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ULTIMATE REVIEW – PING I20 Hybrid

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ping i20 hybrid review

Speaking only for myself…if I had to buy a brand new, 2012 model year hybrid, there’s little doubt in my mind I’d buy anything other than the PING i20. I’m not going to let the “feel thing” go completely, but otherwise, among hybrids with similar designs and demographics, the i20 is absolutely the one to beat. It’s beautiful, yet sinister. Darth Vadar’s music should play when you pull this one out of your bag. It’s a weapon, and it looks the part.

PING i20 Hybrids

(Written By: GolfSpy T) Damn...it sure has been a while since we published an ULTIMATE Review of any kind (cut me some slack, hatching evil plans takes up quite a bit of my day), and longer still since we've published a hybrid review. But this one is definitely one your going to want to read. So why the big gap between hybrid reviews? Here's the truth as I see it (which I suppose makes it an opinion):

Hybrids are the most versatile, and potentially the most important clubs in the bag. Hear me out.

They're long enough to use off the tee on most par 4s, and the occasionally tricky par 5. They can get you to place most golfer's long irons won't get them (on to the green from 200+). They can get you out of place you shouldn't be (keep it low under the branches and still get great distance). And they can even been used around the greens when you need just a little bit more loft than your putter can provide.

Yet for everything they can offer - the performance, the versatility - almost nobody gives a damn about hybrids. Sure, most of us carry them, but few of us actually approach a hybrid purchase with the same excitement and demo-day dedication we do for drivers and irons.

Raise your hand if you've ever been fully custom fit for a hybrid. Anybody? I didn't think so.

Sure...some of us love our hybrids. I do - most days anyway - but almost nobody goes line-up-at-midnight crazy over the release of a new hybrid.

Maybe it's time that we changed that. Maybe it's time we all got a little more excited. Maybe it's time we all gave a damn. Maybe I'm just thinking wishfully, but caring has to start somewhere, and if we're all trying to get excited about a hybrid, the PING i20 is a damn good place to start.

The Marketing Angle

As always, we'll keep the rehashing of the company line to a minimum, but here's the quick version of what PING would like you to know about the i20 Hybrid:

  • It's Forgiving - More surface area low on the clubface ensures forgiveness to optimize launch conditions.
  • It's Workable - An innovative design gives you full command of the clubface for controlling trajectory and shot shape.
  • It's Compact - The straight leading edge and slim, contoured head make aiming easy.
  • It's Neutral - No offset, no closed or open faces here. The i20 sets up square and lets you do the rest.

How We Test

To find out more about how we test our hybrids: CLICK HERE

Testing Notes

  • MyGolfSpy Tested with the PING TFC 707 H shaft in stiff and x-stiff flex. PING also offers the new Project X Black as a stock offering.
  • Our senior tester did not participate in this test (he's well outside the target demographic for the i20 hybrid). With 5 testers participating, scores are based on the average of the best 4 of the 5 scores in each category.

ping i20 hybrid

PERFORMANCE SCORING

#3 Hybrid Performance (Off the Tee)

Worth noting out of the gate is that with 20° of the loft, PING's i20 hybrid could be considered slightly strong compared to the current tradition (21°). Of course, we'd also be remiss if we failed to point out that strongly to severely lofted hybrids are becoming more common, and 1 measly degree isn't exactly significant. Also worth mentioning is that PING's stock shaft length (40.25") is likely (I haven't done all the math) shorter than average.

Looking at raw distance, our testers averaged slightly more than 226 yards off the tee with the PING i20 #3 hybrid. Those numbers are slightly inflated (as most will be going forward), because one of our newest testers (Brian) averaged 252 yards with the 3-hybrid.

Our shortest tester still averaged over 200 yards (209.76), but when we remove him from the calculations, the overall distance average increases to 230.44. When our big hitter is removed instead, distances averages drop to a very respectable 219.78 yards.

When looking purely at our testers ability to hit the ball straight (or at least keep it close to the centerline) the results were mixed. Two testers averaged within 10 yards of the centerline (excellent). A 3rd averaged just slightly more than 13 yards offline (pretty damned good), while 2 testers actually missed the centerline by more than 20 yards on average (not so good).

One of the two least accurate golfers is our high handicap golfer. His ability level, coupled with his ability to hit the ball a long way would seem to account for his lack of control (while suggesting the i20 is perhaps not the most forgiving hybrid on the market). The 2nd inaccurate golfer is actually one of our single digit handicap golfers. For his part, he has always struggled with hybrids (has never found one he can hit well), and for that reason, doesn't actually have any in his bag. True story, he carries a 19 degree Callaway RAZR Black iron instead.

