The putter is the most personal club in nearly any player’s bag. And it’s the club most likely to be tossed out and replaced by another model on a whim, in desperation or simply by a desire to look at something different behind the ball.
“Humans are messy,” said Dr. Paul Wood, vice president of engineering at Ping. “We’re all a bit different — physiologically, psychologically from day to day. You can give people two putters and Putter A is great and Putter B is terrible and tomorrow, for complex reasons, Putter B works tomorrow.”
That’s not necessarily a pitch to buy more putters — although a random check of golfers’ garages or spare rooms might find more than one putter waiting for its chance to make the starting lineup, especially for a surprisingly high number of the best players in the world.
Ping’s 2021 putter lineup has more than enough choices, 11 in fact, from tried-and-true models to modern, non-traditional designs. And all of them are packed with as much technology as a putter can handle.
And three models have specifically been refined with the help of some of Ping’s PGA Tour players through the company’s Putting Lab Design (PLD) program. Cameron Champ was instrumental in the Tyne 4 design, Viktor Hovland in the DS 72 and Seamus Power with the CA 70.
“Some things make (putters) very friendly to new technology,” Wood said. “We have a lot of design freedom with putters. We can try different shapes that you wouldn’t try with an iron or a driver. We have weight we can play with so we can try different exotic materials.”
Multi-material construction is the main story of Ping’s new offerings. The blade models (Anser, Anser 2, Anser 4) use high-density tungsten in the heel and toe. The mid-mallet models (Kushin 4, DS 72) along with the Tyne 4 and Tyne C put a steel weight in the heel and tungsten in the toe. The mallet CA 70 features an aluminum body and a stainless steel sole plate, while the Fetch and the Oslo H are just the opposite. And the Harwood and Harwood Armlock pack the most technology, with an aluminum body and tungsten weighting at all four corners.
To achieve optimum results, it’s a matter of placing weighting in the proper place in each putter design to get the mass low and back, while maximizing moment of inertia (MOI). Both factors contribute to a putter’s relative forgiveness. But while measurable, it’s still in the eye — or the hands — of the beholder.
“The challenge is showing an improvement in benefit,” Wood said. “There are fine margins when talking about measuring. You swing the putter 5 miles per hour and when we’re measuring performance, it’s very fine margins, sometimes fractions of a degree. Tiny changes in ball speed, initial skid, things like that.
“The challenge is that we can make improvements on paper but can we show them in real life? How do you blend the player’s judgement, which is very strong in putters, with technically an amazing putter?”
And that’s why Ping’s putter testing includes more human feedback than data from a robot.
“The robot is for scientific style testing,” Wood said. “What the robot can’t do is provide is feedback. I know if I put a heavier putter in your hands, you will swing it differently. The robot doesn’t care; it swings the same. We want to know how the equipment changes the way the player swings or lines up.”
Alignment is a critical part of any putter design and, naturally, different players like different alignment features like shapes, lines and contours. Which accounts for the wide variety of aiming tools in the 11 putters.
The multi-material Pebax insert features a dual durometer construction with a softer layer in front and a firmer layer just behind. Wood said the softer material provides better feel in short putts and the firmer layer gives the proper feedback for longer putts. “It’s an insert that gives you nice sound and feel but it’s not too mushy,” he said.
Cosmetically, the new line of putters feature a dark PVD finish and black chrome shafts. They can be custom ordered in lengths of 32 to 36 inches in ¼-inch increments. Ping’s adjustable shaft, whose length can be changed by the consumer from 32 to 36 inches, is a custom upgrade.