Go ahead and take a look at the clubs in your golf bag. I’ll wait while you retrieve them from your garage or trunk. If you play on a regular basis, chances are good you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 to 14 clubs jammed in the club dividers.
Unless you’re doing your best Phil Mickelson impression, circa 2013 Open Championship, a driver is part of the gear mix. Throw in a couple of fairway woods to launch the ball high and keep it in play; a hybrid to replace those unforgiving long irons; workable irons to throw darts all day; a trio (most likely) of reliable wedges; and a trusty putter to round out the dream setup.
No one is going to mistake your gear (or game) for what’s being used in the professional ranks, but one of the areas where amateurs and pros tend to be somewhat similar is in the set makeup department. Like most amateurs, the average pro is also probably carrying a driver, fairway wood(s), hybrid/driving iron, irons, wedges and a putter.
Exceptions exist, of course, but the above is the most common setup by a wide margin.
Up until the Sony Open, Tour rookie Sahith Theegala’s Ping gear setup didn’t fit into the conventional category. For years, the former three-time All-American at Pepperdine could never find a fairway wood that suited his eye — so he chose to get creative with the help of Ping’s tour staff.
“He’s toted around a club for a while that we call the ‘Frakenhybrid,’ which was really a strong-lofted G425 hybrid at standard length,” Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates told GOLF.com. “It was a 17-degree hybrid with the loft sleeve turned down to the flat minus setting to get the loft to 16 degrees. It ended up having driver-like launch conditions at 10 degrees with 2,600 RPMs of spin, and he was carrying it almost 280 yards. He uses it off tees and very rarely into the green. But he’s so long, he usually doesn’t have a bunch of long shots into greens anyway, so it never really mattered.
“The Frankenhybrid was there to fill that gap in his bag where a fairway wood would’ve gone. He just couldn’t find a fairway wood that worked, so instead of forcing one in there, he tried to find an alternative option — and it worked.”
Theegala used the Frankenhybrid and a Ping iBlade 2-iron to fill in the gap between his Ping G425 LST driver and iBlade 3-iron, but as he made the transition to the PGA Tour, it became apparent that having a club with a towering launch could be a nice-to-have.
At the RSM Classic, Theegala started the dialog by asking Oates and the rest of Ping’s Tour team to figure out a way to get a fairway wood that went 250 yards in the bag. A 7-wood was initially built, but it never fully stuck.
“He hit the thing solid,” Oates said, “but he just didn’t use it enough. The good that came from that trial run was that we had finally found a way to get a fairway wood in the bag.”
During the offseason, Theegala made a trip to Ping headquarters to figure out an option that checked all of the boxes. The time spent at the Ping Proving Grounds revealed the best club for the 24-year-old’s setup was a Ping G425 5-wood with some minor modifications.
“It says 5-wood on the head, but it’s built like a 4-wood,” Oates said. “It’s 42 inches and 15.5 degrees in the big minus sleeve setting.”
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PING G425 Max Fairway Wood
OUR TAKE: This year, Ping removed its familiar Turbulators from the crowns of its fairway woods and hybrids, replacing them with 3 alignment dots instead. How did our testers like the new look? “This alignment aid is so much better,” one tester declared. And he wasn’t alone. “I love the clean crown because it’s not too busy,” another added. Testers also found that the low profile designs made getting the ball in the air easier, even off low-cut grass.
THE DETAILS: Fittingly called Facewrap technology, the new G425 fairway faces now wrap around the crowns and soles to provide more ball speed and launch. That’s why the Turbulators aren’t on the new G425 models, and why our testers found them easier to hit from the turf. Ping also increased curvature on the faces to especially help with shots hit low on the face. For golfers with differing needs, such as lower spin or draw-bias, Ping placed Tungsten weights in strategic spots on the soles of the three new G425 fairway options.
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With the 4-wood going in play at the Sony Open, a club had to be removed to get to 14. Instead of plucking Frankenhybrid from the setup, Theegala chose to keep it in the bag and remove the 2-iron, giving him two clubs that went very similar distances. Even with the similar carry distance the clubs produced, Theegala felt the setup gave him two options for very different on-course scenarios.
“These clubs do drastically different things,” Oates said. “Off the tee, I’d say the Frankenhybrid actually goes a little farther due to the lower spin, but because of the larger head on the 4-wood, he can hit some really cool shots that’ll come in handy. He can up spin and hit it 260 yards, or he can flatten it and push that thing 290 with the 4-wood. So he could, theoretically, hit the hybrid off the tee and the fairway wood into the green on a par-5, if the situation presented itself.
“It’s a pretty genius setup. It’s probably because he’s a feel player who can manufacturer a bunch of different shots, but he’s already told us he never gets in a situation where he’s stuck between clubs with the 4-wood in there. They hit such wildly different shots and have different roles. It’s always obvious which one he’s going to hit.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Theegala can hit his 4-iron 240 yards. In this case, having two clubs that go similar distances really is better than one.
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