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The Big Review – Ping S-56 irons and Tour-S wedges
Already a major winner, the S-56 irons and the Tour-S wedges are the better player's clubs in the current Ping line up. The fourth of the player's blade series, the S-56 continues Ping's attempt to woo lower handicappers away from more established brands. The Tour-S wedges are the first from Ping with the new conforming grooves and have found their way into the bags of quite a few non-Ping players. Both these clubs found themselves in the winner's circle at a Major when Louis Oosthuizen won The Open in July this year.
So what does Ping have to say about these clubs. S-56, "The steel body design with variable tungsten toe weighting positions the CG for higher launching long irons and more controlled, penetrating trajectories in the short irons. Its patent-pending Stabilizing Bar™ Technology varies in width throughout the set to optimise each iron’s CG location", Tour-S, "its machined face and grooves are engineered to optimise spin for greater control. The traditional shape of the heads features tour-inspired sole geometry for enhanced shot making from all conditions. Its vertical Custom Tuning Port angles toward the back surface to increase the perimeter weighting for added forgiveness".
The Ping ethos has always valued performance over appearance and that is still true with these irons. That said, you get the impression that the lumps and bumps and hosel notches are there for a reason not because someone in marketing thought that it looked pretty. Pings look like they are there to do the job and they do the job as well as anyone else. The milled face and the brushed satin finish ooze quality and the legendary Ping durability means that they will look new for longer than almost any other make. The cavity is fairly shallow, even in the long irons and the back of the club is never visible at address. The minimal offset is another indicator that these are for better players.
Despite not being forged Ping have shown that cast irons can have great feel. While you're not going to get the same sensation as a 1020 steel forging, Ping have worked their magic with the 17-4 stainless steel in these irons and I have to say that having come from testing a series of forged irons, I was pleasantly surprised with just how good they were. The sensation on flushed shots is one of complete solidity, slight miss-hits feel almost no different and even more severe miss-hits produce far better results that you expect. The wedges are very similar, not quite the top of the line but close enough as to make no difference.
The S-56 irons offer a fantastic mix of control and distance. Purely on performance the S-56 are as good as anything on the market, especially in the long irons. For a blade sized long iron to offer the forgiveness and control that they do is an unbelievable achievement. Better players will be tempted to throw away the hybrids with these that are that good. The stabilizing bar technology and weighting certainly has something to do with this and the COG location is spot on. There was some talk of golfers losing distance with the previous generation S-57 but that is not an issue here. Ball flight is plenty long and comparable to any other set of similarly lofted irons.Despite having a fairly flat sole, the irons seem to resist digging and the white paint-fill on the bottom groove makes aligning the club very easy.
Short irons and the S-Tour wedges both produce high spin from low trajectories and the sole grind on the wedges is excellent where the back of the sole is strongly ground away along the rear third making these clubs very versatile around the green and allowing play from almost any lie – possibly one reason the Tour-S wedges have been seen in the bag of Triple Major winner Padraig Harrington. As with all clubs with grooves conforming to the new Condition of Competition rules, spin rates have dropped from wet lies or thick rough but hitting from the fairway sees no difference in the amount of control you can exert. The wedges address the ball beautifully and with the accuracy available you can knock down pins all day.
While it may be more claymore than katana in the look and feel departments, you cannot ignore the staggering performance. The practically unrivalled combination of distance and control with fantastic forgiveness for that head size means that the S56 must be on your short-list when you are considering buying players irons. Ping seemed to have cracked the problem of making blade type irons with game improvement level of forgiveness in a way that must have all the competition worried. The Tour-S wedges are a great accompaniment for the irons as they blend seamlessly in to create a set of clubs that anyone would be happy to play.