Niches in golf are always getting smaller and more defined. Nowhere is this more evident than in the players distance iron category. Producing distance irons for better players – like Ping’s i500 and TaylorMade’s P790 – has only recently become possible.
While they seem like clones of one another at first glance, a peek under their hoods shows the TaylorMade P790 has just a bit more technology. They both hide their tech well, but the P790 has just a bit more of it, resulting in a club that performs and sounds just slightly better. Today we are comparing Ping i500 vs TaylorMade P790.
Players Distance Irons
As time goes on, manufacturers are supplying golfers with equipment that is ever more suited to their particular skills. New subcategories appear every so often, targeted at ever more narrow segments of golfers. Nowhere is this more true or evident than in irons.
The players distance iron category fills a niche between game improvement (high-tech) irons and true players irons (choice materials). The target audience here is essentially just those golfers with low handicaps who have either lost distance or might never gain it.
Because they are both players distance irons, the i500 and P790 share certain characteristics – hollow heads, forged faces, etc. – that are common for most if not all clubs in the category. The differences between the two iron sets are subtle but substantial.
Like the i500, TaylorMade’s P790 is made from a cast body with a plasma-welded forged face. The body is 8620 carbon steel, while the face is 4140 carbon steel. The face on the P790 wraps around the sole, creating a channel that TaylorMade calls its Cut-Thru Speed Pocket.
The Speed Pocket is only included on the 3 through 7 irons, presumably where better players would need help. The longer irons also have an internal tungsten weight – positioned low and rearward – that helps get the ball airborne. The short irons have neither of these game-improvement aids.
TaylorMade fills the hollow body of the P790 irons with a polyurethane foam. The SpeedFoam is injected through a hole in the clubhead’s toe. It then expands to fill the cavity, and the hole is plugged with a screw.
The SpeedFoam gives the P790 a sound all its own, muted yet capable of communicating information about the quality of strike. It also helps push the COR (spring-like effect) to the highest levels of any TaylorMade iron set.
- Thin, forged 4140 carbon steel face flexes on impact
- Cast body made out of 8620 carbon steel
- Body cavity filled with polyurethane foam
- SpeedFoam increases ball speed and optimizes sound
- Inverted Cone Technology further increases face flex
- Interior tungsten weights optimize COG and MOI
The Ping i500 has a hollow body with a thin, forged face. The body is made from cast 17-4 stainless steel. Ping then plasma welds a C-300 maraging-steel face to the body, leaving the body hollow. The result is a flexible face that is workable like a player’s iron but that gets the ball in the air like a fairway wood or a hybrid.
Ping builds the i500 to suit the better player’s eye. Scratch golfers and low handicappers should appreciate the thin topline and sole. Both are designed to help players work the ball, but these irons really are all about distance.
The i500 carries more mass low and rear, in a look players will recognize as the classic muscle-back style. Not only does this mass location help move the center of gravity lower but it also helps the flexible face do its job. The result is a face that flexes lower, which adds dynamic loft to help get the ball up.
Unlike TaylorMade, Ping made no effort to fill the void in the hollow clubheads. The sound of the irons at impact is as one might image – hollow. It is more of a thud than low handicappers using players irons are accustomed to.
- Thin, forged 17-4 stainless steel face flexes on impact
- Cast body made from C-300 maraging steel
- Designed to mimic a classic muscle-back iron
- Lofts as much as one club strong (compared to players irons)
- Microscopically rough HydroPearl 2.0 finish channels water away from ball
Benefits – Ping i500 vs Taylormade p790
The i500 and P790 both utilize thin, forged steel faces, which are welded to hollow, cast steel bodies. This construction allows the faces on these irons to flex on impact. As the face returns, the ball springs forward, similar to how a driver face works.
In both designs, the face is welded to the body. Ping’s i500 face is plasma welded around the entire front of the body, but TaylorMade’s design is different. The face on the P790 extends around the bottom of the sole, so the weld is located lower and out of the way. This is one of the main differences comparing ping i500 vs taylormade p790.
TaylorMade takes things a step further with the P790. The company uses its Inverted Cone Technology, in which the face is thinner at the heel, toe and near the sole. This design allows for more flex where the face is thinner, providing a little more pop than if the face were a uniform thickness.
Low handicappers do not need much help from their equipment. Manufacturers typically design their players irons to be workable first and beautiful second. Sole grinds are thin to lessen turf interaction from a variety of angles, for example. This gives the overall clubhead a thin look that players learn to prefer.
What’s new in this generation of players distance irons is that manufacturers are incorporating game improvement technologies in clubs meant for better players. To do that, the companies hide the technology, producing clubs that still look like a traditional blade.
