“If I were to limit myself to a single adjective to describe the feel of the PING K15, it would be ‘consistent’. There is really only the slightest difference in feel between balls struck on the sweet spot, and balls struck anywhere but the hosel.”
PING K15 Irons
(Written By: GolfSpy T) Already this season we’ve reviewed both the K15 Driver, and the K15 Fairway wood. Both were well received by our testers, many of whom told us that they didn’t care whether or not they were designed for game improvement, they just really liked the clubs. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the numbers, especially with the fairway woods, were quite simply HUGE.
Many golfers may already be familiar with PINGs G15 irons, or even the forthcoming G20 irons. As forgiving as those irons are, the K15s are actually designed to be even more forgiving. To be sure, with broad soles, thick topline, and generous offset, they certainly look the part of a super game-improvement iron.
With all due respect to PING, there’s very little in the marketing we haven’t heard before. The head, which features a steel cavity with a lightweight titanium face, offers a low center of gravity and extremely high MOI, which in addition to helping the struggling golfer get the ball in, also makes for an exceptionally forgiving.
My own cynicism aside, PING has built a well-deserved reputation for developing technologies that benefit real golfers, so I’m always curious to see what the next generation of PING product brings to the table.
As you can see from the chart below, PING has taken what I call the Burger King approach the K15 set. Essentially, PING lets you have it your way. If you want to replace everything up to your 6 iron with a K15 hybrid, you can do that. If you’d prefer to carry a more traditional 5 iron, you can do that to. Want to match your wedges to your irons, yup; with loft options all the way up to 58°, you can fill everything but your putter slot with a club from the K15 lineup.
PING doesn’t give you options for options sake, when a fitting is done utilizing PINGs nFLIGHT system, you’re fitter, using actual ball flight data, and gapping analysis can help you make intelligent decisions about your set make-up. With PING it’s not just about having options, it’s about providing the right choices.
Material Composition: Stainless Steel with Titanium Face
The set we received for testing was comprised of 3H & 4H, 5-PW with PINGs AWT steel shafts. PING TFC 149I shafts are the standard graphite offering. The two hybrids came stock with PING TFC 159H shafts.
Though most will never notice, shaft lengths are right inline with the industry standard, and lofts are only 1° strong. In my mind this is noteworthy since the majority of manufacturers, particularly in the Game Improvement space are jacking up lofts, and lengthening clubs so they can advertise massive distance gains. This doesn’t appear to be the case for PING, which is a refreshing change.
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 K16 Hybrid Iron Set and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, 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. Though tests were conducted at 150 yards with the club of the tester’s choosing, we encouraged our testers to hit some of the other clubs in the set, particularly the hybrids, to get a more complete picture of performance
To better replicate the on-course experience in our iron tests we set our target green at 150 yards, and asked our testers to choose the appropriate club for the distance, and basically take their best shots.
It’s worth noting that for all radius-based testing, our golfers are given the opportunity to hit several test shots in order to determine the appropriate club for the distance (we all know that distance can vary tremendously from set to set). In the case PING K15 irons, the irons chosen ranged from a 7 iron on the long end, to a PW on the short.
The highest percentage of the performance score was calculated based on where each shot fell in proximity to the hole. Closer is obviously better.
After testing was completed, we applied a formula to normalize the data across varying handicap levels. It stands to reason that a low handicap golfer should be more accurate than a high handicap golfer. Our scoring accounts for these differences in ability levels and makes a reasonable attempt to level the playing field (much like the Handicap system itself), so that it’s possible to achieve similar scores for all golfers. As we always do, we’ve made the details of each test shot available to you in the interactive portion of this review.
Our testers fell into 2 group. There were guys who hit the K15′s reasonably well (more so considering we tested with higher handicap golfers than usual), and guys who simply couldn’t hit them at all. The guys who struggled predominately had issues with distance control. One of our testers who normally plays Bridgestone cavity backs told us that he found the huge heads on the K15 distracting, which might have impacted his performance.
In the majority of our iron tests, we usually have a tester or two who averages inside of 20 feet. That didn’t happen with the PING K15 Irons. Obviously we prefer to see guys throwing darts, the reality is that when you have 4 guys with 15+ handicaps testing a club, you expect to see some bigger misses. When we put raw numbers through our formulas, the final results were actually pretty good.
MGS Accuracy Score: 88.78
The K15 series is all about forgiveness, and while we think that term is a bit too subjective, we can quantify consistency by looking at how similar the average shot is to all of the shots our testers take.
Even the guys who struggled to find their distances proved to be extremely consistent with the PING K15 irons. In fact, only a single tester posted a consistency score below 90 (it was an 89.5). All 5 of the other guys posted scores well above A-level, with 4 of the 5 them above 95 (97 was the high). Though it doesn’t count for nearly as much as accuracy, consistency scores offer some insight into the potential performance of a club.
In the case of the PING K15, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of potential here.
MGS Consistency Score: 96.07
Even though we intentionally chose to test with less skilled golfers than we normally might, we still would have liked to have seen slightly better raw accuracy numbers from the K15 irons. Admittedly, the club looks and feels substantially different (it’s big and heavy), than what any of our testers bag on a daily basis, so there’s a legitimate case to be made that unfamiliarity could have influenced the result.
That said, I did come away very impressed with the Consistency numbers. Our testers achieved repeatable results swing after swing (even if those results didn’t always find the target).
Overall I’m not blow away, but given what I saw from our testers, I do think there is enough potential here for the K15 to be on the list of any golfer looking for some serious help with his game.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 89.70
Although I’ve known plenty of guys over the years who’ve played PING, with the lone exception of yours truly, none of our testers owned a single PING club at the time of testing. I’ve played their fairway woods for several years, and if not for finally finding a hybrid I can cover the same distance with, my G10 4-wood would still be in the bag. My point is that our testers didn’t have a lot of experience with PING, which is for us, always the best case scenario.
