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He’s Got Game: A Q&A with Ping’s Marty Jertson

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As Ping’s Director of Product Development, Marty Jertson is responsible for designing the new golf clubs that Ping launches each year. That’s just one of the talents of the 36-year-old, however, who has been designing clubs for Ping for almost 14 years.

Jertson belongs to the small group of golf equipment industry professionals that have competed in a PGA Tour event, and he’s done it six times. In 2010, he Monday qualified for the Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open, and he did it again in 2011, 2015 and 2016. He’s also competed in two major championships: the 2011 and 2012 PGA Championship. As a PGA Professional, Jertson qualified by way of the PGA Professional Championship, finishing 5th in 2011 and 7th in the 2012.

Jertson competed in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Jertson at the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Enjoy this Q&A with Jertson and our Zak Kozuchowski, who asked him about club design, his game, and Ping’s latest equipment launches.

ZK: How many clubs would you say you’ve designed, or had a part in designing in your career?

MJ: Oh man. I don’t have a list in front of me, but I’d have to say it would probably be somewhere on the scale of about 25 different products.

ZK: When you’re designing those golf clubs, how much do your skills as a golfer and your experience competing against the best golfers in the world influence the way you design golf clubs?

MJ: Tremendously. And I think the key to that is to have the eye and know what’s important to the elite player. But at the same time, I have the ability to sympathize and observe the everyday golfer. I know what their challenges and weaknesses are.

ZK: I wanted to speak a little bit about iron design, because we’ve had conversations about this in the past. I think many golfers might expect, given what you’ve accomplished in professional golf, that you would play a set of blade irons. But in the past, you’ve always used larger, more forgiving irons. What irons are you playing right now, and why are you playing them?

Ping_iBlades_Review-Feat-1021x580

MJ: I’ve kind of progressed. Ironically, I’ve improved my technique pretty substantially over the last two or three years. So for the first time in a long time, I’m playing our blade irons in the mid irons to short irons. So I’m playing iBlade 6-iron through wedge, and I’m playing an i200 5-iron. And then I play our Crossover 5-iron as my 4-iron. It gives me progressively more power there in the 4-iron and 5-iron.

But in the past, I have played our bigger irons. And it’s been great for me when my swing was steeper to have the wider sole, and then also to be able to launch the ball in the air higher. Because that’s kind of the big thing for me … I would consider myself average PGA Tour distance, or maybe nowadays maybe slightly below average, so I had to hit the ball higher in the air with my irons. That’s just something that the guys with more speed are able to do just through their speed, but I had to use the equipment to be able to do that.

Editor’s Note: Shortly after this interview took place, Jertson informed us that he has replaced his Ping Crossover 5 iron with an i200 4 iron. 

ZK: Ping is obviously known for its golf equipment; its irons, its drivers, its putters. But it also has a technology niche in the golf equipment industry with its iPing app, its nFlight Fitting System and with the the tempo trainer on the Apple Watch. For someone of your level to say, “I’ve gotten significantly better as an iron player recently,” how much of that is technology? How much of that is your equipment? And how much of that is just hard work?

MJ: Yeah, it’s all those components harmonizing together. And I would say it’s just the never-ending journey to seek the best information and always have the best answers. That’s helped us develop good tools, and I think this is something important for the golf marketplace to understand. Just because there is a new high-end tool doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best tool or could be the most applicable to you. So I think seeking the right tools for what you’re trying to work on in your game, seeking the right instructional information and then obviously seeking out the right golf equipment. A big part of that is just the fitting optimization. Golfers want the best designed equipment with the best fitting optimization. And when you get that, those two things working together synergistically, that’s kind of the holy grail where you can get a major leg up on your competition that may be more talented, but you can kind of outsmart them.

ZK: One of the most challenging club decisions for serious golfers is deciding between playing a set of blade irons or something’s that’s larger and more forgiving. What would you say right now to the golfer who is making the decision between a blade and a more forgiving cavity-back?

MJ: Yeah, I think there are some questions that golfers can ask themselves. How high do they need to hit the golf ball to stop it in their conditions? How much forgiveness do they need? They kind of need to be honest with themselves about how much forgiveness they need from the turf interaction. If somebody is a good, avid player but they’re a little inconsistent in how they engage the turf — they might sweep some then take bigger divots with some — that could gravitate them away from a thin-soled blade and into something with a little more forgiving sole. If their priority is on workability — if they like being able to hit it high and low and hit little fades and draws — that’ll help them gravitate toward blades. So, I think they just need to take some time to really give an honest assessment of their skills and what their balance of forgiveness, workability and distance is. That can help guide their selection process.

