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Ping i15 Driver Review

Jan. 30, 2010     By     Comments (18)

Are you an i-Guy?

The i15 driver: back in blackThere's just something about an all black driver that evokes fast cars and sunglasses. You know, it's just a cool thing that makes you feel good. There's a reason rock stars are so partial to black.

PING has presumably given the i15 driver its rock star livery for a reason (read: "performance"). The i15 is "tour-style," which is marketingese for "you better have game." While that is really overstating the level of skill required (it's much more about shot shape and solid contact than handicap), the i15 is clearly the more demanding and higher performing of PING's two new drivers. Finding the one that's the best for you is the real secret. So (as PING's website asks) "are you a G-Man or an i-Guy?" According to the site, the G-Man desires "maximum power and forgiveness," while an i-Guy seeks "traditional look and feel." Frankly, I'm probably more of an "H" guy myself… I need some forgiveness (a little "G") while also being able, on my better days, at least, to take advantage of some "i" qualities.

The early buzz about this driver was that "hackers need not apply." Guys talked about this driver the way they talk about muscleback clubs… "We're not worthy!"

After all that talk, I had a certain level of concern that this driver would be too much for me, particularly on those days when my swing is not at its best. But after several rounds and couple small buckets of range balls, I can say that you shouldn't be afraid to try this driver provided you make reasonably good contact on most swings and don't fight a fade. Forget that "traditional look and feel" bit, it's more accurate to say that the i15 is for players looking to work the ball off the tee.

Design and Technology
With one notable exception, there's not that much technology in the i15 that we haven't already seen, to some degree, in the G-2, G-5, and G-10. You'll find what's become fairly standard stuff: a 460cc titanium head, a face that's thicker in the middle and thinner around the perimeter, and internal weighting designed to tune launch conditions. The i15 is however a refinement of all that engineering and tweaked toward players who make consistent contact with the center of the clubface.

PING i15 Design

The most radical piece of engineering in the i15 is the "onset" face. As you may have guessed that's the opposite of "offset." The hosel is actually positioned behind the clubface on the i15. This feature is intended to help counter the bane of many "better" players: the hook. Just as offset drivers (hosel positioned in front of the clubface) help slicers minimize their misses, the onset i15 should help players who typically play draws keep the dreaded hooks at bay.

The internal weighting of the i15 also contributes to a fade bias, according to PING, as well as helping to lower spin and produce optimum launch conditions. Finally, the i15 sports a bulge crown design (it's higher in the middle) and a deep face, intended to optimize energy transfer.

Esthetics
As already stated, the i15 is a good looking driver. While the sometimes controversial "half moon alignment aid lives on, it is a smaller, more subdued version of the one found on the earlier G-series models. I can live with it just fine, and I sure do dig the dark menacing look of this driver.

PING i15 Face

PING states that the i15 is for the player seeking "traditional look and feel" in a driver. Sitting on the rack in the golf shop, the i15 doesn't exactly scream traditional look (presuming "traditional" means resembling a persimmon head), and a few hits in the cage will confirm that the i15 does not feel all that much like persimmon, either. Clearly, traditional has more to do with the pear-shape of the i15 than its size. It would be true to say that the i15 driver looks slightly more "traditional" than the G-15 and most other drivers on the market today.

The "titanium carbon" gives the i15 a stealthy and dangerous look, which should be a good thing when you're on the first tee with your buddies.

PING says that the i15 has a muted sound, and I'd have to say that, for a PING driver, that is true. On off-center contact, the i15 sounds fairly similar to my old G5. When you hit it on the money, however, the i15 drops in tone and sounds solid, a little like how a good softball bat sounds when you drill one. And I mean that in a good way. You're not going to mistake the sound of the i15 with that of a persimmon driver, but in a sport filled with harsh, metallic-toned drivers, the i15 is among the better sounding ones.

PING i15 Toe

Performance
PING drivers always seem to perform well, and the i15 is no exception. I played a G5 driver for quite awhile, and it remains one of the longest I've had the pleasure to play. It was a great driver for distance with a fair bit of forgiveness as well. But for whatever reason, when I missed fairways, I tended to miss them by a lot. I finally gave up some distance to play a driver that helped reduce those round-killing big misses.

So I when PING introduced the i15 driver, I was quite happy to give it a shot at making the bag. PING sent a 9.5° model with the UST AXIVcore Tour Red (S), a good looking combination that screamed performance.

