I guess it's true that what goes around, comes around. The early Ping cast putter models have been among the most adapted in the world, often in very expensive milled carbon and stainless steel versions. Now the circle is joined as Ping introduces its own line of milled stainless putters.
Karsten Solheim pioneered the manufacturer of investment cast club heads for putters and irons back in the 1960s. Over the years they've been cast in manganese bronze, stainless steel, and beryllium copper. While the designs and details, like inserts, have proliferated, they've always been cast… until now.
Putter artisans like Scotty Cameron and Bob Bettinardi took putter making to another level by milling putter heads out of a single block of metal. The results were putters visually more refined and precise and with a more solid feel. Nearly a decade after this innovation, Ping has decided to join in. Here's the story…
Forging vs. Casting vs. Milling
Back in the 60s most putter heads were still being forged out of carbon steel. It's a process that starts with a blank that's hammered into rough form by giant presses and then ground into a final shape before being chromed.
While forging produced great feeling putters like the Tommy Armour Iron Master and the early Wilson 8802 (newer versions are sometimes cast), it doesn't allow for very complex shapes.
Thus, to produce his revolutionary heel/toe weighted cavity back putters, Karsten Solheim applied an investment casting technique to create his clubheads. Early on he used manganese bronze that, while very durable, has a harder feel than carbon steel. But it did allow him to mass-produce putters of extremely consistent quality and innovative shapes.
In the early 90s Scotty Cameron and Bob Bettinardi became known for carving putter heads out of solid blocks of carbon steel by hand on small milling machines. While highly prized collectors' items today, these one-of-a-kind putters were a little crude and sometimes required complex necks to be welded on to the head. But the feel was magical.
From what I've read, I believe it was Bettinardi who first began to mill putter heads with a computer-controlled milling machine. CNC (computer numerical control) milling makes mass production of milled heads practical, although the process remains more costly and labor intensive than casting.
The advantages, though, include the ability to carve out quite precise forms out of carbon and stainless steels, including even the intricate "plumber's neck" shape of the original Anser putter. Scotty Cameron has even gone a step further to produce clubheads in different weights (varying the thickness of the top line, for example) for different length putters.
The Redwood Series
The new Ping line is named for Redwood City, CA, a little south of San Francisco, where Karsten Solheim lived when he began making putters in his garage. They've chosen three classic models to render in a milled version: the Anser, the Zing, and the mallet-like Piper.
The putters are milled out of 303 stainless steel, a material Cameron began using in 2002 for his Studio Stainless line. It's a much denser material than the cast stainless steel Ping has long used and, thus, the club heads are heavier than all but their long discontinued nickel beryllium cast putters.
The Redwood Anser and Zing heads weigh 340 grams, the Piper head 355 grams. As a point of reference, Scotty Cameron, who is fussy about the weight to length ratio in his putters, uses 340 grams in 34-inch putters and 350 grams in 33-inch models.
The putters are finished in the same black nickel chrome Ping has been using in its Tour Wedges. It's a very pleasing look that gives sort of a grey cast to the stainless steel and, while somewhat shiny, it doesn't appear as though glare will be an issue.
The lie angle of the Anser and Zing can be adjusted plus or minus 4° while the face-balanced Piper mallet with its double bend shaft can only be adjusted plus or minus 2° from the standard lie angle.
The standard shaft in at least the Anser and Zing is a step-less True Temper steel model. The standard grip is a Winn AVS model appropriately branded and logoed for the Redwood line.
If you're into putter covers, I think you'll find the Redwood cover pretty special. It's a lot more tailored and complex than the AM&E covers Cameron and many others use. While bulkier, it looks like it will provide even better protection. Plus it's red. I like red.
One of the great things about Ping over the years has been the ability to order clubs just the way you want them.
So while you can't obtain different weight heads as you can with some Cameron putters, you can configure these putters any other way you want.
So length, lie angle and loft are all choices you can make. I also think shaft type may be an option in the Anser and Zing if you have a preference they stock. I also think you can order the Anser and Zing without a sight line on the flange. Plus you can put any of 10 different grips on the putter.
What this means is that the Redwood series has many more options available than most other milled putters, including Cameron and Mizuno's Bettinardi putters.
In the End…
I ordered a Redwood Anser in early November through my PGA pro friend to my specs and preferences (36 inches, 2° up, Ping Man grip) and, amazingly, it was delivered in just two weeks.
It appears retailers will be receiving stock of these putters sometime in mid-December. Our friends at Edwin Watts have announced they'll have them on December 15.
It looks like they will retail for $249.99, which makes them a touch more expensive than Mizuno Bettinardi's and a touch less expensive than Scotty Cameron's.
Ping may not have the caché that many place on a Scotty Cameron putter, but with their new Redwood line they're producing putters every bit the equal of Cameron's off the rack stainless putters, but with many more custom options. It'll be interesting to see if any of these turn up in the bags of Ping staff members.