It’s very challenging for all of us as golfers because as better players, we all love the looks and the beauty of a more muscle back-looking club. But try to put your ego on pause when you’re evaluating those factors. Then you can really again gain a competitive advantage over your buddies you’re playing against at the club if you make the best decisions.

ZK: One of the perks of your job is that you don’t have to pay for new golf equipment and you get to use new golf equipment well before it’s released to the public. Has there ever been a time when an old club in your bag was simply too good to give up?

MJ: Oh, that’s such a good question. I’ve kind of been in the same boat as a lot of the GolfWRX readers out there in that when you find a good 3-wood, it’s the hardest one to get out of the bag. I think back to early on in my career at Ping when we had the G2, the G5 fairway woods which were fantastic, and we had a lot of our Tour players still using the TiSi Tec and I was one of those guys. I used the TiSi Tec through a couple different generations of our fairway woods, but that really helped motivate me in the design process. For example, I worked on our latest fairway wood in the marketplace, the G fairway wood. I went back and studied; I took 3D scans of the TiSi Tec, studied the lead edge, studied the bounce configuration and tried to decode why that fairway wood was so good and that helped us learn from it. I think that’s my main example, and I think a lot of readers can sympathize with that. The fairway wood is the one that when you find a good one, it can be tough. But from a design standpoint, that’s very motivating to help try to create the new one that’s going to be hard to get out of your bag.

ZK: A counter example to a club that’s difficult to get out of your bag would be the new Glide 2.0 wedges. When they were released on the PGA Tour, we saw the vast majority of the Ping staff switch immediately. Why do you think that was?

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MJ: Well, they just were able to hit pitches and chips around the green that they just hadn’t been able to hit before with the modern-day golf ball. Maybe some of the older guys who played a Balata and were able to send them in there low with a lot of spin, it kind of created a little nostalgia for them. The young, millennial players who never even grew up with a Balata, grew up with a Pro V1, they just had never seen the ability to hit these low, squeezing, sizzling, pitches and chips. And so that just got them very, very excited and they’ve been very satisfied with the groove design to pair along with the grinds, which are just phenomenal.

ZK: OK, last question, Marty, and I’ll put you on the spot. What are the five favorite clubs that you’ve ever used or designed?

ping-g30-driver-1021x580

MJ: Five favorite used or designed. So I designed the G30 driver, that would have to be the No. 1 because it did so good in the marketplace. It was when we brought Turbulators to the table, a new face material to the table; it had a really easy fitting-optimization tool with the three different models, the shaft technology. The whole package was phenomenal. It did great in the marketplace. I have to give that No. 1.

No. 2 behind that would probably be the Ketch putter. I didn’t work on the design of it, just some of the background research on the alignment stuff, but I used the Ketch putter. And the alignment characteristics of that putter and the feel of it — I have a long putter version of it — and the ability to get it to weight for me is just phenomenal. And that putter helped so many players win tournaments. And the alignment characteristics of that putter are just phenomenal. So I would have to give that one No. 2 from a playing perspective.

No. 3, I would go with the first club I ever worked on that was launched in the marketplace, which was the Rapture hybrid a long time ago. And that one was fun because, remember, it was my first ever club, it performed really well for the time, had some amazing technology like 475 face material, a huge tungsten weight welded to the sole, some really exotic rib pattern in the crown to get it to sound good. And we just had a lot of players — that was one of those clubs that was just hard to get out a lot of player’s hands for many, many years. And it was the first that I owned and worked on here at Ping.

Ping's i200 irons.

No. 4 would be the i200 irons. So I play the i200 (4 and 5) iron, but this iron has been far and away, I think, just our best overall iron for the avid player out there. The feel of it is the best feeling iron we’ve ever made at Ping. And that same technology that gives it that soft, buttery feel — it kind of feels like the ball stays on the face forever — is the technology that gives it amazing precision. So just how high the inertia is on that iron — the i200 iron has the inertia of our G15 iron — so it’s just so much horsepower packed into that package. And it feels phenomenal. And I think it’s done great its first couple months out, and I think it’s going to keep doing wonderful as more and more players hit it and experience the feel and overall performance.

