"When you consider that our testers were equally as positive about the sound and the feel, it's fairly obvious why the K15 Fairway deserves every bit of the A-level final score."
PING K15 Fairway Review
It wasn't that long ago that we reviewed the PING K15 driver, and it won't be that long before we review the PING K15 Hybrid/Iron set, but today we're focusing our attention on the K15 fairway woods, and specifically the 16° 3-Wood. What we took away from our review of the K15 driver is that PING was able to create what they classify as a Super Game Improvement club, with enough refinement that better players might actually consider bagging it. The performance numbers were rock solid. The driver did an insane job of reducing side spin, and really, the only complaints are testers had centered around the esthetics. On performance alone the PING K15 was a standout performer, and as our tests proved, the same is more or less true of the K15 fairway woods.
According to PING, like the K15 driver, the K15 fairway wood features Straight Flight Technology (SF Tec), which offers maximum forgiveness, while being versatile enough to play from the fairway or light rough. Though we'll talk about it a bit more in the "looks" section, the key to the K15 Fairway Wood's appeal is its extremely shallow face height, which not only makes it easy to hit from tight lies, equally as important, it makes it look easy to do just that.
First A Word About Fairway Woods
Before we get into the review itself, I wanted to share a couple of observations about fairway woods in general. Firstly it seems like PING and others in the industry are taking the complete opposite approach to fairway woods than they have taken with irons. Where in many cases iron lofts are getting stronger (distance will always be king), with fairway woods, they're actually getting weaker. Take for example the K15. For many years the traditional loft for the 3 wood has been 15°. For the K15, however; like the relatively recent G15 and I15 series (15.5°), PING has elected to add loft to the 3 wood (16° in the case of the K15), which almost certainly is designed to help the struggling golfer get the ball in the air. I suspect the lofting of 3 and 5 woods also accounts for the relative rise in popularity of the strong 3 wood, and the 4 wood.
Secondly, we're really starting to wonder if fairway woods are slowly going the way of the dodo (or at least the 48° pitching wedge). When I started playing the game (nearly a decade ago), almost everyone I played with carried both a 3 and a 5 wood. In a relatively short period of time, my observations are that nearly everyone has dropped at least one of their fairway woods in favor of a hybrid, and some have dropped both. In my case, I actually pulled the 3 and 5 woods from my bag and replaced them with a 4 wood and a wedge. It may not be long before I replace the 4 wood with a another hybrid.
All of this has us wondering; do golfers still need, or even want fairway woods?
How We Tested
The 6 golfers for whom we collected detailed performance data 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 now viewable in the interactive portion of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. As a supplement to our 6 performance testers, a subset of additional golfers were given the opportunity to test the PING K15 Fairway 3 Wood and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, sound, perceived distance, perceived accuracy, perceived forgiveness, and likelihood of purchase). This information, which we also collected from our performance testers, is used as the foundation for our total subjective score. Testing was done with a 16°, 3 wood in stiff flex.
Just like our last review (Titleist 910H), this is the first review we've done of a fairway wood using the new review system, so it's too soon to say how any of these numbers will truly stack up against future competition. Of course, when a couple of your testers put up distance numbers that are uncomfortably close to their averages with a few of the drivers we've tested this year, it does make us think that PING might have yet another distance machine in their lineup.
It's not uncommon for regular tester, Dan, to clear 300 yards with his driver. To clear 290 with a 3 wood (as he did on two of his shots - with 3 more above 280)...well, that is unusual. Mark, who is often our shortest driver tester also posted some comparatively big numbers. In fact, all of our testers, including Rob (who freely admits he struggles with woods), posted adjusted average scores that were less than 15 yards from their average driver distance, and for some (Mark), the averages were closer to 5 yards apart.
MGS Distance Score: 95.47
It will be extremely interesting to see how the K15's accuracy numbers hold up against the other fairway woods we may eventually test. The bottom line is we think that most golfers just aren't that accurate with their fairway woods, and while the PING K15 may prove to be above average in that respect, it's clearly not the answer to all that ails.
Every one of our testers hit his fair share of big misses, although it's worth mentioning that the majority of big misses were to the left, which suggests the K15 fairway wood could offer some benefit to those of you fighting a slice with your fairway woods.
All of our testers, however, posted adjusted average misses of between 13 and 19 yards. To put this in perspective, that number is only marginally better than what we generally see when we test drivers (although from time to time we do have a tester post an average driver miss of under 10 yards). Still, we think that these numbers will actually prove to be above average when we compare them to future fairway wood reviews.
MGS Accuracy Score: 87.94
Considering how difficult many find fairway woods to hit, the PING K15 managed to post solid, though not extraordinary consistency numbers. With the exception of Mark, who was quite literally all over the map with his shots, our testers all posted decent to above average consistency numbers. Somewhat surprisingly, Rob, who struggled to achieve the distance of our other testers, posted the highest overall consistency score, while myself, Jeff, and Dan, all trailed by only a few points. Other than Mark, Nick was the only one of our testers unable to achieve A level scores for consistency.
MGS Consistency Score: 92.44
Distance alone is probably reason enough to consider the K15. Heck, I'd even make the case that some of our testers could probably replace their driver with this. Accuracy scores are solid, and realistically I don't think we'll see many better from a fairway wood. The same is true of consistency where, even though there's theoretical room for improvement, the very nature of fairway clubs suggests we won't see anything significantly better.
