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The Inside Tour: GolfWRX Visits PING Headquarters

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by SheriffBooth

It started with a telephone call from Rob (HipCheck).  In a nutshell, he told me that PING had invited two representatives from GolfWRX to come to Phoenix and check out some new gear.  HipCheck’s long-planned family vacation conflicted with PING timeline, so he needed someone to take his place?

It took me about two seconds to check my schedule and say, “Yes!”  I asked him what we would be doing and he said that PING wouldn’t tell him, just that Ben Jackson and I would be flying to Phoenix on June 28.  It’s tough not be excited about a super secret trip to PING Headquarters.

Our best guess was that we were going to learn about the replacement for the S56 irons, which seemed about right in the product cycle … boy, were wrong.  Wrong, not only about the subject matter, but also the scope of what we were about to preview.

Our PING host took Ben and I out for some dinner and then it was lights out. Friday promised to be a full day.

Wake up call at 5:45am, quick shower and downstairs for a bite of breakfast before the ride over to PING.  In the lobby I bumped into none other than GolfWRX’s own Greg Moore (pga43) who was along to take all the pictures for the trip.  He had gotten in late from whichever professional golf event he had been photographing, was going to hang with us for the day, and then was off again to his next stop.  Greg is the dictionary definition of “frequent flyer”.

Our day at PING started bright and early at 6:45am.  First stop was at PING’s front door, the Redwood Building, which is their main front office where anyone off the street can pop in for a fitting, demo new PING products, or see about having their sticks adjusted.  Here we were taken on a private tour of the manufacturing facilities.  First we were shown a video on the history of Karsten Solheim and PING and then we were off to the factory floor.  As we left this first building, and even though it was still before 7:30am, there were already a couple of members of the general public milling around in the parking lot, PING clubs in hand, looking for an adjustment or a refitting.


Then it was off to the iron assembly building.  It was immediately clear that although our day had just begun, the folks assembling clubs for PING had been at it for a while already as it was bustling!  We saw the assembly of a set of irons from start to finish, from order ticket through to loft and lie adjustments.  PING’s assembly line is a series of stations, with each station responsible for a specific task in any given set of clubs, whether it be gluing or gripping or bending.  Each station rotates periodically, so every person on the floor handles any given task from time to time, and every set of irons touches a lot of hands on its way to being completed and shipped.  I was most surprised by the loft and lie adjustment stations; no robots or bending machines, just a guy with a giant wrench and a rubber mallet wailing on hosels.  You wouldn’t believe how hard they hit the clubs to make minor adjustments, but each iron gets a hard whack and then onto the laser to measure the change, and then another whack and so on until it’s right.  Very cool.

Next we were on to the building where they assemble the woods.  Very similar setup as irons, but we caught this crew on a rest break so this room was much quieter.  Since it wasn’t so busy I took the time to look around a little more and noticed a chart on the wall.  Basically, it was an employee longevity chart that showed how long everyone in that team had been with PING.  What impressed me the most about this chart was the volume of employees that had been with PING for a long period of time.  It seemed to me that the lion’s share of folks working had been there for 10 years or more.  Apparently PING employees like working for the company, and PING clearly prides itself on this point.

Next stops were the putter assembly and golf bag assembly buildings.  One of the neatest things about the putter room was watching the shaft bending – the “double bend” shaft goes into the putter head straight, and then depending on whether the putter is for a straight stroke or a slight arc, the shafts double bends are slightly different.  Very cool to watch the same head come out face balanced or with slight toe hang purely depending on the bend of the shaft.

The bag room was also amazing, with its giant computer sewing machines working overtime to personalize bags.  While we were there they were putting the finishing touches on a set of bags for the University of Tennessee Lady Vols golf team.

By this time it was almost 9am, and our host said we needed to get over to the product development and engineering area for our first looks at the real reason we were there.  Don’t get me wrong, touring the manufacturing floors was awesome, but this is where my senses really started to tingle.  We were going into the belly of the beast.

At this point we were led to a conference room and told we were going to be meeting with Brad Schweigert, Ping’s Director of Engineering, and Senior Design Engineers Mike Nicolette and Marty Jertson.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when we sat down – there on the table, cut in half, was a new driver, new fairway wood and new iron head, not to mention two wedge heads, one with grooves and one with a smooth face.  And leaning against the wall was a fully assembled set of new clubs – Anser driver, Answer fairways, Anser hybrids, and Anser irons!

Click here to read about the new Anser driver, fairways, and hybrids
Click here to read about the new Anser irons
Click here to read about the new Tour wedges

The presentation lasted about an hour, and at about the twenty minute mark I started to get ants in my pants.  I knew the next stop was the driving range and I couldn’t wait to get out there, even if it was 100+ degrees in the shade.  Oh, did I mention that PING has a 350+ yard test range on campus?

Presentation over, it was straight to the range for driver fitting.  PING had two nFlight stations set up for Ben and I, and a full complement of driver heads and shafts for us to try out.  My current driver is a Rapture V2, so I was excited to see how this new offering compared.