Big, huge, bulky…pick your adjective, we heard them all. The negatives are all consequences of the super game improvement design. The heads are big, the soles are wide, and the toplines thick. Though we know some of our testers would benefit from these type of designs, most tell us, regardless of who the manufacturer happens to be, that they don’t like them. Of course, we also know these type of clubs sell, so they obviously have a place.
When it comes to the hybrids in the set, it should be noted that the heads are relatively compact (certainly smaller than you’d expect considering the size of the irons). The offset is tremendous (and visibly so), however, which has never gone over well with our testers.
Almost to a man, our testers told us they love the finish. It is similar to raw steel. It looks great, and unlike many of the PVD finishes on the market today, should hold up very well over time.
While I can understand why some in the target audience might find the K15 irons beautiful (I kinda like them myself), with scores mostly between 6 and 7, our testers didn’t quite feel the same way.
MGS Looks Score: 75.25
If I were to limit myself to a single adjective to describe the feel of the PING K15, it would be ‘consistent’. There is really only the slightest difference in feel between balls struck on the sweet spot, and balls struck anywhere but the hosel. This shouldn’t surprise anyone given the consistency score. I mean, it doesn’t matter where on the face you hit the club, it pretty much goes the same place, so why shouldn’t it feel the same, right?
One of our testers absolutely loved the feel of the PING K15 Irons (he gave them a 10). The others said they wish they offered more feedback on poorly struck shots. One again, 7s were the most popular rating, although a few higher scores helped boost things just a bit.
MGS Feel Score: 77.94
Sometimes my testers surprise me, and that’s not always a good thing. While the PING K15 aren’t as long as I expected going into this review, that was before I read through the specs and realized PING wasn’t engaging in any extreme shenanigans to boost distance. Having said that, and having on numerous occasions noted that I could care less about iron distance, they’re certainly as long, if not longer than what’s in my bag right now.
The lowest rating came from a tester who simply didn’t hit the K15s well, so that’s understandable. Everyone else was in the 7 to 9 range, and while I probably would have gone a bit higher than what the numbers added up to, our testers were mostly pleased with the distance.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 86.00
Despite the offset, our testers mostly avoided the big hooks. When you’re not hooking, and you’re not slicing (that just didn’t happen at all for most of our testers), everything looks like it’s pretty straight (even when you’re missing your target). The lowest accuracy rating came from the guy who missed by the most, but another who rated the K15 irons on the low end was actually among the more accurate testers. We see this from time to time, and point it out when it happens in order to put the scores in their proper context, and also illustrate how unreliable subjective only testing can be.
Overall, while not the highest we’ve ever seen, the perceived accuracy scores were in the solid B range, which is right in line with the averages we’ve seen thus far.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 86.00
When it comes to the 3rd of our 3 subjective performance ratings, our testers proved to be as consistent as the K15s themselves. Only one tester (again the guy who struggled most) rated them below a 7 (5). The vast majority of the remaining numbers were above 7, with one tester rating them a 10, and a few others (including myself), rating them a 9 for forgiveness.
You might expect that a super game improvement iron would score better, and perhaps it should, but the reality is sometimes expectations exceed what’s reasonably possible. We’re talking about a golf club here, not a magic wand.
Though we don’t normally discuss the longer clubs in the set, I actually played most of last fall with a K15 4H in my bag. I wasn’t playing a lot of golf (baby) and struggling mightily with my longer clubs when I did. While I was never crazy about the looks, the K15 4H quickly became the most dependable club in my bag. There’s nothing like the confidence of knowing you can put a horrible swing on a ball and still have a shot at a good result.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 86.00
Likelihood of Purchase
As you might expect with a game improvement iron, we had a couple of testers who told us they probably wouldn’t consider bagging the K15s. This was true for our struggling golfer, and was also the case for our two single digit handicap golfers. The rest of the scores, while less than emphatic, indicated that our testers would consider the K15s. Realistically, the ideal market is probably golfers who have just taken up the game, and unfortunately, we don’t have any of those guys in our test pool.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 69.88
Respectable. That’s how I would describe the end result of our subjective surveys for the PING K15 hybrid iron set. While there’s clearly a lot to like (not the least of which is distance), none of our testers loved every aspect of the clubs. Some loved the looks, but not the feel. Some found the club forgiving, but weren’t fans of the looks. For most of us the perfect iron doesn’t really exist (though we might want to believe we can hit a clean set of blades), so every decision represents compromise.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 80.96
Believe it or not, super game improvement irons make for among the most difficult reviews we do here. The majority of our regular testers have moved on to sleeker styles (even if they shouldn’t have), and are most interested in even sleeker styles (blades, and small cavity back designs). Irons like the PING K15 are designed for the beginning or struggling golfer, and while I do struggle from time to time, it can be extremely difficult to consider these type of clubs from the perspective of the target demographic.
I’m a guy who has grown comfortable with smaller heads, and increasingly more uncomfortable with bulkier, offset designs. Of course, when I think back to when I first started playing, the modern super game improvement irons was just starting to hit store shelves, and damned if something like the K15 wouldn’t have been absolutely perfect for my needs.
For a beginning golfer, for whom hitting an intentional low hook isn’t a concern, or for the guy who struggles to get even his pitching wedge airborne, the K15s might just be ideal. If the K15s aren’t for you, PING, like most in the industry, has something for everyone.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 88.82
Have you tried the PING K15 Irons. Tell us what you think.
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