On performance alone, the K15 Fairway, is every bit as impressive as its big brother the K15 driver.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 91.83
Let me say one thing right out of the gate; the subjective results for the K15 Fairway caught me totally be surprise. Normally during a testing session I really get a sense for how a tester feels about the club. Usually there are comments along the way that cover just about every survey we cover. With the K15, however; with the exception of those who commented about how long it was, nobody said much of anything. So while I expected distance numbers to be big, I was actually caught off by how much our testers really liked the K15.
Quite frankly, I don't have much to go on here. Nobody commented on the K15's alignment aid (to me it looks like some sort of Klingon weapon (last StarTrek reference ever). Nobody said a word about the sole graphics. In fact the only comments we received were to compliment how the club looks at address, and to point out that the shallow face made it easier to hit.
While I certainly agree with the shallow face assessment (it definitely leaves one feeling like sweeping the ball off the fairway is no big thing), normally our testers have more to say one way or the other. Instead our testers marked down a mix of a 8s, 9s, and 10s, and moved on.
MGS Looks Score: 89.58
There was a bit more discussion around feel than there was with looks, but that's not saying a whole lot. One tester mentioned that he really loved the weight of the club (feels "right" in his hands), while a few others mentioned how good the club feels when you catch the ball on the center of the face. Some said it was slightly muted on mis-hits, which is expected, but overall, the K15 offers truly exceptional feel in a fairway wood.
MGS Feel Score: 96.75
We've had plenty of testers tell us that they don't care what their driver sounds like if they hit it well. With fairway woods, that sentiment seems to be even more prevalent. Still, our testers largely approved of the sound with only one tester rating it below an 8. There were also some 9s and 10s, which basically illustrates that when a tester decides he likes a club, numbers go up across the board.
MGS Sound Score: 87.79
We've already talked about our tester, Rob, who struggles with the longer clubs. Not surprisingly, he gave the club it's lowest perceived distance rating, and that was an 8. Based on the test results, I'm fairly convinced this is one of the longest (if not THE longest) 3 wood on the market today, and more importantly, for the subjective scores anyway, our testers are all but certain that the PING K15 is a filthy long 3 wood.
Rob's 8 (which is as a high of a low score as we've seen), was offset by plenty of 9s and 10s. If distance is your thing, our testers say this is the club.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 96.75
While the data says that accuracy is probably just average, our testers apparently think differently. Once again Rob gave the low rating (7), while our other testers almost universally gave the club high marks. While there was a single 10 (and I don't think there should have been), 8s, and 9s ruled the day, leading to a fairly impressive perceived accuracy score, which is probably a bit higher than the data suggests it should be.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 91.38
Knowing the history of our previous reviews, the forgiveness score sticks out as a bit of anomaly. It's highly unusual for forgiveness to be rated below both distance and accuracy, but that's exactly what happened with the K15 Fairway.
Not a single tester gave it a 10, although most gave out 8s, and 9s. So while I think our testers were correct in their assessments, it seems almost strange to see both distance and accuracy numbers above 90, when the forgiveness scores don't measure up.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 87.79
Likelihood of Purchase
One would think that given the strength of the other subjective scores, LOP would be a slam dunk. As it turns out, that's not quite the case. While overall our testers thought very highly of the K15, a couple told us that they weren't sure the K15 was that much better than their current 3 wood. A couple more told us that if they were to replace a fairway wood, they'd probably just get a hybrid, while still others told us that as much as they like the K15, the definitely want to see what else is out there.
In the end the actual scores our testers wrote down were a mix of 7s, 8,s and 9s, which further supports the notion that just because the like it, it doesn't mean they're going to buy it.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 84.21
If you had asked me at the end of the review process where I thought the subjective scoring was going to shake out, I'd have missed by at least 5 points (which is fairly significant under our review system). Almost to a man, our testers loved the club, even if they were relatively quiet about it. When the scores were tallied, however; instead of the average ratings I was expecting, we actually discovered that the K15 Fairway wood was popular with nearly all of our testers.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 91.82
While I personally would probably debate you on the actual usefulness of the 3 wood in the modern golf bag; if you sometimes struggle with the driver, or you've got another reason to carry one (or a 5 wood for that matter), it fairly clear to the staff here at MyGolfSpy that the PING K15 should be on your demo list.
We believe the K15 offers everything you could ever want (and more) with respect to distance. Our pool of testers posted an adjusted average of over 240 yards. With a 3 wood...that's almost insane! While accuracy isn't what it would be in a perfect world, we think most golfers will probably be less accurate with what they currently have in their bag The same is probably true of forgiveness. While it's not magic, the K15 does do a better job of keeping the ball on a straight line, or at the very least, taking the right side out of play, than some others I've had in my bag over the years.
Unlike some PING clubs where the game improvement aspects can be a little too visible, we can't find fault with the looks of the club. The SF Tec weighing is nearly invisible at address. Don't get me wrong, I love technology, especially when it can actually benefit my game, but that doesn't mean I want to see it when I set up over the ball.
When you consider that our testers were equally as positive about the sound and the feel, it's fairly obvious why the K15 Fairway deserves every bit of the A-level final score. The bigger question is whether or not, in a world where lower lofted hybrids (15° & 16° in some case) are becoming increasingly prevalent, are fairway woods quickly becoming irrelevant and even unnecessary?
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 91.83
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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