Ping’s Blueprint irons created quite the stir when they started showing up on tour ranges late last year as the company’s first forged muscleback design, but now that they’re ready to launch, it’s the second part of that description that should take prominence, not the first.
Yes, Ping’s reputation has been built on its ground-breaking work in cast designs, but while the forging process behind these irons is a departure from a manufacturing standpoint, it’s the movement towards an iron without a cavity back that represents a new frontier, said Paul Wood, Ping’s vice-president of engineering. Ping’s engineers learned there was something intangible but powerful about the muscleback shape.
“Our tour players don’t care whether it’s forged or cast, so we went into it saying we want to make an iron that is the best iron we can make for this category of golfer,” Wood said. “The geometry ultimately lends itself to being forged, but we wouldn’t have made it forged if it meant we had to take a backward step.”
Instead of focusing initially on the method the Blueprint irons would be manufactured, the initial work was studying what shape of iron elite players were demanding, paying particular attention to overall size and sole width across a number of different prototypes. The ultimate direction with the Blueprint was a more compact shape than any iron in Ping’s recent vintage with a narrow sole and much less offset. That tour feedback was validated when players like Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen put them in play months before the irons were going to be introduced.
“I think the name Blueprint really conveys the amount of testing we did with elite players to validate this iron,” said Ping design engineer Ryan Stokke. “There was some work in understanding why there are elite players that this type of iron helps them play their best.”
That work is not trivial, nor is it straightforward. It’s not merely hitting stock shots on the range, Wood said.
“Irons are much more difficult because it’s a matter of what are you trying to do with that shot and then it’s completely different for the next shot,” he said. “Talk us through what you want out of your irons and show me the shots you’re trying to hit.”
There’s no question that the smaller shape plays a role in how some players might deliver the head to the ball, but it required a certain precision even in asking the right questions, Wood said.
“The big question in this is there something about the physics of these irons that helps people play their best, or is it more the psychology,” he said. “Still, we firmly believe that there is a category of player that hits this iron better.
“There may be something to the physics of it in terms of we’ve now reduced the moment of inertia around the hosel axis. But it really involved almost a mini-skills test as players tested these irons and looked for the windows they were trying to hit. That’s what makes this so difficult and fun at the same time.”
The Blueprint irons are forged in a four-step process with a specially heat-treated 8620 carbon steel. It’s the same metal used in the company’s Glide Forged wedges. In all, Stokke said, there are more than 50 steps in a 100-percent inspection process, including a machined face and grooves, to get the Blueprint irons consistently manufactured.
The Blueprint irons, which are now available for pre-order, are offered in 2-iron through pitching wedge with an array of custom shaft and grip options at no extra charge ($360 per iron, steel shaft).