The first thing you notice about the Ping Golf's new Heppler putters is what you don’t see. The company that has made great strides in understanding the role grooves play in how putts roll and then executing that understanding in multiple models over much of the last decade has introduced a model with a perfectly flat, grooveless face.
What gives? Well, for Ping, as always, it comes down to research. Turns out, while the grooves in Ping models like those in the current Sigma 2 provide a demonstrable benefit in roll and consistency, not every player prefers them. The reason is simple and it has to do with one of the important yet more difficult to pinpoint aspects of putter design: Sound and feel.
“After our research, we came to see there could be a way to complement the Sigma 2,” said Paul Wood, Ping Golf’s vice president of engineering. “There’s clearly a need for two different feeling putters.”
It has to do with the firmness of the Heppler face and the crisper sound, Wood said. He detailed a player test where golfers went round a randomized putting course with two putters that were the same save for the face treatment, or lack thereof.
“Anything you do to the face as far as grooves or even milling marks is going to make a putter feel softer,” Wood said. “We found in our test that half the players wanted something on the quieter, softer side, while the other half was looking for something that offered more feedback and had more of an auditory response.”
Wood said one example that was particularly telling for his understanding of this dichotomy was Martin Kaymer, who won two majors, a Players Championship, a World Golf Championship Match Play title and holed a Ryder Cup-clinching putt on the final hole all using a Ping Karsten Series Anser 2 that retailed for $90. Made from a single-material and featuring a groove-less, flat face, Kaymer told Wood he preferred the clear, crisp sound of the unadorned face.
“It was entirely due to the sound,” Wood said. “He was able to get the sound feedback from that kind of putter and that gave him confidence about contact and distance control.”
The Heppler lineup took that research as a starting point for the face design, but also incorporated a number of material and visual technologies, as well. There are nine models in the lineup and each incorporates a two-tone visual of copper and black. The blade models (Anser 2 and Zb3) are cast from 17-4 stainless steel, while the mallets—Piper, Piper C (armlock), Fetch, Ketsch, Tyne 3, Floki and Tomcat 14) mix low-density, lighter die-cast aluminum with higher-density, heavier stainless steel. The aluminum ADC12 is about 10 percent lighter than the 6061 aluminum that has been used in many other putters and is about one-third the density of steel. The pressure casting is designed for more precise lines and shapes usually only found in milled putters. The combination of heavier steel both low in the head and in the perimeter increases the moment of inertia to create more consistent ball speed on off-center hits. It is a way of achieving some of the consistency of roll and distance control made possible by the variable depth and pitch grooves in Ping’s softer-feeling Sigma 2 putters.
Like the Sigma 2 putters, the full Heppler lineup also features Ping’s adjustable shaft length technology. Hidden under the grip, the system adjusts between 32-36 inches on the standard models through a carbon fiber sleeve within the shaft. That sleeve has been upgraded to a composite that is three times stronger than past versions to produce a stiffer feeling shaft.
The Heppler putters take their name from long-time Ping employee Rick Heppler. Heppler, who started at Ping as a teenager building putters for founder Karsten Solheim in 1966, eventually held a number of management positions before passing away in a motorcycle accident in 2013.
The Heppler putters are available for pre-order starting Jan. 20 ($230 for Anser 2, Zb3 and Piper C models, $250 for Piper armlock, Ketsch, Fetch, Floki, Tyne 3, Tomcat 14).