There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried
PING PLD Custom Putter Program
Your PING PLD Putter Prospector
Dave Wolfe – Ever-curious MyGolfSpy writer and putter fanatic. When it comes to putters, I believe impulse control is something to be controlled.
PING PLD Custom: Fit and Build Like a Pro
A couple of weeks ago, PING unveiled their 2022 Putting Lab Design (PLD) putter line. The new PLD putter line is a solid retail offering. Most days, it would be all the news. That day, PING had another bold announcement. Bold like the yellow-and-black PLD-branded bags the PING pros featured at The Players Championship. That day, PING one-upped themselves with the announcement of the new PLD Custom Putter Program.
In Wonka-like fashion, PING has opened the doors to the PING Wrx putter build facility. Now average Joes and Janes can have putters built on the same workbench where Bubba and Brooke’s putter were built. Bent by the same hands that bent Viktor’s putter. Essentially, anyone can access the build options previously available only to PING staffers.
That level of golden-ticket customization would likely be enough to get PING fans, if not all custom putter fans, to place their orders. The thing is, the PLD Custom Program takes the customization process a step further. Many other custom programs allow customers to order putters to fit their desires and perceived needs. PING does that as well. However, the PING PLD Custom Program begins with a fitting.
PLD Custom Fitting Option 1: Pack Your Bags for Phoenix
The PING PLD Custom Putter fitting process can happen two different ways. First, you can schedule an appointment at PING HQ in Phoenix, Ariz. Having been there, I’d say this is the option to select if you can make it work. The PING facility is amazing. The indoor monolithic putting platform is impressive. Rumor has it that the putting platform needed to be built first and then the building was built around it. I’ll bet if you ask nicely, they may even let you see the PING Man robot.
Maybe you can’t get to Phoenix. Not to worry, the PING PLD Custom Program has a second fitting option. This one you can do from the comfort of your home course or even your home.
PLD Custom Fitting Option 2: Get Fitted at Home
PING’s remote fitting option should prove more accessible for the majority of customers. This option does not require you to travel to Arizona but still gives you one-on-one time with a PING putter fitter and a data-based putter fitting. The difference is that, rather than getting together in person, you and the fitter will meet online to discuss your build in a video conference. Before that happens, though, PING needs your putting data.
This is where the PING PLD Custom Program separates itself from other custom programs. The others let you order your putter to your specs. But what if you don’t know your specs? PING takes care of this by recording your putting stroke with their iPING system. This allows them to make build recommendations based on your actual putting stroke. It’s safe to say that what many of us think what we need in a putter build may not actually be what we need in a putter build.
Using the PLD Custom Fitting App
Once you place your $200 non-refundable deposit, PING will ship you their welcome kit. This kit contains a very cool PING PLD putting disk, an iPod Touch and a cradle to mount that iPod to your putter shaft. The only other thing you will need is a place to roll some 10-foot putts.
When you start the fitting app, it will ask you questions about yourself. Nothing invasive, just how tall you are and the measurement from your wrist to the floor. After that, you are going to start putting at the 10-foot target.
For the fitting, you will roll three balls at the 10-foot target three times. After that, the app will upload your stroke data to PING where the fitter can review your stroke characteristics. Should you wish to review the data, you can do so in the app. If you want to leave that data review to the professional, you can do that as well. I had to look as I was curious to see how consistent my rolls were. Thankfully, most of my scores were in the consistent “green” range.
Once you are finished recording your putts, you return the iPod to PING. The pool of iPod Touches out there is likely limited these days. You do get to keep the PLD putting disk and the cradle. My iPhone 12 Mini fits well in the cradle, allowing me to continue to use the cradle with the iPING putting app. It’s odd having the phone on the putter initially but you get used to it. The cup-sized PLD disk makes for a great target on crowded greens or if you want to putt to areas without cups.
Once your putts are recorded and the data has been uploaded, the next step is meeting with the PING fitter online.
Best Zoom Meeting Ever
A couple of days after I uploaded my putting data to PING, I met with a fitter in a virtual meeting room. Normally, I find virtual meetings are to be avoided when possible. As it turned out, this was not one of those meetings.
After discussing my current putter and putting tendencies, we dove into the data the fitting app had collected. As I mentioned, my results were consistent but that doesn’t mean they are good. In my mind, if I was doing the same thing wrong putt after putt, then there could be a build tweak that could fix the error. This is where having a knowledgeable fitter was truly beneficial. I’ll not bore you with all the data analysis. Instead, let’s look at Shaft Lean At Impact as that data point proved enlightening.
