A few months ago pictures were released of the Ping iBlade. Social media caught fire and people praised the design, but had to wait a bit before trying them out.
One word constantly being thrown around regarding the design was “clean.”
They recently were made available for pre-order, and I too was an interested party. This past week I got a chance to try them out with my friends over at Pete's Golf Shop. I think there’s a few interesting takeaways from Ping’s latest attempt to satisfy golfers who crave a players iron.
The Ping iBlade is an upgrade to the S55 model, and with these irons they are trying to succeed in a space where they have traditionally not been very successful.
Although the word blade is in the title of the club, I believe the Ping iBlade is anything but a blade, but in a good way.
Blades are typically reserved for golfers who want ultimate feel, workability, and that classic look.
When I think of a blade iron the following models come to mind: the Titleist MBs, Mizuno MPs, and the iconic Miuras.
If you don’t hit them just right, well then good luck to you. The word forgiveness and blade are usually not uttered in the same sentence. This is the exact reason why I have stayed away from blades my entire golfing career. I don’t want to deal with the consequences on a mishit, which can be quite harsh.
That doesn’t stop many golfers from playing them though. Personally, I believe it’s to their own detriment. Some people believe that playing a blade is the ultimate learning tool because there is no room for error.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.
I asked Woody Lashen, the co-owner of Pete's Golf Shop, his thoughts on golfers who push themselves into a true blade. In his opinion if you’re not trying to play golf for a living it is just not necessary to play a blade iron these days.
In fact, if you look at the bags of many players on tour, you’ll see less and less of these classic-looking irons.
The Modern Blade
I think Ping has done an excellent job of combining some of the design features of a classic blade into a modern club that is packed with their technology.
Design is a subjective thing when it comes to golf clubs, and it’s very important for a golfer to like the look of the club when they’re staring down at it before a shot. Personally, I think Ping has knocked it out of the park with the design here for a few reasons.
As stated earlier, this is a clean-looking club. It’s modern, but has some of the features that better golfers want in a players iron.
Looking from the top down versus the S55 model, I believe the club looks a bit less intimidating. The face is not nearly as small as its predecessor, and they have thinned out the top a bit, which is something that will be welcomed by many golfers.
At address this doesn’t look like a golf club that you necessarily have to hit on a dime-sized sweet spot, but it’s certainly not even close to a bulky game-improvement iron.
I think for a more skilled golfer this will pass the visual test.
For our test we built a Ping iBlade as close as possible to my current irons with the correct lie angle and shaft. I also tested it against the S55 on a Foresight launch monitor just to see if there were any noticeable differences in launch conditions.
Something that is different about the iBlade versus its counterparts in the market is that it’s not made of forged steel. Instead, they’ve chosen to go with a 431 stainless steel. This allowed their engineers to build in some features that would make the club more forgiving while mimicking the soft feel of a forged blade.
After hitting them I don’t think anyone is going to notice the difference. These clubs feel fantastic at impact when you hit them properly. If you were doing a blind test with a forged iron I honestly doubt you would be able to tell the difference.
You are going to know when you miss a shot, but the consequences won’t be nearly as penal as a true blade iron. There is a tremendous amount of forgiveness in the Ping iBlade, and personally that’s my favorite feature.
After trying out the S55 there’s no question that this is a significant improvement in terms of the look and feel. These irons feel different at impact.
Let’s take a look at my numbers…
My ball flight with the iBlade versus the S55 was a little bit higher, with less spin which is optimal for a player like myself.
The lofts on the Ping iBlade are not aggressive, so this is not a distance iron at all. In fact the 7-iron is weaker by 1 degree than the S55, but I actually was carrying the iBlade slightly further.
I believe the main story on these irons is that a skilled golfer can get themselves into a players iron that has plenty of forgiveness, but offers the feel and workability of a classic blade.
Who Should Play the Ping iBlade?
I asked Woody about the kind of golfer he could imagine playing this club. He believes that the Ping iBlade could work for almost any single-digit handicap, which I would agree with.
This is a club for a golfer who wants that clean look, but needs a bit of forgiveness.
Many of the other blade irons on the market are typically reserved for golfers who are closer to scratch, and have tremendous ball-striking skills. After hitting the Ping iBlade I don’t think that’s the case.
These are excellent irons.
You could go so far as to say that Ping has finally reached a point where they built a players iron that satisfies their standards for technology, but offers the design and craftsmanship that players in this space want.
Many would say that hasn’t been the case in the past for Ping when it comes to this category.
The Ping iBlade is currently available for pre-order and you can find more about them on Ping's website here.