Let’s face it; PING can be a little boring. They don’t throw huge launch parties. They don’t make bold distance claims, and product releases generally come at a tortoise’s pace. I mean, my god…it’s been 2 WHOLE YEARS since the i20! How crazy (by TaylorMade and Callaway standards anyway) is that? Those guys will probably give me two more stories this month? PING...I’ll be lucky to get two more this year.
With all the fanfare of a typical PING announcement - that is to say there isn’t much - the Phoenix, Arizona based company let it be known that the 2-year old i20 series is getting an upgrade. In addition to the new i25 line, PING also announced a new hybrid/iron set (the Karsten), and a handful of Karsten TR Putters.
From an equipment writer’s perspective the PING way would border on intolerable if not for the nearly indisputable fact that each and every PING product is always better…even if only slightly so…than what came before it. The G20 was better than the G15, the G25 is unquestionably better than the G20 (by many accounts the PING G25 is the most forgiving driver on the market right now), and so the reasonable expectation is that the i25 is better than the i20, which is pretty damn impressive considering the i20 remains one of the best drivers we’ve ever tested.
Come to think of it, consistently improving performance almost completely devoid of hype is probably something we should all get excited about it.
PING I25 Driver
From our perspective (and hopefully some of yours), the most compelling thing we can tell you about PING’s i25 driver is that it is indeed mystery driver #13 in Our Upcoming 2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Driver Test.
PING, however, would probably appreciate it if we shared a few other noteworthy bits about their upcoming metalwoods line.
While the PING i20 Driver was generally regarded as being for better players, or at least higher swing speed players, PING is doing what I think is a better job of defining the i25 player. The reality is that depending on a variety of swing characteristics, golfers of all ability levels, and even different swing speed ranges, could benefit from a lower spinning driver like the i25.
The limiting fitting factor of the i25 is loft. PING maxes the i25 Driver out at 10.5°, and while it probably would never have been a huge seller anyway, the lack of a 12°/HL option is a bit disappointing. Beyond that, for golfers looking for a bit less spin (compared to the average driver), a flatter ball flight, and more roll, the i25 looks pretty sweet.
Essentially the guy we’re talking about is a mid to high spin golfer who may not want to eat the loss of forgiveness that comes with some of the other low spin drivers on the market right now.
To maintain MOI, or in this case, actually improve it compared to the previous model, PING has strategically placed tungsten weights at the perimeter of the golf club. To an extent, it’s boiler plate stuff, but the takeaway here is that you don’t necessarily have to trade ball speed for forgiveness.
For me, the most intriguing aesthetic design element of the i25 is the racing stripes PING chose to put on the crown. PING has traditionally shied away from doing much of anything flashy with their drivers. Simple and understated is generally how PING does thing, so it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the stripes represent a step of sorts outside of the traditional PING box.
Rest assured, the stripes actually serve a purpose. As you might guess, they’re designed to improve alignment. PING says the graphics can come into play at setup (initial alignment of both the clubface, and the body towards the target), during the takeaway, and even at impact.
For whatever it’s worth, while I’m not ready to speak to any actual benefits of the racing stripes, as far as semi-elaborate crown designs go, the i25’s are exceedingly well done.
We’ve seen similar striped designs before (Geek’s No Brainer springs to mind), but the difference here is that stripes are muted, and contrast only slightly from matte black paint on the rest of crown. None of the guys participating in our Most Wanted Driver test have had anything negative to say about them, and quite frankly, my personal take is that the stripes are a huge improvement over what I’ll continue to describe as the Klingon Battle Axe alignment aid found on the G Series.
Also introduced with the i25 driver, fairway, and hybrid is PING’s new PWR (Performance, Weighting, and Responsiveness) Shaft. The shafts, available in 55g, 65, and 75g, are available in different flexes and profiles to fit a wide range of golfers.
What differentiates the PWR series from basically anything out there on the market is that it gives golfers the unique ability to move between different weights, flexes, and profiles without altering the swingweight of their driver.
You can order your i25 at your preferred swingweight and know that you can mix and match any shaft in the PWR series without changing the way the club feels in your hands.
PWR Series shafts are available in the following weights and flexes: Stock graphite shafts: PWR 55 (R, S); PWR 65 (R, S, Tour S, Tour XS); PWR 75 (S, Tour S, Tour XS). Each weight is differentiated from the others by the color of the graphics (55 – Red, 65 – Black, 75 – grey).
The i25 driver is available in lofts of 8.5°, 9.5°, and 10.5°. The PWR Series shaft (your choice) is stock. While others continue to push the upper limits of what’s controllable, stock length for the i25 is more playable 45.25”.
MSRP for the i25 Driver is $440, but you can expect the actual street price to be less.
i25 Fairway Woods and Hybrids
The i25 fairway offers a compact design that PING describes as “hot off the tee” (that’s about as ostentatious as PING gets). It features a tall face and internal weighting designed to help boost MOI.
The i25 Fairway Wood is available in 14° (Strong 3W), 15° (3W), and 18° (5W). Stock shafts are the same PWR series found in the driver.
MSRP for the i25 Fairway Wood is $275, but again, street price will be less.