My first impression was that the Anser has a slightly rounder profile than the more pear shaped Rapture and i20, but nowhere near the head depth front to back of the G20.  I immediately liked the way it sat behind the ball – very square to perhaps slightly open on the neutral setting.  With my Rapture I have to manipulate the face just a bit to get it square while the Anser naturally sits the way I prefer.

We worked our way through all the shaft offerings and I had decent results with the Blur and the PING TFC shaft.  But the shining star in my testing was the Mitsubisi Diamana ‘ahina.  I didn’t get a picture of my launch monitor numbers like Ben (needless to say, I don’t hit it anywhere near as far as him), but even with my 100mph swingspeed the ‘ahina was the champ – better spin and carry numbers overall.  The great thing about the Anser shaft choices is there should be a stock shaft that works well for just about every golfer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we had our driver numbers dialed in, and we were all sufficiently wowed by watching Ben one hop balls into the fence at the end of the range, it was off to famed local eatery Chino-Bandido.  Here, I refueled on a startlingly delicious fusion of Mexican and Chinese cuisine – my plate consisted of jade red chicken (like General Tso’s), pork carnitas, fried rice, and refried beans.  It was so surprisingly good that it made me wonder why there weren’t more joints like this in every town.

Back to PING campus after lunch, and straight to the milling center.  This was the building where all of the milled putters are machined and now where the Gorge grooves on the Tour wedges will be added to the blanks.  We got to see the wedge milling process from start to finish, and also got to see a number of Nome putters through their various stages of completion. The milling room runs 22 hours a day 7 days a week producing the worlds supply of Nome putters and new Tour wedges with Gorge grooves. Wow.

After the milling room, it was back out to the range for some time with the new Anser irons, and a visit from Marty Jertson.  PING had produced special GolfWRX targets that were now out on the range for our iron testing, and Ben and I played a game of driving range “WRX” with Marty (a recent PGA Championship qualifier).  Basically, we tried to copy each others shotmaking, and the worst shot got a letter.  Neither Ben nor I could get a letter on Marty.


The next stop on this day-long PING odyssey was none other than the famed WRX department.  Yes, GolfWRX visiting PING WRX.  Our mission was to build our own set of Gorge lob wedges in each of the three sole configurations.  So with the help of the expert hands in WRX department, Ben and I assembled six wedges.  I even got to bang mine with a hammer a few times to get the lie angle right.

While our wedges were curing up, we took a walk down to the holiest of holy spots on the PING campus – the PING Putter Vault.  This is, of course, where PING keeps the solid gold putters that it makes for all of its tour winners and other special clubs.  We got to see the Bubba gold gap wedge and the Oosthuizen gold 4-iron, not to mention a gold Azinger Eye2 sand wedge and a ton of Westwood and Ballesteros gold putters.  The place was full to the brim, and it won’t be long before they’re going to need to expand or relocate.

Back out to the range for our final hour on PING campus and some testing of our newly built Gorge wedges.  This was the highlight of the day for me, as Mike Nicolette gave me an impromptu short game lesson.  All told, he spent at least a half hour giving me pointers and tweaks to get the most out of my wedge game.  The Gorge wedges have a very similar setup and feel to the Tour-S wedges that I’m currently playing, but with a Dark Satin finish that looks great.  Since we did not have them in play on the course, and I did not have my wedges with me to compare, it was difficult to evaluate the new grooves, but I take PING’s claims at face value.

By now it was after 5pm, and Ben and I had been outside in the blast furnace heat for quite a bit of the day.  I’m not sure how many balls I had hit throughout the day, but in the last hour alone with Nicolette I’d hit a large tray.  I was bushed.  Ben and Greg and I headed back to the hotel and back to our lives. It was an incredible visit and we saw some amazing things.  PING is definitely building on the success of the i20 line, and the new Anser clubs and Gorge wedges made a great first impression.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE HUNDREDS OF PICTURES FROM THE PING TOUR.

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Rob is a golf junkie that has been involved with GolfWRX since its inception in 2005. From designing headcovers, to creating logos to authoring articles to social media management to sales and marketing, Rob has done it all. Born and bred in NJ. Favorite golfers: Phil, Freddie. Favorite club: Driver.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Don Hecht

    Apr 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I need a soft flex replacement shaft for a Rapture Ping Driver?

  2. Joe7gd4

    Jul 29, 2012 at 8:38 am

    what Ruby replied I cant believe that a mom can profit $4871 in a few weeks on the computer. did you see this webpage (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/l4s2I

  3. hvilletn

    Jul 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Wish my trip to Phoenix would have been similar to yours. Unfortunately, I spent lots of money (flight, hotel, car) visiting and was underwhelmed with the experience. Was fit indoors (no outdoor fittings) and felt the fitting was not anything better than I could have received locally. Big disappointment. I still have a bag full of PING clubs so it didn’t persuade me away from their gear (great stuff). However, I read these posts and it just makes me more jealous that I didn’t have this kind of experience there. If you ever want someone to tag along for another excursion like this one please let me know and I will pony up to get there. Nice write up and looking forward to seeing the new stuff soon!

  4. 2putttom

    Jul 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Im curious…are the heads forged in USA or else where and assembled in Phoenix?

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