NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
PING’s equipment focus in golf is almost strictly clubs, from drivers to putters, and that’s helped the company rank No. 3 in overall club sales, according to industry and consumer survey data.
In 1959, Karsten Solheim, an engineer at General Electric at the time, began to develop putters in his garage, as he was frustrated with the putters that were available. Utilizing “heel-toe” weighting—a novel concept in the late 50s—Solheim’s first putter made a “PING” sound whenever he would strike a putt, leading him to name it the PING 1A.
Over time, the PING 1A putters (and their heel-toe weighting) gained popularity, to the point in which Solheim decided to quit his job at G.E. in 1967, six years after the company transferred him from Redwood City, California to Phoenix, Arizona.
Prior to leaving General Electric, Solheim had continued to create all of PING’s putters in his garage, despite their ever-increasing popularity. After his resignation, he decided to move the business to a Phoenix-based factory and name his company Karsten Manufacturing Corporation. In addition to developing the highly innovative Anser putter (considered the “winningest” putter of all time, as it has been used during 500 professional golf victories), Solheim began to create heel-toe weighting irons as well. The company also manufactured the game’s first high-quality cast clubs and offered factory fitting—through clubheads that provided different lies and lengths—for the very first time.
Today, PING (which operates as a subsidiary of Karsten Manufacturing Corporation) continues to design, engineer and assemble its products in Phoenix. It offers high-quality men’s, women’s and junior golf clubs—including drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, putters and wedges that are custom-fit and custom-built—as well as bags, headwear, gloves and on-course gear.
It remains a family-owned company to this day, as John K. Solheim, the grandson of founder Karsten, was named president in 2017. His father, John A. Solheim, is chairman and CEO.
“I am grateful for this opportunity,” said John K. Solheim. “A lot has changed since my grandfather entered the golf industry more than five decades ago. But what hasn’t changed is the foundation Karsten built here at PING. We are committed to making the best golf products in the world to help golfers play better and enjoy the game more.”
PING has carried on its successful legacy as an innovator in the equipment space while staying true to its roots as a family-owned and run business.
The cast irons Karsten Solheim created helped change the equipment industry and the iconic (and unique-looking) Ping Eye iron line dominated the market in the 1980’s. The process of investment casting helped pave the way for many of today’s innovations, as club designers became better able to pinpoint weight distribution in club heads.
The new approaches adopted by Solheim – a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame – not only put PING on the map as an innovator in the industry but opened the door for other manufacturers and ushered out the era of persimmon drivers.