In some ways, it might be safe to think of the recently released PING i20 driver as a “player’s version” of the popular PING G20 driver we review on another page of this site. It’s also the “flagship club” of a new line PING has just introduced as a 2012 New Year’s gift to all of us – the PING i20 line of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons (and yes, we have also posted reviews of the PING i20 woods, hybrids and irons on our site).
PING is one of the world’s top club manufacturers, so “golf geeks” everywhere look forward to the company’s new clubs even before they’re launched. Finally, the PING i20 driver and the other clubs in the family are out, so the wait is over. Here’s some information about the big stick, followed by my impressions based on testing it on the course.
The company’s goal for its new i20 series is helping golfers become more versatile and “complete” players by providing clubs that deliver the right blend of distance, workability and forgiveness. As a result, every design feature included in this driver – even its glare-resistant black finish – is intended to promote a high level of performance.
Although looks aren’t everything, they are important because they inspire player confidence. But in the case of the PING i20 driver, the matte black finish is intended to be more than merely attractive and confidence-inspiring. By absorbing light rather than reflecting it, the finish permits golfers to play away without the distraction of sun glare off the driver’s crown. The company reports that its tour pros are enthusiastic about the new finish, so there must be something to it.
Of course, there’s much more to this new driver than its attention-grabbing matte-black finish. Accomplished players (the target group for the i20 series) want to be able to control their shot shape and trajectory, so PING built in workability as well as a solid feel and a comforting amount of forgiveness. The combination allows “better players” to execute the shots they want with a high level of confidence.
The club’s 460cc head is made of a light, low-density titanium alloy which permits the use of perimeter weighting and thereby promotes forgiveness. PING worked hard to give the head a highly aerodynamic shape in order to reduce air drag and thereby promote greater club head velocities for increased distance. Dense tungsten weights strategically placed on the sole increase the Moment of Inertia (“MOI”) and fine-tune the center of gravity to permit reduced spin and a penetrating ball flight. The combination of these three design features makes the driver long and accurate.
This club is available in 8.5-, 9.5- and 10.5-degree lofts with a choice of two stock, same-cost 45.25-inch graphite shafts: the PING TFC 707D, which promotes a lower launch angle for a low-spin, penetrating trajectory; or True Temper’s Project X Black shaft, which promotes medium spin and a higher ball flight.
I don’t hit a high ball to begin with, so I tested a 10.5-degree PING i20 driver fitted with the Project X Black shaft. Unfortunately, the results were a bit dismaying.
It wasn’t the club’s fault. I just don’t have the skills that would allow me to be competent with a “better player” driver. I loved the way the PING i20 set up to the ball and I loved the way it felt during my swings. I just couldn’t get much height on my drives and my distance suffered as a result. And, although most of my drives flew straight (as promised by PING), I was unable to work the ball with this club. Once again, that probably stems more from my skill level than any deficiency in the driver. Game-improvement drivers such as the PING G20 (or G15 for that matter) are much better suited to my game than the PING i20 driver.
The Bottom Line: You can probably tell from what I’ve said that the PING i20 driver is “too much club” for me and my 10 handicap, but it is a thing of beauty. I love its black-on-black look – black crown, black face, black sole (the sole has a touch of color added by the tungsten sole plates and the logo).
But, if you have the skills to handle the dynamics of the PING i20 driver, I believe it could be a lot more than just a pretty face. Its launch price is $385 no matter which one of the two stock shafts you choose, and that’s high enough that you should probably take the PING i20 driver out for a test spin before you buy. In the right hands, this club could be a real weapon.