Buying second hand classic Ping Irons

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This guide is for persons buying or selling classic Ping brand golf clubs on eBay, including Eye2, Eye2 + no+, Eye2+, Zing, Zing2 and ISI models.   These rules developed from purchasing thousands of dollars of Ping irons, woods and putters on eBay for myself and others; I have never sold a Ping on eBay.  I have no vested interest in the information written here.  I have been playing golf for 25 years and have a low single digit handicap.  I have owned at least one set of each type and alloy of Ping irons. The opinions are my own.

Rule 1 - Request the serial number  - If they won't tell you the serial number, don't buy the club;

All Ping clubs have a serial number. The serial number will tell you when it was made, what the original "dot" color was, what the original shaft was and if there was anything custom about the club, like shaft type,  length or a special grind on the sole of the irons.  Before you spend all that money, go to the Ping website or call Ping and check it out.  If what's advertised doesn't match up with what Ping says -- don't buy it.

Rule 2 - Don't buy clubs that are not the original dot color; 

The dot color on Ping irons is the lie angle.  Lie angle is the angle between the shaft and the ground when the club is grounded.  Generally speaking, because the length of the clubs is constant, a shorter person needs a smaller angle (or flatter) than a taller player (more upright). Having the right dot for you will improve your game  Go to the Ping website, find out what dot you need via a "static fitting" and try to buy that color. Most adult males fall in the Blue-Black-Red range.

And therein lies the problem: unscrupulous sellers will paint over the true color of a less popular dot and advertise it as a color its not.  Some will even go to the trouble of bending the hosel of the club itself with widely varying results.  If bent too far or too often, the club may shatter.  Ping irons are cast (not forged) and even if bent, will eventually return to their original cast position; it could be next week or next year but it will happen. Remember Rule 1 and double check what you're buying.

Rule 3 - Avoid re-shafted clubs;

Ping irons were usually sold with proprietary steel shafts.  Eye2 had Microtaper or ZZ Lite shafts.  Late Eye2+ models had KTM or JZ shafts.  Zings originally had KTM shafts but these were changed to JZ for most production.  Zing2 had JZ shafts.   ISI had JZ or ZZ65 shafts.  A very limited number of each model were sold with various proprietary graphite shafts.  Why avoid re-shafts?  Few, if any Ping heads had parallel hosels, most were .355 tapered.  Club repair specialists sometimes drill out the tapered hosels to accept parallel tipped shafts, usually graphite.  Once this modification has been made, you can't go back.  Very rarely is a bench vise, an hand drill and an old Craftsman bit as good as a factory CNC-machine. 

Rule 4 - A complete set has matching serial numbers and includes the sand and lob wedge;

Because of a generally accepted misunderstanding about the nature of square grooves (see Rule 6), Ping Eye2 lob and sand wedges (including, undeservedly, the Eye2+ models) have acquired a value all out of proportion with their actual worth and are frequently sold separately.  If you are buying a set as an investment, then the set is complete only with the matching lob and sand wedge.  This says the seller was knowledgeable enough and scrupulous enough to keep the set together rather than try and cash in on selling the clubs separately.  Even if it's just for you, without thought to future investment value, try to buy a matching set.  Simply put, the more complete the set is, the more it's worth.

Rule 5 - Retumbling is O.K. - regrooving is not;

Retumbling is a cosmetic process whereby the clubhead is placed in an agitator containing some kind of acrylic media and subjected to several hours of light cleansing.  This is done with new heads before they are assembled and can be done with older heads to restore them to a like-new finish by removing tarnish, oxidation and even small abrasions.  This process is very effective in renewing Ping clubs including those made of Beryllium Copper (BeCu) and Beryllium Nickel (BeNi) as well as the more common stainless steel.  Ping will retumble stainless heads (but not other metals).  A number of companies who advertise on eBay do a great job and handle Beryllium models as well.  Retumbling is the only way to get that like-new look.  Avoid polished Pings; polishing removes substantial metal.

Regrooving is a process whereby the grooves in the club face are recut using some type of machine tool.  Pings are CNC grooved at the factory.  Ping does not regroove its own clubs.  Regrooving makes the clubs non-conforming under USGA rules.  Avoid regrooved clubs like the plague.

