(by Dave Wolfe)
Karsten Makes a Statement
I have not really been wowed by Ping’s prior incarnations of the Karsten line. The 2007 Karsten line and the 2011 Karsten 1959 lines both had lots of heads to choose from and were priced insanely friendly at about $100 or so. It’s just that the Karsten lines were, in my humble opinion, boring.
Were those Karsten putters classic Ping? Of course they were, but there was so much else going on in the putter corral at that time, that was new and amazing, that the Karsten putters got overlooked. Ping had some less than spectacular putter lines around then also. The iN and iWi lines didn't seem to connect with the consumer. The Karstens may have been overlooked by association.
If you have Karsten putter, and you love it, don’t feel slighted. I have a Karsten 1959 Anser X that is a joy to roll. I just think that its lack of “sexy” keeps it from getting more time in my bag.
In the recent past, one could argue that non-sexy functional is a non-flattering, but fair way to label Ping. They are just not a flashy company, especially compared to some these days. Nobody from Ping is going to produce a video chat about physics with someone in a costume any time soon. That's just not the Ping approach. Flashy and sexy sell in the golf market though, and I think Ping is aware of that as well. Things are changing at Ping.
In the recent years and product releases, Ping has begun to capture the sexy. I think that the change started at the G20/i20/Anser release cycle, and has increased with the G25/i25/S55 lines. I can only really speak for myself, but I know that when I walk into a shop the Ping gear is far more magnetic than it once was. I’ve gone from “Oh, it’s the G15 stuff” to “I need to bag the whole line of i25 gear right now!” The shift has been a subtle, almost stealthy one, but the combination of improved product aesthetics, likable Ping staff pros, and maybe an improved online presence have cultivated a new Ping image.
To put it simply Ping just has more “It” now than they have had in the recent past.
Things are changing at Ping
The older Ping was not really known for huge variations from one product cycle to the next. Look at the G5-G10-G15 irons and you will see what I am talking about. Cosmetic changes along with minor design tweaks were the norm. No so now. Look at the transition from G20 to G25 irons above, and you will see a significant change. The just released i25 driver makes a stronger visual statement than its i20 predecessor, while keeping the i20's standout performance. It's a different world in the Ping part of the pro shop these days.
You can see another huge product change with the replacement of the Scottsdale putter line with the the Scottsdale TR line. The Scottsdale line had a whole bunch of different models, but it also had an average feeling insert and a distracting color scheme. The Scottsdale TR line also has numerous models, but it now has an amazing insert, adjustable length shafts, and a sleek, business-black finish. The playability and the aesthetics improved dramatically with that transition.
That, fearless reader, is what Ping has now done with the Karsten TR line. They have taken a line of putters that was “good”, but not all that interesting and seriously upgraded them. This is a major tune-up, of both performance and aesthetics. The classic Ping putter engine is still there, but now it aggressively purrs at idle, suggesting that something different, and significant, is under this Karsten’s hood.
Karsten TR "Upgrades"
Copper PVD Finish
I am sure that this is the first new feature that will catch a golfer’s eye as they scan the putter corral. The copper color on the Karsten TR putters stands out. The finish changes a bit depending upon the light conditions. I have tried to show this in the various photos. Under bright light, it’s coppery-brown, whereas when the light is diffuse, pink-ish tones are more characteristic. Visually, the Karsten TR finish is very interesting, and definitely no longer the matte gray of previous Karstens.
What is great about this finish is that with the looks comes playability. The top surface of the putter has a matte texture to it, knocking back potential glare. Bright sun play is not an issue. The bottoms of the putters are polished, showcasing the richness of the finish, and maybe making it easier to wipe the bottom clean on the way to the headcover. The other great thing about the finish is that it is a PVD finish, and as such, should wear very well under normal putting conditions (i.e. no cart path putts).
Adjustable Length Shaft Option
This one has been a Ping putter option for a while now, but not in the Karsten line. I love this option from a consumer’s perspective. You can fine-tune the length of your Karsten TR to meet your needs. Does the adjustment mechanism take some practice to get right? Sure, but not that much. If you don’t want the adjustable shaft, you can still buy the Karsten TR putters with fixed length shafts. The grip is also a non-cord version that I found to be very tactilely pleasant. Ping's colored dot lie angle system is still alive and well in the Karsten TR as well (hence the black dot in the photo below).
True Roll (TR) Grooves
One could justifiably argue that a different finish and an adjustable shaft are not really significant of upgrades to a putter line, but adding the TR grooves is hugely significant. The old Karsten putters were simple cast heads with simple smooth faces. No inserts, or any other real tech in the face. This was the classic Karsten line design. To a point, keeping a “classic” design can be a good plan, but if it is kept “classic” year after year, “classic” can easily morph into “boring” and "the same”.
Adding the new-tech TR grooves to the faces adds forgiveness to the Karsten TR putter . For the uninitiated, the TR grooves are cut such that the center of the face is less hot than the edges. That means that on-center and off-center putts should roll similar distances. It is the same principle that Lee Westwood demonstrated with the Scottsdale TR insert commercial last year, yet another piece of evidence for the new Ping attitude.
