Whilst they may look like putters from their famed Gold Putter Vault, the Ping Karsten TR putters are in fact for use on the course.
Named after Karsten Solheim, Ping's founder who passed away in 2000, the putters bring a new finish and design to some of one of their most successful and trusted putter models. Already several Ping players including Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson and Miguel Angel Jimenez have added a Karsten TR model to their bag.
To see what all the fuss is about I got a hold of the Anser 5 model and tried it out both on the practice green and the course over a couple of weeks.
Of course the first thing I noticed was the throwback, bronze finish on the head. Whilst the sole is glossy, the colour on the remainder of the head is a muted matt finish and doesn't reflect as much as I expected, which is good.
I am not a huge fan of the bronze finish, but I can see why Ping added it. They wanted to pay tribute to their founder and remind players of where Ping putters came from. Seeing the new colour for the first time, it is hard not to remember the old maganese bronze Ping putters from the 1960s.
The looks may be throwback, but the technology behind the range is very much 21st century.
The headline technology on the Karsten TR putters is the True Roll face. Unlike the Ping Scottsdale TR putters that have a grooved-face insert, or the Ping Anser Milled putters that are completely milled from a block of steel, the Karsten TR putters are cast with the grooves then milled directly into the face.
For that reason, Ping were able to extend the grooves across the length of the face, something I have requested for years. Thanks to Ping for finally listening. The full-face grooves look better, help the putter perform better and are a welcome addition in my book.
Across the width the face the grooves vary in the depth. The very-centre of the face has grooves that are deep, and as you move towards the edges of the putter the grooves get shallower. Ping claim this design helps improve distance control and consistency, by up to 50%... yes, 50%!
To be fair to Ping, the performance was impressive bordering on surprising. Typically an Anser or blade shaped head can be forgiving, but is more susceptible to opening-and-closing during the stroke, than mallet or high-MOI shape. However with the Karsten TR Anser 5 the face and clubhead felt very stable throughout the stroke.
As for consistency, it was evident that putts hit near the heel showed almost no difference in distance or feel compared to the middle. When I struck putts out of the toe, I could feel and hear a slight difference, but the putt would perform better than it felt everytime.
In an attempt to improve the feel along with the consistency, Ping added an elastomer badge behind the face in the form of the 'PING' logo.
Whether or not this made a difference is hard to tell, but the sound was more muted and lower-sounding than many might expect from the look. Whilst those looks resemble classic Ping putters, the Karsten TR performed as well as any of Ping's recent putters.
Another noticeable technology addition to the range is option of an adjustable telescopic shaft. The putter comes with a small wrench that can be used to loosen a fixing directly below the grip, allowing the shaft to be extended or shortened to any length between 31 and 38 inches.
Adjusting it can be a little fiddly, but being able to fine tune the length of your putter to your height and stroke is surprisingly useful.
Considering the amount of custom fitting that goes on with irons and woods, it is no surprise Ping is adding more adjustability to putters. After all, you use a putter more than any other club.
As has been the case with all recent Ping putters, each model in the Karsten TR range is suited to a specific stroke type. The Anser 5 model is suited to a "Straight" stroke and you can see the various models and the stroke types they are suited to on the Karsten TR putter news page.
One by-product of the Karsten TR's adjustability is additional weight. The adjustable fixture and extra shaft length does add some weight to the putter and moves the balance point on the shaft further from the head.
It may seem like a small difference, but trust me you can feel it when you hold the putter. The adjustable Karsten TR putters also feature a larger, heavier midsize grip. Add all the components together to make the putter noticeably heavier, especially considering the relatively narrow, Anser-shaped head.
Ping are well aware of the extra weight and are not hiding away from it. They believe the difference is minimal and could benefit some players as having more weight higher in the club, the putter almost mirrors the performance of a counterbalanced putter. To me the weight felt fine and I did find it added to the stability of the head during my stroke.
Overall, I was impressed. Like many golfers, I have steered towards larger, higher MOI putters in recent years. The Karsten TR Anser 5 was a welcome reminder of why that shape and style has been popular for so long. The adjustabilty option won't be for everyone, but that is why Ping offer all the Karsten TR putters in a 35-inch fixed length of each model as well.
Considering the Karsten TR models are more than £100 cheaper than the Anser Milled models, I expect they will be available to a wider range of players. It would have been good to see some more modern shapes in the line, but with the classic Anser-shaped models available, I doubt many will be left disappointed.