When you are setting up to a "classic" iron, what kinds of thoughts run through your mind? For me, I imagine the silky smooth feel of the sweet spot. I visualize the ball curving through the air at will. I can almost see the ball falling to the green with just enough spin to bounce twice and then stop. However, put a blade in another player's hands and the reaction could be entirely different. They might look down desperately searching for that microscopic sweet spot, trembling at the thought of the painful reverberations of a mis-hit.
Karsten Solheim may not have been one of those golfers who feared the sweet spot but he certainly empathized with them. In fact, PING's innovations were so significant that in 1966 the USGA outlawed all PING irons claiming that they provided golfers with an unfair advantage (due to a bend in the shaft beneath the grip). Nearly 40 years later, the USGA may want to reopen that claim.
Design and Technology
Like its predecessor, the G15 is an oversized iron designed for players seeking maximum forgiveness. However, several changes have been made which PING believes should make the club even more forgiving.
The epicenter of the G15's technological advances is the new Custom Tuning Port ("CTP"). While the G10 had a CTP, PING engineers reshaped and repositioned the CTP to save seven grams. The weight savings of a thinner face allowed the engineers move weight to the perimeter - particularly the toe - to improve forgiveness for off-center hits as well as increase MOI. PING believes that these changes provide the proper structure and support to ensure distance control and solid feel.
A second change from the G10 is the sole design. A wider sole positions the center of gravity lower and farther back to increase launch angle as well as "ensure a smooth transition through the turf." To offset the higher trajectories, PING strengthened the lofts of every iron by 1 degree.
The last semi-major change from the G10 is that the G15s conform to the new USGA groove rule.
The majority of the G15's features should be familiar. The groves are painted the same with one final grove painted in white to help with alignment. The hosel has the same characteristic gouge all PING irons have had in recent years. The sole of the club utilizes the same font as it has in the past. Essentially, besides the cavity of the club, the G15 could be mistaken for the G10. However, the redesigned cavity pushes the club from plain to pleasing.
PING clubs have been called ugly for years. Honestly, I believe PING almost took pride in that statement claiming that they chose brains over beauty. However, the G15s are not ugly. As if the engineers collaborated with an artist to design the club's cavity, the new red, black, and silver color scheme highlights the new Custom Tuning Port. The colors are both subtle and attractive.
For someone that has not played a PING iron in quite a while, setting up to the G15s can be quite a shock to the system. Literally, no matter what angle you look at the club, the wide sole - which is even wider than before - was unavoidable. For some players this is like seeing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. For others, the bulge may be the finishing touch necessary to inspire confidence. This is likely going to be the feature that will determine your disdain or devotion to the G15s.
Overall, traditional or classic were never words that entered my head but the combination of the new color scheme and Custom Tuning Port make the club quite striking and a huge improvement over the G10.
You can call me skeptical but rather than blindly follow PING's claims that the new Custom Tuning Port creates a better sound and feel, increases distance, and maximizes forgiveness, I borrowed a set of the G10 irons from a friend and put them head to head for over two weeks.
First, I was relatively surprised to find that the feel and sound of the two irons is noticeably different. I would describe the G10 irons amongst the firmest clubs on the market - so firm in fact that I have complained that they would make a balata feel like an ultra distance golf ball. Obviously, the G15s do not have the silky smooth feeling of a forged blade but I did find that they have a softer, crisper sound and feel.
Second, I had thought at first that PING was trying to pull a fast one when it claimed that the irons had more distance. If you look at the specs for the G15 irons and the G10 irons you should notice that PING decreased the loft of every club by one degree. When I went to the range, I was expecting to gain approximately three to five yards of distance with every club. I was pretty satisfied with myself when I literally hit almost every club in my bag three to five yards farther with the G15 than the G10.