When I first saw the i15 on the web, I was pretty stoked to see what it was like in person. One of the first things that got me excited about this driver is that it is purported to be fade-biased. I had even heard that the face was 2° open. Since I struggle to consistently hit a fade when needed with my current driver and because my usual bad miss is a hard hook, this aspect appealed to me. Suffice it to say, I was very excited to get my hands on this driver.

Which is why I was really surprised when the i15 appeared to have a slightly closed face. Erik had met me at a course here in Columbus, and before our round we were experimenting with the i15. He also thought it looked closed. We wondered if it might be an optical illusion caused by the onset.

PING i15 Address

We're both draw players, and, onset or no onset, the first few shots that each of us hit with the i15 curved left in a classic draw flight. Erik is plays more of a draw than I do, so his shots had a little more snap to them than mine (as well as hang time and distance). Was the i15 mostly marketing and not enough substance?

When we got out on the course, I managed to play an unremarkable round. It wasn't a great driving day, but I also don't remember getting into all that much trouble off the tee either. According to Scorecard, I hit 9/14 fairways, with most misses winding up in the left rough. That's a slightly above average driving day for me, but I sure wasn't entertaining any thought of kicking my current driver (a Titleist 909D2) to the curb yet, either.

However, the second time I had the i15 out, I started to get it slotted very nicely and found I could easily play a little draw that went hard and long. Ball flight withe the i15 is lower than with my Titleist (Voodoo shaft), but overall distance was slightly longer. I started thinking, maybe PING is on to something here.

While it is fair to say that the i15 is hook resistant, it is not hook proof. My typical shot shape with the i15 was still a draw, as it is with my usual driver. However, I was happy to be able to reliably move the ball to the right when I needed to (something I haven't been able to do consistently with my driver this year). That's a big plus for me.

I've heard some pretty good players say that they thought the i15 was going to be too unforgiving for them to play. While the i15 is not going to be confused with game improvement models (like the G15), players looking to be able to work the ball off the tee and who regularly find the fairway now should still be able to find it with the i15, as well.

PING i15 Shaft

Specs and Extras
The i15 is available in left or right-handed models in three lofts.

Loft      Length      Lie      Head Weight      Swingweight
----      ------      ---      -----------      -----------
8.0°      45.75"      58°         199g              D3
9.5°      45.75"      58°         199g              D3
11.0°     45.75"      58°         199g              D3

The club is offered with the PING-designed TFC700D (R, S and X flexes) and UST AXIVcore Tour Red 69 (R, S and X flexes) shafts. Additional options are available (at additional cost) through PING's Custom Options program.

Conclusion
In my experience, the i15 provides above-average workability and distance. This driver is not going to be a good fit for everyone. If your modus operandi off the tee is to try to hit a straight ball every time, this may not be a good fit for you. If you struggle with a slice, then there are definitely better choices for you. But if you want to move the ball both ways off the tee, then this is one of the more workable recent driver options that I've come across.

PING i15 Headcover

Golfers who want to work the ball, who make consistent middle-of-the-clubface contact with the ball, and who hit a reasonable number of fairways a round may well find a new friend in the i15.

While my first outing with this driver did not live up to my expectations, it has been steadily winning me over since that first experience. I'm not sure the i15 is going to boot the incumbent out of the bag, but I'm certainly going to give it the chance this spring, and so far as I can tell, it's going to be a close race.

Posted in: Clubs, Review Comments (18)

Discussion

  1. JaKE says:

    did the i15 launch very low? or high? or kind of middle of the road?

  2. granitegolf says:

    I just got this in a 8 degree with the Axiv tour red S. My launch angle is much lower than my Burner 9.5 with UST proforce S. The launch monitor was giving me similar launch angle with the 8 and the 9.5 but the spin was several hundred less with the 8(around 2500 rpms) Hope the 8 degree is not too much for me but so far at the range it has been ripping the balls nicely. Tomorrow the course!

  3. pcsmith says:

    I spent 2 separate occasions getting fitted - hit 6 different drivers with a range of shafts. Consistently this was the best - by over 20 metres in distance, ideal range for spin, trajectory yada yada yada.

    All the stats were best ever. So I went back 2 days later and did it all again (being an absolute sceptic!). Again - similar gap between this and the second place club. So I bought it.

    Got onto the course full of excitement and couldn't keep it on the planet!

