Trip of a lifetime to Phoenix, Arizona
Updated: May 5, 2018
Just over a week has passed since I got back from Phoenix, Arizona, and I thought the incredible trip would be the perfect way for me to kick off this new blog of mine. It was late November last year when I got the phone call to say I was shortlisted for PING's TGI Custom Fitter of the Year Award, so it's been a long (and wet!) winter waiting to jump on the plane and head out to PING's hometown.
When the day finally arrived I met my fellow finalists Michael McCrudden and Richard Gordon at Heathrow Airport, along with Matt Clark from PING Europe and Matt Millard from TGI Golf. Right from start I could see the others were as excited as I was, and we all hit it off right from the get go. Good job as the flight to Phoenix was ten and a half hours!
After a full day of travelling on the Friday, we began our USA adventure with a Saturday morning round of golf at Talking Stick GC. I have to say the American's do golf so well; very relaxed friendly clubhouses, free range balls waiting for you before your round, complimentary water stops every few holes (these were essential!). On the second hole of the day I had a proper 'American experience' when I played I nice shot from a fairway bunker, and 40 yards behind me from the driveway to the club a charming fellow lent out the window of his Jeep and yelled "Hey Buddy, nice out!".
The excitement really started to build on the Sunday morning as we had a 6:50am tee time at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That sounds like an early tee time, but with the jet lag we were fresh and ready to go! After some negotiating on the 1st tee, it was agreed we would play from the back tees (7,266 yards).
We had a local Fore Caddie called Thomas who really added to the experience, and impressively jogged down every fairway ahead of us to give us lines/ball spot. On the 17th green he made a nice comment of "I'm going to have withdrawal symptoms tomorrow without you guys. Most people who come here can't play for s**t!". We made sure to tip him after that.
All the courses we played during our trip were in superb condition, but the firm sloping green structures of TPC made it extremely challenging. The personal highlight for me had to be a birdie 2 on the famous par 3 16th hole. Yes the 20,000 spectators were missing, but still it was a nice 8 iron and 20 foot putt that I will remember forever.
After the golf we enjoyed a few beers watching the final round of the Masters. Arizona is three hours behind Georgia, which meant the final group teed off around 11:30am our time. It certainly made a nice change watching the back nine of the Masters during the early afternoon!
On Monday it was the main event; our day at PING. During the morning we enjoyed a tour of the facility, including the Tour Department, the famous PING Man robot, and the main production areas. It was cool to see the production cells in the US work exactly the same as in the UK, with the same meticulous standards applied both sides of the pond.
After lunch we visited the PING Putting Lab, and enjoyed a VIP putter fitting. This was a really interesting experience, and it was great to see the guys use the same iPING fitting software that we use to fit putters at Tiverton. My current putter specs were pretty good for me, but my new putter will feature a cool stealth black shaft.
Next we were taken to the famous Gold Putter Vault. PING has this great tradition of commemorating wins on the professional tours by presenting players with gold-plated replicas of the putter they used to win, with a duplicate gold putter being kept in the vault. If the player wins a major the putters are made of solid gold! We enjoyed looking around the vault, seeing the names of Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson amongst many others.
We were introduced to John Solheim, the Chairman and CEO of PING. John is the son of PING's founder Karsten Solheim, and both have been immensely influential characters in the golf industry for over fifty years. We enjoyed listening to John share stories of various gold putters in the vault, and later on that evening we even got to have dinner with him. He repeatedly thanked us for all the custom fit work we do with PING, but in return we couldn't thank him enough for hosting us.
Before we left the Putter Vault, it was time for the presentation of our Custom Fit Awards. Each of us had already been named the regional winner for England, Scotland or Ireland, but I was then blown away to be named overall winner and PING TGI UK Custom Fitter of the Year! Mr Solheim presented me with a plaque that is now proudly on display in the Pro Shop at Tiverton. It's not often I would say I am lost for words, but for the next few minutes I'm not really sure what I said to anyone!
Later that afternoon it was time for our VIP Fitting on PING's outdoor driving range in the beautiful Arizona sunshine. I had the pleasure of being custom fit by James, one of PING's Master Fitters. I thoroughly enjoyed the fitting, picking up some useful tips to use in my own fittings, plus a few extra yards with my new driver!
Tuesday was our final day, and after the excitement of the previous day at PING we enjoyed a relaxing round at our hotel golf course, Kierland Resort. That evening we headed home after a truly unforgettable four days in Phoenix.
I would like to say thank you to PING for the incredible honour of being named their TGI UK Custom Fitter of the Year. For several years now I have enjoyed a great working relationship with them. Their products are second to none, as is their excellent customer service and staunch belief that new clubs should be custom fit to allow golfers to lower their scores. I would also like to thank all my members at Tiverton Golf Club for their loyal support, and anyone else who has purchased custom fit clubs from me. I thoroughly enjoy custom fitting clubs and using technology to help golfers get more enjoyment from their golf, and I hope all of you are playing well with your new clubs.
That's about it for my first blog. If you would like to see more photos from our adventure, plus a video interview from the Gold Putter Vault, click on the video link below.
All the best,