When I knew i was going to be staying in Phoenix on the first leg of my San Diego travels I knew their was going to be a few box tickers!! Nothing prepared me for my first as i visited the world headquarters of Ping Golf in Scottsdale. Personally i have stocked Ping products from the very first day as a professional, so as you can imagine, i was pretty excited to be finally meeting the guys behind the designs!!
Two years ago we were actually contacted from the HQ in Phoenix by Dr Paul Wood (VP of Engineering) an Englishman that was ironically from Herefordshire, he was visiting his family in the area and dropped in to gain some feedback from us on the products that he and his team had designed. Ever since, we have kept in touch and Paul very kindly set up a special tour for myself and two members from ROWGC, James Hay and Jamie Wilde who joined me on the trip.
That week Paul actually had to fly back to the UK so we were shown around by his team of Engineers. We actually started right outside Karsten Solhiem's (founder of ping golf) first ever workshop (pictured below). This is where he built his first putter which was called the Ping 1A putter. This was and still is the most iconic club they have made, they actually took the name from this putter because of the 'Ping' like sound it made when hit. What struck me first of all was how vast the complex was!! We covered our tour in a golf buggy which was very welcome in 35 degrees of heat and they said it was getting cooler!!
After a bit of a History lesson it was onto the modern day products that were getting made and manufactured right in front of our very eyes. We observed the new Vault putters getting milled, Hoofer carry bags getting assembled and the vast club assembly room with hundreds of workers at their various stations meticulously making the new G400 clubs. No pictures were taken in these rooms as everything is top secret!!
Then it was onto spend time with the Engineers learning about the science behind the research and development into new products. We spent time learning about how the tour players are custom fit in the VIP bays, they even let us have a swing, yes just a swing, no hitting!!
Then it was onto club testing and learning about the stringent measures that every club and new design goes through. Ping's very own testing robot 'The Ping Man' is pretty famous in the industry, designed by their engineers they can pretty much reenact every shot in the book to test each club to the max. They can even simulate clubhead speed so no stone is left unturned!! We actually tested the impressive G400 iron and looked at centerness of strike, with everything being equal we tested a perfectly centred strike vs a strike that was half inch towards the toe, the results were shockingly good, in carry distance the G400 only dropped 5 yards, pretty much proving that this iron is the most forgiving iron on the market!!
After been blown away by the R&D and Pingman we were whisked away to another area of research, into a very secluded area of the building. In this area was more testing rooms, including a room that housed one of the most impressive motion capture systems in the world. Ping’s Enso research system, which has 10 high-speed cameras with custom software and a specially equipped driver. Ping’s Enso measures what every inch of the golf club head and shaft are doing throughout the swing. 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. Now i love my technology and this simply blew me away, maybe we can squeeze one into the performance lab!!! At $@@@@@@@'s maybe not!!!
After being bamboozled with technology and finding out i need to work on my swing a little, we were off again, this time to the Putting Lab!! Not to make Oli to jealous but this was once again an awesome setup. The Putting Lab houses A 30ft marbled putting strip for all VIP and tour player custom fittings with the walls telling a detailed story about the history of the iconic Ping putters. Also on one of the walls was every Ping staff players custom putter details, which were all very unique to each player. Once again impressive technology was on show with PGA Tour player Aaron Baddley having just been in before us for a tune up.
Then for me they certainly saved the best room to last the infamous 'Ping 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 now the finishing touches are being put on its third move to a more public-friendly location. I went straight to the major wall and grabbed Louis Oosthuizen’s amazing double eagle gold plated 4-iron from the Masters and Tiger’s U.S. Amateur winner. There are 2972 putters in the gold vault including some of the very special solid gold clubs like Louis that set up major wins for the player. Pictured below is Bubba's 52 degree wedge he hit from the trees at Augusta setting up his 2012 Masters title.
All in all it was a fantastic tour, I can’t express enough what a thrill it was to meet and peek behind the curtains and pick the brains of some of the premier club designers/builders in the world. What struck me was when i was walking through the assembly room, hundreds of people putting their own passion into what they do. 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. This family run business is at the forefront of the golf industry and certainly is a brand that i am proud to be a part of. I took many more pictures and video's next time your at the club be sure to catch me for a chat.
See you all soon