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10 Things You Need to Know About Ping’s i200 Irons

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When Ping released its iBlade irons, our review called them “intelligent blades,” a fitting description of an iron that was designed to look and feel like a blade, but offer more forgiveness.

The Ping i200 irons are again blurring the line of blade and cavity-back irons. They’re made to have the forgiveness of cavity-backs, but deliver the clean looks and workability you’d expect from more compact irons. They’re so well rounded, in fact, that Ping expects 20-40 percent of its staffers will put the i200s in play in 2017, including Lee Westwood and Brooke Henderson… and many more Tour players will have them in play as part of a combo set.

The Phoenix-based company also has a few tricks up its sleeve with this release, including a “secret-menu option” for those who need a little boost.

Ping’s i200 irons (3-9, PW, UW) are available for pre-order today, and will sell for $135 with steel shafts ($150 with graphite shafts). Here are 10 things you need to know about them.

1) Workable AND Forgiving

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How is it possible that an iron built for forgiveness can still be workable? Isn’t it impossible to both produce more side spin AND eliminate side spin at the same time? Not exactly. Marty Jertson, Senior Design Engineer at Ping explains:

“Think of iBlades as a sports car and [Ping’s] G or Gmax irons as luxury sedan,” Jertson says. “iBlades are more workable because you have more control over the face alignment and how the face returns to impact. The reduced torque pressure makes it easier for you to turn the face, but they still increase inertia around the center of gravity CG, making it the Holy Grail of blade irons… workable AND forgiving.”

Ping uses the same concept in its i200 irons, only to a lesser extent than the iBlades. While their compact head shape and thin top rails allow the golfer to manipulate the face as it moves through space, the physics of the iron’s design mean higher inertia around the center of gravity.

So if iBlades are intelligent blades, Ping’s i200 irons could be considered the sports cars of cavity backs.

2) “Smoosh Central”

You’ll notice a familiar look with i200 irons… something similar to Ping’s S55s irons, which have garnered a cult-like following.

Golfers liked Ping’s S55 irons because of their clean looks and sneaky forgiveness, according to Jertson, so Ping engineers wanted to maintain aspects of the S55 design while enhancing feel with the i200s.

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The i200 irons, made from 431 stainless steel, have a soft feel that makes it seem like the ball stays on the face longer; or as Jertson calls it, “smoosh central.” That’s due to the materials and new construction.

Ping’s i200 irons have a thicker top portion of the face and a thinner lower portion, helping drop the center of gravity (CG) for a higher launch. It also gives the irons more ball speed on shots hit low on the club face, where most players tend to contact their iron shots. The i200 irons also have longer CTPs (custom tuning ports). They’re made from elastomer and have been moved closer to the face in the i200 design, helping provide golfers a squishy, yet powerful feel.

Overall, the club faces have a thickness of about 0.68 millimeters, which is about half the thickness of the S55 irons, according to Ping. That leads to both more ball speed off the face and more moment of inertia (MOI), a measure of ball speed retention in mishits.

3) A New Look, Down to the Details

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The i200s are designed with straighter leading edges in the long irons (3-7 irons) and thinner top rails on the short irons (6-PW) than their i predecessors. The irons also have a shape that looks more rounded near the toe, along with a smoother transition area from the hosel to the club face. The more blended transition means they will appear to have less offset than they do.

The progressive look of the irons throughout the set will play well for golfers looking to create a combo set with the iBlades (short irons from the iBlade set for more precision, long irons from the i200 set for more shot height, forgiveness and distance).

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Inspired by vintage blades, the i200 irons also have a longer ferrule than previous i irons for a more classic look. Little things like the metallic iron numbers are buffed to offer the look of precision, as well.

4) The Low-Toe Theory

Throughout Ping’s history, the company has designed irons with more weight in the toe section of its club heads in order to center mass in the head; without added weight in the toe, CG tends to be heel-ward.

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Like Ping irons from the past, the i200 irons have cavities that are machined to move weight into the high- and low-toe areas. For golfers, that means a more forgiving iron, especially when hit off the toe, which is the likely miss for most golfers.

