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Talking with Golf Pride’s president about the new grip fitting studio at Pinehurst Resort

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The world’s leading manufacturer of golf grips is heading to Pinehurst. Golf Pride plans to open a new facility at America’s Home of Golf as early as 2019. The facility will serve as an incubator for new technology, house the company’s global management and professional teams, and most excitingly, feature a consumer grip fitting studio.

Golf Pride’s new facility will be located within the Pinehurst Resort, next to the Tom Fazio-designed Pinehurst No. 8 course. The company considered a variety of sites, but decided to leverage the location and partnership opportunity with Pinehurst Resort.

The grip fitting studio aims to replicate the service tour professionals get on the range and in the tour van on the PGA Tour. The appointment-only experience will offer personalized concierge-quality service, as well as the opportunity to test new products before they hit the market and offer feedback.

We spoke with James Ledford, president of Golf Pride, about the new facility.

GolfWRX: Where did the idea for the move to Pinehurst in general, and the fitting studio in particular, come from?

James Ledford: A lot of this comes out of what we’ve been doing since about 2012. We launched a lot of new products into the marketplace: CP2, MCC PLUS4, Tour SNSR.

We’ve been doing a lot more prototyping and golfer testing for the last four years to try to bring a lot more innovation to the marketplace. If there’s one thing I could point to, it’s that, and that’s why we’re moving to this new facility. A bunch of avid golfers from all around the world will be driving by this facility to play No. 8, so it’s a great opportunity to connect with them and share some of our latest product ideas, vet them [the ideas] and refine them.

As we started thinking about this new site, we want to take our brand to a different place and start offering experiences to golfers. That’s totally new territory for Golf Pride. We’ve been a product brand, and there isn’t necessarily a Golf Pride experience, so we’ve challenging ourselves to create that.

This area is a golf mecca. Beyond the nine courses at Pinehurst Resort, there’s like 30 golf courses within 10 to 15 minutes of our location. Notable designers. High-quality golf. And I don’t know if that’s top-of-mind to golfers like it could be, so we hope that golfers will take a fresh look at the region.

Grip selection is often something of an afterthought, isn’t it?

JL: The grip in our view is a very personal decision, but honestly a lot of golfers don’t know that much about grips. Even really avid golfers who have been playing a long time might know more about spin rate on drivers.

Guys get fit for everything now, and there’s a lot of great places to do that, but the reality is, after you’ve been fit for a whole set of clubs, you’re kind of exhausted. Our idea is a lot of the guys that make the effort to travel to Pinehurst, they’ve been fit, but they probably were not fit well for grips.

We’re not really doing it as a revenue generating type of thing, but we think we’re going to learn a lot. Grips still are not a heavily studied equipment choice. We see this as an investment in getting to understand golfers even better and coming up with even better ideas.

Is part of the goal here battling some perceptions about the golf grip?

JL: All the power and all the accuracy is translated through that one touchpoint with the golf club, and it matters. If you go from a standard taper to to a plus-four taper, you’re going to feel that impact. Grips matter, but a lot times people don’t know how they matter.

A lot of people see their grip as a sort of handle. We’re trying to transition from “handle” to “equipment choice.” And it may be as important as some of the other equipment choices you’re making, but people haven’t learned structured ways to make that choice. We want to develop the easiest, fastest way to make good decisions about the best grip for each golfer.

What will the studio fitting experience look like?

JL: We’re treating the development of this fitting experience like the development of a new product. We do it in a number of settings, but it isn’t a paid service we offer, so we’re going through concept development right now. We’re going to be testing different ways to walk golfers through, leveraging what we know works on tour and for our OEM partners. But we’re going to try and reinvent the process; we’re not just going to cobble something together and put it out there.

So it’s not going to be “just show up and screw around with some grips?”

JL: That’s a great way to put what it’s not going to be. But I think we have to recognize that a lot of grip choice is that. I do a lot of secret shopping. I wander around golf shops and listen and meet with associates. I saw an avid golfer come in a store once and he was meeting with an associate, and the grip discussion didn’t get any more complicated than, “I like blue ones.” And I think sometimes that’s where the grip knowledge is, and we really want to fight against that. Blue is the last thing we should be talking about, we have to start with performance. We want to turn this into a structured problem-solving session, so that you come out with a grip that complements your game.

