The Back Story: Ping True Roll putter insert

Ping Sigma G Tyne H putter Ping

The Back Story: Ping True Roll putter insert

Equipment

The Back Story: Ping True Roll putter insert

“Overnight success” is an overused term. Entrepreneurs, actors, athletes and people in all walks of life usually put in years of work, away from the spotlight, before their accomplishment or talent is recognized. The same holds true in golf equipment. All the shiny new clubs on the wall of a golf shop, and the technologies that make them possible, started with an idea in someone’s mind. Those ideas are revised, updated, turned into prototypes and updated again, often over the course of years, before being completed.

With this new series, The Back Story, Golfweek hopes to shed some light on the inspirations and beginnings of some of the game’s most popular gear.

We kick things off with the Ping True Roll putter insert. Paul Wood, Ping’s vice president of engineering, gives you The Back Story.

. . .

David Dusek: The True Roll face features grooves that are deeper in some places and shallower in others. Where did the idea for that come from?
Paul Wood: In recent years, people have looked into how you can get the ball rolling faster (instead of skidding). I was at a conference for the International Sports Engineering Association and saw this guy who had written a peer-reviewed journal paper looking at the Yes! C Groove putter and trying to answer the question of whether the grooves actually get the ball rolling faster. He set up an experiment with a pendulum, like we would do, got a high-speed camera and put some lines on the ball so he could track what was going on. He looked at (results with) a putter without grooves, and then made some putts with this C Groove putter and determined that yes, in the video, the ball is starting to roll more quickly. But then he noticed that it was also going slower, so he decided that it was not really a fair comparison because he was looking at a 20-foot putt with one putter and maybe an 18-foot putt with the other. So he swung the grooved putter a little harder to get it back to 20 feet. That kind of washed out the (quicker roll) results, so his conclusion was that grooves are not really making the ball roll quicker, it just looks that way because it is going slower.

Reading this paper, it got me thinking that if we could recreate this, maybe we could design something that slows the ball just a little bit in the middle of the face and then doesn’t do it as we go out to the heel and the toe, up and down where you’d normally get lower ball speed because of the mis-hits. We could equalize it.

Ping True Roll insert

The darker area in the center of the Ping True Roll insert is where the grooves are deepest. (Ping)

In the lab we learned that when we put different depth grooves in and looked at different shapes of grooves, we could play with the ball speed enough to make a difference. We could make a design that says our center hits go at the same speed as our heel and toe hits.

DD: How many different face inserts did you make, and how long did it take to test them?
PW: I’d say it was about six months in testing. With putters, each test takes a while because you are looking for a difference of maybe .1, .2 or .3 mph in ball speed, which means you have to take a fair number of samples to be confident that what you have is real. It’s not like drivers where you’re talking about big numbers. And we made about six or eight different groove inserts.

DD: Once you found that the insert did what you hoped, what was the next step?
PW: Our innovation team is always working on these kinds of technologies and experiments in the early stages, and they present what we call Phase 1, which is a proof-of-concept to the design team, which includes John A. Solheim (Ping’s chairman and CEO) and John K. Solheim (the company’s president). They’re both highly involved with the design team and the innovation teams.

Ping Sigma G putters

The Ping Sigma G features an updated True Roll face. (Ping)

DD: The newest True Roll inserts look different from the original.
PW: When you come up with something that works, the aim is to push it and see if we can make it work even better and keep it fresh. With the True Roll insert, one of the things that we found was a few players thought it looked like a manufacturing defect. They thought it was a smudge in the middle of the face. So we wanted to get the same performance with a new look, so we looked at different shapes and the milling pattern that we now have. We did more Phase 1 and Phase 2 work to prove that it works that same way, and we tested a few other things that we’re keeping in our back pocket.

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