While overall the group averaged 15.3 yards offline, when the least accurate tester is pulled, averages increase to 12.83 yards from the center line. That's borderline outstanding.

The idea behind why we test #3 hybrids the way we do is to get a better feel how the club will perform for golfers who use their hybrids as alternatives to drivers or fairway woods on short par 4s, long par 3s, and in my case, narrow or otherwise troublesome par 5s.

When hit from a tee, our results suggest that for golfers who are generally comfortable with hybrids, the PING i20 offers an outstanding balance of distance and control with practically zero sacrifice in either area. Golfers who generally struggle with hybrids may be better served by something slightly more forgiving.

#3 Hybrid Performance Score: 93.41

#4 Hybrid Performance (Fairway Lie to Target)

Our test of #4 hybrids is designed to determine how well a given hybrid performs as a long iron replacement.

As a group, our testers missed their targets (the flag) by an average of 44.49 feet.  Our most accurate tester (and not surprisingly, our lowest handicap golfer) missed his target by an average of 35 feet (pretty impressive considering his target was set at 215 yards). Our least accurate (and highest handicap) tester missed by an average of 56.59 feet. When we remove him from the calculation, overall accuracy improves to 41.59 feet.

While those numbers don't sound overly impressive, the reality is that 3 years of testing has shown us that most golfers (even better golfers) struggle to control their hybrids. In that respect, for many golfers hybrids play more like fairway woods than the irons they're designed to replace.

As a group, our testers provided 9 total shots that came to rest within 20 feet of the hole. Interestingly, Nick, who generally struggles with hybrids, produced 1/3 of those shots. As it turns out, he also accounted for 2 of the four worst shots recorded with the #4 PING i20 hybrid (actually they may have been two of the worst shots in the history of golf). For many this is simply the nature of hybrids - when they work, they work well. When they don't, they're misery incarnate.

Not surprisingly our testers found it harder to hit greens than they did to hit fairways. As with the #3 hybrid, our test results would suggest that the i20 is an excellent choice for those who are already comfortable swinging hybrids, and who might be looking for control in a package that's more iron than fairway wood in appearance.

For guys who struggle to find greens with hybrids, PING's i20 by itself probably isn't going to provide the remedy.

#4 Hybrid Performance Score: 90.56


Performance Notes

I think many golfers will look at PING's stock shaft offerings for the i20 hybrid, and assume (like many did with the i20 driver) that the Project X Black is the lower spinning and lower launching of the two options. In actuality, it's PING's own TFC 707 H that produces the lower ball flight.

As noted above, we tested exclusively with the TFC 707 shaft, and the results were in line with expectations. Like the i20 driver we tested earlier this season, the i20 hybrid launched lower (14.25° 3-hybrid, 16.59° 4-hybrid), and spun less (3782/4250 RPM) than many, if not all, of the hybrids we've tested to date. For golfers who find they launch most hybrids too high, or generate excessive spin, the i20 is likely among the best options on the market today.

For golfers seeking slightly higher launch and spin, the Project X Black shaft will likely produce more desirable results.

MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 90.31

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 Hybrids. You can click on each of 2 tabs (PING i20 - 3 Hybrid, PING i20 - 4-Hybrid to see the raw data (averages) for each of our testers. You can use the filters on the right-hand side to show and hide individual golfer based on handicap or golfer.

SUBJECTIVE SCORING

Looks

From a looks perspective it's hard to find fault with anything the engineers and designers at PING did wrong with the i20. Some may miss the Klingon battle axe of an alignment aid PING has used one some recent clubs, and I suppose some won't like that the leading edge of the crown isn't matte black like the rest of the club (the design helps keep idiot marks to a minimum), but I believe the absence of the former, and the inclusion of the latter make the i20 twice over the best looking hybrid PING has ever designed - 10 times over if we're comparing it to the K15.

Whether it's the TFC or the Project X, either stock shaft works perfectly with PING's all-black approach to the hybrid. Even the sole is relatively understated (by PING standards). Requisite markings (model, loft, and of course, manufacturer) aren't overdone, and work flawlessly with the Tungsten weights that provide the visible technology that golfers love, without any of the distractions better players loathe.

It's beautiful, yet sinister. Darth Vadar's music should play when you pull this one out of your bag. It's a weapon, and it looks the part.

