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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense
After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.
The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.
We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.
The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.
Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.
For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.
Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.
Forum Thread of the Day: “Your optimal wedge set-up?”
Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from ClevelandKyle who brings up the subject of wedge set-ups. In the thread, our members discuss what wedges they like to carry as well as answering ClevelandKyle’s question: “If you had to carry two wedges for the rest of your life, what would they be (degree, make, model) and why?”
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.
- SEP1006: “PW / GW – 0311P PXG GEN 2, same as irons. 54/12 and 58/06 – Ping Glide Stealth 2.0: best wedges I’ve ever played by far, very versatile.”
- cardoustie: “Like the OP, I keep going back to old school Vokey sm2’s .. 50/54/60. TVD m grinds. No wedge spins it as well or feels as good. I am ordering a Glide 3.0 eye 2 58 though.”
- manoagolfer: “Vokey 48, 54, 58 and 62. Just added the 62 for the short stuff around the greens and steep faced bunkers.”
- BCULAW: “RTX4 Raw 46 mid, 50 mid, 56 full, 60 low. After playing Vokeys almost exclusively for the last ten years or so, these Clevelands have been a real eye-opener. Spin is greatly increased, and the grind on the 60 is stellar. Highly recommended.”
Forum Thread of the Day: “1 or 2-iron recommendations?”
Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Afor1991 who is on the hunt for a 1 or 2-iron after having no luck with hybrids. With a swing speed in the low 100s, Afor1991 is confident he has the speed and consistency to make a 1 or 2-iron work for him, and our members have been giving him their best suggestions in our forum.
- boggyman: “1st generation TM UDI 16* hard to beat with right shaft for a 1-iron, IF you could find one. Used mine in a set of OL Cobras for a while. Need to re-shaft it now though.”
- Pepperturbo: “I have been effectively using T-MB 17* 2 iron since it was introduced. Now and again put my old Mizuno Pro 16* 1 iron in the bag to remind me those clubs require a good swing. Good luck with your choice.”
- joelsim: “It depends on how much you value consistency over distance. And of course what your handicap is. I don’t have an official handicap but am regularly scoring in the 70s at my home club, at most 85 if I have a really bad day. And I tried a UDI #2 a couple of weeks ago and sold it a day later. Will stick to my G400 #4 Iron at power spec 19*. Gives me 195y carry consistently with run out according to ground hardness. So far it beats G and G400 Crossovers, Cobra King Utility and TM UDI #2 hands down.”
- wam78: “Currently playing Mizuno mp h5 2 iron and I absolutely love it! Feels good, easy to hit high and low and can be found for a good price.”
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