Grips are kind of like footwear. It’s not a perfect analogy, but when we look at the most inspiring footwear brands out there, there three elements. It starts with performance, but then there’s this intangible element of “what feels good on your feet might not feel good on my feet.” And with grips, all of hands are different, so there’s a lot of variables there. Then, the last element is style. We’re trying to introduce a bit of style. So, with the fitting, we have to work through those three elements.

I think we have to go into this with humility as well. To go really deep into the fitting process; to be willing to really spend some time with some guys so that we can get it right. We’re hoping that it makes us smarter when we only have five or 10 minutes at the end of a fitting with a manufacturer or Golftec or Hot Stix. So when you only have five minutes, we want to know how to walk through that. We want to make the best use of that time at the end of a fitting and do better with that time than we do today. I think that’s a secondary objective for us [with the fitting studio].

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Equipment

Forum Thread of the Day: “New Ping G410 Driver?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from hervygolf21, and it surrounds the new G410 driver from Ping that is allegedly set for release at the beginning of 2019. Our members have found out plenty of information on the latest driver from Ping since the thread began, apparently, and here’s a quick look at some of the features you might expect from the new model (if you take forum members’ word for it).

According to the thread, the PING G410 will be black with red accents, will have a higher MOI than the current G400 model, will still contain the Ping Turbulators and will be offered in 12 degrees without draw weighting. It’s also believed that the G400 Max will remain current until July/August 2019, but at a lower price point.

Here are a few posts in the thread reflecting on the news, but make sure to check out the entire thread and join the discussion at the link below.

  • lc1342: “Love both the G400 LST and G400 Max, but if they are bringing out something better… I’ll take it!”
  • cz13x4: “This sounds like a very interesting update. Not keen on red but very interested to see what comes out.”
  • roho: “Late January?  Sounds like maybe a PGA Show unveil in Orlando.”

Entire Thread: “New PING G410 Driver”

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Ben Hogan adds Ft. Worth “White” to iron lineup

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After the launch of Diamond Black Metal finish Ft. Worth “Black” irons earlier this year, Ben Hogan’s nickel-chrome Ft. Worth irons are back…sort of. The Texas-baed company today announced the launch of Ben Hogan Ft. Worth White irons.

Now with respect to the “White” designation, If you’re skeptical/confused, well, let’s just have a look at a comment on BH’s Instagram post announcing the iron launch and the company’s response…

jonmodica: “Very unclear the changes from previous model… also… white? It’s chrome…..”

Benhogangolf: ”@jonmodica More progressive specific to each club head, a more aggressive V-Sole pattern and the ‘white’ is opposite of the popular and newly designed Ft. Worth Black.”

There you have it, folks. “White” as in contrast to the Ft. Worth Black irons, and the Ft. Worth White is not merely a re-issue of original chrome Ft. Worth, according to the company.

With respect to the changes to the V-Sole system, the company said this in its marketing materials for the Ft. Worth Black.

“Feedback from strong players and robot testing indicated that the leading edge could be increased on certain irons, and trailing edge softened … especially with less-than-full shots in the shorter irons.”

“So, in our ongoing quest to design and manufacture the best clubs in golf, we’ve modified the V-Sole Technology used on the Ben Hogan Ft. Worth BLACK slightly. The sole maintains the same basic design principles as the original V-Sole but has been optimized for each iron in the set. In effect, we’ve strengthened the leading edge from the sole to the face on some of the Ft. Worth BLACK irons, while reducing the trailing edge bounce on others.”

Obviously, the company scrapped the PreciseLoft system introduced with the original Ft. Worth irons. That system offered four loft profiles, all with consistent four-degree gaps. After finding the vast majority of players preferred the “mid-high” launch profile, the company did away with the others…and returned to tradition iron number (rather than loft) stamping on the toe.

The aforementioned lofts in the 4-PW set range from 22 degrees to 46 degrees.

