Ping's Solheim files equipment handicap system patent

December 19, 2012

A year after announcing an idea for rating balls based on distance so that different courses, tournaments or even players could compete using balls that fly comparatively shorter or farther compared to today's standards, Ping Chairman and CEO John Solheim announced today a formal patent application that details an equipment rating formula as a factor in calculating a golfer's handicap.

Solheim's original proposal, which was shared with both the U.S. Golf Association and golf manufacturers, called for three types of balls, and the announcement today formalizes handicapping based on equipment. It seems to be an indication that Solheim believes there's a trend that multiple kinds of equipment or multiple kinds of equipment standards could be prevalent in the game's future.

"The tone coming from the USGA and R&A in recent years suggests another significant equipment rollback may not be far away," said Solheim in a press release issued by Ping. Solheim applied for the patent in June of 2011. "We've already seen it with the groove rule and the proposed rule banning anchoring. We continue to hear whispers of more changes. But as we're also reading on the proposed anchoring ban, many directly involved in the game favor more equipment options, not fewer. I'm looking for ways to keep the game enjoyable for every level of golfer."

In a conversation with on Tuesday, Solheim suggested his primary motivation in the idea, whose overall specifics will be revealed when the patent is expected to be published tomorrow, is to keep more people playing golf.

"What we would hope to do is to get people thinking about the issues, open their eyes a little bit because we need to find ways to keep people in the game longer," he said, indicating he was not in favor of multiple sets of rules. "I think the rules could be written to allow for it and still not be bifurcation."

According to the Ping press release, "The patent application details numerous scenarios in which equipment could be rated (balls that go varying distances, for example) and are also factored in with current variables, such as the challenge presented by each individual course.   Solheim suggests the expanded equipment options could be approved as "Conditions of Competition" so the new method of handicapping could exist within the current set of rules.