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GolfWRX visits Ping Golf Headquarters

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Ping kindly invited GolfWRX to their facilities in November for a factory tour and a sneak peek at how they’re going to outdo themselves once again in a couple of their product lines. I can’t express enough what a thrill it is to be able to peek behind the curtains and pick the brains of some of the premier club designers/builders in the world. It’s the equivalent, say, of touring the Corvette or Mustang factory and going through all of the design elements/decisions with those engineers.

Walking through the assembly room floor you see faces lined with wisdom. The story they tell is one of experience and loyalty. These people love working for this company… and this company values its people. Fifteen, 20, and 25-year employees are a common occurrence at Ping. GolfWRX was fortunate enough to share much of our time with a 30-year Ping veteran, Pete Samuels, the company’s director of marketing and communications. Pete knows every nook and cranny at Ping, and shared some great stories about Mr. and Mrs. Solheim.

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It’s kind of cool to note that newer design and manufacturing technologies will never replace the experienced club-builder’s hands. There’s a possibility that the same hands that built your beloved 1982 Ping Eye2s also built those 1999 i3 Blades, 2008 S57s, and maybe even those 2011 G20s you owned. This is a family business in every sense of the term… that is also very definitely one of the big boys.

Play Your Best

The mantra at Ping is Play Your Best. Everything the company does, its every engineering and design focus is directed at you to help you play your best. Golf clubs are designed within a pretty small box of limitations these days, so most every design decision is a balancing act. If engineers move 20 grams here or there or there or wayyy over there, what does that do for best hits? What about misses high or low on the face? What about curvature? What happens to repeatability of distance if engineers change X or Y? Most everything impacts something else. So are 5 yards of added carry on a center-strike hit worth it if I’m in the rough 20 percent more often on a slight mishit? What maximizes you playing your best?

What about incorporating what I and many other people thought was a sure-fire sales strategy for demo days years ago, jack up the lofts of your short irons. Why? I saw from watching so many players testing so many brands that most of the time the longest hits on a 7 iron, 8 iron or sometimes PW were the brand that made it into their bags. This was one of the first questions I posed to Ping engineers years ago. Ping’s response: How does that help you play your best? How does pushing all your yardages out and bunching up the gaps in the longer clubs do anything more than create yardage gaps that require more wedges?

Me: Yeah, but you’d sell more…

Ping (confused looks): Maybe, but that doesn’t help you play your best.

The finest example I can give of adopting the “Play Your Best” directive comes from Ping’s own senior design engineer Marty Jertson. First you must know that Jertson is a PGA Professional and competes in top-level tournaments including two PGA Championships (who else would you want designing your clubs?). He earned an invitation to play in what can best be described as the Ryder Cup for PGA Pros, the 2011 PGA Cup.

So of course Jertson was playing Ping’s S-series blades, I thought. Wrong. Jertson bagged the irons that would help him play his best, and he led the U.S. team to victory that year as the top point winner. Which irons would you play if it was your money on the line, when a slight mishit on a tournament course could cost your two or more strokes? For Marty, in 2011 with it all on the line, his Play Your Best irons were the uber-forgiving G20’s.

Consistency from shot-to-shot helps you play your best. Proper engineering and design, rigorous testing, quality materials, attention to detail and correct fitting all put those clubs in your hands for you to play your best. This is the mantra. This is what they sing around the campfire, this is what’s engraved on the back of their watch, this is the common thread woven throughout Ping Golf from stem to stern, from their beginnings to today: Play Your Best.

Itinerary: A whirlwind day

Our first stop after a quick early bite and coffee was a factory tour.

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As we moved to the bag room we find “flats” ready to be customized and framed up for shipping, and lo and behold there’s some sweet GolfWRX embroidery being stitched into three custom bags.

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After the tour we stopped by the putting lab to do an iPing fitting. Ping’s putter fitting lab has in the middle of its long and narrow room two pieces of granite that are joined on top of a granite base anchored into the ground independent of the foundation to form an 80-foot long by 8-foot wide putting table that is easily the flattest putting surface you’ll ever find, flat to 0.001 of an inch.

The surface is so flat that they’ll use Ping’s mechanical putting robot to roll what looks like a polished glass surfaced golf ball right down the center of its length. They put a synthetic mat over it to get the stimp they want so their tour staff and other fortunate guests can roll any selection of their favorite golf balls for a fitting. In a short time with the assistance of iPing and high speed cameras, you’re fitted into the best head, length, loft, lie and grip for you to make those putts. Zak posted a tidy 0.6 iPing putting handicap with a 35-inch Anser 2, 2 degrees flat with 4 degrees of loft.

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Next were iron and wood fittings on Ping’s always perfectly manicured, Trackman fore and aft equipped on campus driving range. Note that the hitting cage on the left is typically filled with Ping employees. Every employee has as part of their job scheduled range time with prototype and pre-production equipment. Ping’s employees of varied handicaps contribute to the research and development of not only equipment, but also the ever improving fitting experience that Ping provides. Also note the provided transportation for player testing.

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We were briefed on Ping’s Enso research system, which has 10 high-speed (high-dollar) cameras with custom software and a specially equipped driver. If you’ve ever been fit for clubs by having bunch of reflective dots placed all around your body… well, instead of your body, Ping’s Enso measures what every inch of the golf club head and shaft are doing throughout the swing. It’s amazing technology that can give you a Darth Vader light saber effect on the monitor in real time as you wave the club around. The system measures things like shaft bend/twist/torque, toe droop and head deviations through each moment of your golf swing to better understand what happens to the entire club in order to design better ones.

