It’s a Wonderful Putter

It’s almost time for my annual I like being married watching of It’s A Wonderful Life. You know the story. Bad things happen, a guy wishes he was never born, realizes his life was wonderful, and “ding”, an angel gets his wings. Probably should have said spoiler alert before that sentence.

Anyway, today’s putter, PING’s 50th Anniversary Anser, got me thinking about what golf would be like without the contributions of Karsten Solheim. More specifically, what would the putter market be like without the PING Anser?

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Anser-Free Golf

The Anser is the winningest (and most copied) putter model in golf, with more than 500 tour titles to its credit, including 19 men’s major championships. Its first win came in 1966 at the Florida Citrus Open. The Anser’s first major victory was at the 1969 Masters.

The Anser is the foundational putter design for the past fifty years, and it is the “most copied” equipment design perhaps in all of golf. Just imagine if it never happened.

The Anser is so ingrained in the golf psyche that I can’t even envision an Anser-free golf universe. Would Scotty Cameron still be a club maker? How many Anser-using tour pros over the years would have had the same number of wins with another putter? Perhaps another design would have taken the Anser’s spot in the pros’ bags, but that putter wouldn’t likely have lived up to the Anser’s performance pedigree.

Thankfully, we don’t need to imagine Anser-less golf. The PING Anser has dominated putting for fifty years, and this new limited edition version deftly captures both the history of the Anser and PING’s commitment to engineer better golf clubs.

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Specs: PING 50th Anniversary Anser

  • Material: Sand-cast manganese bronze with tungsten plugs
  • Head Weight: 350g
  • Grip: PING PP58 by Golf Pride
  • Shaft: True Temper High-step
  • Versions: 2 (K for Karsten and A for Allan)
  • Number Produced: 775 from each mold
  • Left-hand available: Yes
  • MSRP: $900

Fun Fact: The Anser Name

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The name was inspired by his desire to find an “answer” to the popular putter of the time. His wife, Louise, suggested he call it “Answer” but Karsten was concerned it was too long to fit on the toe. She told him to leave out the “w” and the rest is history.

Some of you already knew this story, but others are likely learning this for the first time. I know when I first started playing and writing about golf, I had no clue why Anser was lacking a “W”. So now you know the story as well. It’s not the world’s most famous typo; it was just a matter of toe bumper space.

This Anser

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“Most people don’t realize the amount of hand work that went into the original Anser putters 50 years ago. The radiuses on both of the hand-machined tools were finished with a file and sandpaper by Karsten. I built most of the original Ansers in the garage, starting with machining and grinding the raw castings and continuing through final assembly. My brother Allan machined the second mold, which is slightly different and often referred to as the ‘slope-side’ mold. We wanted to bring that handcrafted approach back as part of the Anser’s 50-year celebration and its remarkable contribution to golf.” - John Solheim, PING Chairman & CEO

The more I explored this putter, the more I was reminded that the Anser really does represent a piece of golf history. When you open up the included the signed certificate of authenticity, you find photos of Karsten and writings about the Anser’s history.

This putter’s construction throws back to the way things were done when the Anser first came to life. The head is cast, but then it takes a ton of hand milling and sanding to get it to its final shape. It’s not all historic, though. This Anser also contains a couple of tungsten plugs, adding a touch of PING’s modern weight engineering to the old school design.

If you are not sure about how much handwork went into this Anser, just look at the texture of the putter. Casting leaves the metal with a rough finish like this:

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That means that someone’s hands likely worked every part of the head that has a smooth appearance. In this putter’s case, those hands belonged to John Solheim, the same person who did the machining on the original Anser. Sweat and craft of the original Anser artisan permeates this Anser just like it did fifty years ago.

Did you roll balls?

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I love that some of you are reading this and wondering how a $900 limited edition putter performed on the course. Who in their right mind rolls balls with this putter?

I totally rolled balls with this putter.

I’m not going to say that I had the stones to throw it in the bag for a round, but after using it on the practice green for a while, I’d be totally happy bagging this Anser.

I believe that PING wants this putter to be gamed. Why else would they go to the trouble of adding the tungsten plugs? The 350g head weight should allow most golfers to produce a familiar, comfortable swing with the Anser.

The sound slot and the manganese bronze combine to produce a big click at impact. That click says Scottsdale Anser to me as much as the putter’s visuals. No other putter has the same distinctive sound and feel.

The Ideal Gift

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From the box to the blade, PING did this offering right. There is so much WOW. The box, even when closed, sets an impressive stage for what is inside. Upon opening the box, you are greeted with not only the putter, but also the signed certificate of authenticity, and a one of a kind leather headcover. I know I already said impressive, but that is really the best word to describe the overall feeling.

If you have a putter lover on your list, this Anser is the gift for this year. Yes, it’s more expensive than a production putter, but this putter is so much more than a club you putt with. The putter lover will gush over this Anser.

The PING 50th Anniversary Anser brings the history of Karsten Solheim and his sons with it. The design set the stage for so many putters that came in the decades after its inception. It speaks to the brilliance of the initial design, and also to PING’s work to make that design better in the years that followed.

Golf is better with the Anser a part of it, and this Anser is a wonderful putter.