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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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Driver: Callaway BB21 (9 degrees)
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