Instead of being designed for average-to-high-handicap players, PING S56 irons are meant for golfers who have single-digit or (at the most) low-teen handicaps. As such, they take a different approach than almost all other PING irons.
PING built its reputation by making golf clubs that help people play better. But these irons are “players clubs,” and they represent a departure from the company’s orientation toward game-improvement irons. Is your game ready for them?
Here’s our review of the PING S56 irons. Hopefully, it will help you decide whether you want to take a look.
Here’s what PING itself has to say about them: “The steel body design with variable tungsten toe weighting positions the CG [center of gravity] for higher launching long irons and more controlled, penetrating trajectories in the short irons. [Their] patent-pending Stabilizing Bar™ Technology varies in width throughout the set to optimize each iron’s CG location.”
Now, here’s a “translation” of what that says ….
The back cavity’s stabilizer bars vary in width throughout the set in order to provide optimal launch conditions. They’re narrow in the long irons to help promote higher shots, but they’re wider in the short irons to help produce lower, more penetrating shots with more distance control and accuracy. The positions of the clubs’ tungsten toe weights vary too, in order to enhance the effect even more. PING’s intention here is to give each individual iron the optimal center of gravity for the type of shot it’s meant to produce.
These irons aren’t designed to be forgiving. They’re players clubs, designed to appeal to accomplished golfers who want accuracy, control and workability above all else. These golfers like a little forgiveness, but what they really want are irons that give them consistent distances, let them shape their shots, and let them hit the greens with a high degree of accuracy. So, unlike game-improvement irons, the heads are small and have just a touch of perimeter weighting. The offset is also minimal. A weight cartridge positioned directly behind the face is there to dampen harsh vibrations, but it also lets PING change each club’s swingweight to meet the player’s individual needs and preferences.
There must be something to the design of PING S56 irons, because Louis Oosthuizen used them to win the 2010 British Open. And even though the clubs are a couple of years old now, they’re still in his bag.
That’s the kind of longevity I like to see in a set of irons. So, I decided to check out the PING S56 irons for myself, and then share what I learned with our readers.
First, these are cast, cavity-back clubs (although the cavity is fairly shallow). The debate about which type of iron is better – cast or forged, cavity-back or blade – has been going on for a very long time. To a large degree, the answer depends on your skill level.
Forged clubs are more expensive and less forgiving than cast, but they give you the best feel and control so they’re preferred by better players. Cast clubs are less costly, more forgiving and more durable (as a general rule) than forged. Typically, they’re intended to be used by golfers of any skill level, but especially mid- to high-handicappers. Likewise, cavity-back clubs are designed to provide more forgiveness and higher trajectories than muscle-back or blade-style irons. As a result, skilled golfers tend to gravitate toward blades and muscle-backs, while less accomplished players almost always buy cavity-backs.
The PING S56 irons are cast cavity-backs, but their design comes close to bridging the gap between forged and cast. They don’t have quite the buttery feel of forged, but they’re some of the nicest-feeling cast clubs I’ve ever played. When you make solid contact the feel resembles that of forged clubs, but they give you the feedback of cast clubs on off-center hits. And the shallowness of the cavity makes them resemble blades at address.
If you’re enough of a player to handle them, PING S56 irons can also give you some terrific performance. Ah ... but there’s the rub. The heads are compact (so is the sweet spot) and you don’t get the same level of forgiveness as you would with a maximum game-improvement iron. In short, PING S56 irons can be somewhat difficult to hit well – at least at my skill level (10.1 handicap index). Unfortunately, I saw a fair number of “topped” shots during my test rounds.
I was, however, able to draw or fade the ball at will when I struck the ball solidly. And when my swing came through for me, the accuracy of these clubs was superb. Distance control was also good, although I don’t think the PING S56 irons gave me any more distance than my current set.
The Bottom Line: All in all, I came away impressed by the PING S56 irons. They can be real weapons if you have the skillset to handle them. Try before you buy, because they’re clearly aimed at better players.