“The Ft. Worth White Irons are illustrative of how Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company interacts with and listens to its customers,” said Scott White, President and CEO, Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company. “On the heels of our sales success with the Ft. Worth Black Irons, we found many ‘traditionalists’ who wanted to play this iron design with the standard nickel-chrome finish, so we accommodated them with this launch.”

Ft. Worth White irons are available for purchase on the Ben Hogan website exclusively for $700.00 per seven-piece set (4-PW).

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Ping’s new Sigma2 putters are length-adjustable, and one of them “fetches” the ball from the hole

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We recently spotted photos of Ping’s new Sigma2 putter line in our GolfWRX forums, but what we didn’t know at the time was that there is an adjustable-length system built into their Pistol grips.

The USGA conforming, length-adjustable feature allows golfers to change lengths between 32 and 36 inches in approximately 0.25-inch increments with a turn of the small Ping wrench that fits into the butt end of the grips.

“The adjustable shaft is just a really cool technology,” said John K. Solheim, Ping President. “Our engineers took a very complex technical challenge and simplified it for the benefit of golfers. It allows you to experiment with various lengths and ultimately self-fit yourself. You’re no longer limited to a specific length measurement. You simply adjust it until you’re comfortable, ideally with your eyes directly over the ball. We call it ‘invisible’ technology but once you customize it to your length, the results will be very clear on your scorecard.”

Also, we’ve since learned that the Sigma2 Fetch putter head fits into a standard size golf hole, and the design allows golfers to simply place the bottom of the putter head into the hole to pick the golf ball out without bending over.

Each of the 9 new head models in the Sigma2 line have a new face technology as well, made to be softer and more responsive than the Sigma G putter faces. The “dual-durometer” face inserts, which are made of PEBAX material, have a softer outer layer, and a firmer inner layer, designed for greater player feedback, according to Ping.

Additionally, Ping’s familiar TR face design pattern alters in depth across the face to speed up mishits — the goal being to have greater speed consistency regardless of where the golfer strikes the ball on the face.

The Sigma2 putters, which are now available for pre-order at Ping golf shops around the world, are offered with either the PP60 (midsize and lightweight), the PP61 (inspired by the PP58), or the PP62 (larger, more rounded shape) grip, which are each equipped with the length-adjustable system.

Read below for full specs of each putter, as per Ping’s press release.

See more photos and discussion about the Sigma2 putters here.

Ping Sigma2 Anser

Putter Type: Blade
Finish: Platinum or Stealth
Head Weight: 350 grams
Stroke Type: Slight Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/- 4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/- 2)
Price: $215

Ping Sigma2 ZB 2

Putter Type: Blade
Finish: Platinum
Head Weight: 350 grams
Stroke Type: Strong Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/- 4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $215

Ping Sigma2 Kushin C

Putter Type: Mid-Mallet
Finish: Platinum
Head Weight: 360 grams
Stroke Type: Straight
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/- 4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $215

Ping Sigma2 Arna

Putter Type: Mid-Mallet
Finish: Stealth
Head Weight: 360 grams
Stroke Type: Slight Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/-4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $215

Ping Sigma2 Tyne

Putter Type: Mallet
Finish: Stealth
Head Weight: 365 grams
Stroke Types: Straight, Slight Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/-2)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $235

Ping Sigma2 Tyne 4

Putter Type: Mallet
Finish: Platinum
Head Weight: 370 grams
Stroke Type: Strong Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/-4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $235

Ping Sigma2 Wolverine H

Putter Type: Mallet
Finish: Stealth
Head Weight: 370 grams
Stroke Type: Slight Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/- 4)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $235

Ping Sigma2 Valor

Putter Type: Mallet
Finish: Stealth
Head Weight: 365 grams
Stroke Types: Straight, Slight Arc
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/-2)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $235

Ping Sigma2 Fetch

Putter Type: Mallet
Finish: Platinum
Head Weight: 365 grams
Stroke Type: Straight
Lie Angle: 20 degrees (+/-2)
Loft: 3 degrees (+/-2)
Price: $235

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Ping Sigma2 putters.

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