And let’s see, No. 5, I’d go with the i20 driver … We launched the matte black paint, and the shaping and profile of that driver was just very beautiful. It had a long hosel, kind of a real flow transition from the hosel into the head, had some technology to get more club-head speed out of it, had tungsten weighting, it felt phenomenal. It was just a very player’s looking and feeling driver. But it went very, very straight. And I played a lot of my best golf at the time with that driver. Nowadays, we just have so much more horsepower in our drivers from the inertia and stability standpoint. But that driver just had amazing experience to it. The look of it: the matte black, the hosel transition, the way it flowed in, even the shaft that we were using had a cool matte to it, kind of all-business, kind of murdered-out look to it. And then it felt and flew phenomenal. So I’d go with those as my top five.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. gwillis7

    Jun 4, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    *Ketsch

    Marty has the greatest job in the world, great interview!

    Played the eye 2’s forever and finally switched to the i e1 irons and love them, I’m a Ping iron and putter guy for life. Absolutely love the looks of the recent equipment the past year with the iBlade and i200’s…keep up the great work

  2. Phil

    May 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    JERTYBIRD

  3. Jarod O'Neil

    May 30, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Such a shame Ping are going backwards! That make amazing hardware but can’t seem to get much more out of their product!

    Thank god they are a privately owned company otherwise they would be done!

  4. Ken C

    May 29, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Been playing the Ping G irons and Glide 2.0 wedge.
    Great clubs replaced the G25 irons and Glide wedges. Regained lost yardage and improved looks and playability and more confidence in new sticks. Ketsch is one solid putter. Thank you Ping for offering us Lefties all the options.

  5. Ken C

    May 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Been playing the Ping G irons and Glide 2.0 wedge.
    Great clubs replaced the G25 irons and Glide wedges. Regained lost yardage and improved looks and playability and more confidence in new sticks.

  6. Doug

    May 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I have gone back to my Ping Zing 2’s on several occasions after purchasing different sets of irons after finding nothing really better….I am using Ping G-30’s currently and cannot say they are any better. Ping eye two’s will also stand up to just about any forgiving irons on the market to this day. I would bet Ping could bring then back and still sell as many as some of their new product….

  7. Qu

    May 29, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    You need a 64* wedge to get it up and in?

  8. Richard Sutherland

    May 29, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Just got my I200 irons 2 weeks ago. Have only played 2 rounds with them and a couple of trips to range. I am loving the ball flight and regaining of yardage that I had lost over the years. When testing out other brands, the I200 also gave me the tightest dispersion of those clubs tested. This is my 5th set of Ping irons Zing, ISI, I3 Blade, S57, and now I200. Will be adding new Glide 2.0 wedges in the next 30 days.
    Great clubs, Great Company and Customer Service.

  9. JE

    May 29, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Great read! Almost all Ping bag for me. The i25 irons are outstanding as are the G series woods.

    Thank you Marty and Ping for making awesome products.

  10. Martin Chuck

    May 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Marty is a stick! I only play in a couple of Southwest Section events each year, and he’s right there at the top within a very competitive section.

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Equipment

What GolfWRXers are saying about the best “5-woods under $125”

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@golfexchangeapp

In our forums, our members have been discussing 5-woods, with WRXer ‘gary3aces’ looking for a 5-wood for between $100 and $125. He’s looking to replace his current “M2 5 wood with something a little easier to hit”, and our members have been discussing the best options in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • C6 Snowboarder: “Take a look at a used Callaway Heavenwood in the Epic Flash model = pretty Friggen sweet. It is Heaven!”
  • Golf64: “Bang for the buck, hard to beat Cobra, but find Ping one of the easiest to hit off the deck. Since you are limited in the funds dept., maybe an older model Ping 5W would do the trick?!”
  • tilasan1: “G400 7 wood turned down or just use it as is.”
  • jbandalo: “Fusion fairways. Highly underrated, cheap, easy to hit and go for miles.”
  • RyanBarathWRX: “PING G fairway would be hard to beat and easily in price range:
  • Nelson.br.1515: “Another vote for the Callaway Big Bertha Fusion. Great stick!”