Fortunately, I hit the clubs using a launch monitor later on in the day and found out that I was hitting the ball about three to five yards farther but was completely wrong about why. If the distance could be attributed purely to the loft decrease, I should have seen a slight decrease in trajectory as well. According to the launch monitor, my launch angle was actually higher with the G15s than the G10s. Honestly, I thought I was losing it. I thought perhaps that my swing was changing and I was biased. After randomly grabbing three other golfers to hit each of the clubs using the launch monitor I found that they were having the same results. In fact, the highest handicap player had nearly a three-degree increase in trajectory with the G15s.
So far, PING had kept its promise: there was a better feel and there was an increase in distance. But how can you dramatically improve a club that you had just a few years back claimed was the "maximum" forgiveness iron? Well, PING did.
The G15 irons are comically forgiving. I tried hitting the ball out of the center of the fairway, the rough, fairway bunkers, pine straw, and mud. The result seemed to be almost the same feel and same trajectory with every shot. There was actually a point where I became so frustrated with the consistency of the clubs that I started dropping balls into a shallow puddle and seeing what the results would be.
So on course, the club seemed to strike the ball very well but then again, the clubface is so big how could you miss the sweet spot? Well, like the G15 driver, I took a nice long roll of impact tape, grabbed a few hundred golf balls, and parked myself in front of a launch monitor for an afternoon. Head to head, the G15 are more forgiving than the G10 irons. In particular:
- Within a dime of the sweet spot both the G10 and G15 had a minimal loss of distance.
- On the toe of the G10 there was a loss of 4-6 yards. On the toe of the G15 there was a loss of 2-5 yards.
- On the heel of the G10 there was a loss of 5-7 yards. On the heel of the G15 there was a loss of 3-6 yards.
- Shots hit thin with the G10 had a loss of 4-10 yards. Shots hit thin with the G15 had a loss of 0-8 yards.
- Shots hit thick with the G10 had a loss of 6-15 yards. Shots hit thick with the G15 had a loss of 4-14 yards.
These might seem like minor changes but I find them to be pretty significant improvements. The one improvement that I found most significant was a shot hit thin. It seemed as if so long as the G15 hit any part of the underside of the golf ball that the ball would go almost exactly the same distance.
Despite my praise for the G15s, I will not be putting them in my own bag. The G15s have a thick sole that caused me to consciously change my swing to sweep the ball rather than attack the ball. Moreover, when I tried to hit a slight draw or a slight fade the ball stayed almost dead straight. Last, the large offset of the clubhead lead to a few untimely hooks with my long irons.
With all that said, PING has no intention of me putting the clubs in my bag. The G15 is targeted at golfers that dig into the ground when they shouldn't; golfers that probably can't hit a feather draw or fade; golfers that could benefit from the offset. Ultimately, the G15 is a perfect fit for a mid- to high-handicap golfer.
Specs and Extras
Like all PING golf clubs, they are meant to be custom ordered to your specifications including shaft, grip texture, grip size, lie, and loft. If you were to get a set of G15s off the rack, they come standard with either the PING AWT steel (Soft R, R, S, and X flexes) or TFC 149i graphite shaft (L, Soft R, R and S flexes). MSRP is $107.50 per club with steel shafts and $135.00 per club with graphite shafts.
Standard specs for the irons are as follows:
Club Length Loft Lie Offset Bounce --------------------------------------------------- 3 38.75" 20° 59.25° .32" -2° 4 38.25" 23° 60.00° .30" 0° 5 37.75" 26° 60.75° .28" 2° 6 37.25" 29° 61.50° .26" 4° 7 26.75" 32° 62.25° .24" 6° 8 36.25" 36° 63.00° .22" 8° 9 35.75" 40° 63.75° .20" 9° PW 35.50" 45° 64.00° .18" 10°
For nearly a decade my disdain for the appearance of PING irons has kept me from giving them a closer look. Given the G15's new and improved appearance though I was finally I was finally willing to give the irons a chance. After three weeks of experiencing the ridiculous forgiveness of the G15s, I believe that these irons will attract a lot of converts. While you will not see the G15 irons in the bags of any tour professionals or many lower handicappers, this is a club that any player seeking maximum forgiveness should seriously consider.