Recommended Price: Oversize or Blade (£605 steel, £963 graphite)
Perhaps more by ignorance than design, I’ve never been a big fan of Ping irons. Matched against the silky lines of say, a Mizuno or Maxfli Revolution, it’s a bit like comparing a female hammer thrower to a glamour model.
One’s got a rugged, muscular shape and a face hewn out of granite, the others have an elegant profile and a gloss finish most men would be proud to take on their arm to meet mum.
Sexist I know, but it’s tough to ignore good looks when making first impressions.
However, Ping’s latest offering the i3 plus iron, has had a makeover since its younger Olympian sister (i3) made its entrance last year and while not quite supermodel status, this club will certainly turn heads.
I have been testing the i3+ game improvement version, as opposed to the blade, currently in the hands of European Tour star Lee Westwood. I was custom-fitted for a regular steel-shafted version, so there should be no excuses.
Says Ping’s chairman John Solheim: "We've taken the proven technology of our i3 model and fine-tuned it to improve the overall performance of the i3+ irons. We're very excited about these new irons."
As well as a new shape for the leading edge and a sole design that claims to nip the ball easier off the turf, there’s a slimmer profile and new cosmetics.
"The new lead edge helps shots to come off cleaner, and players will have better control of their irons," says Solheim. A new CS Lite steel shaft with a unique step pattern, is claimed to be lighter and more consistent. Three flexes of graphite shaft are available, too.
Golfers who try the new i3+ Blades will see a little more offset in the shorter irons and slightly less bounce, to enable ‘the pickers’, usually low-handicap or pro golfers, to pick the ball off the surface rather than cut into the turf.
A difference I noticed in the bigger-headed Ping i3+ club was a slightly exaggerated off set which tended to force my hands even further forward at impact.
While the increased perimeter weighting provided a solid feel and more forgiveness when striking the ball off-centre, I lost about 7-10 yards per club in distance and tended to pull short irons a little left. But, boy they don't half make the ball bite and fizz.
With the medium and to a great extent with the long irons, the shaft tended to make the ball more difficult to control in direction and length.
Since switching to the clubs during the test period my short game has improved, especially with spin control using 8-iron to sand wedge. However, I am losing distance with the longer clubs and lacking consistency. It will be interesting to see if this changes in better conditions through the spring.
|Verdict (first impressions)|
These clubs have been custom-fitted for my height, hand size and more rounded swing but after using Wilson Fat Shafts for almost five years, adjustment is taking longer than I anticipated. It has to be my fault that I’m not playing the medium and longer irons more consistently; I’ll just have to work on my alignment. But I love the shorter irons. I’m getting height and bite and around the green, the sand iron's like a magic wand.
|Golfmagic rating: 8/10|
Ping i3plus irons