Entire Thread: Best 5-woods under $125″

 

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What GolfWRXers are saying about “blending Ping i500 irons with Blueprints”

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In our forums, WRXer ‘ballywho27’ has asked for thoughts on combining his current Ping i500 irons with the brand’s Blueprint irons. ‘Ballywho27’ is considering going “i500 in 3-4 iron and blueprint 5-W” and has asked for fellow member’s thoughts on the idea – who have been sharing their takes in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • jblough99: “I had a combo set for a minute, 3-5 I500 and 6-PW Blueprint. I could not get used to the transition, HUGE difference in looks at address. If I had it to do over I would just go 4-PW Blueprint and maybe a 3 I500 with graphite shaft as a driving, iron.”
  • animalgolfs: “iBlade{5i} – BP{6i-pw}. That’s my combo.”
  • Chunky: “I have i500 4-5 and Blueprints 6-PW. As mentioned above, there is a significantly different look at address. More importantly for me, the i500s are 1/2 to 1 club longer than the BPs (they fly much higher, too). Make sure you account for that added i500 distance when blending lofts or you’ll have a large gap.”
  • howeber: “I’ve done that exact set — 3 and 4 i500 and 5-PW Blueprint. It’s perfect for me since the 3 and 4 are more like a traditional 2 and 3.5. 4 is usually the longest iron I carry, so I like a little extra oomph out of it. At the end of the day though, when I finally tested them vs my MP4s, the Blueprints performed identically, while the i500 launched a little higher (same specs same shafts). Mizzys are still in the bag.”

Entire Thread: “Blending Ping i500 irons with Blueprints”

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GolfWRX Vault: Avoid these 5 club building disasters

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It’s never too late to go back to basics, especially when it comes to club building.

Even with modern new club release cycles the do’s and don’ts of building clubs haven’t changed much in the last few decades except for clubs with adapter sleeves and greater amounts of multi-materials incorporated into the design.

With that in mind its time to revisit an article from the GolfWRX Vault from June 2016.

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I’ve been fitting and building golf clubs for more than 15 years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of really poor workmanship—stuff that would make most GolfWRXers cringe. But like anyone who ever did anything new, I didn’t start being naturally good at putting together clubs. It took a lot of time, ruined components, and trial and error to get where I am today.

I believe my attention to detail now stems from the fact that my dad was a machinist by trade, and anytime we ever worked on something together his attitude was to take your time and do it right the first time. My dad’s approach always had an impact on me, because I feel that if you do something right — even when it takes a bit longer — the job is not only more satisfying but also makes things work better and last longer.

The goal with this article is to help WRXers avoid the most common mistakes and assumptions in club building that lead to broken or ruined clubs, as well as real danger.

Over-prepping a graphite shaft

The shaft on the left has been prepped properly. The one of the right, which has noticeable taper, shows signs that layers of graphite have been removed.

This happens far more than it should, and can ruin an expensive new shaft purchase. To prepare a shaft properly for installation, you only need to remove enough of the paint to make sure that the epoxy adheres to the graphite. This is also true for the inside of the hosel.

Be careful to remove residual epoxy, dirt or rust (common with forged carbon steel club heads that have been sitting around for a while), or some type or solvent like the one used to put on grips, as it can cause of bond to break down very quickly. A proper reaming tool, a wire brush and some compressed air (either a small can or a large air compressor) can make cleaning simple, and prevent a golf club from falling apart.

UPDATE: Over prepping specifically applies to shafts that are designed to go into parallel heads and is especially important for 335 shafts with less material at the tip going into drivers and fairway woods. For information on how to properly taper a shaft to go into a tapered head, check out the video below:

Overheating a Shaft When Pulling it

This is what happens to a graphite shaft when overheated.

This is what happens to a graphite shaft when overheated, and the resin holding the graphite sheets together breaks down. It’s not always as noticeable, but if the shaft starts to fray it means the bonds have been compromised and it’s more likely to fail. 

Overheating a shaft when pulling it is another common mistake that can result in ruining a golf shaft. It also highly increases the chance of breakage. There are quite a few methods I’ve learned over the years to remove a shaft from a club head, from heat guns to large propane torches, but personally I find that using a small butane torch with a regulator for graphite offers the best results. It allows a club builder to easily control and focus the heat only where it’s needed. Bigger torches are fine for iron heads, as long as you don’t damage any plastic badges in the cavity or materials in slots around the head.

One of the best advances in club technology has been the invention and mass adoption of adjustable hosels. They not only help golfers adjust the loft, lie and face angle of club heads, but have also greatly decreased the need to pull shafts. So as long as a golfer is staying with the same metal wood manufacturer, they can usually test several different clubs heads with the same shaft, or vice versa — several different shafts with the same clubhead.

That being said, one of the most important tools that any hobbyist club builder should have or have access to is a high-quality shaft puller. It’s a necessary tool for anyone who wants to do repairs and helps prevent damage to a shaft while pulling it. The more linear pressure that can be applied to the clubhead, and the less heat used to break down the epoxy, the better. It makes sure both the shaft and the head are reusable in the future. For steel shafts, you can use a bit more heat, and twisting isn’t a problem. Again, with increased heat, be careful not to damage any of the badging, or permanently discolor an iron head.

