Ping K15 Driver Review
Just about every golfer who has ever been fitted for a club, whether he knows it or not, was almost certainly in part fit using the process PING pioneered nearly 40 years ago. In recent years, with the birth of the fitting cart, and tools like Mizuno's shaft optimizer, other OEMs have raised the stakes, and built upon PING's foundation, but to this day, PINGs color code system remains the gold standard for length and lie fitting. Of course, it's not like PING has been resting on their laurels since 1972 either. Their newish nFlight system, which among other things includes gapping analysis, is arguably the most sophisticated fitting tool in the industry today.
While it's easy to get caught up in the fitting, that's not the reason we're here. This is, after all a review of the PING K15 Driver. Released in the fall of last year, the K15 rounds out PING's "15 series", which also includes the G15 and I15. Though it hardly seems possible, the K15 is engineered to be even more forgiving than the G15. According to PING, the all titanium K15 offers golfers a high trajectory ball flight with low to medium spin.
In reality, the K15 is very much a replacement for the G10 Draw model. Unlike the G15 or I15, the K15 features what PING calls "Straight Flight Technology" or SFT. SFT is PING-speak for "we moved 10% of the total clubhead mass toward the heel of the club". PING has made that extra weight visible via a slight bumpout which is visible on the clubhead (occasionally so at address). While the I15 is for better players, and the G15 is probably a good fit for most of the rest of the golfing population, the K15 is specifically designed to help those golfers who struggle to contain their big fade, or slice as it's more commonly called.
Material Composition: Titanium
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 Driver 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.
This is our first driver review of 2011 and as such, it's the first to use our revised scoring model, so it's too soon to say how the PING K15 will stack up to other drivers in our 2011 review series. Based on the number we're seeing, however; we believe it's long.
It's amazing to me how quickly we've reached a point where I have to write a sentence like the one that follow this sentence. With a shaft length of 45.75", the PING K15 Driver is actually a bit shorter than most of the stock offerings on the market today. Obviously, trimming an extra quarter of an inch hasn't hurt things. Two of our regular testers, Dan and your's truly, put up some of the biggest raw distance numbers we have seen with any driver we've tested since I came on board at MyGolfSpy. Equally impressive is that when we trim the outliers, the distance numbers remain remarkably similar, which tells me that even if you miss the sweet spot (because I often do), the PING K15 is still going to help you shorten the golf course.
Even Ridge, our senior tester who we acknowledge shouldn't be hitting a stiff shafted driver, was impressed by the distance. A softer shaft would likely help boost his launch angle and provide even better results for him. Curiously, I found that I actually launched the ball a bit lower than I normally do with the K15, however, one of our other testers, Mark, actually increased his launch angle with the standard 9.5° setup. My spin numbers were also, somewhat surprisingly, higher than I would have liked.
MGS Distance Score: 90.50
Taken at face value, an average miss of a hair over 18 yards, the accuracy of the PING K15 may not seem that impressive, but when I looked a bit closer at the numbers, a couple of interesting things stood out. First, if you take Mark's numbers out of the equation, average side spin numbers of just a hair over 409 RPMs are lower than what I expect the average will be when we're done testing for the year. Also noteworthy is how skewed to the left side of center the shot dispersion is. Once again, dropping Mark's from the equation (you can see this for yourself on our Interactive Data Page) further emphasizes the K15's ability to take the right side largely out of play. Considering the average golfer fights a slice much more than a hook, this is not an insignificant observation.
Of course, I did hit a few big hooks myself (misses of 46, 52, and 69 yards left). We can probably chalk that up in part to the draw-biased weighting, and a couple of "reverse Furyk" swings. Mostly though, I did well enough to keep the ball in play.
Questionable shaft fit aside, Ridge was painfully accurate with the K15, missing the centerline on average by less than 10 yards. Even Mark who was right more than he was left, still managed to put up one of his highest accuracy numbers to date (and like Dan and myself, he's been on every one one of our reviews since the beginning of last season).
Overall, accuracy proved to very good.
MGS Accuracy Score: 89.57
We like what we're seeing from our consistency formulas thus far, and we've decided to keep it around for the remainder of 2011. As a refresher, the consistency score is how we put a value on what manufacturers generally refer to as forgiveness. We basically look at how the averages of various pieces of shot data, compare to the data as a whole. If that sounds confusing, a simpler way to explain it might be to say we look at how each shot a golfer hits compares to every other shot he hits with the same club.
One of the things PING says about the K15 driver is "the MOI is sizeable for consistent performance across the hitting surface." Looking at our consistency numbers, we're not able to raise too much in the way of an argument. On the high end, Blake, posted a consistency score of 95.75. On the low end, Ridge posted a 91.03. What this tells us is that not only does the PING K15 achieve consistent results from swing to swing, it appears that it does so from golfer to golfer as well. Perhaps the PING K15 will prove to be unique, but with only 4.72 points between worst and first, it says a lot about how forgiving the modern driver has become.
MGS Consistency Score: 92.53
I encourage you to take a look at the complete results of our performance tests on the PING K15 Driver interactive page. Data can be sorted by golfer, handicap, and swing speed.