Having peeked at the data, I knew shaft lean was my most inconsistent value. Basically, I tend to have my hands leaning back at address rather than pressing forward. According to the app, this led to me adding about 1.2 degrees of loft at impact. My usual miss is short. My line is solid but the ball just doesn’t get there. I’ve tried to fix this with tempo changes, aiming well past the hole and other methods. Never did I think it could be due to where I have my hands at address.
The PING fitter said three degrees of dynamic loft at impact would be ideal. Adding of loft moved me above the ideal. Obviously, I can work to see if I can fix this through a stroke change. The change your swing plan does not always prove successful. Sometimes the clubs need to be changed to match the swing. My irons are two degrees upright for a reason.
So, rather than changing my stroke, the builder could remove loft from the putter face. Odds are that I’m likely continue adding loft with my swing. However, if the putter has less loft, my adding more should no longer push me past ideal loft at impact.
Once we discussed my other swing tendencies and how to address those in a build, we moved on to the specific putter options.
Building Your PLD Custom
The PLD Custom Program has a bunch of customization options. An overwhelming number of options. You choose from different heads, necks, finishes, shafts, grips, paint fill, alignment aids and engravings. Literally millions of possible combinations.
Thankfully, you are still in the meeting with the PING fitter when you hit this point in the process.
Your putting data reduces the viable options quite a bit. Simply put, not all the head and neck options are going to fit your stroke. This limitation doesn’t feel limiting, though. PING can swap the parts around to make most heads fit for most strokes. Pick the head you like and adjust the neck to make it work.
I needed something to fit a slight-arc stroke. This eliminated flow-necks and double-bends. Ultimately, I went with the Anser. That head fit my stroke as well as my desire for a classic look.
The putter needed a bit of tungsten in the bumpers to bring the weight up to the prescribed 355 grams. While the tungsten plugs could have been hidden, I like the look of them exposed. You have cosmetic options as well. I went with the patina finish and middle-of-the-road shallow-face milling.
While there were lots of possible alignment options, I chose to keep the putter naked for now. I went back and forth about a top line or dot but decided to try it naked first and then add a line later if I needed one. Naturally, I had to add a little purple paint to the build.
PING provides you with near limitless options for engraving. I didn’t really have a plan for that option. All I knew was that I wanted to keep things simple. Still, I wanted to make the putter unique-looking. Thankfully, adding the build recipe to the bottom popped into my head. No paint needed. Just a small tweak to make it unique.
The Finished PLD Custom
If you follow the mygolfspy social accounts, you’ve had a glimpse of this amazing PING PLD Custom Anser already. I love the way the putter looks. The patina finish is rich and looks like nothing else in my collection. I also like how the recipe sole turned out. Not adding paint was the right call. I’d say the putter also has a proper amount of “purpling.” The turnaround time was quick, likely due to these putters being made at PING Wrx in Phoenix. They really are made in the same shop as the pros’ putters.
How does it roll? Am I making everything? It feels amazing but, no, I’m not dropping every ball in the cup just yet. My previous gamer was a mallet so it’s going to take me a bit of time to transition back to blade-based alignment. Distance control is quite good, likely due to the tweak in loft being the right call. I do think the shaft may be a bit long. This is my fault as I went with my usual 35-inch length, ignoring the fitter’s suggestion that the putter should be shorter. It definitely feels better when I choke down on the grip a bit.
Note to self: Next time listen to the professional.
Final Thoughts: PING PLD Custom Program
The fitting part of the PING PLD Custom Putter Program really separates PING’s program from their competitors. While a few other companies offer putter fittings at their headquarters, no other company offers this kind of at-home fitting. The fact that PING has made their PLD Custom Putter Program data-driven should surprise no one. Data is a thing with PING.
As I mentioned in the previous article, the PLD Custom Program comes with a not-insignificant price tag of $1,290; $200 of that is due upfront when you enroll in the program. The balance comes due when you go forward with the putter build. Understandably, this takes the program out of some golf budgets.
While I’m not going to claim it’s inexpensive, the price of the PING PLD Custom program is really not unreasonable for what you get. Golf equipment prices are ever-climbing these days. If we focus on milled putters, the PLD Custom Program price is equivalent to about two or three off-the-rack milled putters. PING’s program will cost you less than half the price of a custom Bettinardi, Lamb or Cameron putter.
Remember, too, that the price includes about an hour one-on-one with the fitter in a virtual meeting space or an in-person visit to PING headquarters. Yes, $1,290 is expensive but PING has packed quite a bit of putter pop into that price.
Make your appointment and start the PING PLD process at PINGPLD.com.