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2014 Ping Karsten Irons Review Part 1: The Fitting

The folks at Ping have put their trust in Bunker’s Paradise to provide our unfiltered reviews of their latest iron release, the Ping Karsten irons.  As many know, fittings are becoming common place in today’s golf landscape, turns out Ping really led the charge in fittings and custom fit clubs from the major OEMs (learned that today).

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In that light, Ping set me up with one of their local authorized fitters to go through a full iron fitting.  That turned into an appointment with Miles of Golf, a top Golf Digest top 100 club fitter and also was the first off-course Ping National Club Fitter of the Year.  Miles of Golf had the hardware hanging on the way to prove it.  This place was amazing.  Their ‘Cluboratory’ had walls and racks filled with every combination of club and shaft I could ever imagine.  These photos are 2 of the 5 or 6 sections they had.  With 3 indoor hitting bays with heaters overhead I was plenty warm even with my bay garage door open.  This was nothing like an iron fitting I had last year from a local big box national retailer.   This was golfer Heaven.

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While warming up with some wedges, we did some general intros and BSing, my fitter Derek gave me the agenda of what we were going to do, what to expect, and what he wanted to measure.  He first took some physical measurements of my height, hand length, finger length, and distance of wrists to the ground.  He said this wouldn’t determine anything final, just to give him a place to start.  Right off the bat he apologized because he was missing the black dot (standard) Karsten demo head, so we used the Red dot for everything (also had the yellow and one other I don’t remember).  Before I hit a ball, he told me to ignore the fade I would see and predicted I would miss more towards the right side because of the difference in lie angles.  For those that know TrackMan, he said he had it on ‘Normal’ setting.  Im not sure what that meant, but he said it was to replicate summer conditions and not the windy 40* we had outside.

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We started with the CFS Distance in stiff.  The combo didn’t feel awful, but I did hit some real clunkers in my 15 shots or so.  Mostly pretty low bullets with little spin.  They carried about 165ish, but Trackman showed lots of rollout.  The few I hit well did feel good, but were still not as high launch as he wanted.

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Next he gave me a Nippon 950.  Going in, I thought this would be the shaft I would like the best (since I’ve played it well in the past).  Wrong, after about 15 balls, the numbers were better than the CFS Distance but still not where he wanted them.  Spin and launch were still too low.

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Derek then wanted to make a suggestion, graphite to help with launch and spin.  Damn, I am getting old.  Here we go, 60 gram senior shaft noodles.  After 5 swings with the stock graphite, he took it from me and gave me something else.  The stock graphite was launching high, but the numbers were all over the place.  Some great, some awful.

The next shaft was a Recoil 110.  First 2 shots were pured, started at the flag with a 5-10 yard fade.  I said damn this is nice.  That’s when he broke it to me, I was hitting graphite.  I couldn’t believe it.  Right in the weight class I like and felt like steel.  Looked like it too.  Everything else was playing for 2nd at this point.  The launch, smash, spin, and descent angle numbers were all in a range of where he wanted them.  The lateral dispersion was the only issue from him calling these ‘the ones.’  He said the lateral dispersion could be a length issue, but we’d some back to these.

Next up, KBS Tour 90.  I remember playing these in my R11s a few years ago.  Great first couple shots, numbers very close to the Recoil, but with tighter dispersion.  I’m not a big feel player, so I really couldn’t tell the difference feel wise between the two.  I told him, all I know is they both feel awesome when hit in the center, and both feel different when I chunk it, hit it off the toe, or skull one low.  It was down to these and the Recoils.

After doing a Tuna like lie fitting with a dry erase marker, he had my lie angle.  My marker line was pointing a bit toward the heel, so he wanted to make me a bit upright.  Since we were using a Red dot iron head (0.75* flat), he fit me to the Ping black dot.  Next up was iron length.  We started with the standard and found the center the most often by going just under Karsten standard, so 36.75″ 7 iron.  Stock for the Karsten is 37″.

We then went back and forth between the KBS Tour 90 and the Recoil 110.  Usually 10 balls with one and then 10 balls with the other.  After about 50 balls, the numbers spoke for themselves, KBS Tour 90 was the winner.  The dispersion was just much better, even after throwing out a few outliers from each.  Ball speeds were a bit higher with the KBS Tour 90 since I was swinging it slightly faster than the heavier Recoil 110.  He had me hit 5 ‘real’ (Callaway SR2) balls with each to make sure the numbers were similar to the range balls.  They were similar and the decision was made for me.  KBS Tour 90 in Stiff won.  I was a bit surprised at how I was kind of ‘rooting’ for the Recoils to win, but the numbers spoke for themselves.  No point in going through a fitting if I wasn’t going with what gave me the best numbers.

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Next it was down to grip choice.  I do like the standard Ping grips quite a bit, but they aren’t the NDMCs.  Those are my fav and tough to get out of my bag.  He recommended going up in size to midsize to try and help my left miss.  Just 1 wrap.  We talked briefly about set makeup and he recommended I go 3-4H, 5-UW irons.

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I walked out of there pretty stunned with how different the numbers were between the stock shaft and the Tour 90s.  Just massive differences that could lead to plenty of lost strokes.  Derek also surprised me about how much he cared about making sure the numbers were as good as we could get.  He said I should get the full report with all the numbers in the next day or two through email.  When I get them, I will post them here.  I could have stayed there all day hitting different combinations of clubs.  Derek will see my awful swing again when I go back and pay him for a driver fitting.  Maybe I can do some bartering for Cluboratory time if I pick the range after.

By Dan Dalic

To follow Dan’s journey from fitting to on course action of the Ping Karsten irons click HERE, which will lead you to his full Bunkers Paradise Forum Review.

Written by BP Staff

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