The i500 and P790 both approach this problem in much the same way. The toplines and soles on both irons are thin, though not as thin as a true blade. It would be more accurate to say their size puts them somewhere between a game improvement iron and a players iron, which should come as no surprise. Still, to look at them, no one would guess there’s any help there at all.
Both TaylorMade and Ping take advantage of the weight savings from their hollow construction. They both use tungsten weights to optimize the location of the COG in their irons. TaylorMade uses a circular tungsten weight, which it inserts inside the body – low and rearward. Ping uses a tungsten screw, inserted into the toe of the irons.
Note that TaylorMade does not use the tungsten weight in the entire set. The 3 through 7 irons in the P790 all have tungsten weights, but the 8 iron through A wedge do not. This omission makes sense, though, as few low-handicappers need any help with the scoring clubs.
The discerning player should also note that Ping’s use of tungsten is a bit more remedial than TaylorMade’s. The location of the weight in the toe area helps close the toe during the strike. While this setup can help alleviate a slice, it can also make a hook worse. And as Lee Trevino famously said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.”
Drawbacks – Ping i500 vs Taylormade p790
Flexible faces certainly adds some heat to the exit velocity, but some of the extra distance is also a result of strong lofts. Both the i500 and P790 7 irons have lofts of 30.5 degrees, for example. Contrast that with the 32-degree 7 iron on Ping’s new Blueprint irons, and you can see where some of that extra distance is coming from.
Compare these irons to a true players iron, such as the new TaylorMade P7TW, and you see just how strong the lofts on the players distance irons are. The P7TW 7 iron is 35 degrees, precisely the same loft as the 8 iron on both the P790 and the i500.
So the distance gains for these new irons, while undeniable, should be taken with a grain of salt. Many players claim as much as two clubs carry difference between their old irons and a new set of players distance irons – including the P790 and the i500. The strong lofts don’t account for all of that difference, but they are responsible for as much as one club of it.
Remedial Scoring Clubs
As was mentioned earlier, the short irons are one area where better players seldom need any help. Still, the faces on those irons for both of these sets are flexible and therefore quite hot. Hitting one less club into a green is nice, but precision is of the utmost important on approach.
Ping’s i500 irons do not vary across the set. Their muscle-back design pushes the COG low, which becomes readily apparent in the scoring clubs. The ball seems to shoot straight up, which helps stop it but causes some users headaches in the form of distance gaps.
To eliminate gaps, TaylorMade takes a completely different and slightly more refined tack. The tungsten weight and Speed Pocket are missing from the 8 iron on up. The face in those clubs therefore flexes less, giving them a feel closer to that of a solid forged blade. The ball still jumps, but it feels less prominent than it does in the long irons.
More Can Go Wrong
We mention this last because there is not really a long enough track record yet to know if it will ever be an issue. Murphy’s Law would seem to dictate that it may become one, though, so it bears mentioning. The point: A welded-on face would seem to introduce to problem of a broken weld.
There are anecdotal reports of this happening with both the i500 and the P790. In fairness, both manufacturers back their equipment and seem willing to replace clubs with failed welds. Also, with thousands of clubs in play around the world, any manufacturing flaws should have become evident by now. No, both these iron sets are well-constructed and tough.
The main drawback here is one that would likely raise its head after years of use. There is simply no way of knowing yet how well these welded faces will take to repeated bashings through the seasons. Players who replace their clubs often should have no qualms, but those who keep iron sets for several years or more might consider opting for traditional, solid irons.
Anyone searching for an iron set strictly based on how it sounds should look elsewhere. Neither of these sets produces the buttery sound of a solid forged iron, no matter what the manufacturers claim. They are satisfying in their own right, but Mozart they are not.
Here, the edge has to go to TaylorMade. The main culprit behind the “thwack!” sound these irons produce is the hollow clubhead. It produces phenomenal ball speeds, but a byproduct is a hollow sound.
TaylorMade’s urethane foam smooths out the harshness that is evident in the i500, but it’s still there. Mis-hits only make things worse, but even flushed shots lack the beautiful tone of a forged iron. For a scratch golfer to whom feedback (including from sound) is key, the sound of these clubs may be a deal breaker.
These two iron sets are cut from the same cloth. The TaylorMade P790 gets our nod because it incorporates a bit more technology in the form of a variable-thickness face and expanding foam in the clubheads. Eliminating the help from the scoring clubs also makes a lot of sense.
Ping fans should not be discouraged, though. While we prefer the TaylorMades in this instance, a true Ping devotee likely will prefer the Ping i500. And that’s okay. Either of these iron sets can help the aging low-handicapper get back those lost yards. They pack in the tech without showing it off, so you can tee it up from the tips a little while longer. This concludes our review of Ping i500 vs Taylormade p790.