Published on November 26th, 2013 | by 2nd Swing3
A Tour of PING Golf Headquarters
In some sense, PING’s Scottsdale headquarters is pretty typical of the industry: you’ve got the assembly floor, corporate offices, R&D, and a state-of-the-art outdoor fitting studio that caters to the most dedicated segment of customers. More than that, though, the place is an embodiment of PING’s clubmaking philosophy — namely, that the quality of the finished product is inseparable from the process of putting the club together. Customization is central to this concept. While other manufacturers focus the bulk of their efforts on churning out standardized, one-size-fits-all versions of their in-line clubs, with only a small space devoted to custom orders, PING’s entire workshop is a custom order-building mecca. As PING Director of Communications Pete Samuels explains it, “that’s the only way we know how to build clubs.”
That way, Karsten’s Way, has been handed down from the company’s founder, Karsten Solheim, an engineer who in his spare time tinkered with putter designs in his garage until he came up with the original PING golf club, the 1-A putter, in 1959. At that time, a lot of golfers bought clubs from green-grass pro shops at their local course. The club pro would take them out to the range and suggest a set based on what he saw. Solheim recognized that this method of fitting was imprecise, and began to improve upon it by offering his iron sets in a variety of lie angles, allowing golfers of different heights and swing types to get irons that matched their tendencies. PING continues to refine its fitting process, and it’s still owned by the Solheim family, with Karsten’s son John taking the reins after Karsten passed away in 2000. Without pressure to pad the bottom line coming from stockholders, PING was never forced to “evolve” away from its original vision of tailoring each club to the individual customer.
What has evolved is the golf clubs themselves. During our time at PING, we heard about, saw and got our hands on a lot of things, most of which we’ll have to wait until next month to talk about. One that we can is the newly available for purchase Ping Rapture Driving Iron. Here was how one of our team described his experience with the 2-iron/hybrid club:
“Look: I loved how easy it was to align and set up. Many hybrids have a very round leading edge which makes it a bit more difficult to align. The leading edge the Rapture was very straight. As a result it feels like you have more laser like accuracy with this club.
Ball Flight: I initially thought it may be challenging to hit; however the sweet spot felt very large. The ball has a penetrating ball flight that really just keeps going.
The biggest advantage to this club was hitting it off of tight lies. I felt like the ball still launched high enough and that i was able to get to the sweet spot on the ball, even from a very tight lie. This has been a problem of mine with traditional hybrids. My typical carry on a 3 iron is 210 yards and the Rapture 2 iron was carrying 225. ”
Back inside the Ping facility, with the assemblers going about their business, you can’t help thinking, I want these guys putting together my next set. Every process is done by hand to an incredibly precise standard. Want your custom loft and lie angles calibrated to within a few hundredths of a degree? They do that.
Want paint fill in the colors of your favorite team? They do that, too.
Want your lie angles to match, even though you like you long irons a half-inch short and your short irons a half-inch long (wait, is that even a thing?)? They definitely do that, by producing different cavity-badge weights for each clubhead, and then measuring swingweight after each club has been cut.
Attaching those badges isn’t the only clubhead fabrication going on in Scottsdale; Ping also mills the Gorge grooves into its Tour wedges on-site using this machine:
Then these hands — which look like they might have done this before, once or twice– measure the width, depth and spacing of the newly-cut grooves, ensuring tolerances approaching a thousandth of an inch or so.
Of course, you’ve got the Ping Golden Club vault, but since they aren’t for sale, these are, in effect, priceless. You’ll have to win a tournament, or do something crazy like shoot a double-eagle at The Masters, to be given one of these.
Safe to say, Ping’s got a good thing going down in Arizona. And this year, if you want to get the Tour-approved look worn by Ping staffers like Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood, you’ve got the chance, because all the Tour hats and accessories have been made available for the general public for the first time ever.