ORLANDO – Inside the PING booth on Thursday, I joked with chairman and CEO John Solheim and senior design engineer Marty Jertson about introducing the Rapture three wood and Katsch putter even as they discussing one of their most extensive product lines in recent memory at the PGA Merchandise Show.
You can read more about PING’s recent introductions here.
“It hits pretty much everybody,” said Solheim of the latest company products and Jertson agreed.
“It’s fun to see the fruits of our labour. That’s the exciting part,” said Jertson.
“As engineers, we have a real, relaxed environment at PING, but it’s always fun to come out and see your product, people hit your product, using the fitting tool, have it all work,” he added.
“We kind of see it as a never-ending journey. The more answers you get, the more questions you have. That’s the irony of science and engineering — the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, but that’s what makes it fun to come to work every day,” said Jertson.
“We still see so much potential out there for improving our product and bringing better fitting tools to our customers, as well,” he added.
Those fitting tools that Jertson speaks of are developing as quickly as the products themselves as PING continues to stress its relationship with golf professionals and proper fitting. You could call it old school values meet new school technology.
“We’re just introducing, as well, PINGology, which is a learning tool and golf professionals or their assistants can do it on their computers or their iPads at home or at work, wherever,” said Solheim.
“It’s actually kind of a fun way to learn and teach about the clubs, teach a little bit about our history. We’re just starting but it’s a good program that’s fun to do and learn,” he added.
Jertson adds that PINGology helps create an experience as if they were right at PING headquarters in Phoenix.
“We host so many golf professionals that we bring to PING and they get to see the PING experience and the history and the way the plant works and our assembly works and how much we know about physics and our test robots and the family nature of the company,” said Jertson.
“So, our goal with that is to deliver the experience of coming to the PING factory out to more people and, at the same time, educate them,” he said.
PING also continues to advance its nFlight fitting from the recent introduction of its nFlight Mobile to the new nFlight Motion, which works off an Apple iPhone or iPad.
“We’ve taken a lot of information from the tens of thousands of fittings we’ve done in Phoenix, so that we get everything right on the money,” said Solheim.
“With three swings with this little thing, it’ll tell you what shaft you should have for your swing and you don’t even have to have the right driver. You can take any driver and swing it and it will tell you where you are,” he said.
“It will tell you which shaft it recommends, which driver it recommends and what loft of that driver. In some cases, it will offer a different loft with the i driver than with the G driver,” he added.
“It’s amazing what it can do. It also shows you what your swing plane looks like. The neat thing about that is that the golf professional who’s working with you can look at it and he can see if you’ve got some problems in your swing that you may want to work on with him,” said Solheim.
“What we’re trying to do is simplify for the pro and get a really good fitting, so it doesn’t take him as much time to do it,” said Solheim, adding that it can potentially have added value.
“Hopefully, the USGA will decide to let us put it in the club, so that you can play a round of golf and then analyze how you hit each shot afterwards,” said Solheim.
“(The USGA) want no electronics on it right now. It’s just part of their tradition. As long as you’re not analyzing your own swing while you’re playing, it shouldn’t bother them,” he said.
The key is a SkyPro device placed at the bottom of the grip on a golf club.
“They make a great device that gives really good data and our expertise is certainly on the side of what do you do with the data and how do you process that data?” said Jertson.
“Obviously, the tough part with these tools is there are so many out here. Here we are at the PGA show, you walk down the aisles here and everyone’s got a sensor to measure something,” he said.
“They key is what do you do with the sensor, how do you use it, how do you use the data, how accurate is the sensor?” added Jertson.
“We put so much work into making sure we picked the best sensor out there that gave us the best data that we could use our knowledge and know-how to create a software application, mathematical algorithms that can produce a simple fit at the end of the day,” he said.
PING was founded over 50 years ago by World Golf Hall of Fame member Karsten Solheim, John’s dad who is considered to be one of the great innovators in golf.
John worked with his dad in the family garage in the early days and it would be interesting to see how Karsten would react to some of the tools being used today.
“Karsten would love it. It would amaze him,” said John.
“I always use the example with him today that we can analyze the face and look at the inside of the club or any place on the club and find the stresses there,” he added.
What hasn’t changed since the early days is the company philosophy of working closely with golf professionals/retailers, even if the methodology has changed. New age can mesh well with old school, according to Jertson, 33, himself a Class A pro.
“You can have new school tools working with old school relationships and business methodology, no doubt about it,” he said.