Jump to content

Barney Adams on Karsten Solheim


Recommended Posts



Were he alive, Karsten Solheim would turn 100 this year. My memories of him date back more than 30 years and my awareness of his products closer to 50. I can't say we were close. Unless you had a Ping man on your shirt or your last name was Solheim, you weren't going to get close to the man who invented the Ping putter, founded Ping golf and had a profound effect on me and many others.


Back in the '50s, when I started investigating golf clubs as a college player, equipment had one basic identity. Irons were forged, hand-ground and chrome-plated. Design differences were there to please the eye rather than alter function. The good woods were artworks made of persimmon; no two played the same. The industry itself, though, had a sameness, dominated by well-dressed folks with winning personalities and stylish golf swings.


Karsten was not part of that group. He was an engineer at a GE plant in Redwood City, Calif., when he started making putters in his garage in 1959. Later he moved his large family and growing business to Phoenix. He was Norwegian by birth, short in stature and had a pointy beard. You could just see him struggling over a shot on the golf course and thinking not about the swing that produced the shot but the club that produced the shot. That's how he designed, and that's how I did too.


A half century ago, real golfers only played forged clubs. Cast clubs had a harsh feel and an ugly look and they performed inconsistently. Karsten's cast irons may not have been described as beautiful, but they produced great shots and were definitely consistent. His odd-looking Ping Eye irons, with their tumble finish—no chrome!—were slow to catch on, but by the '80s they dominated the market. In his mind it was performance that made clubs beautiful, not the other way around. He validated the process of investment casting, which paved the way for the innovations golfers enjoy today. As the casting technology improved, club designers could pinpoint weight distribution, resulting in a new level of product excellence.


Karsten's innovations opened the door for Ely Callaway and his Big Bertha driver, for Gary Adams and his “woods” made from stainless steel, for Tom Crow and his Baffler and for work that I did too. The days of persimmon woods that looked identical but played differently were over.


Late one night in the mid-'90s, I sat in a little office at my home in Texas, sketching a design for a golf club. As a custom fitter then, I needed something to improve ball flight, specifically for long second shots. I wasn't thinking specifically of Karsten, but I know his influence was present as the design unfolded. The club was the Tight Lies. The curvature of the sole was similar to the sole of the Ping iron. It had a tumble finish, just like the Pings, and I remember thinking, If a tumble finish is good enough for Karsten, it's good enough for me. The Tight Lies was a strange-looking club, but I wasn't worried as long as it performed. That was the ultimate lesson of Karsten.


I spoke to Karsten a few times at the annual PGA Merchandise Show. He wasn't outgoing. He was almost secretive. (Today we'd call him a techie.) I was always surprised and flattered when he would invite me to visit his operation in Phoenix, although I never went. We weren't the well-dressed folks with winning personalities and beautiful swings. He was doing his thing, and I was doing mine.


Karsten is, as he should be, in the World Golf Hall of Fame. If I were starting a golf equipment hall of fame, he'd be my first inductee. Sure, some of his ideas didn't catch on, like the multicolored golf ball. But he did a lot of things right.


So here's to you, Karsten. Happy 100th. Your influence lives on.±



Barney Adams is the founder and chairman of the board of Adams Golf.

Posted Image
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting Moe! Great little recap on Mr. Karsten Solheim and what he's done for the game of golf. There's only a few individuals who can really say they changed the game for the masses, to try and make it easier for recreational players to enjoy this great game. Mr. Karsten Solheim is one of those few for sure! JMO.

The Bag:

Right handed

Cobra King FLYZ+ 10.5* w/ Aldila Rogue 125 R 44.5"

Tour Issued TM M2 10.5 w/ Mitsubishi Tensi CK Pro Blue 60S

Tour Issued TM M2 15* w/ GD Tour AD 7S 43"

TM R7 17.5 HFS w/ Tour AD 7S Stiff 42"

Cobra S3 Pro's 4-pw w/ Aldila RIP Tours SLT 115 Reg. 5i 38.5"

Titleist Vokey Proto's

52*,54*,58* all TTDG S-400


Scotty Cameron SSS Tiffany 009 350 34.5" or Bettinardi BB1 DASS Proto

GHIN # 5144472

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was awesome.I love articles like these,thanks guys

Callaway razr x tour 5-pw

titleist 585h 24 &21 hybrid

Heavy wedge 52 gap wedge

Nike sv sand and lob wedge

Callaway Diablo Octane tour Driver

Adams F 11 3 wood

Seemore ci2 or Bettinardi studio stock 2

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Moe Cat as usual great post. It reminds me of a story. My dad was a pro in the 60s and 70s at a public municipal type course. i remember when Ping was trying to get into the "mainstream" golf market at the time. They had a salesman come buy and demonstrate the Karsten 1 irons and the putters. My Dad remarked that they were the ugliest clubs ever made but he saw a nich. The salesman told him that none of the public courses in the area had bought any. He decided to take a chance ( Dad being a gambler also). We sold the heck out of the putters but I dont remember him selling any irons. I know we had a demo set and neither him or me liked them. He hated the putters also but I fell in love with the Anser which is still in my bag today. Just wonder what he would think if he were alive today and see the niche that Ping has earned in the golf market place. I think the Ping Karsten 1s and the Ram XS-1000s were the most advanced irons in his time

Driver ---- Callaway Big Bertha Alpha  Speeder 565 R flex---- 3 wood TM V-Steel Aldila 65G R Flex 15*--- 7 Wood TM V-Steel UST Pro Force 65 R flex 21*---- 9 wood TM V-Steel stock MAS Stiff shaft 24*---  Irons 4 thru 9 Mac Muirfield TT black label --- PW  Vokey SM-4 51* stock shaft--- SW Vokey SM 5 L grind 58* stock shaft--- Putter -- Rusty Scotty Santa Fe fluted Bulls Eye shaft---. Bag Old School Jones Original non stand





Link to comment
Share on other sites

In case nobody noticed, the Eye 2 was a humongous iron at the time of it's introduction. These days it's quite modest and just about the size of many blades. Size was another thing we got from Karsten but for some reason, very few people will admit that size matters. B) :lol:




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...