2005: Features - Ping’s evolution brings ‘cool’ G5 line

Phoenix

Cool.

This is a word that John Solheim, chairman of Ping, does not use. However, it is a word that his son, John K. Solheim, vice president of engineering, utters frequently.

“These clubs are cool,” said the younger Solheim, reflecting a fresh new direction that has helped rejuvenate the Ping brand in the golf marketplace.

He was referring to the family of G5 golf clubs about to be introduced by Ping. This will be the largest and most ambitious product introduction in the history of the company – two models of irons, along with a driver, fairway woods, hybrid clubs and putters.

All these clubs will be unveiled at the same time, all under the umbrella of the G5 family. Most of the clubs should appear in golf shops by the first week of September.

Nobody could blame Ping for riding high on the success of its G2 family of clubs. A look at recent Golf Datatech surveys is revealing – the G2 iron has been the top-selling iron in the United States, and the G2 driver has been the No. 1 driver.

Yet the G2 essentially will be replaced by the G5. Because of the many similarities between the two, it would not be incorrect to label the G5 irons, driver and fairway woods as updated versions of the G2.

The G2 will continue to be sold, at least initially. Because Ping has a long history of maintaining a thorough inventory of all its past models, G2 heads will remain available in the foreseeable future.

After the Ping Eye2 iron was introduced by Karsten Solheim in 1982, it became the largest-selling iron in golf history. The company was slow to change, and the Eye2, more than 23 years after its introduction, still is sold in an Eye2 Plus version.

It is clear, though, that the G5 family is being ushered into the spotlight.

It is equally clear that the future of Ping is slowly but firmly being determined by John K. Solheim and other younger members of the Solheim family. They appear to be more aggressive, and the width and breadth of the G5 family is startling.

John Solheim, talking about the new clubs at the British Open, made it clear his hand is still on the Ping throttle, although the new product line is stylish and colorful and comprehensive in a way that his father, Karsten Solheim, perhaps could not have envisioned.

Here’s what consumers will see:

G5 stainless steel irons feature more perimeter weighting than any previous Ping irons. The G5 sole width is wider than that of the G2. The Custom Tuning Port has been moved closer to the face for improved feel.

According to John Solheim, a new procedure for cutting the grooves will producemore-consistent and longer-lasting grooves.

The accompanying i5 irons, introduced to Ping touring pros on the range at the British Open, are an updated version of the popular i3 Plus. The first completed set of i5 irons was sent to Chris DiMarco, a longtime i3 Plus user.

The back cavity on the G5 and i5 are similar, and so are the two Custom Tuning Ports. The i5 head is slightly smaller and the sole slightly narrower than the G5, and the i5 has less offset.

The three primary Ping irons will be the bladelike S59, the i5 and the G5. Suggested retail prices for the two new irons are $115 per club with a steel shaft and $145 per club with a graphite shaft.

The all-titanium G5 driver has a center of gravity that is slightly lower than that of the G2. This was accomplished by removing a few grams of weight from the crown and face.

The 460cc driver looks sleeker than its predecessor, and club designer Mike Nicolette confirms that the driver produces a lower ball spin rate for most players.

“As a result, most golfers will need a little higher loft,” Nicolette said. “They will hit the ball farther, and they should have more control on their shots as well.”

Suggested retail price for the graphite-shafted G5 driver is $350.

G5 fairway woods offer no choice of lie angles as the G2 fairways did, but the new models contain a “super steel” 455 stainless face that appears to produce more carry distance.

“The faces actually are 10 percent hotter than the old G2 line,” said Brad Schweigert, manager of golf club design.

Lofts, both right-handed and left-handed, are 13, 15, 18, 21, 24 and 27 degrees. The 27-degree fairway wood, called the L Wood, is an interesting club with approximately the same carry as a 5-iron.

The retail price for an individual fairway wood is $200 with a steel shaft and $260 with a graphite shaft.

G5 hybrids have been tested on the PGA Tour throughout the year. They replace the HL long irons that were available in the G2 series.

Hybrid lofts are 16, 19, 22 and 25 degrees. MSRP is $185 in steel and $215 in graphite.

Eleven putters are included in the G5 family. Suggested retail prices generally fall in a range from the $135 G5i Anser to the $165 G5i Craz-E.

If there was any criticism of the Ping G2i putters, it was this: The ball didn’t seem to come off the face with enough zip for some players. As a result, the G5i putters are livelier.

Ping has remained female friendly with these new clubs, and women’s versions of the irons, woods and hybrids are available.

“I am really happy with everything,” John Solheim said at St. Andrews, Scotland. “We worked hard to do all this.”

Another indication of tremendous change: In the beginning, Ping was known as a company that paid little attention to cosmetics. Its putters and irons were plain and functional.

Now, even the Ping half moon on top of the metalwoods is a project unto itself. The half moon first appeared on the crowns of the G2 woods and was an immediate success. Some players used it as an alignment aid, and others simply liked the look.

For the G5, the half moon has been slimmed down and changed enough so that golfers will notice the difference.

Times are a-changin’ at Ping, and the G5 family is the centerpiece of a grand driver-to-putter introduction that is rarely seen in the golf industry these days.

Very cool.

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