PODCAST: Viktor Hovland bested 6,000-plus golfers to earn a coveted title
The putting lab at Ping headquarters is a proving ground for golfers of all skill levels — from major champions and PGA Tour winners to mid-amateur champions and mid-handicappers. In total, more than 6,000 golfers have stood on the 46-foot long artificial turf green and rolled countless putts, all in the name of improving one of the most confounding parts of the game.
The goal behind each session is simple: Verify the golfer is using the right putter or find a suitable replacement. But there’s a competitive side to each session that rarely gets discussed. For the past several years, Ping master putter fitter, Jeff Thomas, has been keeping track of how golfers perform during their time in the lab with the help of the iPing app.
Using a number of important variables (putter-head rotation, face angle at impact and tempo), iPing is able to assign a putting handicap for each golfer. Thomas uses the handicap scores to create a virtual iPing leaderboard. Bragging rights are the only thing up for grabs, but when you’re talking about some of the most competitive golfers in the sport, the prize is more than sufficient.
So who’s the king of the iPing mountain? That’d be Viktor Hovland, who scored robot-esque plus-5.6 during a recent session. During the latest episode of Fully Equipped, GOLF’s Jonathan Wall and True Spec’s Tim Briand discussed Hovland’s putting prowess and a significant change he made to the flatstick before departing for Asia.
What’s surprising about Hovland’s putting prowess in the lab is the fact that it’s not even the best part of his game. During his first season as a pro, Hovland’s driver and irons helped him earn his Tour card, while his putter lagged behind (he was minus-.210 in Strokes Gained: Putting). But that could be changing.
Decreasing Hovland’s loft from 4 degrees to 2.5 degrees produced a truer roll at impact with an ideal launch and spin rate. He also found the putter sat squarely at impact with a plumber’s neck hosel (also called an “Anser hosel”) instead of the double bend he’d been using on the TaylorMade mallet. Changing the neck reduced his tendency to miss left.
Hovland was so impressed with how the putter performed during testing, he bestowed a nickname on the Wolverine H: “The Viking.” Given Hovland’s Norwegian roots, it’s the only suitable name for a putter — especially one that works.