MGS Looks Score: 96.75

Sound & Feel

Our testers were decidedly mixed when it came to this particular aspect of the i20 driver, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that survey results were very similar for the hybrid.

Sid, our lowest handicap golfer, pointed to a lack of immediate feedback and feel on solidly struck balls as one of the only shortcomings of the i20 hybrid. I'm inclined to agree. While solidly struck balls from the driver had a discernibly different (totally f-in awesome) feel to them, with the hybrid feedback is almost too consistent with respect to how well-struck balls feel compared to less than ideally struck shots.

Simply put, the feel component of the PING i20 doesn't measure up to the looks...or the performance. It's slightly dull in general, and the best of shots aren't rewarded with that undeniable pop that makes you and your playing partners take notice (well...they take notice...you dance around the tee box because you know it's going to be good).

None of this is meant to suggest the Ping i20 offers poor feel, but I certainly wish it offered something just a bit sexier.

MGS Feel Score: 88.69

Perceived Forgiveness

Look...the PING i20 hybrid isn't trying to be the most forgiving hybrid in the PING lineup. If you want forgiving, buy a Ping K15. That's a forgiving hybrid. It ain't pretty, but it doesn't go anywhere but straight, and it pretty much goes the same distance no matter where on the face you happen to make contact. The i20 ain't that.

Of course, forgiveness is relative, and when you consider the compact head and other design elements targeted at better players, I'd argue (complete with finger pointing) that the PING i20 is more forgiving that it probably should be. As I've mentioned a couple of times already; whether or not the i20 is a viable option for you depends almost totally on your comfort level with hybrids in general.

If you're like me, and you find yourself more comfortable as the hybrid  head gets smaller, than yeah...the i20 likely offers all the forgiveness you really need. If the thought of swinging a hybrid in a key situations causes you to nearly soil your knickers, or if you're simply more confident standing over a big-headed monstrosity of a hybrid, then you'll probably want more forgiveness than the i20 can offer.

Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 86.00

Likelihood of Purchase

Here's a shocking story - the guy who hates hybrids (and with good reason based on his test results), said it's highly unlikely he'd purchase a PING i20 hybrid. Our highest handicap golfer loved the club (especially the distance), but had concerns about the forgiveness. Generally speaking, the PING i20 hybrid received above average LOP scores from our testers.

I personally rated it just a tick below a 9, and truthfully, I might have low-balled it. As I mentioned, I don't love the feel, but when one steps back and surveys the latest generation of hybrids, there are some realities you have to consider.

Hybrid heads are getting bigger. Those of us who prefer more compact, almost iron-like heads are finding that our options are dwindling. From a performance perspective, most hybrids are designed to help the average golfer get the ball in the air. That means hybrids are designed to launch high, and yup...spin lots. Sure...the right shaft can help, but look around...who's talking about hybrid shafts? Nobody, that's who.

So what's that leave for guys like us? If you're looking for a minimally offset, compact hybrid released in 2012, quite frankly, there's almost nothing, and none of that is likely to match the i20. Speaking only for myself...if I had to buy a brand new, 2012 model year hybrid, there's little doubt in my mind I'd buy anything other than the PING i20.

Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 90.64

It wasn't that long ago (basically everything before the i20 series) that PING clubs performed very well for us, but got smacked around like a red-headed stepchild on the subjective side of things. Those days are clearly over (at least so long as we're reviewing the i20 lineup) as PING has absolutely killed it with our testers. I'm not going to let the "feel thing" go completely, but otherwise, among hybrids with similar designs and demographics, the PING i20 is absolutely the one to beat.

TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 91.24

CONCLUSION

There's not much I can, or need to add that hasn't already been said. The PING i20 is a damn good hybrid that backs up its stunning good looks with outstanding performance. Yeah...I still wish it offered slightly better feel, but I'm trying to get over it.

The real takeaway here is that the PING i20 series actually has me questioning my own sanity...or at least my golf intelligence. The i20 driver is a low spinning missile launcher that might very well be the longest driver on the market today (and it's not like it's not accurate t'boot). We'll be testing out the i20 irons very soon, and while I haven't spent an exhaustive amount of time with them, I'll preview the review by saying I liked them more than I thought I would.

And now there's the PING i20 hybrid. It's long. For me it's as accurate as anything, and I'm relatively certain it spins less, and is less likely to get caught up in the wind than a couple of the hybrids that are currently in my bag.

