WHILE I've all the respect in the world for PING irons, I've never really found one that appeals.
Yes, exceptional performance is always guaranteed from these guys whether it be game improver or player stick, but for the most part, PING irons have always looked a little too chunky and off-putting for me.
Yet all those thoughts were quickly dispelled when the PING S55 arrived at Golfmagic Towers last week. It was love at first sight. Quite frankly, the best looking club in PING's history and maybe iron history. If it were on Tinder, I'd most definitely be swiping right.
Following a recent testing session with the S55 5-, 7- and 9-iron at Mannings Heath Golf Club, using Flightscope to monitor my shot data, I can safely say these new sticks will prove one of the most successful player irons of 2014.
In engineering the new S55, PING wasn’t out to overhaul the design innovations that made its predecessor, the S56, an unquestioned success on tours worldwide. PING S56 is an iron held in high regard by PING staffers with many of them calling it the best-looking, best-feeling player iron PING has ever created. PING therefore had to tread carefully when designing the new S55, yet at the same time, the modifications were small and only made to incorporate improved workability, control and forgiveness.
And that re-engineering process certainly appears to have paid instant dividends. So much so, many of the company’s star players have already switched to the S55 including the likes of Bubba Watson - making his first ever change of iron model since 2004! - Hunter Mahan, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Angel Cabrera and arguably America's hottest new young talent Billy Horschel.
On first look, the heads appear a little smaller than the S56 but not so small that they scare you. They ooze a sleek, minimalistic cavity back design, toe weighting, stability bar through the middle and a neat S55 logo to the top corner. I love the brushed, satin-chrome finish. PING hasn't gone crazy or anything by splashing colours all over the place, it's just adopted a very simple, stylistic design that dare I say it, is much more appealing to the eye.
Placing clubhead down on the turf and the address position looks almost identical to its elder brother with weight in the toe for better stability and a relatively thin topline. The transition between hosel and topline in the S55 is probably just a little bit beefier than the S56, however, but that only gives the appearance of a little less offset. That's a major positive for someone like me at least, who wants some offset on the table but doesn't necessarily want to have to look at it.
The biggest difference to the S56, however, is the new Custom Turning Port - or CTP as PING calls it - that has been positioned right behind the impact area of the clubhead. It's larger and made of a new thermoplastic elastomer material that better absorbs vibration at impact.
From my testing, I found the improved CTP was helping to soften the feel of these 17-4 stainless steel cast irons. Don't let the fact these babies are cast, and not forged, put you off. They don't feel hard or make a horrible sound - two attributes that often keep a better player's debit card in the wallet.
The larger size of CTP also allows more weight to be moved from the centre of the iron to the perimeter - from what I've been told by PING, 4g of weight has been saved because of the larger CTP. The S55 has a slightly higher moment of inertia (MOI) - a measure of an iron’s forgiveness - and has a more precisely tuned CG location for each club. It's only a 0.5% increase but it's an increase, one PING says adds up to two yards of distance to shots struck 0.5 inches from the sweetspot. Every little helps.
In terms of performance - yes you need to be of a high standard to use these irons - but even someone in the high singles like me was able to reap the benefits of the S55. Ball flight with the 7-iron was particularly impressive with a 154-yard carry and 175-yard carry on the 5-iron. My average spin rate and launch angle was stronger than I'd expect for a player iron too. This had something to do with the larger CTP which has placed the CG of the long irons lower and deeper in the head. The standard PING CFS shaft in stiff provided me with a decent high launch with extremely good dispersion. The shaft feels very similar to the Dynamic Gold but just a little lighter weight. I also thought the S55 was very forgiving across the board.
Overall, not dissimilar in performance to the S56 but a marginal gain in distance and a great deal of workability. They're also pretty forgiving throughout the set. As I've already mentioned, I definitely prefer the appearance of the S55. This is the first club that really excites me from PING. The fact they're not forged may still put some people off but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. They're soft-feeling enough and that's all the matters to me. Expensive at £950 for the set but you get what you pay for. Better players get involved.