Ping’s Redwood Putters
When Karsten Solheim introduced us to his “Anser” putter in 1966, I don’t think that he had any idea how far reaching his design would stretch. From its meager beginnings scratched into the dust on an old 78rpm record cover in Redwood City CA, the Anser is without a doubt the most solid advancement in putters of our time. Every modern putter manufacturer has one homage or another to the Anser. Whether it’s a Never Compromise Milled Series 1, a Bettinardi BB-1, or the acclaimed Scotty Cameron Newport…the Anser is the grandfather of them all.
The Redwood line is Ping’s first crack at a series of 100% milled steel putters. This is an interesting turn of events, because it’s the other innovators that have taken Solheim’s design ideas from casting putters in “Manganese Bronze” to the CNC machine. There are three heads in the Redwood line. The Anser, Piper, and Zing. This review concentrates on the Anser head. I was also given a Piper and Zing to play with, so I can speak to the quality of the rest of the line, but the Anser started it all for a lot of people, so I’ll concentrate my efforts there.
This is also exciting for other Ping enthusiasts because it marks the return of a “non-insert” version of the Anser. The G2 and G5 versions were as far from the original design as any other modern ‘spaceship’ mallet is. There have also been several variations on the Anser head over the years. This is one of the best in my opinion, as it gets back to the roots of the original design. Other Ansers have tried to re-invent the brand, but this one says in a very calm voice, “I’m a putter, now sink this one.”
When I heard that Ping was getting into the milled market, I was quite excited, yet apprehensive. It seems with the popularity of the milled putter, everyone thinks they can just throw an old design on the table, and end up with a winner. NOT the case in may attempts that I’ve seen. More often than not, the mill marks are too harsh, the material quality is poor, and the overall feel of the putter is weak. When you pull a putter out of your bag, you want the confidence of a seasoned trial attorney…not the 14 year old that hopes he gets to kiss his dance partner.
At first glance, the Ping RedWood line is something to behold. Seeing the pictures on the Ping website is one thing, but having these beauties in your hand is something completely different. The craftsmanship is good, but I think it can be better. The part that matters most for me is the face. So often, milled putters have the face of a cheese greater, and that CAN’T help the ball path. I’m all for having a milling pattern that reduces friction on the face, but my rule of thumb is, if I can press my thumb into it and see the pattern for more than a second, it’s too much. The RedWood milling pattern is fine, yet pronounced. I’m sure they did their research, and it shows.
In my opinion, they did over-do it a bit with the mill marks up the neck. They could have left them on the sole, and omitted the rest in my opinion. The serial number that’s etched into the face also leaves something to be desired. There is something that they could have put on the back of the neck and been better off.
It seems that every putter needs a decent headcover…but some of these go a bit overboard. One of the areas where I think Ping missed the boat was in this department. The RedWood headcover is hard to get on, hard to get off, and is overly large for what it holds. I can understand not going with AM&E for the manufacturing because everybody else does…but they do it for a reason. I hope there is a redesign in this area at some point.
Winn grips seem to be the standard for high-dollar putters nowadays. The Redwood grip is a gray/black Winn-style grip with a shape that I’ve not seen before. The flat face makes it very easy to feel the alignment of your putt. Often, I rely on the face, but it helps to have the additional reinforcement of the grip in your hands.
303 SSS (Surgical Stainless Steel) is the “Material De-Jour” because it holds up to all elements, is readily available, and looks good when it’s milled. Ping has historically used a cast “Zinc-Like” material, so choosing SSS was a safe bet for such an endeavor. SSS fells like…well…SSS. It’s not as soft as Carbon steel, and has a much better sound than Aluminum. The weight of SSS is very close to Carbon steel, so you often see it used as the ‘no maintenance’ version of a head style. The Redwood head is slightly shinier than other SSS heads I’ve seen. When I say shiny, I don’t mean “can you hand me your sunglasses? It’s a satin shine, if there is such a thing. Normally, manufacturers combat the shine on an SSS putter by bead-blasting the head. If done improperly, that can result in a chalky appearance that shows every little scratch and scrape. The Ping finish is not distracting, and seems to be solid enough that you won’t have to worry about up-keep. Carbon steel can also be very shinny, so there is no clear winner here.
When standing over a 6-footer, you need to concentrate on the putt, not the putter. The Redwood gets out of the way and gives you all the concentration you need. The toplines are commanding enough to show that they mean business, but not distract. The rounded bumpers of the Anser are reassuring, and the site-lines aren’t overly large or small. Every one of the three Redwood head styles are exactly what you’d expect from a company that got started in putters…they are putters.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of SSS. I use a harder ball, so I generally like the feel/sound of a carbon head. THAT being said, I really have no complaints about the feel of THIS SSS head. The putters all felt solid enough to know that you were using a putter, but didn’t feel ‘clacky’ like some do. The swing-weight of the demos that I had never felt too heavy or light. My overall impression of the feel was quite good. Feel is VERY subjective, so I always suggest that you try one for your self, but I wouldn’t shy away from this putter because it’s SSS. In fact, I’d encourage you to try one to re-introduce yourself to the material if you’ve been on hiatus.
Comparing an Anser to an Anser-Like putter seemed silly to me. Comparing it to a 1970s Anser, or the G5i Anser is also absurd. If Johnson & Johnson came out with a new Q-Tip, you wouldn’t compare it to the Generic brand, so I’m going to skip this section on this particular putter. The Anser head should be compared TO…not WITH.
“Skip to the end” Overall:
If you have $300 and need a putter, give the Redwood line a good look. There are three heads to choose from, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I’m a little disappointed with the headcover, but I can think of worse tragedies in life than a bad headcover. There are also little things that keep me from giving it a perfect rating, but you can read the above for those. The look, feel, and craftsmanship are all spot-on. A definite “One Putt” in my book.
Length: 33, 34, 35
Head Weight: 340g
Material: 303 SSS
Manufacturing Type: Milled
Made In: USA