PING i15 Driver Review

This PING i15 driver is cool. Cool as in an imposing black-on-black, stealth bomber cool. The crown of the club is a sleek black, but that's not so unusual. The sole is black, too (okay, it has some touches of red). But even the face of this club - the actual hitting surface - is black. And all this beautifully menacing black makes the driver look like it would be a rocket launcher in the hands of a capable golfer. If I owned a PING i15 driver, I'd nickname it "Darth Vader." Talk about confidence at address.

The company is marketing the club to so-called "better players." Instead of being designed to facilitate a higher ball launch (something most mid- to high-handicap players need help with), the driver is intended to promote a lower, more piercing, "professional-style" trajectory. Instead of being designed to promote a draw or combat a tendency to slice, the PING i15 driver is engineered to do the opposite and produce a fade. Instead of helping golfers hit a straighter ball, the club is intended to provide workability, allowing skilled players to hit a draw or fade on command.

Get the picture? If not, then be advised that PING is marketing this weapon as a "tour-style" driver. It's available in 8-, 9-, and 11-degree lofts. No high-launch 13-degree version is available. Those are for a different type of player.

But what if you are a "different type of player" - would the average 10- or 15-handicap be able to wield the PING i15 driver effectively? Would this be too much club for average players? Read on to find out ...

After everything I'd heard and read, I have to admit I originally thought my game wouldn't be up to this driver. I'm a 9-handicap, and although I'm long for a woman, I don't hit my drives 275 yards (more like 220 or so.). But, after hitting it on the range and during a round on my regular course, I started feeling more confident about the idea. I think the club might work just fine for average golfers who consistently make fairly solid contact and don't fight a slice. My driver is probably my most reliable club, and if there's anything I'm going to hit well during a round, it's my driver. And my natural shot shape is a slight draw, not a fade or slice. So I guess my particular swing matches up well with the characteristics of the PING i15 driver. It's really more about your natural shot shape and making consistently solid contact with the sweet spot than your handicap.

In truth, the PING i15 driver is a bit more demanding and less forgiving on off-center hits than the PING G15 or K15 drivers. The upside is that it outperforms both its siblings on well-struck balls.

Although it doesn't have moveable weights and there's no adjustable hosel, the PING i15 driver comes with all the other stuff you'd expect from a high quality "player's" driver nowadays: a 460cc titanium head, a face that's thin around the perimeter and thicker in the center, and an internal weighting design that's intended to promote a fade.

When I hit a ball right on the money, the sound was muted but solid and satisfying - not harsh like some older Cobras, for example. The sound changed on off-center hits to provide some useful feedback. The feel at impact was just what I like: explosive but smooth as silk when I hit the ball properly, and obvious but not jarring on mishits.

Have I mentioned how utterly cool this club looks? Its black titanium-carbon finish can make the crown's subtle alignment aid a bit hard to see, but as far as I'm concerned, that's the price you pay for this kind of beauty. Its pear-shaped head appeals to traditionalists (like me), and its deep face and large hitting surface set up well and inspire confidence at address.

The Bottom Line: Because of its built-in fade bias, this club wouldn't be right for someone who slices the ball. But, when I hit the ball properly, the PING i15 driver made me feel like a pro. Well-struck drives went about ten yards farther than my normal driver and typically had a penetrating trajectory. The penalty for a mishit wasn't as bad as I expected from a "player's club." Maybe Darth Vader wasn't so bad after all.

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