5) The Importance of Yardage Gapping

Ping looked to data from its Tour players and their past iron releases to develop iron lofts in the i200 iron sets.

The long irons, which have thinner faces, go about 6-8 yards farther than the previous i-series irons, according to Jertson. In order to prevent the short iron yardage gaps from being too wide, the short irons in the set are made with thicker faces, effectively reducing ball speed.

If you want more distance with each iron, respectively, Ping has something for you…

6) Sauced Up with the Power Spec

New with the i200 irons is a secret-menu option called the “power spec,” which systematically jacks the lofts on each iron.

“It’s like ordering animal style at In-and-Out,” Jertson says. “We’ll juice the irons with stronger lofts … golf’s supposed to be fun, right?”

Plus, the stronger-lofted irons are good for high-spin players looking to flatten out their trajectory. Here’s a look at the loft specs.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 1.43.41 PM

7) Full-On Swing Weight Command

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A major part of club fitting is getting the correct swing weight, and Ping uses what it calls Custom Tuning Ports (CTP) to help golfers dial in those specifications.

“Swing weight progression is very important,” says Jertson. “If it’s 1.5 points light, that could definitely throw you off. [Golfers] need consistency, so tempo, speed and shaft have to match.”

As Jertson explains, you can hedge against a certain miss using swing weight. For example, if you tend to miss right you’ll want to make the head lighter, effectively lowering the swing weight and helping you to “get the club around” better, he says.

The CTPs used in the i200 irons range from 4 to 32 grams each, the “standard” being 10-12 grams. They’re longer from heel to toe than in previous Ping irons, which helps makes the clubs more forgiving. The tuning ports also have a dampening effect to improve sound and feel.

8) Ping looked to its wedges when designing the soles

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Bounce, a term that’s mostly associated with wedges, is just as important in iron design. Generally speaking, more bounce means more forgiveness, so the i200s are made with more bounce than the iBlades and previous i-series irons. With a rounder leading edge that’s designed with 1-degree more bounce angle, the irons won’t want to dig as much, thus reducing divot size and depth.

The “hottest i-series iron was the i20s,” according to Jertson, and these irons will perform similarly through the turf.

9) Hydropho-what?

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Ping engineers designed the faces of the i200 irons with milling marks to help repel the water and grass that lowers spin and alters flight. At impact, the milling marks are said to create a more consistent trajectory by increasing friction, meaning less flyers and knuckle balls.

The iron’s finish, called Hydro Pearl Chrome, enhances hydrophobicity, or the ability of an object to repel water. The angle of the milling marks and the grooves is designed to do the same.

10) Custom Only

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The stock AWT 2.0 shafts from Ping are made by Nippon, and increase in weight as golfers move from their long irons to their short irons. It’s a “very complex shaft thats very expensive with variable steps and variable wall thickness that’s great for the masses,” Jertson says.

There are also various aftermarket shafts available from Ping at no upcharge: True Temper Dynamic Gold, Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105, XP 95, and Project X.

i200 Specs (3-9, PW, UW)

  • Stock steel shaft: PING AWT 2.0 (R, S, X)
  • After-market shaft options (no upcharge): Project X 5.0, 6.0; XP 95 (R300, S300), N.S. Pro Modus3 105 (S, X), KBS Tour (R, S, X), Dynamic Gold (S300, X100)
  • Stock graphite shaft: PING CFS 65/70/80 (Soft R, R, S)
  • $135 per club (steel shaft); $150 per club (graphite shaft)

Related: See more photos of the Ping i200 irons in our forums, and join the discussion. 

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Jannette Simpliciano

    Feb 4, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    This blog about 10 Things You Need to Know
    About Ping?s i200 Irons. has helped me enormously, is a
    very good topic. What product helped me lose weight, I recommend you see here: https://s96.me/fit (or click on the name).
    Kiss you All!

