One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.
I had a poor putting round during a recent media tournament in the greater Phoenix area. I don’t normally make excuses (other than the usual “I stink!”), but in this instance, I blamed Ping.
Before the round at the spectacularly refurbished Papago Golf Course, one of America’s finest municipal tracks, I tested several Ping Sigma 2 putters. I didn’t just like their remarkably soft but responsive feel; I was instantly hooked. I had one of those “Holy cow!” moments that golf gearheads dream about. Except I didn’t say, “Holy cow!” It was something similar.
Problem was, I rolled it so well on Papago’s sweetly upgraded practice green with Ping’s new Sigma 2 Fetch model that my current old reliable putter (whose brand identity will remain top-secret) suddenly felt like a clunky length of lead pipe when I got on the course. I felt like Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room without a clue.
Sure, Papago’s diabolically sprawling greens fooled me more than once, but when I did get the read right, I couldn’t seem to start a putt on line. My putter felt like it had a sprained aimer. It was maddening. I spent the day fantasizing about the Ping Fetch putter and kicking myself for not borrowing one for an 18-hole tryout. So, my score was Ping’s fault. They’ll be hearing from my golf attorney (not Michael Cohen, fyi).
Meanwhile, they also will get my order. I went through an official putter fitting, and I’ve got my personal specs (also top secret) for a Sigma 2 Fetch ($235, www.Ping.com).
Two things make the new Ping Sigma 2 models stand out.
One is a sizing innovation that every other major putter maker is going to scramble to replicate. The Sigma 2 putters feature expandable shaft lengths. This is, as anchorman Ron Burgundy would put it, “kind of a big deal.” Adjustable driver heads revolutionized golf in the past decade. Now adjustable-length putters will have a similar effect on a smaller scale.
All I need is the proper wrench, similar to the ones for adjustable drivers, and the right amount of turns and I can crank my Sigma 2 putter from 32 to 36 inches without changing the grip. The wrench slips into a hole on the butt end of the handle and turns nicely. Chances are, you’ll find your preferred length and just leave it there, but it’s nice to have the option to change.
It’s a win-win. Golfers can buy a putter and know it will be the length they want, even if they change their mind. Currently, players have to pick a length before buying. A putter can be shortened by cutting it down and re-gripping it, but it can’t be significantly lengthened. You’ve got to buy another putter. Ping president John Solheim said company research indicates eight out of 10 golfers use putters that are the wrong length. Well, problem solved.
Golf shops and big-box stores, meanwhile, will be able to stock only one length of Ping putter, reducing inventory costs and eliminating the problem of leftover unpopular lengths.
The adjustability is a nice perk, but the main reason to check out the Sigma 2 line is the feel. Ping says it’s due to a dual-durometer Pebax face material. In plain English, that means the putter has a soft front-layer insert for short putts and a firm back-layer insert for longer putts. The putters already use Ping’s face-pattern technology that helps off-center hits roll out to a similar distance. The combination works. You could say the Sigma 2 putters are two-faced, but that’s a term I reserve for politicians and a select handful of media colleagues.
The Sigma 2 putters come in nine versions, many of them familiar shapes to Ping customers. The Fetch is a new model that caught my eye. Honestly, I thought it was gimmick for geezers. The Fetch has a compact mallet shape with a rounded trailing edge that features a doughnut hole in it. At first glance, I thought it was a putter for old-timers to retrieve the golf ball from the cup without bending over.
You can use it for ball retrieval, in fact, but when I began rolling putts with the Fetch, that’s when the “holy-cow moment” happened. I immediately liked the face’s soft feel, yet I also sensed the power to roll a solid longer putt out there with ease and distance control. I won’t try to explain the weighting, but it was just right in a Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears kind of way.
Seriously, I made eight 8-footers in a row after two minutes with the Fetch. I felt as if couldn’t swing the putter off-line. Holy you-know-what. I looked around to see if there were witnesses. There weren’t.
Good. That means the Sigma 2s can be our little secret.
Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle