PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Any golfer will tell you, when it comes to their sport it's all about the equipment. And when it comes to clubs, the official name in golf, is Ping. This household brand has been helping golfers improve their game since, 1959. But, what a lot of people might not realize, is that these clubs are made, right here in the U.S., in a factory in Phoenix, Arizona.
During this pandemic, we had the rare opportunity, to get behind-the-scenes at Ping headquarters to tour how these iconic clubs are crafted. And, even better, if you've heard the lore of Ping's "Gold Putter Vault Room," it's no myth. We'll go inside the "holy grail" of golf as well.
First, a tour of the campus, which can be found near 23rd Ave., North of Peoria Ave. Ping has been on this site of about 50 acres since 1966. And, as you would expect, the production floor is loud. This is where thousands of clubs are assembled, only after they're custom fitted for each golfer. Yes, each club is hand-made from scratch. And, that's a precise fit that has drawn many tour pro's to play and win with these clubs.
Taking his Ping clubs with him, all the way to the top in 2012 with a Masters win, and then another win two years later, is local Tour Pro Bubba Watson. He put himself on the PGA history map, decked out in Ping logo's, with his Ping clubs right there with him. Watson has always competed with Ping clubs and he's joined by about 20 tour pros who swing these clubs as well.
"We like to use the word, 'calibrated' because we're not just gluing a head to a shaft and putting a grip on it," says Pete Samuels, the director of marketing at Ping. "There's a lot of steps in between to make sure [the club] is adjusted properly for whoever that set is going to in the end."
Business at Ping has actually skyrocketed during the pandemic because people know being outside is a safe place to be. And if you happen to hit the ball like Bubba Watson does, maybe you too could be part of that exclusive endorsement list. "We've known them since Jr. golf or college days, and then we nurture them along with us," Pete explains. "If they choose, and if they have the ability to play the tour, then we'll likely enter into an endorsement agreement with them."
And if you win big on tour, that deserves recognition. How does a gold-plated putter sound? A short golf cart ride across this campus will bring you face-to-face with a shiny black and gold vaulted door with the inscription, "For those who want to play their best." The sight is overwhelming and one-of-a-kind as thousands of gold-plated putters, stacked in rows, cover every inch of this room.
"It's quite a tradition here at Ping that we started back in the early 70's by Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping," Pete tells us. "He was looking for a way to acknowledge the professionals who had won with his putter. Typically back then the manufacturer might write them a check for a couple of hundred bucks and say 'thank you very much,' but Karsten didn't want to do that."
Instead, Karsten created quite the legacy, which has become well-known in professional sports, and perhaps an added incentive for some pro golfers. "Karsten wanted to create something meaningful," Pete explains. "He came up with this idea where he would make two gold-plated replicas of the winning putter that the professional used. He would give one to the player for their collection, and one, at the time, it was just [for] his closet, but over the years, it built and built into this vault," Pete tells us.
Gold putters in this room are neatly placed on display, in alphabetical order. The pro's name and tournament win is also engraved on the club face for both the player and the vault room, just giving this tradition that perfect sparkling touch of detail. Today, how many putters call this vault home? "There's more than 3,100 gold-plated Ping putters in here, each representing a tour win around the world in the last 60-plus years."