PING has a new entry in the Players Distance category, one it says doesn’t abandon the better golfer in pursuit of more yards.

While designing i500, PING sought to create an iron that goes far, flies high, and feels great, while offering a size, shape, and overall profile that retains its appeal to better players. Fundamentally, the company wanted to take what golfers experience with the G700, specifically high launch and increased distance, and put it in a players package in a way that’s functional.

What PING didn’t want to do was create another distance iron that goes far, flies low, and can’t hold a green worth a damn. PING wanted to do Players Distance in a way that offers a legitimate performance advantage – and as I said, PING wanted to do Players Distance in a way appeals to better players.

Easier said than done. Many have tried, and many have been less than successful.

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Big Performance from a Small Iron

Fundamental to the challenge is the reality that it’s easy to get distance out of a big club, but it’s hard to do in a smaller club. To give you some clarity around what we’re talking about, the i500 has the same face size as the new i210 (similar to the i200), and while the blade length is a bit longer, it retains the offset of PING’s most player-centric design, the iBlade. i500 is an iron that, while not among the absolute most compact, should never be mistaken for a game improvement club.

The i500 offers hollow-body construction similar to G700. The defining performance characteristics (high launch and bigtime ball speed) come from a C300 maraging steel face that’s robotically welded to the frame. It’s the same material PING uses in its fairway wood and hybrid faces, and it creates what PING’s Marty Jertson describes as a diving board effect. The flexing and rebounding of the face not only contribute to higher ball speeds than you’ll get from traditional iron designs, but it also creates significantly higher launch – albeit with a bit less spin (PING says +/- 700 rpm at 7-iron, compared to i210).

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A Quick Aside: Hollow Body vs. Goo-Filled

No doubt somebody will leave a response saying something along the lines of “PXG is going to sue PING…” Without wading too much into those weeds, the construction is fundamentally different, though it’s worth mentioning that irons with similar appearing designs can be split into two categories.

PXG and TaylorMade use filler/backing materials like COR2 and SpeedFoam respectively to – as the stories go – make the face more responsive while improving feel.

In the hollow-body camp are Mizuno, Titleist, and PING. The philosophy behind these designs is that you don’t want anything directly behind the face impeding its ability to flex and rebound.

Is one design fundamentally better than the other? It depends on who you ask.

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A Club Longer

Again, using the new i210 – a reasonably traditional iron design – as our point of comparison. Club for club, higher swing speed players could see as much as 15 yards of additional distance while average speed players may see 7 or 8. It should go without saying that the actual numbers will vary from player to player depending on how the club is delivered. Consider this the requisite your actual mileage may vary disclaimer.

The more compelling point is that the distance gains come with nearly identical launch angle, despite the fact that i500 lofts are up to 2.5° degrees stronger than the i210.

The loft police will, no doubt, be up and arms looking over the spec sheet, but the reality is that any discussion around static loft that ignores peak height and descent angle isn’t worth having. As we’ve said on several occasions before, static loft is nearly meaningless. A slew of dynamic variables contributes to the flight of a golf ball.

“We were comfortable making the lofts a little bit stronger because the ball goes so higher with these irons.” – Marty Jertson

What you get with i500, according to PING, is an iron that launches appreciably higher than anything else in its class – particularly at long iron lengths. Jertson says that tour caliber players can identify a change of 2%-3% in height while average golfers can identify increases in 4% to 5%. According to PING, the peak height of i500 long irons is 10% higher than competitive offerings. 10% is an absolutely massive number and should be immediately apparent to just about anybody who hits the clubs.

The increase in peak height steepens the landing angle, making for a soft landing on greens that, for most, will more than make up for the decrease in spin.

The result is an iron that’s up to a club longer than traditional designs. In practical terms that means that you’ll find yourself hitting an 8-iron in situations where you may have previously hit a 7. Now the cynics will say that PING has done little more than stamp a different number on the sole of the club, but the reality is you’re going to be hitting an iron that flies higher, and because an 8-iron is half an inch shorter than a 7, you’re going to swinging a club that’s easier to control and hit straight. By any practical measure, that’s a performance advantage.

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What About Workability?

