When it comes to excellence in golf club custom fitting then look no further than PING's European Custom Fitting Centre at Thonock Park in Lincolnshire.
This place is like Walt Disney for golfers, but especially for avid fans of the PING brand.
Upon arrival at PING HQ, you are greeted by the famous 'Mr PING' statue.
While I knew PING was a family-run business, I wanted to learn more about this work of art that greets you before you head down the stairs to the PING European Fitting Centre.
Cue a quick history lesson, provided by one of the members at Thonock Park as I was taking a pic of 'Mr PING'.
This caricature of a man golfing is said to have first come to light back in 1967 when John Solheim, the chairman, CEO and son of company founder Karsten Solheim, used modeling clay just before his father left on a two-month vacation.
John is said to have left this figurine on his father's desk before he left on his trip.
Karsten was so thrilled with his young man's design that he told him to keep hold of 'Mr PING' until he returned home.
When his father left, John and his two siblings got to work and constructed a three-foot tall replica of 'Mr PING', which was then placed at the entrance of their house for when Karsten returned home.
Karsten was overwhelmed on arriving home and loved it so much that he hired a professional drawing of the figurine to be created in full.
The 'Mr PING' caricature then soon became the registered company trademark.
Filled with new-found knowledge of the PING brand, I headed down the steps and into the PING European Fitting Centre to meet up with the brand's European Fitting and Product Education Manager Nick Boulton.
After a quick glass of water, Nick took me five steps over to the practice putting green to check out PING's 'Fit For Stroke' putter fitting concept.
PING’s Fit for Stroke will improve your consistency on the greens by matching you with a putter model that is balanced to ﬁt your stroke type. Every putter model is either face-balanced for a straight stroke, mid-hang for a slight arc, or toe down for a strong arc.
To help you identify a putter fit perfectly for you, every current PING putter model has a coloured shaft label: green for slight arc, blue for straight and red for strong arc.
After warming up with my current putter model, Nick took my wrist-to-floor measurement to reveal 34 inches was the perfect height of putter for me.
He then attached the iPING 2.0 app via an iPod to my putter to retrieve my data.
PING's patented technology measures and analyses five key performance indicators in putting, which are closing angle, impact angle, tempo, lie angle and shaft lean.
These stroke metrics are then all analysed by a proprietary fitting algorithm to recommend the proper stroke type, length, loft, lie and weight of your PING putter.
Nick put my putting through its paces by getting me to hit six putts with my current gamer, and it landed me on a strong arc.
If your putter travels further to the inside going back and through, then you have a strong arc.
Nick then advised me on the best possible PING putters to suit my putting stroke, and we landed on the PING PLD Milled Oslo 4 in a beautiful matte black finish.
I then hit six putts with it.
The 'Fit For Stroke' will even give you your very own putting handicap, and incredibly given I do not consider myself the best of putters, mine came out at +0.2.
Nor-way, I said...
I holed all six putts from eight feet with the Oslo 4, so I was more than converted.
It's a lovely looking putter, and the fact it was working nicely for me was even better.
This was the first proper putter fitting session I had ever undertaken, and I was blown away by the results.
To be safe in the knowledge you are using a putter designed best for you gives you peace of mind when you hit the golf course.
Feel and looks are still vitally important when it comes to a putter, as you have to feel comfortable with what you are using, but if you can sync it all together then it's certainly going to help you shoot lower scores.
That's the idea at the end of the day.
Having spent time on the putting green, we headed into a PING VIP fitting bay to look at brand's latest irons, wedges and woods.
PING's European Fitting Centre is equipped with three VIP fitting bays, all featuring the latest state-of-the-art Trackman Launch monitors that provide details on every aspect of your golf game including your ball speed, launch angle and spin rate.
Using PING’s AFS technology, Nick provided me with the the ultimate fitting experience using interchangeable heads, weights and shaft combinations.
We started out by looking at the PING G430 irons, which were my preference.
For an iron fitting, your height and wrist-to-floor measurement are taken to help calculate your static iron colour code (lie angle) and shaft length and your hand dimensions are used to calculate your static grip colour code, or grip size.
After warming up with my current 7-iron, Nick got me to hit a few shots with the PING G430 7-iron off an impact board using special tape on the sole of the club.
Nick took my measurements and I landed on a green lie angle in standard length.
Once looking at the tape following my first three shots, it was evident that a club 2-degree upright (green) was going to work best for my iron game.
This was a big difference to my previous irons, and the results were clear to see when it came to the overall strike.
When the club hit the impact board, it left a mark on the tape to help Nick better understand how my setup, posture and swing was affecting the clubhead’s position at impact.
It was then a case of working out which shaft was going to give me the best results.
After playing around with four different shafts we settled on the PING AWT 2.0 shaft because it not only felt the easiest to control but also the results were the most consistent for my soft fade.
The other shafts I was testing just felt as though I was working a little harder.
Using a PING G430 7-iron that was 2-degree upright, I was carrying it nicely at 160 yards on average.
We also noted how my ball speed was marginally up and it was launching nearly two degrees higher, which is key for me given I tend to hit my iron shots lower than ideal.
This proved to me how important it is to be correctly custom fit for your irons.
My offline dispersion was the strongest with the AWT 2.0 shaft, as you can see from the below graph (orange circle):
Nick then got me to take a look at my set make-up from there.
The beauty of this fitting session was correct distance gapping, not something I have delved too deep in the past if I am honest.
Based on my 7-iron data, PING's clever computer system showed us what all of my distances would be through the bag with all the other clubs - based on the PING line.