    I agree it looks closed and no matter how much time playing and hitting balls on the range it was woeful. 2/14 fairways was the best of 4 rounds (according to Scorecard I average 8/14). I traded it for a D2 (#2 of the trial) and am back hitting fairways and a consistent distance. The dealer I traded it to said they were told not to sell them to anyone other than scratch markers - which I am not.

    Was really looking forward to getting a Ping too......

  4. Jacob says:

    I am looking desperately for a driver to help with my hook. I need a little forgiveness, but my miss is definitely left. I hit the ball pretty much in the center most of the time, but tend to get handsy and turn it over. My normal "good" drive is a 5-10 yard draw, but I swapped to a callaway FT-9 and now I am hitting 25-30 yard draws that seem to dive bomb out of the sky. Help!!!

  5. granitegolf says:

    Well(see my comment above)after a round I think the 8 degree was just giving me too low of a launch angle and I traded it back in for the 9.5. Went back out to the range after letting the epoxy cure after having it pured and I'm glad I switched. Much better launch angle but still a little less than my burner and much less spin. Hitting many over 300. This club is easy to work and more forgiving than some of the other players drivers. Back to the course tomorrow.

  6. Eric M. says:

    Have been playing a Titleist 907D2 for the past year+ or so, UST 76 g S flex shaft. In December, my wife bought me a fitting at the Callaway Performance Center in Carlsbad, where I got to hit the D2 on the launch monitors. I was putting about 5500 RPM on the ball, which at my swing speed (102-107mph) frequently results in an old fashioned climber that has the look of a longball, but generally ends up in the 240-250 range. I had much improvement with the FT9 Tour driver (nearly 3000 rpm improvement), but can't justify the $400 price tag. I have been eying the I15 for a few weeks now, since it's advertised as a 'low spin' driver, and with the more reasonable $350 price tag, it makes more sense. Well, this weekend, my go to store had a Presidents Day Sale, and I was able to pick up a "newish" Demo version of the I15, 9.5 degree, with the UST 69 series S-flex for $279. I'm going to take it out tomorrow for the first time, range or course, and look forward to seeing how it feels.

    I played a Ping G2 for about two years prior to buying the 907D2, and it was the best driver I've ever owned. I am pretty steep, so generally hit a low to mid trajectory "stinger" with the driver that I'm hoping will add much roll with the lower spinning head. Normal ball flight is somewhere between a slight draw (when swinging well) to a little heel-cut when I'm off timing. I'm very curious to see what effect the "fade bias" will have.

  7. Eric M. says:

    Update: the first two outings with the I15 were pretty spotty, contact was ok, but misses were erratic, and ran the whole gamut from blocks to duck hooks. As a player that normally hits a high percentage of fairways, I was a bit dismayed. Sometime during my 3rd round with the club, I started making better swings, and the club really came to life.

    I'm not sure whether the extra length (from the 907D2) played a role, or maybe the new shaft (UST 69S) is a little looser, but I played a practice round yesterday for my team play match on Thursdays and was absolutely BOMBING the ball with this club. Feel at impact is very satisfying, can really feel the ball compressing on the clubface. Trajectory is low to mid, but the ball just jumps off the face on good swings. From good swing to good swing, I am consistently 15-20 yards longer than I was with the higher spinning Titleist. I think I'm an I15 guy.

  8. Richard Bryer says:

    Club is closed at address, but gives a beautiful little draw. Using the 11 degree with the tour spec stiff shaft, great combo. Spin @ 3200 and launching at 10 degrees and carries a mile ( not a lot of role). Sounds solid, looks great and I never thought I'd use 11 degrees of loft.

  9. Netsonar says:

    I first played this with the UST AXIV X shaft I hit 10/14 fairways but my miss was actually still pulling to the right (I am a lefty) which was not what I was looking for in this club. However I decided to upgrade the shaft with a Diamana 73X White Board and I guess the softer tip really helped as I am now consistently carrying the ball 310-315 on the launch meter. I took it to the course this morning and shot a 67 hitting 13/14 fairways and gained about 40 yards over my Callaway FTi with a Speeder 757 X shaft. I was also able to work with ball with no problem which was my primary reason for buying this club. I am a plus handicap so I can not comment too much if this club is good for the double digit handicaper however I did not find it to be any more or less forgiving than my FTi which was supposed to be a "forgiving" driver so I would assume if you hit it in the middle consistantly you should be fine just get the right shaft with the right frequency for your swing.