One area where i500 departs a bit from the players camp it’s in the area of workability. Claims of increased workability are a staple of every better players iron release, but that’s not the case with the i500.

The size, sole design, and limited offset should allow better players to control the face to path relationship, dynamic loft and attack angle. Players should be able to flight the ball through different windows, but the lower spin characteristics of the design make it harder to create a ton of curve. While PING doesn’t expect that the i500 will find its way into Bubba’s bag, the upside is that the ball will generally fly straighter, which should prove beneficial for most golfers – even really good players.

At its core, the i500 is designed to give the club golfer what tour golfers already have – the ability to hit the ball high with a ton of speed. Tour players still need some help with the long irons, while club golfers can benefit from the i500 through the entire bag. It’s also worth noting that because PING was able to keep the offset consistent with the iBlade, the i500 provides a more conventional alternative to the Crossover as a long iron replacement, making it ideal for those who play blended sets. That includes Marty Jertson who recently qualified for the 2018 PGA Championship using a i500 long irons paired with the iBlade.

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Aesthetic Considerations

As I said at the beginning, one of the goals of the i500 project was to increase distance without losing the connection to the better player. That meant keeping the design clean. In addition to minimal offset, the i500 offers a chamfered topline that makes it appear narrower than it is. The sole is a bit wider than the iBlade but a bit narrower than the i210. Iron numbers have been removed from the face to keep things as clean as possible, and the updated Hyrdropearl 2.0 finish is a bit brighter and less flat than the original. On looks alone, it’s fair to describe the i500 as a smaller, shinier G700.

 3 Loft Options

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As is it has done with its recent iron offerings; it will offer the i500 in what the company calls PowerSpec. PowerSpec lofts are 1°-1.5° stronger through the set. It’s a good option for higher spin players, or golfers looking for even more distance, particularly in the long irons.

With the release of the i500 and i210, PING will begin offering what it calls RetroSpec. Following a similar progression as PowerSpec, RetroSpec lofts (not shown) are 1°-1.5° weaker than the standard spec. Beyond back in my day golfers, RetroSpec is an option for low spin players seeking more spin or for golfers who only carry three wedges.

As with most clubs, our recommendation is to check your preconceptions at the door and work with a fitter to determine which set of specifications will work best for you.

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Stock Shaft

The stock shaft for the i500 is the DynamicGold DG 105. Flex for flex the DG 105 will play softer than both the standard Dynamic Gold and the DG 120 that’s stock in the i210. It’s a case of PING leveraging the shaft to increase launch. If the DG 105 isn’t your thing, PING’s no charge shaft catalog includes offerings from Dynamic Gold, KBS, and Nippon.

Hands On

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I had a chance to hit the i500 alongside the new i210. PING is billing the choice as one of Power vs. Precision. Make no mistake about it; the i500 is definitely the power option. In testing 7-irons, I found that my numbers mostly matched the averages from PING’s internal testing. On good shots, my launch difference was about .6°, but peak height averages were identical. My spin differences were a bit wider than the test group’s, and as a result, I was a solid 14 yards longer with the i500. What really stands out is that the i500 gets downrange faster than any other iron I’ve ever hit. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but take my word for it (at least until you can try it for yourself) the i500 moves like a metalwood. While it won’t’ be for everyone, the distance – and the consistency for that matter – is impressive.

While we’ve done a good bit of comparison between the i500 and the i210 and while the numbers we’ve chosen have been favorable to the i500, it’s important to keep the irons compartmentalized. The i210 offers traditional performance – albeit with a modern slant. It launches a little higher, spins quite a bit more, it’s more workable, and for me, the increased offset makes for a much more playable long irons. It’s not nearly as long as the i500, and that’s going to be just fine with a segment of golfers.

The i500 offers an entirely different experience – one that we’re not used to from PING (though G700 carved the path). It’s a speed iron that’s infinitely fun to hit, but with its lower spin, and diminished workability it’s not going to be for everyone. Frankly, some may find that they simply hit it too far, but I promise you, you’ll have a blast trying it for yourself.

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Pricing and Availability

Pre-Sale for the PING i500 begins today (7/16/2018) with consumer availability starting 7/31. MSRP is $175 per iron steel and $190 per iron graphite.

For more information, visit PING.com.