After looking at this data, Nick wanted me to drop the 4-iron if I was happy with that.
I had no issues with that simply because the 4-iron and the driver are probably the two big weak areas of my game.
Instead, Nick wanted me to add an extra wedge at the bottom end of my bag.
When looking at the data, which you can read below, it made complete sense when looking at the yardage gaps between each club.
GolfMagic Equipment Editor Alex Lodge recently tested out the G430 irons, and they passed with flying colours:
Happy with the irons and my overall setup, we then looked at the G430 Hybrid, Fairway Wood and Driver.
Starting with a PING G430 4-Hybrid in standard, we played around with a few different shafts once more, but there was a clear winner within five minutes of testing - the PING Alta CB 70 shaft.
In fact, I am not sure I have hit three better hybrid shots in my life.
Hybrids were travelling long, straight and launching on an ideal trajectory.
The PING G430 Hybrid features a Carbonfly Wrap Technology, which is a lightweight composite material, that covers the crown and wraps into the heel/toe sections of the skirt.
This lighter structure saves 8g of weight (compared to a stainless steel crown) and lowers the centre of gravity (CG) position for more ball-speed performance, while providing a pleasing sound.
I possibly have a new favourite club.
It was then onto the PING G430 SFT 3-wood and PING G430 SFT Driver, and once again after playing around with a number of different shafts, there was a clear winner but this time in the PING Tour 2.0 Black shafts..
We started with the 3-wood and landed on a 75g shaft in standard, and everything was just clicking perfectly after 10 strikes.
My ball flight, launch and spin rate had all been improved on my current gamer, with a carry distance of 220 yards and total distance running out to just shy of 240 yards.
Most pleasingly, the G430 3-wood was consistently travelling down my intended target line with a nice soft fade.
The PING G430 SFT 3-wood has been developed with a Carbonfly Wrap - just with the G430 Hybrid - to deliver more distance by positioning the CG closer to the force line to maximize ball speed, resulting in higher and longer carry distances.
The SFT model (Straight Flight Technology) that I was testing has been designed with lighter swingweights to help players square the face at impact to find the fairway more consistently, and that was evident.
If you are in the market for a 3-wood, I would highly recommend the G430 this season.
GolfMagic Equipment Editor Alex Lodge recently stuck a G430 7-wood in his bag, and he was delighted with the data:
Then it was onto the driver, a club I must admit I do not tend to use a great deal off the tee as my main miss is a big slice to the right.
Driving is a work in progress for me right now but it was great to see the benefits behind the PING G430 SFT Driver nevertheless.
After hearing me talk about my driving weakness, Nick and I discussed the idea of taking 1/2 inch of the club to make me feel more in control of the ball.
This certainly appeared to work after the first few tee shots, which did all fade to the right but they were certainly all in play.
We played around with a number of different shafts once more, and it appeared every shaft we switched to kept bringing us closer back to the middle of the fairway which was testament to Nick's experience here.
I eventually settled on the PING Tour 2.0 Black shaft in 65g, which was delivering a nice low-to-mid launch.
The PING G430 Driver consists of a new shallower face design that has been constructed using variable face thickness to help generate more ball speed across the entire face.
This appeared to make a difference during my fitting session as my ball speed marginally increased after 10 strikes.
One particular drive travelled fairly straight at 265 yards, which is a 10-yard gain on my average, so that instilled me with some much-needed confidence.
But the majority of my tee shots were all fading off to the right.
While the G430 Driver was not turning me into Viktor Hovland overnight, it was keeping me in play more often than not so I will take the positives as I look to improve my driver swing on the range this season.
GolfMagic Equipment Editor Alex Lodge got on much better with the PING G430 Driver though, watch his review here:
Before concluding the session, we took a look at the four wedges that Nick wanted me to add to my bag, and he handed me the PING Glide 4.0 in the same AWT 2.0 shaft as the PING G430 irons.
These wedges not only look incredible but they ooze premium quality and just sound and feel so pure on full strikes and delicate greenside shots.
The Glide 4.0 wedges are made from a piece of forged 8620 carbon steel, with a larger elastomer CTP that covers a more expansive area of the face.
This provides a more soft and responsive feel for more control around the greens.
We added four wedges to my bag in 45, 50, 56 and 60 degrees to ensure perfect distance gapping.
Overall, I was delighted with my first PING European Fitting Centre experience and I would highly recommend it to you if you are looking to get the most out of your game with PING this season and beyond.
PING really is the best in the business when it comes to a custom fitting.
I have already seen big improvements right the way through my bag as a result of the fitting, especially now using a putter that is correctly fit for my stroke and irons that are correctly 2-degree upright.
It was also fascinating to learn about dropping the 4-iron and adding an extra wedge to my bag, not something that I would have considered but in this instance it made the most sense to ensure correct yardage gapping right the way through my golf bag.
I already feel much more comfortable on the greens and it feels nice to be able to hit higher-flighted irons for once. I'm also hugely impressed by the G430 3-wood and hybrid, which are both giving me greater confidence off the tee and with second shots into par-5s and long par-4s. The Glide 4.0 wedges are also up there with the best performing wedges I have ever used. They feel incredible on full strikes from in and around 100 yards, and I feel so in control of them around the greens and out of the sand.
Fancy a PING Custom Fitting?
PING are now accepting new bookings for custom fitting appointments at its European Fitting Centre.
If you wish to book a new appointment then please do so through an authorised PING retailer. You can find out where your nearest one is if you click here.
All appointments must be booked through an authorised PING retailer and there is a charge of £25 for a 75-minute appointment.