The new old Ping Eye 2 ironsFebruary 4, 2012
I recently acquired (thank you, DJC) a set of Ping Eye 2 irons. I’ve pretty much determined (by comparing the various patent numbers, serial numbers and other marks in the cavity of the iron) that these are a set of the 1985-1990 Eye 2s, the ones with the square grooves that have been ascribed magical properties by some. (I’m not sure what kind of tolerance this audience has for the kind of Dan Aykroyd-esque technical discussions I’m some given to engaging in, so if you want a detailed history of the Ping Eye 2s and the “square groove” controversy, you might want to Google the terms, or go here.)
Anyway, although the Eye 2 is allegedly the most popular iron ever manufactured, I didn’t have any experience with them prior to acquiring this set. There are a couple of reasons for this — when I started plating in the early 1970s, I started out playing hand-me-downs from my father, which meant I started out playing forged blades (because that was pretty much all there was). The first set I remember that I thought of as my own was a set of Shakespeare blades with, believe it of not, fiberglass shafts. (A lot of you probably won’t believe it, so here.)
I quite playing around 1984 — a couple of years after the Ping Eye 2s were introduced — and at some point still undetermined but probably around 1987 someone (possibly my brother-in-law) other than myself took possession of the W/S set. I have a vague fear that they were sold off in a garage sale.
When I returned to golf, at the urging of my beautiful wife, sometime around the end of 1995, she bought me (after months of window shopping and research) a nice set of Titleist OS irons. Those were the first cavity backs I ever owned, and while they were great at easing me back into the game (plenty forgiving), they were like little shovels. It wasn’t long before I felt like I needed a player’s iron.
It wasn’t exactly my first experience with Ping, somewhere along the line I’d picked up an old Anser putter. (Still have a number of Ansers in the arsenal, but that’s another post.) But I didn’t know much about the company, though during my layoff from the game, I’d spent a year in Phoenix, where they are headquartered. I even considered an apartment very close to their factory — I drove by it all the time.
Still, my memories of Ping from the old days were very weird. When I’d first heard of them, I’d assumed (because of the name, I guess) that they were a Japanese company. And I’d heard that their golf balls (which they only made for a short time) floated in water hazards. (They didn’t, but there might have been a Japanese make that did — I think that story is apocryphal, but who knows? Anyone?) I thought their clubs were weird-looking.
But I had heard so much about them , and I wanted to try something different — and the I3 Blades (which were’t true blades) were about as different as I could stand. I was surprised when they turned out to be about a club longer than what I was hitting — suddenly I could fly a seven iron 170 yards — and they were very straight. I grew quite fond my Ping I3 blades and might still be playing them had they not been stolen (another post for another day).
But I shopped around with the with the insurance check in my pocket and tested irons until I found the love of my golfing life, a set of Mizuno blades. I’ve had Mizuno blades — first the MP-14, then the MP-32, and now a mixed set of MP-67 and MP-53s — in my bag ever since. (Not to those of you who know me: Yes, I have dallied with other irons — I had a flirtation with the Taylor Made R9 TP irons, but I never really left Mizuno. And yes, I do carry a Taylor Made Burner four iron but that’s a crazy club — I consider it a hybrid and hit it longer than I have any five wood.)
I love the Mizunos primarily because of their feel. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re probably better off, but I’ve never hit irons that produced that transmitted the sweet crushing sensation of compressing a golf ball better. I’d play Mizuno even if I knew I could score slightly better with another set, because playing slightly better doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I’m probably as good at the game now as I’ll ever be (and I may be as good now as I’ve ever been).
I say that, but having fooled around a bit with the Eye 2s, I think I get it.
These are amazingly solid, stable clubs, and while the hitting sensation isn’t the same as with a forged blade, it’s very satisfying. And the short irons and the wedge (which has 52.5 degrees of loft, which makes it weaker than the gap wedge I’m carrying now) is frankly amazing. My shots with it were high and mostly they stopped like darts on the green. It was like hitting one of those velcro-strapped whiffle balls — on impact with the green, everything comes to an an abrupt halt.
Plus, despite the weaker lofts, I seemed to be hitting the short and mid-irons nearly as far as my Mizunos.
The long irons did seem to collapse together — I could hit the Eye 2 four iron about as the Eye 2 three iron, and there wasn’t more than a five yard gap between the five iron and the four iron. In other words, if I were to actually play the irons, I’d probably use the five iron as my 190 yard club, and the three as my 200 yard club. Currently, my five iron, with it’s admittedly jacked-up loft, is my circa 200 yard club, and I rarely hit the aforementioned TM four iron unless I’m trying to move it 215 or more more yard. (That four iron is amazing — I have hit it 240 off the tee in calm conditions.)
But I think I could play very well with the Eye 2s. I could adjust to the feel. And I already think they’re extremely good-looking.
Of course, there are genuine technological advantages to newer clubs, but in truth the differences from year to year are slight. I probably couldn’t play with the Wilson Staff Tour Blades I used to play with — I still have my old Tourney Custom one iron and I find it impossible to believe I ever hit that knife more than 160 yards.
But these 25-year-old Eye 2s are remarkably playable. Easier to hit than my clubs, and you get nearly as much out of them at the top end. Were I better, I’d probably like them even more.
You can still order a set of brand new Eye 2s from the factory, though they’d agree not to produce them with the so-called “square grooves” anymore. (Though technically the grooves are legal — that’s why, a couple of years ago, after the new “conditions of competition” rules limited the size of grooves on irons, several PGA tour players — including Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Hunter Mahan — briefly started using 20-year-old Eye 2 wedges.)