  2. Hammer

    Feb 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Hello fellow golfers , after playing 3 more rounds of golf on my home course , I have but one thing to say, WOW I love these I200 Ping irons. So consistent, so forgivable and so easy to move left or right. Need I say more.

  3. Hammer

    Feb 14, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    I am a 4 handicapp golfer that has been playing the Iblades since they came out. I thought these were the best irons ping ever made. With great hesitation a friend of mine convinced me to try his I200 irons with the same 95 steelefiber shafts I have in my irons. He does not have the stronger lofts in his irons. WOW were these irons a surprise, they definitely have a softer feel than my Iblades and even though some of the lofts were weaker than my irons , there was no loss of distance at all. I also felt the ground interaction with the sole to be much improved. Although these irons are not pure blades , the ability to move the ball left or right was very easy. These are now my favorite irons to date. Last but not late the forgiveness in these irons was also slightly improved it seamed. I would need to play more than 2 rounds to be sure however. I have purchased these from my local golf store and already put my shafts in them, I will give an update after several more rounds are completed

  4. Forsbrand

    Jan 17, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Look really nice irons lots of playability and forgiveness

    I for one need to be looking at a good sized head early Sunday mornings after skinful the night before, peanut headed blades make me so nervous

  5. Pat

    Jan 17, 2017 at 6:34 am

    Any word if there is going to be a ping g200 coming

  6. edge of lean

    Jan 17, 2017 at 4:37 am

    Grown on me in the last week. Will have to hit them now. I suspect it will turn out to be another case of great clubs I can’t afford right now.

  7. Hitter

    Jan 17, 2017 at 2:23 am

    These look great.. will have to go some to beat the S55s

  8. Rolo

    Jan 16, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    WRXrs will be disappointed that there is no option to de-power spec the loft since they hit it so far already.

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      I just loathe the the golfers who are condescending to other fellow golfers if they don’t play 28 degree 5 iron etc. If you want to play a 28 degree 5 iron go ahead, more power to you. Personally I prefer my 5 iron to be about 24 degrees. My choice for which I need no one’s approval.

    • hdcp0

      Jan 16, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      LoL….so true

  9. Jim

    Jan 16, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Didn’t the I Series just come out last year? Why would they release a replacement so soon?

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Actually I think the I series irons came out about September 2015 Typical Ping 18 month release cycle.

  10. birdy

    Jan 16, 2017 at 11:16 am

    i200? sorry…i don’t see whats so great about these. look like an old tm rac. the name is odd.

    i’m sure they are great irons…but nothing stands out that makes me think ‘have to hit these’

  11. golfraven

    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Will certainly give those a demo. My i20s need a succesor.

  12. AC

    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Fantastic! The more the iron looks like a blade or CB but performs like a GI club the better. I much prefer the solid no frills iron vs those gimmicky colorful irons.

  13. Ay Eye

    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Wait, so there won’t be an i30?

    • Mikec

      Jan 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      No, it went i20, i25, iE1, i200….there never was or will be a i30

  14. Lee

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

    The ‘Power Spec’ loft option oh dear! As we all know if you get fitted properly the shaft, grip, loft and lie will be matched to your playing characteristics anyway.

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Oh Goody – We had the obligatory these aren’t a blade comments from Juan & know we get the “hey everybody go get fitted properly” comment. Personally I like the power loft option & am sure I could get properly fitted for the power lofts if I decided to go that route.

  15. Shane

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Why only the 5.0 & 6.0 offered as no upcharge in the Px? Where’s the 5.5?

  16. Juan

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:19 am

    They may be good irons, but there is nothing blade-like about them. Large head, offset, thick sole, and the large cavity in the back. There is nothing about them that calls to mind a blade, and marketing speak aside, I doubt the performance truly resembles that of a blade, either.

    • Buford T Justice

      Jan 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Yes, Yes, Yes. Because you personally need the performance of a real deal blade, and could in no way benefit from a club like the i200.

      This review is for the i200, however, the blade brigade must pipe in and remind us that this is in no way, shape, or form, a blade.

