fan of PING drivers, this is one you absolutely should be looking at. The distance is at time mind boggling, and as our testers found out, the combination of the Ping i20 head and PING TFC shaft are more than capable of dropping spin numbers to levels we've never seen.
In truth we'd be making a bigger deal about having a New #1 Driver, but we do have to allow some consideration for the custom fitting aspect, and the fact that we had two fewer testers than we normally have for drivers. Of course the majority of our testers did hit off-the-rack offerings, and, just to make sure the results weren't completely skewed I looked at a couple of "what if" scenarios. Even if our 2 missing golfers had tested the i20 and somehow posted their worst scores ever, the remaining 4 testers hit the i20 so well that it basically wouldn't have mattered. Maybe it's not #1, but it's still damn close, and that's what matters most.
Is it any wonder Bubba hits the ball so damn far?
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 94.45
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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°)
- LW: Callaway Mack Daddy PM Grind 60°
- Putter: PING Karsten TR ZING