Botching a Grip Installation

Using calipers and two-sided tape, you can replicate the taper of shafts to makes every grip feel exactly the same size in your set.

Using calipers and two-sided tape, you can replicate the taper of shafts to makes every grip feel exactly the same size in your set.

This one seems simple, but when really getting down to professional level detail, it is quite important. We ALL have a preference and different opinion of what feels good in a golf grip, as well as different sensitivities. For example, we all have the ability to figure out what apple is bigger, even if blindfolded because over time we all develop brain function to understand shapes and sizes. This also applies to grips. If you use the same grips on your 13 clubs, you could potentially have 4-5 different final sizes depending on how many different types of shafts you use, because many shafts have different butt diameters.

Some shafts have larger butt diameters, while others taper faster than others. That’s why it’s very important to own a quality set of vernier calipers, and know how to properly use them. It’s also the same for putters, since many putter shafts are smaller in diameter. I have lost count of how many times I’ve had people bring me, putters, where the bottom half of the grip is twisting and turning because the installer never paid attention to the interior diameter of the grip, the exterior diameter of the shaft, and how it changed from top to bottom.

Using epoxy that’s doomed to fail

An example of epoxy that although not completely set, is no longer safe for assembling clubs.

An example of epoxy that although not completely set, is no longer safe for assembling clubs.

I’m a bit of a physics nerd and garage engineer, so this is one of those topics that goes beyond just the physical aspects of club building and into the realm of chemistry.

Here comes my nerd-out moment: In the simplest of explanations for a 0.335-inch driver hosel with an insertion depth of 1.25 inches, the amount of calculated surface area the epoxy can bond between the shaft and the head using the internal dimensions of the head is 1.49 square inches. That’s not a whole lot of area when you consider the centrifugal force being applied to a driver head traveling at 100 mph, and then the forces of torque that also come into play when a shot is struck.

In a PERFECT world, almost zero torque is applied to a shaft when a shot is hit on the center of gravity (CG) of the club head, perfectly aligned with the center mass of the ball, while traveling in the intended direction. This is vectors 101 of physics. Unfortunately, almost every single shot is NOT hit like that, and this is where the epoxy bond is put under the most amount of stress. Lap shear strength of epoxy goes beyond me, but it proves that building a golf club is not just cut and glue after all.

Note: For those of you curious, the most popular epoxies are rated for 4500 psi. 

As far are actually working with epoxy, first things first. Always check to see if the epoxy has a best-before date (yep, just like milk). Also, never store epoxy in direct sunlight. If you are using epoxy from a tube in a dispensing gun, you are using what is an almost foolproof method. Plunge out the necessary amount, mix for about a minute (mix! don’t whip), and remember, the less air that gets into the epoxy the better. If air gets in and the epoxy cures with bubbles in it, then you end up with a club that will often “creak.”

For those using two parts in larger bottles, the best way to ensure proper ratios is to pay attention to the weight ratio rather than volume. This isn’t arts and crafts; it’s chemistry, so by using the weight to calculate the ratio you will get the right amount of each part every time, and help decrease the risk of failure down the road. If you have mixed a larger batch and plan on building quite a few clubs at a time, you really have to pay attention to the consistency and viscosity as time goes on. You don’t want to glue a club head with epoxy that has started to set.

Turning an Extension into a Shank

The difference between a good shaft extension (bottom) and a bad one.

The difference between a good shaft extension (bottom) and a bad one.

This is one of those subjects I don’t even like to talk about. I very much dislike using extensions when building clubs, especially clubs with graphite shafts. Going back to my “do-it-right-the-first-time” mentality, extensions are a Band-Aid fix to a problem that requires surgery. They also counter-balance the club, and by their very nature create a weak point because of the small wall thickness at the butt end of a shaft. The only clubs I don’t mind extending on a regular basis are putters since they are never put under the same level of stress as a club being swung at full speed. I also never extend a club more than 1 inch, because I have been witness to horror stories of clubs that have been overextended that not only break but rip through the grip and cut people’s hands very badly.

If you are going to extend a club, it’s important to make sure the fit is very snug and doesn’t cause the extension to lean in any direction. It’s also best to have the epoxied extension cure with the club on its side to avoid an excess epoxy from running down the shaft and breaking off and causing a rattle.

 

 

 

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