Amidst the cacophony of equipment releases during the past several weeks, we haven’t heard much from PING. No, you didn’t miss anything. It’s simply that PING’s release cadence tends to be more measured than some other OEMs and its flagship G410 metal woods are less than a year old.
For the most part, PING’s modus operandi doesn’t involve rushing products to market or trying to overwhelm consumers with a bunch of bright colors (Bubba’s driver excluded) or questionable marketing claims.
A typical PING release story features a discussion around progressive improvements, each of which has a specific purpose.
It’s actually a little boring. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
During our annual “Brand Perception Survey,” readers consistently give PING high marks for the following terms: performance, engineering, quality, integrity, trustworthy, and humble.
Your words, not mine – though I’m inclined to agree.
In July 2018, PING replaced the i200 with the i210 in an effort to produce its best-feeling players’ iron in a more visually appealing, crisper package. Six months later, the G410 launched and the objective was to give players the performance of a larger club but in a visually smaller package.
Taking a macro-view of PING’s iron line up, the i500 and G710 are the hollow-body versions of the i210 and G410, respectively. Now, the PING G710 replaces the G700 in PING’s iron line-up and remains the largest, most forgiving on the menu.
The primary task with the G710 was to address two fatal flaws in the G700. OK, “fatal” is a bit too macabre, but while the G700 met performance expectations, golfers were far less than thrilled with its feel and cosmetic durability.
The way PING looks at improving any design is, while steps can be small, they have to be forward. That is, any increased performance in one area (ball speed, forgiveness, aesthetics) can’t come at the cost of decreased performance in another.
How long should a new club reasonably retain that just out of the plastic look? Whatever the answer, the G700 didn’t pass the test. The bottom line is the satin hydropearl finish on the G700 didn’t fare as well as consumers expected, nor as PING intended. Call them smudges, creases, rub marks or whatever, the unsightly blemishes started showing up prematurely on the G700.
Generally, because forged irons are made from softer metals, golfers expect bag chatter and wear marks to show up sooner. But, excluding Blueprint, PING’s irons are cast, not forged, which makes this situation a bit more confusing.
Ultimately, what matters at this point is what PING did to remedy the issue. The answer? A double-layered hydropearl stealth finish. The first layer is a standard chrome plating. The next layer is a thin black PVD coating and the hydrophobic elements help repel water and offer better performance in wet conditions.
Two layers should prove to be more durable than one. However, the choice of PVD is a bit curious. Dark colors allow large items to appear somewhat smaller which comes in handy on bigger irons such as the G710. (Note to self: check closet and replace all non-black ¼-zips)
However, PVD (physical vapor deposition) is the equivalent of your basic white undershirt. It serves an intended short-term purpose but no one expects it to last forever. Other black finishes such as DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) are more durable but also significantly more expensive. Generally, golfers who buy black clubs want them to remain black for as long as possible. The reality is all dark finishes show wear over time and PVD is, at best, a middle-of-the-road option.
PING redoubled testing efforts, putting the new finish through a series of “wear” tests. Keep in mind, this is the same company that had an intern test head-cover durability with a high-powered leaf-blower. As such, I’ll take PING at its word when it says this finish is a noticeable improvement. As always, time will tell.
As with most anything, the first version of anything isn’t as good as the next one. The G700 was PING’s first entirely hollow-body set of irons. As a distance-first model, it was also a small step outside PING’s comfort zone.
An unfortunate reality of hollow irons is, absent goo, foam, glue or something, the sound can be thin and high-pitched. I guess rocks rumbling around in a tin can is another fair analogy.
So, PING engineers did a little digging using modal analysis to figure out exactly which portions of the design were causing the unwanted vibrations. The quick version of how this works: vibrations generate certain frequencies which in turn create feel. In simple terms, sound=feel. So to change how a club feels to golfers, you have to change the sound it makes at impact.
If you look at a frequency chart of an iron that golfers describe as “solid” or “buttery”, chances are the frequency range is pretty compact. That is, most frequencies form a pretty tight grouping. Problems occur when there are frequency spikes. Each spike is like a musical note and, when misaligned, produce serious dissonance.
Once PING figured out where the problem was, it needed to come up with a way to dampen the vibrations without losing any ball speed. After considering a plethora of possible materials, it landed on giloo.
That’s not a misspelling. It’s PING’s colloquialism for the common product “hot melt”. Yes, hot melt. Basically, PING injects hot-melt into specific locations in each iron to moderate the range of frequencies produced. There really isn’t a more complex version of this story. Again, PING tested it thoroughly and determined it was the best solution.
Because hot melt can degrade at 170°F, PING subjected the G710 to the most extreme conditions it felt a golfer would reasonably encounter: in a black car with no window tinting and a dark interior. In Arizona. In summer.
Even so, 140° was the hottest temperature PING recorded, and that was on the front dashboard – and I probably don’t need to point this out – but that isn’t where people should store clubs. The trunk, however, is a much better option and generally didn’t get much above 120°F.
PING is sticking with a 17-4 stainless-steel body plasma-welded to a maraging steel face. The variable-thickness face design helps “increase ball speeds for more distance and higher trajectories,” according to John K. Solheim, PING President. More importantly, this face architecture promotes consistent distance which “is a very rare combination for an iron of this type.” Additionally, PING tweaked the tungsten heel and toe weights to boost MOI by 5% compared to the G700.
Our testing continues to show irons that produced the best strokes-gained values were not typically the longest. Winning launch-monitor battles based on a limited number of shots might be good for generating sales in the big-box retail environment but it’s one of the reasons golfers struggle to improve. More distance may lead to better iron performance but not at the expense of accuracy.
The G710 is also PING’s first iron to come standard with Arccos Caddie Smart Grips and a free trial of the Arccos Caddie app. For those unfamiliar with Arccos, it’s a full-fledged, shot-tracking and performance-management platform.
For golfers, Arccos is capable of generating tour-level analytics and A.I.-powered club recommendations.
From an OEM perspective, Arccos presents an ideal field-testing scenario. Each time a player uses a PING club with Arccos, it adds information to a growing database. PING can then leverage this information to better understand how its clubs perform under real conditions.
The stock shafts available on the G700 (PING AWT 2.0-steel and Alta CB Red-graphite) remain, but PING is adding the Alta Distance Black 40 graphite shaft as a no-upcharge option. This shaft, co-designed with Mitsubishi Chemical, weighs a feathery 43 grams and is the highest-launching shaft in PING’s fitting matrix.
The G700 was a significant step for PING, and if the class was pass/fail it probably eeked out a B-.
What grade do you think the G710 would get this time?
MSRP $175 per iron w/steel shaft; $190 per iron w/graphite shaft.
For more information, visit Ping.com.