  10. Duffer says:

    I have purchased the i15 driver after testing several drivers in a simulator. The club took a bit of work but WOW this is a club that is worth learning to hit, long, workable and fun to hit.

    My old driver was a G-5 which I was married to for several years but I am remarried to the I15 driver.

  11. Randy Norris says:

    Hi bought this driver the first week of march owned it for less than a month and the face caved in toward the toe. i am a good college player and i never missed a shot on the toe. either the face is too thin around the edges or a support caved in. one of my playing competitors had the same problem and is on his third head and he said the latest head seems to have a thicker face and he hits it much lower. it seems that we werent the only two having problems and ping is busy trying to find a resolution to the defect. while the dented face didnt seem to alter performance who wants to play a brand new driver with a dented face?

  12. Spinny says:

    This driver has been my best friend. I had a Cobra S9.1 with a Proforce V@ 85 X cut down to 44" - that one was low spin - but the head had an odd dull feel with no feedback. This one - wow. Just spot on. I don't see closed (as in - Cleveland Launcher anyone? nope, not here). I'm hitting the 8 and I have to say it feels like the sweet spot is the size of a quarter. Fairly high trajectory - but hooray , it turns over. Very sweet. I do not understand all the chatter about scratch markers, hard to hit, etc etc. But that is why they make all sorts of equipment - to each their own. As a high spin player looking to dump some spin - this stick has done so. Good luck.

  13. Richard says:

    I brought this driver a month ago and my first time out with it i was amazing hitting 12/14 fairways but now im fighting a hard hook any ideas on wats happening

  14. Jon says:

    The i15 is a fantastic driver! I have a ss of 101-105 and I was playing a Titleist 909D3 9.5. I hit the ball high with pretty fair spin and this was a good but not great driver for me. I went to a fitting and walked away with the i15 8 degree with TFC stiff shaft. This driver really lowered the rpms and allows me a more controlled low fade with good roll. It is easily 15 yards longer than my Titleist and is still workable. I'm also impressed with the TFC shaft. It has a higher torque, but a low trajectory and is controllable.

    This driver is clearly not for everyone, but I struck gold with the distance and control I get out of it.

  15. peter hiscox says:

    well i have to comment here that i recently bought a k15 and didn't realize that is was a game improvement club with a shaft that was too light for me which caused me to hook the shot all the time..unless i tried to stop the hook and then it bombed to the right..totally uncontrollable for me..anyway i since went back to the shop and part exed it for the PING I15 and my first round with it was amazing..it also added 20 yards to my drives..i had the occasional hook but when i hit it right it delivered just how i wanted..expectations were exceeded..abosolutely fantastic driver for me..i play off 10 handicap and it works for me..can't wait for my second round with this black headed machine..a must for the lower handicapper..

  16. I hit a big bucket today with the i15 driver at the range and was not particularly impressed. When you absolutely drill a great shot, it still makes a weird tinny "clank" sound; perhaps it's my personal preference, but that sound alone would drive me crazy even if I nutted it on every fairway. I was thinking the 11 degree would let me launch it higher than my 9.5 FT-iq, but nothing doing -- line drives, over and over. Which is doubtless on me, but I found no love with this club, and am sticking to my beloved Cally.

  17. Ronnie says:

    I bought the ping I15 after testing it in the shop. I was looking for a driver that can be consistent. The first round out was ok but the second round the next day was awesome, I played 5 stores below my handicap. I missed 3 fairways, just. All of them carried far enough to get past the troubles and stilled allowed me a shoot into the green. After hitting the range I believe the next round will be even better. A great club that creates confidence in ball striking and anybody with a high swing speed should look at this.

  18. Tested this out at my pro-shop. Have always had a high ball flight due to my hip turn and shoulder placement throughout the swing. Very tough habit to break. Anyways, I hit the 9.5 degree with Ping's own TFC700 I think it was, stiff flex. I averaged a much faster swing speed with it due to the stiffer shaft than my driver I currently play, around 110 mph. My launch angle with it was 13 degrees on average, and I hit a good twenty balls with it. The WEIRD thing I experienced with this driver is that the hosel is behind the clubface, creating a fade bias. My general ball flight is a high fade. With this I hit around 70 percent of the shots a 13 degree draw, and the other 30 percent a super high 16 degree fade. Distance off center on each type was within 20 yards off center. Very BIZARRE! Love the looks on this thing tho. Definitely in contention for being my new driver.

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