The new Ping Sigma 2 putter family solves two problems in putter design. One is more of a recent issue, while the other is probably as old as putters themselves. And yet it’s the latter that not only required the more elaborate technological solution, but could do the most for your putting.
First, the former. As golf balls in recent years have expanded to a wider array of feel options and putters have tried to maintain a certain feel, it’s been a challenge to get a putter to best reflect a player’s perception of impact with the type of stroke required to make the ball roll the correct distance. The Sigma 2 line, which includes 10 blade and mallet models, utilizes a new combination of polymer inserts to create what Ping designer Marty Jertson calls “that unique response.”
Jertson says part of the thinking was shaped by how golf balls are designed with multiple layers. Like the original Sigma G, the Sigma 2 employs Pebax, a responsive polymer used in the midsoles of athletic shoes in the insert layers. The Pebax takes the form of two different durometers, or firmnesses, with a firmer piece in back supporting a softer piece in front that surrounds a 6061 milled aluminum face. The design allows golfers who even play a firmer ball to get a soft, responsive feel, Jertson said.
“In the past there have been some soft-feeling putters that have been perceived as having low ball speed, the feeling that you’re not going to get the ball to the hole,” he said. “The combination of both of those durometers is really what delivers that unique response. So you kind of get that feel you want combined with the speed you expect from your stroke.”
The speed and roll consistency also is a function of the TR face insert that the company has developed for the last few years. The grooved design in the aluminum face insert changes in pitch and depth to control the ball speed so that off-center hits match better with center hits. On top of that, the groove design changes with each model so that putters with lower moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits) get more of a boost on mis-hits than higher MOI designs, where off-center hits already are less penalized.
All of those achievements make for some admittedly serious and meaningful work, but there’s one key element to putter design that’s only been given passing attention perhaps through all of modern putter design. The proper length might just be the only thing that matters, said Paul Wood, Ping’s vice president of engineering. How important? According to Ping’s research, four of five golfers in a recent test of 150 golfers putted better when the length of the putter was changed by at least half an inch from the standard 35 inches. At least half of the players in the test were better with a putter that was at least an inch removed from standard.
“In our testing it’s one of the top drivers of putting performance,” Wood said. “If you don’t get someone in a reasonable posture, you can have everything else about the putter dialed in great, but you’re not going to make good putts if the club itself is too long or too short. Getting the right length is a huge driver in giving someone good distance control because it gets them delivering consistent club speed.”
While Ping has offered adjustable length putters in the past, it was more of a curiosity and the use of an exterior locking ring was not seamless to the player’s eye. Ping’s engineers moved the adjustability elements on the shaft within the standard grip itself, using a glass-reinforced high-strength nylon tube that connects to the main putter shaft. A standard hex-shaped adjustable wrench fits into the hole at the butt end of the putter grip, allowing an infinite range of length tweaks between 32 and 36 inches where every turn equates to about a quarter-inch length adjustment. This allows either a fitter or a player easily to experiment to fit himself for the ideal length for a particular height and posture so the eyes stay in an ideal, consistent position over the ball.
“This way players can get to their own length in more precise ways than one-inch increments,” Wood said. “I see it as not being able to adjust putter length is like not being able to adjust the seat on a bike.”
Every model in the Sigma 2 lineup is offered only with the adjustable shaft feature, largely because Ping’s team believes the effect of having the right length is so crucial to good putting. Simply stocking 33-, 34- and 35-inch models isn’t precise enough, Wood said.
“Our aim is to deliver every model in every length to every player,” he said.
The 10 models in the Sigma 2 lineup include:
• Fetch, a smaller mallet with a ball sized hole in the back cavity that allows it not only to scoop up a ball off the green but out of the hole, as well.
• ZB2, the traditional blade model now with a slight cavity that boosts MOI by 25 percent over the original.
• The mid-mallet Arna with moderate toe hang.
• Kushin C, a wider heel-toe blade design that’s face-balanced with a center shaft.
• Tyne, the parallel-pronged mallet design with a double-bend shaft.
• Tyne 4, a heel-shafted version that weighs 370 grams, five grams more than the standard model.
• Wolverine H, an oversized, heel-shafted mallet with multiple alignment features and a moderate toe hang.
• Valor, the highest-MOI putter in the line, which features a contrasting alignment line running from front to back.
• The iconic Anser blade, which comes at a 350-gram head weight, features a center alignment line and is offered in both Platinum and Stealth finishes.
The full Sigma 2 lineup, which already is getting use on tour (Hunter Mahan played the Tyne 4 at the Safeway Open, while Matt Wallace used the Tyne at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour), is available for pre-order today ($180-$200).