By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Mike Nicolette knows a thing or two about PING's new S55 iron. The former PGA TOUR pro and current senior product designer at PING has played a major role in the design process of one of the company's most popular iron models.
With S55 making its TOUR debut this week at The Barclays, Nicolette took a few minutes to chat about the new design and changes that were made to the tour-style blade.
More than three years have passed since PING's S56 made its TOUR debut at the 2010 U.S. Open. What made you believe now was the time to release S55?
The S56 had done so well, we really didn't feel the need to bring out a new product to refresh it as quickly as we have with other product lines. We've worked on S55 extensively for the last year-and-a-half and received a lot of good feedback on the look and performance of the prototypes we came out with from players like Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Daniel Summerhays.
The timing just seemed right. After a little more than three years, our Tour staff was looking for a new product.
With kind of changes and improvements can golfers expect with the new S55 line?
Players were extremely pleased with the performance and playability of S56, so we didn't want to completely redesign the iron. We just made incremental improvements in all aspects of the club.
For instance, we're always looking to make the head a little more forgiving. To driver up the MOI and CG, you have to make the head bigger; geometry is going to play the biggest factor. But I actually some prototypes that were slightly larger — we're talking less than 1/8-inch larger from heel to toe — and I got feedback from players saying, if anything, they wanted to see it slightly smaller.
Therein lies a problem because the MOI typically goes down. Well I was able to find a way to make the head microscopically smaller — I like to say it's about a coat of paint smaller — but the MOI and CG is about a half percent higher.
Are there any other changes golfers might notice?
The biggest change with regards to sound and feel is an improved CTP insert that's made of a thermoplastic elastomer material instead of thermoplastic urethane, which was the insert material we used on S56.
The thermoplastic elastomer is more flexible and lends itself to dampening the vibration a little more. What the new material does is give the club a softer feel.
The face is also thinner, but that's not something golfers will notice. We didn't go in there and gouge out 1/8 inch of face material; it's really only thinner in the cavity area, so we able to have a little bit of weight savings and move some mass out to the heel and toe to help with MOI.
The place where I was able to really save some weight from the center of the club was the CTP (Custom Tuning Port). It's a little wide, so that saved me 3 1/2 grams that I could position more in the hosel and toe. We're just putting the mass in a more efficient manner.
I noticed you strengthened the lofts in S55. Is that an across-the-board change, or just certain irons?
The lofts are stronger than S56 in some irons and more in line with i20. The pitching wedge is a degree stronger, so 46 degrees instead of 47 degrees, and then 6-iron is a half-degree stronger. The 3-iron and 5-iron lofts remained unchanged, and the 4-iron actually went up a 1/4 of a degree.
We really kept the stronger lofts to just the shorter irons, which should give them a little more distance and a more penetrating flight.
Hunter Mahan was one of the first to test out the final product in the run-up to The Barclays. What did he think of S55?
Matt Rollins, one of our PING Tour reps, spent some time working on the irons with Hunter in Dallas. They were heading to the course and Hunter pretty much told Matt that the FedExCup was coming up and based on the way he was playing, he probably wasn't going to put S55 in the bag until the FedExCup was over.
Well they get to the course and Hunter starts going through the irons — wedge, 9-iron, 8-iron, 7-iron, and then he gets to the 6-iron and looks over at Matt after a couple of shots says, "these are going right in the bag."
For players like Hunter who currently play S56, there's really no reason why you shouldn't play the S55 out of the box. They're better in every aspect of what a player is looking for. We're hoping our Tour staff feels the same way.
(Eds. Note: Hunter Mahan's put S55 in play on Thursday at The Barclays.)
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