So why don't I have any PING clubs in my bag? I honestly have no idea...and certainly no good reason. The last several we've tested have been among the very best in general, and with the i20's uncanny ability to keep spin under control while reaching ridiculous distances borders on unreal. Quite frankly, I'm starting to think I might just be an idiot.

MGS TOTAL SCORE: 90.63

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Review Summary

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

jmiller065 July 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Nice post T, I agree with you Hybrids don’t create anywhere near the amount of buzz as drivers and irons. Not sure why the hybrid is a great club if you know how to properly use it. I love the looks of the Ping i20, it reminds me of the Adams Pro a12, and Tour Edge Exotics CB4 in terms of a square face angle and a compact head. The all black face and crown looks sweet, I love that dark look personally.

I have to mention one thing, I have been fit personally for a hybrid shaft, so I can raise my hand in that department. I figured out my loft from testing different lofts and different brands what was going to work well for my distance gap that I wanted to fill between my 4wood and 4 iron, I knew it needed to be a 2iron type loft of 18 or 19*.

As for consistency with the Hybrid / Fairway metals I think it comes down to people always being told to sweep the ball with these clubs. Trackman stats for the PGA Tour tell a different story as to what is going on. The average launch angle for a hybrid (16* to 21*) is 10.2*, the average launch angle for a 3 wood (13 to 15*) is 9.2* the average launch angle on a 5wood (18*). If you come into impact at a 0* angle of attack there is no way a 18* club can get down to 10* launch angle. This means that the best players in the world are still trapping the ball to some extent into impact on hybrids and irons.

Hybrids and Fairways are specifically designed to glide and not dig into the ground, you can use that to your advantage by making a descending blow like you would an iron. It’s not going to dig into the turf real deep unless you screw it up very badly then you have to worry about breaking your wrists. In all seriousness when i hit a 4wood or my 19* hybrid from the fairway I make sure that on lush fairways I can see torn out blades of grass or even a very shallow divot trimming the blades of grass off the op of the soil.

When you all get some spare time look up Tiger Woods hitting a fairway wood from a face on view you will see that he takes a visible divot with that sucker and hits it 280 or something wild like that. Even when he has it on a tee you see a very small splash divot. Look up Tom Watson hitting a Hybrid in the 2009 Open Championship you can see the grass come up after impact from a divot if you find the video I just watched.

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jmiller065 July 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Tiger Woods with a fairway tee’d up (look close at the dirt near impact) –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_U8yd94xjc

Tom Watson (hard to see the blades of grass that come up from the divot but you can see the steep angle of attack) –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdHzT_zuU7w

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Golfspy Matt July 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

JMiller: Good point, and I’ll do you one better with the actual Angle of Attack stat: 3.3 degrees DOWN on a hybrid is the PGA Tour average.

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ms1195 July 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Great review of a very good looking club. I would be interested to see how this club stacks up against the “new gen” hybrids, meaning the RBZ and Adams Super XTD. The i20 has them in the looks dept, but I am very interested to see what kind of numbers the velocity slots can put up.

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GolfSpy T July 18, 2012 at 5:41 am

We haven’t hit the XTDs in any capacity, so I can’t really say anything about the actual performance. With respect to the RBZ (full disclosure, I have one in my bag), it’s a great hybrid, but… I’m not sure you can draw a direct comparison between the RBZ and the i20.

The i20 has a much more compact, iron-like design. It reminds me a bit of the Titleist 585H, and isn’t that much larger than perhaps the most current model in any OEM’s lineup, the Adams Idea Pro a12 (I carry two of those).

The XTD and RBZ are both what I’d classify as modern hybrids (larger heads, more fairway wood than iron). That’s not a bad thing. It’s a design that inspires more confidence, and simply works better for some. But they’re also significantly different than the more compact designs. It’s a bit like the difference between a game-improvement iron and a player’s cavity-back. Figuring out which is better for you starts with finding out what suites your eye.

The RBZ hybrid I carry is the 16.5 degree tour model. Apart from my driver it’s the longest club in my bag (I carry zero fairway woods). It works great off the tee (I call it my mini-driver), and is very easy to hit off the fairway and out of moderate rough. I love the club, but when I get into the higher lofted clubs, I prefer the much more compact appearance of the Pro a12. There’s simply no way I’d replace those with an RBZ or XTD (they’re just too big for the role they need to play). Now…If TaylorMade were to make the measurable smaller tour issue RBZ heads (or an RBZ Peanut) available, I’d consider making the switch.