While I personally can't wait to see how the 2011 crop of drivers stack up, if the PING K15 proves to be the best of the bunch, it's already been a good year for golfers. Our performance tests indicate that the K15 offers excellent distance, solid accuracy, and consistent performance from shot to shot. It's hard to really ask for more.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 90.28
If there's a knock on the K15, from a subjectivity standpoint, it's that no one fell in love with the club. Normally we have a tester or two who tries to sneak out of the building with something tucked away in their bags, but in the case of the K15, the overall response, was - like the sound it produces - somewhat muted.
Surprisingly only one tester commented on the PING alignment aid on the top of the crown. Having read numerous complaints about it over the years, I was expecting to encounter more negativity. Instead, only one tester commented on the alignment aid, and that was to say that he really liked it. Comments on the graphics/color scheme were generally positive as well. More than one tester, however, mentioned the way the club looks at address. Several said that it looked "too closed" to them (our info says the face is neutral). Visually, the face appears, to me anyway, to have less roll as well, but there very well may be no actual basis in reality for that observation. Others mentioned the visible Straight Flight Technology on far rear edges of the heel, saying they found it distracting. A lowly rating of 3 not withstanding, testers rated the looks as high as 10 (1), and 9 (2). In the end, the tally of scores couldn't exceed mediocre. My take; it's not a bad looking driver by any stretch, but it's not going to be among the best looking either.
MGS Looks Score: 86.00
From my perspective, the PING K15 doesn't rank with the other PING drivers I've hit over the years. From a sound and feel perspective, I'm come to think of PING in the same class as Titleist, and Pre-R9 TaylorMade drivers. Though it's still a very good feeling driver, the K15 doesn't offer the same experience as those previous models. Like it did for looks, it received a single 10, and two 9s (different testers), but also received a 4 and a fair amount of 7s. As with looks score, feel was rated as slightly above average.
MGS Feel Score: 87.54
There is no denying that sound and feel are closely linked, so it's not surprising that the Sound score would shake out almost the same as the Feel score. For sound, two testers rated the club a 10, while two others rated it a nine. The low score was a 6, which isn't half bad considering we'd seen 3s and 4s up to this point. Again, the sound isn't bad, but it's a bit more muted than I would expect from PING. In some respects it reminds me a bit more of modern composite driver than it does traditional titanium.
MGS Sound Score: 89.07
Perceived distance is probably my favorite of the subjective categories. In some ways it's almost unfair to the OEMs considering that nearly everyone who walks through the door at Tark's thinks he hits the ball farther than he actually does. The guys who test for us fairly regularly, however, generally have a more accurate picture of how a given club performs. So while the average rating was right around a 7, I gave it an 8. Dan gave it a 9, and Mark, who admittedly didn't hit the K15 as well as he has some others, rated it a 7. While our performance numbers suggest Dan and I have it right, our testers didn't agree.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 81.39
As I stated in performance section above, raw accuracy numbers only tell half the story. It appears that most of our testers were focused on the center line, and not necessarily the big picture of where their balls were settling on the range. If you fight a slice, like many golfers do, you can't undersell the value of taking the right sound of the golf course (or the left side of the adjoining property) out of play - and the K15 largely does just that. Reality, be damned, however; our testers generally thought they should have been more accurate than they believed they actually were.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 78.32
Our math tells us that the K15 is a very consistent driver. We think this notion of consistency translates very nicely to the more common terminology of forgiveness. Unfortunately our testers don't have the benefit of our calculations to help them provide a forgiveness rating, so more often than not, they go by what they think they see (which very often doesn't gel with our numbers). Once again, our regular testers provided the highest marks (two 9s and an 8), while the other guys who participated in full tests, and the guys who were brought into to round out our subjective surveys, didn't share quite the same opinion of the K15s ability to produce similar results shot after shot.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 81.39
Likelihood of Purchase
It shouldn't come as any real shock that a group of guys who collectively told us, that the PING K15 was average for looks, slightly better for sound, and feel, and below average for distance, accuracy, and forgiveness, would also tell us that the K15 driver isn't high on their list of must by clubs. It's more than a little disconcerting to see how different our data is from the perception of our testers.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 70.64
Considering how many of the reviews being published both in print and online these days are written based on little more than subjectivity and observation (I played 3 rounds of golf with <insert club name here> and it has proven to be 10 yards longer than my previous gamer), and how much of the buying process follows similar lines, we know that these subjective surveys are a critical part of the review process. Still, there are occasions when I think the reader would be wise to take the subjectivity for exactly what it is, and focus instead on our performance scores. This is one of those times.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 82.47
Let our charts be your guide on this one. If you're the kind of golfer who fights a slice, frequently misses to the right, or simply can't achieve any degree of consistency with your current driver, then absolutely, you should be looking at the PING K15. If however, you miss, left, or don't miss much at all, then realistically, there is very little reason for you to look at the K15. Fortunately, the G15 and I15 are also part of PING's current driver lineup. If the K15 doesn't suite you, there's a good chance one of those will.
We do think the K15 is an excellent choice for the higher handicap golfer, the guy whose idea of workability is "working the ball out of the trees" before hitting his third. For guys who want to shape their shots, or for those looking for a bit more feel from the big dog, the K15 probably isn't ideal.
The PING K15 is definitely not a one size fits all driver, but for the guy it does fit, it could prove to be an absolute game changer.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 89.50