Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The I's Have It

The regulars on here will be aware that last year I went through a custom fitting process at Pachesham Golf Centre in Leatherhead. It had been a long process as I tried a lot of different clubs but the various launch monitors had all led me back to a clear winner, the Ping G25. The fitting had led me to a green dot (2.25 degrees upright) and by the end of June I had them in the bag.

The logic had been crystal clear in my head. I had done a lot of swing work with my teaching professional Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre in Wokingham over the winter of 2013. My thought process was the swing was in flux and a move to something a little more forgiving than the TaylorMade Tour Preferred's I was using would make transition a smooth one.

Ping described the G25:
The G25s offer game-improvement technology, high trajectory, distance, and extreme forgiveness in a sleeker head that inspires confidence. A custom-engineered face structure ensures a solid feel and distance with control. Progressive sole widths help optimise CG placement for accurate distance gapping. In appearance and performance, these 17-4 stainless steel designs will appeal to golfers of all abilities.

All was good with one exception. The top line was thick and on the shorter club. This became a nagging problem especially when chipping as the season progressed. This has been a problem area and looking down on the top line drained the confidence and I become more and more dis-enchanted with the aesthetics of the set until I made the decision back in December to go back to the sleeker TaylorMade's

The top line of the short clubs in the G25 range became a problem looking down on them

I still like the Ping range. During my testing period, I had hit the I20 model. This is a much smaller head and a has a degree less loft than the G range. I had hit it nicely, and had been drawn back to it in recent range sessions at the Downshire. It hadn't performed too differently to the TM's but during the testing last year the G range had seemingly given better distance and dispersion. That was then. This is now.

The I20 are described by Ping on their website:
As winners of the exclusive Editor’s Choice in the 2012 Golf Digest “Hot List,” the I20s offer a progressive set design featuring high-launching long irons and penetrating short irons, enabling you to get the most from your iron game. Workability and distance control are key attributes of these multi-metal irons.

The smaller head in the I20 oozed confidence behind the ball

I'd been to the range on Monday night and had wandered back to the shop to try the demo version again. They only have it in the black dot (standard lie) with the stock Ping shaft in regular flex. I was hitting it well again and it produced a lovely penetrating flight that seemed to make the range ball pierce the blustery breeze with ease. In the dark it was hard to compare distance compared to the Tour Preferred's and I was thinking about speaking with Rhys. I have a lesson booked for the 29th and I'm contemplating forsaking any tweaks to technique and getting on the launch monitor and seeing how the numbers stacked up.

And that should have been the end of the story. Hit the two protagonists, the G25 and I20, and either stick to the TM's or upgrade to the I20 and get shot of the G25's. However Ping have added another ingredient into to the mix and the I25 range has been released and available from February 14th.

This is very similar to the I20 in terms of looks. The size of the head and offset are exactly the same. The lofts are exactly the same too. I hadn't expected the Downshire to have a demo club in stock yet so when the assistant came back with one (standard set up and stock Ping shaft in regular) I was like a kid at Christmas.

Ping are getting behind the I25 in a big way. They described it:
The I25 irons are engineered for a variety of skill levels with technology that provides versatility and forgiveness. In the progressive set design, each 17-4 stainless steel head has a specific function with regard to the centre of gravity, the bounce, and the offset. The result is highly forgiving long irons and controlled short irons, which will bring confidence to your shot-making.

The I25, the latest incarnation in the range
To be honest the first few shots weren't very good. I'd got way too excited to have the shiny new club in my hand and was swinging too fast, trying to get every last ounce of performance out of it. Reigning myself back in, I managed to get the ball away with ease. As with the I20, there is still more than enough forgiveness. My swing is in a much better place after the work I did this time last year and my thinking dictates that if I am controlling the TP's with ease, then the I range would be a logical upgrade from the G25. Nothing wrong with these other than I have fallen out of love with the way they look. I still hit them wonderfully but can't get over how big the heads look especially now my head has been turned by the sleeker offerings from Ping.

The ball flight I got from the I25 was higher than the I20 in my opinion. If I hadn't looked at the Ping website and checked the specifications, I would have said from just comparing the I20 and I25 in the dimly lit bay, the I20 was fractionally smaller in the head and had marginally less offset. It shows how looks behind a ball can be deceiving. That said, the I25 takes the functionality of the I20 and is another club that's a joy to hit. Hit it out of the middle and it has a soft feel that belies the fact that it's a cast head. Miss the sweet spot and the forgiveness it provides means that you still get as much out of the shot as possible.

So what's the outcome? Well for the moment nothing changes. I loved hitting both members of the I range and would recommend both to anyone looking to upgrade from something in the "game improver" category or just wanting a smaller headed club that maintains forgiveness. I'm not rushing to make any decision and as I've alluded I'd love hit them on a launch monitor and get a better understanding of how they perform and maybe have a play with shaft flex or even trying different options other than the stock shaft offerings.

Of course, you don't have to take my word. There is a professional called Mark Crossfield who has built a reputation from his online reviews and tuition and he has done his own in depth review of the I25 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm61QRogXAc&list=PL-yMxw6TSwy64LWs6ebLod6Zz40FGnOPW
On reflection, I probably dived in too quickly last summer, lured by shiny new clubs. Had I given the swing more time to bed in, worked hard on changes and had more belief out on the course, especially in competitions, I may have saved myself from buying the G25's. That isn't to say I regret it but I feel, whether rightly or wrongly, that the step back to a game improver model was a negative one. I hit them well despite the bigger head and offset but I really can't get my head around the look. Confidence, certainly in my golfing psyche, is a fragile thing. I just don't like chipping and pitching with the short irons. I still pull the shot off (perhaps not the chipping but that's a whole different issue) but I see them as workmanlike rather than something I hold in my hand and think "I'm a single figure player".
Nothing changes.....for now but I would put the I25 on your "must try" list for 2014 but I would try it head to head with the older brother the I20. If you fancy the earlier incarnation, with the newer model out you may well save yourself a few quid on the current RRP too. Once I get on the monitor and trial them to within an inch of their life I'll come back with how they performed under the gaze of the technology. Should be interesting!

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