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Emaan July 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

How do they compare to the Adams Idea Super XTD? How about a review of those?

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GolfSpy T July 18, 2012 at 5:24 am

We may do something with the Adams XTDs, however; they don’t fit well in our review process. The highest lofted club offered is 21 degrees, so there is no true 4 iron replacement option. The other ripple is that the XTD has a titanium face, which theoretically should fly farther than comparable steel faced clubs. Of course, there’s a price premium to pay because of that titanium face.

While some guys might carry 2 or 3 of them, for average to well above average players, I see the XTD more as a fairway wood replacement. With 15 and 17, and 19 degree options you could replace one or two fairway woods (depending on what you carry), and only lose a little distance while picking up control. The once ripple is that the XTDs have a shorter shaft, which on paper would make them shorter than most clubs with the same loft. Whether or not the velocity slot and titanium face can offset that, I really don’t know (at least without testing them). When you get right down to it, it’s kind of a strange club (strong lofts, below average shaft length).

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DogBreath July 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm

As you suspected, my ancient Adams Tech OS 2H/3H/4H hybrids are 1/2 inch longer than the Pings. Part of me would welcome a slightly shorter shaft, but I hit these guys really good. I keep trying to replace the 2H with a 4W, but there is so much more consistency that the marginal extra distance from the 4W has yet to compete.

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LionWedge July 19, 2012 at 6:14 am

Not for single digit only! I had to replace 26 Nickent Golf with something slightly longer. I opted for a 23 Ping i20 hybrid and it is my favorite club in the bag. I’m a 20+ handicap, I hit it 170m (185yd). I use iT almost systematically when I have about 170m to go: off the tee on long par 3, from fairway or rough. I’m not too fond of woods around the gren for chipping. This is clearly the club I swing more consistently, straighter than any club to get that distance, always a good ball flight, no wild hook or slice… I can’t work the ball (i mean on purpose. ;-) but i admit that freeback is not as good as with other woods or irons I have. But this is definitively my favourite club. I bought a 17 deg. as well and get a consistant 20-30 yards more. I prefer this one to my 5 wood simply because it is easier to swing. I just love my 2 i20 hybrids.

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MICHAEL July 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

This is one of the best hybrids I have ever hit.I’ve played Adams hybrids for awhile now,and must say that I love these clubs,but the I20 all I can say is DAMMMMMMMNNN!! Gotta get one of these!! :)

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Valdeane W. Brown July 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

I’ve never owned a hybrid, can’t hit them, really didn’t even like the idea of them, carried 2, 3 and 4 irons (Ping S-56). Then I got the I 20 Driver, then I 20 Fairway 3 & 5 and now an I 20 23deg hybrid. I absolutely love it! All of my clubs are lengthened with the irons being yellow dot, AWT stiff shafts and stock shafts for everything else, except for being anyway 1/2″ longer.
I’ve liked the 23 deg so much that I’ve even been thinking about the 20 and 17 degree. Yeah lots of options in the long club department but conditions change a lot and dramatically at my home course.

Great review.

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mbruns July 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I could not agree more! I purchased the I20 17 & 20 degree hybrids 2 months ago and they are absolutely the 2 best clubs I’ve ever owned. They are easy to work, they look sharp, they are unbelievably long! I absolutely love these hybrids and would recommend them to anyone of any skill level!

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Ian Bridge July 20, 2012 at 2:52 am

I am happy that this club suitable for the author. My bag is full of G15s except for a Bobby Grace Putter and my Adams Idea 2iron 17 deg Hybrid which I have had for many years. Its just a great bit of gear with all the little tricks of a hybrid out of the rough and around the greens. I bought a Ping G20 Hybrid recently and after trying it for two months left it in the shed. It is 20deg which is the equivalent of a 5 wood. This was useless as a 5 wood is dead easy to use and can be replaced by irons. The original concept of Hybrids was to replace hard to hit long irons . I am assumming that the I20 is less forgiving then the G20 (Or so the salesman claimed) The seller of the G20 said I can trade it in on a 17deg hybrid which I will consider. Ping make great clubs but I really think Hybrids are better used for their orignal purpose ie replacing 2,3 & 4 irons .

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robert wille September 29, 2012 at 9:18 am

I recently received the I-20 hybrid with 23 degrees to replace my 4 iron. As usual the ball flight is higher than an iron. This I-20 is long and straight, and works great on long par 3 (over 210 yards).

I am seriously thinking of getting another I-20 with a lesser loft, also with a stiff shaft.

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