The i25 hybrid, which we assume is also hot when used off the tee (or anywhere else) has what PING is calling a more-forward hosel. Let’s call it what it is…offset. It offers reduced bulge and roll, a straighter leading edge, and a more squared-off toe.
Add to that an overall compact design, and what you really have is a player-centric hybrid with more forgiveness than you might expect.
To give you every bit of possible distance while still maintaining consistent gaps, PING placed the CG back in the lower lofted hybrids (higher launch) and more forward in the higher lofted clubs (lower launch, less spin).
Like the driver and fairway woods, the i25 hybrids feature PING’s PWR shafts (80g and 90g) and also maintain swingweight across all weights and flexes.
The i25 Hybrid is available in 17°, 19°, 22°, and 26°.
MSRP for the i25 Hybrid is $242.50, but (and stop me if you’ve heard this before), actual street price will be less.
Both the fairway and hybrids are made from 17-4 stainless steel. The fairway woods leverage the same +- ½ degree adjustable hosel system as the driver, and also feature the racing stripe crown alignment design. The hybrids aren’t adjustable, and because of the comparatively shallow depth, there’s not enough room for the racing stripes to be beneficial, so PING left them off.
The long irons feature larger heads with broader soles to promote higher launch and more forgiveness. What PING calls narrow face-stabilizing bars increase velocity.
The Mid and short irons are comparatively more compact, have narrower soles and less offset. Wider stabilizing bars are designed to produce a lower, more controlled ball flight with better feel.
Irons with pronounced performance and feel differences between the long and short irons are becoming more and more common as manufacturers work to build individual irons better suited to the task at hand. Basically, the ideal ball flight differs dramatically from a 5 iron to a 9 iron, as does the amount of forgiveness necessary to make the iron playable. PING and others are starting to explicitly account for that.
Manufacturers are placing more emphasis on these distinctions and are showing a willingness to compromise on the continuity of the set as a whole if the end product achieves the desired result.
As we’ve come to expect from PING, the i25 irons are bulkier than you might find in similarly placed irons, but the PING way has always been one of performance before appearance, and while no doubt prettier designs will appeal to many, I suspect that for the guy who likes (or even tolerates) the aesthetic qualities, the performance will be tough to beat.
PING i25 Iron Specifications
Stock Shaft: PING CFS (Steel), PING TFC 189i (Graphite)
MSRP: $110/club (steel), $137.50/club (graphite)
Karsten Hybrid/Iron Set
Perhaps the most intriguing of the products announced today, if only for the fact that it was more of a surprise than everything else, is the Karsten Hybrid/Iron set. While your initial assumption might be that it’s a direct replacement for the super game-improvement K15 set (that was my thought), that’s not really the case.
PING isn’t using the phrase Super Game-Improvement with the Karsten. Instead, PING is emphasizing the fact that the Karsten is designed to be a true distance iron, which makes it a first for PING.
It almost goes without saying that distance irons like TaylorMade’s SpeedBlade, Callaway’s X2 Hot, and Cobra’s BiOCell are part of the biggest trend in the iron market right now, and PING hopes that their offering will appeal to that same broad audience.
According to PING, unlike those other distance irons on the market, their new irons are engineered to provide predictable distance control, and an extremely high MOI; offering forgiveness and feel not usually associated with the distance category.
While the Karsten’s head sizes are similar to the K15’s, that’s really where the comparisons end. The Karsten provides higher ball speeds and higher launch, which provide greater distance, and steeper descent angles; producing shots that basically stop where they land.
Made from 17-4 stainless, the Karsten features a wide sole design, and a deep center of gravity. Like other PING designs, the Karsten features a polymer Custom Tuning Port (CTP) which helps reinforce the thin face that provides those ball speeds I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
The hybrids have a deeper profile and are designed to blend in perfectly with the irons while maintaining consistent distance gaps.
Finally, an extreme (PING’s word) amount of internal heel and toe weighting raises the MOI to provide maximum performance, even on those shots that might not be struck with the sweet spot.
What we’re talking about is a textbook PING iron designed to go farther than anything they’ve designed before.
Karsten Hybrid/Iron Specs
Hybrids are available with graphite shaft only, and are not sold separately.
Stock Shaft: PING CFS Distance (Steel)/ PING KS401 (Graphite)
MSRP: 106.25/club (Steel), $125/club (graphite)
Karsten TR Putters
Finally, PING is introducing 5 new putters featuring their popular TR (True Roll) Technology. It’s probably safe to assume that GolfSpy Dave is going to take a deeper look at these in the near future.
For now, we’ll just mention that the Karsten TR Series features a copper PVD finish, and includes models to fit all stroke types (Straight, Slight Arc, and Strong Arc).
Models include: Anser 2 (345g, Slight Arc), B60 (345g, Slight Arc) , PAL (360g, Slight Arc), Anser 5 (365g, Straight), and Zing (350g, Strong Arc)
MSRP for each putter is $162.50. Add $35 for adjustable-length models.
More Coming Soon
As we've already mentioned, the PING i25 Driver is part of our 2014 Golf's Most Wanted Driver Test, and as we get deeper into 2014 we fully expect to be taking a closer look at this entire new lineup from PING. Stay tuned.