Click here to see what GolfWRX members are saying about the trip in our forum.

 

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The last time we were here, PingMan was having major surgery. Well, the swing robot has a new motor, some customized ball hoppers and is updating to the latest Trackman system to integrate with Ping’s own software/tools. He looks to be over-swinging a bit on the backswing, no? Actually, that swing arm fully articulates on its own. It just follows what Pingman’s “core” is doing.

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And finally we’re escorted into the WRX Department to design our own full on custom milled putters and share some time with the “mad scientist” John Souza and crew who fulfill every tour players wildest custom dreams… and yours, too. Along with excellent custom golf clubs, expect to find the unexpected in the back rooms of Ping’s WRX Department, like WedgeZilla and PuttZilla!

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The Gold Putter Vault

Long before people were paid to play putters, Mr. Solheim decided to commemorate every victory with a Ping putter by building two matching gold plated putters — one gifted to the winning player, the other placed in Ping’s gold putter vault. If you won a Major, you got a solid gold putter!

The vault was originally in a converted closet in Mr. Solheim’s office, then it was moved downstairs and has now the finishing touches are being put on its third move to a more public-friendly location. Zak got to do the honors this year, grabbing Louis Oosthuizen’s amazing double eagle gold plated 4-iron from the Masters and Tiger’s U.S. Amateur winner.

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At the end of our long good day we came away with even more respect for Ping the brand, Ping the company, Ping equipment and Ping the family. I’ll leave you with an image that warms my heart and may yours as well. Pete shared that one of their better days came when Ping co-founder Mrs. Louise Solheim notified the staff that she’d like to drop by for an updated putter fitting… at the young-at-heart age of 95 years old. This image, borrowed from Ping, gave me a big smile.

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Click here to see what GolfWRX members are saying about the trip in our forum.

 

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Todd goes by "Asleep" in the GolfWRX forums.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Dave Steckler

    Jan 2, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Does anyone make a 6 hybrid or a7? I think a lot of us are ready for one. What think?

  2. Joe

    Jan 1, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I would have loved to see some spy pics of the new i25 irons!

  3. DanP

    Dec 30, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    The B60 becu was the first good putter I ever owned. Unfortunately some scumbag stole it out of my bag.

  4. Alex

    Dec 30, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Ping is simply admirable. I use an old G2 that love like a son and my putter is a classic B60 that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    I wish one day I get myself a fitting to have Ping from driver to putter in my bag.

  5. Corrie-Lynn's dad

    Dec 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Psssssh!!!!!’ Luckiest dude ever. Nice article. Wide eyed the whole time I bet.

  6. Mike M

    Dec 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Great visit ! awesome to see how the wedges are built groove wise as well as the driver testing area (ping man) great post WRX

    • Dave Steckler

      Jan 2, 2014 at 1:17 am

      I think a lot of us would like to see a 6 or 7 hybrid. what does anyone think? Mr.Up & Down.

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Equipment

Super hot driving irons – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been talking about hot driving irons. WRXer ‘Russian7’ is on the hunt for a driving iron offering maximum ball speed and distance with no spin, and our members have been sharing their picks 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.

  • bcflyguy1: “From word of mouth anecdotes to testing done by other forums, think P790 UDI is as likely as anything to give you what you’re after.”
  • jblough99: “If you don’t mind em with a little junk in the trunk, look at the G425 crossover. Everything I’ve read/seen claims very forgiving and goes forever. No first-hand experience, though.”
  • Luxor54: “The exotics Ti-utility is probably up there.”
  • norsebynorsewest: “Seconded on the PXG 0311X. I play a one iron, and the thing is a utility rocket. It honestly feels like it should be illegal.”

Entire Thread: “Super hot driving irons – GolfWRXers discuss

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Best Ping irons from the last 5 years – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing Ping irons. WRXer ‘LowAndLeft32’ wants to hear what our members believe are the best additions from the brand over the past five years, with the i210 irons proving a popular choice.

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.

  • PEI_Golfer: “Hard pressed to beat the i210s.”
  • realmfg: “Blueprints.”
  • eric61: “Love the i210s — they’re easily the answer here, in my opinion. I really liked the i59s, too, but not as much as the i210s, and I think their price point maybe has meant a lot of people didn’t even end up trying them. G-series irons are fine too. If you’re in that segment of the market, the last few years it’s been the latest G irons vs the latest Hot Metals for the top of the pecking order, in my opinion.”
  • Cwhite912: “Easy, I210, Blueprint, iBlade.”

Entire Thread: “Best Ping irons from the last 5 years – GolfWRXers discuss

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Easiest launching fairway woods – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing easy to launch fairway woods. WRXer ‘Pete52’ hits his woods too low, and our members have been sharing their best picks to solve his problem 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.

  • JKJKJK: “I had the easiest time to elevate from the deck with G425 Max 3Wood/5Wood with Motore F3 shaft. Flies really high and easy to hit.”
  • DoughBack18: “Sim2 Ti. Has a lot of weight on the sole, and you can really launch it high. I’ve always had a slightly lower trajectory, got this in a 5 wood, and it’s worked really nicely filling the gap I had at the top end of my bag.”
  • Valtiel: “Any of the modern Pings are a good litmus test for elevation. If you can’t get those off the ground then you know the problem ain’t the club.”

Entire Thread: “Easiest launching fairway woods – GolfWRXers discuss

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