With the Karsten TR line though, there is no insert, rather the grooves are directly in the metal. There is an elastomer insert behind the cavity badge to change the feel and tone of impact, but the way the TR grooves are implemented is not the same as the Scottsdale TR insert. The result is the same though. The TR grooves help the average golfer with distance control. Better speed should get more putts close, or even in!
Classic Ping Heads
The current run of Karsten TR models consists of five heads: Anser 2, B60, Anser 5, Pal, and Zing. When we think about the wealth of heads that Ping could produce, five seems like a small number of options. However, within the five offerings, we get heads to fit all three stroke paths: Straight (Anser 5), Slight Arc (Anser 2, B60, Pal), and Strong Arc (Zing). Though I have no insider information, history gives us hope that some additional models will show up later in the season. Some kind of mallet will be coming. I’d lay money on a Karsten TR Craz-E. Personally, I’d really like to see a Karsten TR Tess. I probably can’t putt with the Tess, but it would look amazing in the copper.
MGS Forum Trivia Question Time
Which of the five Karsten TR head shapes (Anser 2, Anser 5, B60, Pal, or Zing) has Ping most frequently produced before? Post your answer in this thread in the MyGolfSpy Forum. Maybe we will even have a small prize for the winner.
If you are not a member of the MyGolfSpy Forum, today is a great day to join!
Karsten TR models
The Anser 2 is probably the model in the B that will sell the most. Total guess, but that’s my gut feeling. Does it fit more golfers, or do more golfers find the looks appealing? I don’t know but it’s likely a combination of both. There is a reason that Mr. Solheim’s Anser design changed the make up of the putter landscape at the time of its introduction and for the decades after. It’s impossible to count how many Anser homage putters have been released by other companies since it’s introduction. The Anser 2 is the workhorse and flagship of all Ping putter offerings.
Last seen in the Anser Milled line, the Anser 5 carves itself a nice market niche by being one of the few (only?) face balanced blades available at retail. Sure you can go small-shop custom and get one, but other than that, it’s hard to find face-balanced blades, especially long neck blades. Those of you who keep up with my ramblings know that the Anser 5 had me at its long neck. There is just something about the extended neck that I love. I do wish that the Anser 5 had just a touch of hang, like 3:30, and no sight line, but really that’s just me being picky.
If you wanted the Anser Milled version of the Anser 5, but were unwilling to pay the premium Anser Milled price, I think you should definitely look at the Karsten TR version.
It seems that everyone that I showed the Karsten TR B60 to had some recollection about a previously gamed B60. There was a fondness and nostalgia for the B60 that even the Anser 2 didn’t come close to. Maybe it’s the unique small mallet geometry that stands out in memory. Maybe it’s the fact that the B60 rolls the ball really well. Regardless, I totally expect that the B60 will be the second most popular head in the Karsten TR line.
Man, I don’t like the Pal. I don’t putt that well with it. I don’t like the look of the blocky bumpers. This putter has a 0% chance of making it into my bag for a round of golf. That’s OK though, because what works for me and what I like probably never enters strategic planning at Ping.
I know it’s shocking that I am not gushing about a putter, but it’s bound to happen. The thing is, someone reading this, or maybe someones, loves the Pal, has had great rounds with the Pal, and was so excited to see a pal that he (or she) has likely already purchased it. Ping knows that one of it's strengths is nostalgia, and releasing a Pal in the Karsten TR line taps into that.
I dig that the Pal is in the Karsten TR line-up, even if I don’t personally dig it. This marks the first Pal since the 2005 G5i line, and Pal purists will likely argue that the last true pal was the G2 Pal in 2002. Ping has a deep archive of head styles and they are not afraid of bringing them back. I love that.
The Pal, like the Anser 5, is a great model to try if you are a mallet player looking at blades. The bulkier body, and the sight line on the top line should mesh well with someone who is more accustomed to mallet geometries. Just because I don’t play the Pal, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
I love the Zing. For whatever reason, I think that the Zing is the most attractive of the Ping putter heads. I have owned multiple Zing models, as well as the Zing homage putters from other companies. Every time I see one, I grab it, only to remember that I don’t putt well with the Zing. Maybe the required arc is too strong, maybe the weighting is off for me. All I know is that cups become a whole lot safer when I am bagging my beloved Zings. I annually consider whole scale putting mechanic changes just so the Zing can become my putter of performance. Straight-ish changing to strong arc? I see no problem there.
It’s emotional, irrational, and borderline delusional, but I just can’t shake my Zing affinity.
Solid Putters, now Make More
The putters that Ping is producing today are the most appealing putters that they have produced in a while. Forget about some of the “misses” in the later 00’s and early 10’s. The Scottsdale TR line from 2013 was and is an excellent line, as is this new Karsten TR line. Pricing on the Karsten TR line is very consumer friendly as well. For about $150, the Karsten TR line gives you a great looking putter, the technology of the TR grooves, and classic Ping designs (yes, even the Pal). Those of you budget wardens, who get cranky when I review $500 putters, should love these putters a ton.
I really do hope that a few months from now I can follow this Club Report up with a supplemental report about newly added Karsten TR models. What would you like to see? I’ll get the list going:
Please add the following models to the Karsten TR line-up:Tess, Anser 0 (no line), Nome (milled aluminum, copper color, black top insert, Yum!),
What other models would you like added?