Our colleague Randy Minchew had us green with envy last week as he departed dreary, snowy Columbia for sunny Phoenix. He had a specific purpose for the trip—to get a “professional” fitting at Karsten Manufacturing Corp, better known as the home of PING golf.
“I wanted to make the trip last year, but hurt my back and couldn’t go. So I rescheduled as soon as my back healed,” Minchew said. “ Tough duty for us at The Missouri Golf Network, but someone had to do it.”
Wanting to continue to improve his game and get his handicap to a single digit, the year-round golfer lucked into an invite to the PING HQ.The company was founded by the late Karsten Solheim, creator of the first PING club ( a putter), and the only golf club manufacturer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“I’m 55, and I knew the clubs I’ve been using for the last five years weren’t necessarily the best for me. Because I’m in the golf business, I had the chance to do this fitting—which is really only offered to the pros and top amateurs,” Minchew said. “PING has an awesome fitting system which any PING dealer can put you through, but I didn’t want to pass up the chance to go to Phoenix, play some golf, and see what it’s like to get the ‘royal treatment.’ Bill Iseri, my skilled ‘fitter,’ is a great guy and really put me at ease during the process.”
PING sent Randy’s results back to Pro Am Golf in Columbia, where they closely matched the assessment done previously by Jim Goodman, a certified PING fitter—and one of the best club fitters in the Midwest.
“They didn’t find any big differences, but I wanted to have the ‘Phoenix experience,’” Randy said. “The new PING G25 clubs I’m going to get will better fit my age and my skills and allow me to get better at this crazy game.”
Going one-on-one with Bill, the PING fitter, Minchew was evaluated for a full set of clubs. He hit roughly 150 balls on the fitting range, then moved on to a putter fitting—about a three hour session in all. The range area he used featured some “secret” technology that tracked distance, launch angle, and spin rate—all critical components in determining the correct club specs for him.
“They’re looking for a happy medium between spin rate and launch angle, “ he noted. “The older you get, the more your club head speed slows, and your launch angle comes down with it. So, they adjust the shaft flex and club head style to keep the launch angle up.”
“They figure out what club you should use—looking at your size and skill level, “ he added. The shaft length, flex, and lie of the club head all get looked at using computer analysis. They also take into account what club head style looks good to you. The true skill of the club fitter is to make you feel comfortable as he evaluates your swing and tweaks the variables in a very sophisticated and scientific manner.”
“I was worried that all of the technology, the ‘testing’ environment, and the club fitter were going to conspire against me as I hit balls with my less-than-perfect golf swing,” Minchew admitted. “But Bill made sure I never felt in over my head or intimidated once we started the fitting process.”
Computer technology also came into play when Minchew tested the new PING putter with a redesigned face insert. “They have a putter testing area and have some new technology designed to help your ball stay on line when you miss-hit it. Your putter face is not always square or on path at impact, and everyone is going to miss-hit some,” he said. “The inserts PING has created help keep the ball from getting off line when you do close the face too early or come through the impact zone with the face open.”
When all was said and done, Minchew had found a new set of clubs, the PING G25, which he believes will improve his game. And at the end of the lengthy fitting process, he was allowed to go into the PING “vault” and take photos of the 2500+ gold-plated PING putters that PING produces and stores in the vault. They make two replica gold-plated putters every time a pro wins a tournament using a PING putter. One goes to the pro as a congratulatory memento, one goes in the vault. The two Tiger Woods engaved PINGs were Randy’s favorite, he said.
“I got to do something that week I’ll never forget,”he said. “Hang out with Bill Iseri and be treated like a ‘pro.’ Pretty cool—and, oh yeah, getting a new set of PING G25s too!”