Rule 6 - All Ping clubs made from 1984 on have square grooves;

Square grooves refers to the cross section of the grooves themselves which have sides that taper slightly from top to bottom but in general have a box or u-shaped appearance under high magnification.  All Pings (except for the very first Eye2s that don't have a patent number) from 1984 to the present have this type of groove shape as do most, if not all other modern manufacturers' clubs today.  Having square grooves is not a selling point.

Ping manufactured its square-groove Eye2 model for a few years before the USGA informed them that the grooves on the clubs were non-conforming and would be banned from competition. Ping filed suit to avoid such a ruling.  At issue was not the shape of the grooves but the manner in which the distance between the sides of the grooves was measured. The controversy was over ten-thousandths of an inch.  The case dragged on for many years, but eventually, as a settlement, original Eye2s were ruled conforming.  Ping made new Eye2+s with groove walls slightly farther (less than a human hair width) apart and the USGA affirmed its ability to determine the comformity of new club designs to the Rules of Golf  for such things as coefficient of restitution (CoR values) and maximum head volume.

The original Eye2 irons have the original groove pattern as do a very rare transitional model which have the narrow sole and head design of the Eye2+ but do not have the + cast on the clubhead.  This is the so-called "+ no +" Eye2 manufactured for only a few months in 1990 and offered only in stainless steel.  Eye2+ have a new pattern. Bluntly, only a very good golfer can tell the difference between an original Eye2 groove and an Eye2+ groove by hitting them.  My personal belief and experience is that any perceived difference is between the golfer's ears. 

Rule 7 - Beryllium is cool;

Beryllium is used to make aerospace parts and atomic weapons.  In a liquid form, it is one of the most toxic substances known to man.  And it makes really cool-looking golf clubs when alloyed with copper or nickel. I don't know the exact figures, but my guess is that Ping made one in every ten sets out of BeCu beginning with the Eye2 model.  Ping also made a very small percentage of BeNi sets in the ISI model.  Ping stopped making Beryllium clubs in the late 1990's.  Some people claim a perceived softness at impact about the BeCu models.  Again, it's my belief  that such difference is between the golfer's ears.  BeCu turns a dark copper color (like an old penny) as it ages.  BeNi does not darken as much.  You can clean these clubs by letting them soak overnight in Diet Coke.  Beryllium alloy clubs command a premium of approximately 50% over their stainless steel brethern.  If you want something that looks cool and is different, get a set of Berylliums.

Rule 8 -  A word on Putters;

The overwhelming majority of old, non-stainless steel Ping putters are made of a Manganese Bronze alloy.  They are not Beryllium Copper.  Ping did make a few BeCu and BeNi putters but far fewer that you see on eBay.  Ask your seller if he or she knows if its BeCu or Manganese Bronze.  Don't pay for premium metal that isn't.  The only way to know for sure is to retumble the head and check the raw metal color.  Assume that the putter is not really BeCu.  

Rule 9 - Know why you're buying;

Even if you're buying just because you always wanted a set of Pings for yourself, try to get a set with all matching numbers.  Don't buy BeCu for any other reason than you like the look.  I think the Zing2's are the best club for beginners and high handicappers and the Eye2+s are the best for low handicappers.  All of these clubs are just as good as anything you can buy new today.

If you're buying as an investment or to mount in a shadowbox in your trophy room (don't laugh, I was contracted to buy several sets for just this purpose), nothing but one of the rare sets, like the "+ no +" or original BeCu Eye2 sets complete with all the clubs will do.

When you buy, always try to consider a set price as a per club transaction.  For instance, if you pay £200 for eight clubs (3-W), that's £25 per club; then £245 for ten clubs (2-S) is exactly the same value.  By doing this, you'll very quickly be able to separate the good values from poor ones.  Try to buy the most complete set you can afford.  Remember, the more complete the set is, the more it is worth.     

Rule 10 - Ask questions; 

Ask questions.  If they don't answer, don't buy the clubs.  If they don't know, be suspicious.  If they lie, and some do, send negative feedback.  eBay only works as well as the feedback process.  Use it.

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