      I think I’ve got it, champ! This isn’t a blade, doesn’t perform like a blade, and the article doesn’t suggest it’s a blade. Evidently i200s are good enough for Westwood on the men’s side, and Henderson on the women’s side. So, keep fighting the good fight, sparky.

      Oh, and let us know how you do at the CareerBuilder at La Quinta the weekend.

      Oh…wait…nevermind.

      • birdy

        Jan 16, 2017 at 11:14 am

        calm down cupcake…no one said these weren’t good….they simply aren’t blades. don’t resemble blades. looks like you’re an awful angry person in the morning

      • Buck

        Jan 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        Why the personal attacks? He was simply stating his opinion about the product in the article. Birdy is right, you seem like an awful angry person. “There are a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market today that are just as tasty as the real thing”

        As far as the clubs, they are good looking irons, but I just don’t see $135 worth of club here. To each their own

      • Juan

        Jan 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

        The article compares them to blades 4 times by the end of the first “thing you need to know”. Ping makes good irons, and I’m sure these will perform well, but my comment is in response to what I believe to be an inaccurate comparison to blade irons. The items I mentioned are all different than most blade designs that I have seen.
        I made no statements as to whether one head design is better than another, so the personal attacks are unwarranted.

    • DaveJ

      Jan 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      I dunno, that at address picture looks pretty blade-like to me, which is the main thing they were going for, right? A more forgiving smallish cavity back that still feels pure like a blade, looks like a blade at address, yet still has a bit of workability sounds like a quality club. Obviously they aren’t MP33s, but they have a similar look behind the ball, even if they play quite a bit differently.

      DaveJ

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      They may be good irons, but there is nothing DIVER-like about them. Large head, offset, thick sole, and the large cavity in the back. There is nothing about them that calls to mind a DRIVER, and marketing speak aside, I doubt the performance truly resembles that of a DRIVER, either.

      • Juan

        Jan 17, 2017 at 10:25 am

        Does anyone read? The article compares the irons to blades several times.

        • Scooter McGavin

          Jan 17, 2017 at 12:23 pm

          Do you even read? Just because the article references the iblades and uses the word “blades” it doesn’t mean it was trying to describe the i200’s as blades. In fact, it describes them as “the sports car of cavity backs”. But somehow you interpreted the author as saying that the clubs were blade-like… even though it said nothing of the sort. They were comparing them to the iblades and the technology used in that model to reduce head size and to explain how this model fit into the Ping lineup. I swear, people don’t read anything in context anymore and just throw up the red flag as soon as they see a buzzword they are looking for.

  17. LOL

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:16 am

    LOL GolfWRX guys are going to LOVE the POWER SPEC JACKED LOFTS

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 11:12 am

      I think they compare to Mizuno JPX 900 forged in head size, but even in the power specs Ping’s are weaker than the mizuno’s.

  18. T

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Jacked lofts……. had to keep up with Taylormade somehow. Nothing to do with Tour input. Just didn’t want to get left behind by Taylormade.

    • LOL

      Jan 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

      PING has been jacking their lofts way before these oddly named irons. I like the idea of the iblades, but these not so much.

      • Billy

        Apr 25, 2017 at 6:53 am

        Hit them. Went to a demo days looking for Srixon, Mizuno, or Callaway and these blew me out of the water. Normally an S300 guy. I tried the AWT first, then XP 95 S300, KBS Tour S and Pro Modus S. No comparison for me. The AWT is the one. I went back up and down the other companies tents 3 times. I bought the i200s.

  19. Dat

    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:09 am

    A great successor to the S55. Should have stuck with that moniker imo.

    • John

      Jan 16, 2017 at 10:21 am

      iblade is the S55 replacement. These replace the previous i series. Two completely different clubs.

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Whats in the Bag

Jimmy Walker WITB 2020

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  • Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open

Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees @ 7.75, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

Fairway wood: Titleist TS3 (18 degrees @ 17.25, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue 90 TX

Irons: Titleist 620 CB (3), Titleist 620 MB (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (54-M, 60-04L), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (64 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: L.A.B. Directed Force 2.1T

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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