Marty Jertson is a name you probably won’t recognise, but if you’ve played a Ping driver over the last 15 years it’s highly likely he’s played a role in it’s design.
Jertson has worked at Ping since 2003, first as an intern then as Director of Product Development before becoming Vice President of Fitting and Performance. But unlike most golf club designers and engineers Jertson is a heck of a player.
So good in fact he’s playing his 5th and 6th Major Championships (the US PGA and US Open) in 2020 all whilst holding down a full-time job, designing and fitting Ping’s golf equipment.
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So with the 2020 US PGA Championship about to kick off we thought it was time to find out more about Marty Jertson's story and the gear he chooses for his own bag.
The Marty Jertson story
I was a +5 handicapper before turning professional in 2002.
I was doing what all broke golf pros do, scrambling around trying to make some money to make it to the tour qualifying school. I went to the tour school once, I didn’t make it through the first stage.
You soon realise how good the players are and how many are playing. Being an engineer with a background in probability and statistics I soon realised I’d better head into the world of working for a living.
Golf club designing is a very specific skill set, it’s like the intersection of art and science.
I interned at Ping in the winter of 2003 and joined officially in 2004. The first club I worked on as a lead designer was the Rapture hybrid. I’d apprenticed under some very experienced engineers and learned the skills. You have to learn the art, even though you might have a background in science there’s a real art in getting it right.
It was really neat going into golf shops and seeing the Rapture hybrid knowing I’d done the 3D and analysis work, it really had my blood, sweat and tears in it.
I was scared out of my mind playing my first Major, the US PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011.
I didn’t sleep well the night before, I had so many family there and I felt a lot of pressure. I’ve since learnt that pressure is self-imposed, I still got nervous on the first tee last year (4th Major at Bethpage Black) but I feel a lot more confident about my chances having experienced the feeling a few times now.
I never dreamt I’d ever play my 5th and 6th Major Championships in 2020.
After playing my first major I thought that was me done, the highlight of my playing career had happened. Everything since (playing major two, three, four and holing the winning putt at last year's PGA Cup against Europe) has been an absolute bonus.
I think because I have a full-time job, it takes the pressure off. That sort of mind set really helped me make the cut last year at Bethpage Black.
It wasn’t until I’d played in one major and qualified for another, that I wanted to make the cut and play the weekend.
The grounds of a Major site are buzzing during the week but come the weekend there’s a real peace and calm. Everyone’s gone, it’s just the 60+ players that have made the cut, the tee times are spaced out and it is magical. Last year I gained so much confidence playing the weekend, it felt like I’d finally busted through, I felt like I belonged. To me it showed the PGA qualifiers can hang with the big guys.
My best round in a Major was 69 at last year's (2019) US PGA at Bethpage Black, but trust me that course is like a par 80.
I walked off the course and felt like I’d shot 59, that’s how tough it was. I didn’t play perfect, I played very efficiently. I drove it well and putted good, from a scoring standpoint those two are absolutely key in a Major.
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I view my success as a culmination of doing lots of little things and making them habit.
I work a desk job, so I have to keep my body in good shape by training physically a few times a week at home in my garage. I have a standing desk, I do some indoor putting practice on a mat and I have serious insight into my equipment.
A solid knowledge of physics around ball flight, distances, lofts, lies friction and green reading all come together to give me a tiny edge.
What are you doing in here?
In 2020 I played my first Phoenix Open and earned my way in, it wasn’t an exemption. A couple of weeks before I was fitting a few of the Ping staff pros close to Ping HQ.
When I rocked up in the locker room at the tournament at TPC Scottsdale I bumped into a few of the guys I'd been working with just a couple of weeks before, several were like “what are you doing in here?” They had no idea I was playing. The event was a lot of fun but I putted terribly.
I’ve beaten Tiger.
The two best players I’ve played with in practice rounds are Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. Lee was World #1 at the time and his ball striking was incredible. Francesco won The Open the year before we played and he was just the nicest guy, he actually gave me a lot of confidence.
Miguel Angel Jimenez has the most impressive game though. I’m so impressed at what he gets out of the distance he hits the golf ball. He’s so accurate with his 5- and 7-wood, it’s like he can hit them just as close as I can hit a pitching wedge.
I’m most proud of my contributions to the world of club design.
I worked on Ping’s aerodynamic Turbulators (Jertson is named on 125+ patents), I was lead designer on the Ping G410 Plus driver which included movable weight technology without affecting MOI, and counter-balanced shafts were an idea we created.
I’m most proud of these achievements because the golfing masses get to benefit from them, what I’ve achieved on the playing side is much more personal.
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The difference between my game and a top tour pro is a little more variability.
If I compare myself to the top 20% of PGA Tour pros I’d be able to hang with the top 30–40% of those players for distance. But I’d have just a bit more variability, so maybe one or two swings a round where I’ll lose a shot, they would be a little tighter. As you approach the top it takes ten times the amount of work to gain that half a shot a round.
I’ve had seven hole-in-one’s and nearly been disqualified from winning two club championships.
My last hole-in-one was more than 10 years ago and my best round ever was 62 at Blackstone Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona during a PGA event.
I won a club championship as a junior and was almost thrown out because I wasn’t a full fee paying member. Last year I won our local club championship (Wildfire Golf Club) and there was some discussion around whether a PGA pro playing off scratch should be allowed to win. Having the right to use the club champs car parking space is a nice perk though.
California Golf Club is the best course I’ve played.
I just love the architecture of the place, the weather’s great, as are the trees and it’s very walkable. It reminds me of a 1940’s links course, but with modern day turf and agronomy. It’s really natural with a native look and the bunker shaping is out of this world.
I’ve used the same pitch mark tool for every single round I’ve played since I was a freshman in college.
I wouldn’t say it’s sentimental but I’ve used the same pitch mark tool for 20+ years, it’s dangerously sharp and great for digging out pitch marks. It would be quite weird being without it, if I ever lost it. I keep my belt clips from the events I play in and I have a flag from each of the Majors I’ve played mounted in my garage where I train.
Marty Jertson: What’s In The Bag 2020
I play the Ping G410 LST 9°, with the hosel adaptor in a flat/minus position, it takes loft down by 1°. As I’ve picked up more speed I’ve transitioned from the Ping G410 Plus as more speed means more spin. I’m playing the HZRDUS 65 T110 6.5 shaft.
I play the Ping G410 LST 3-wood (14.5°) at a little shorter length to help reduce spin. I love the 3 wood, it comes into a play a lot from the tee in Arizona golf and from the fairway at longer courses. Depending on the course I’m playing I sometimes carry a 5-wood.
I used to be a hybrid guy but I now have an i500 3 iron which is built to Crossover specs with a hybrid shaft. I play the Ping iBlade from 4-PW and have done for a handful of years. I used to play our bigger G15 and G20 irons but now my swing’s shallower with more speed so I’ve switched to the iBlade’s.
I love the model, they give tons of forgiveness for a small blade like club. In fact the iBlade has unique properties in that it launches fairly high, but it’s compact size still gives plenty of forgiveness. You can shape shots with them, and they’re better at going through rough, thanks to the size.
I play a Ping Glide Forged 52° (bent to 51°) and Glide 3.0 56° wedge, but my lob wedge is probably the most unusual club in my bag. It’s 0.5” shorter than standard and it has a really light C9 swingweight, it’s like magic around the greens, but not quite so good for full shots. The ball comes off really slow, it reduces momentum, it’s great for getting shots to sizzle around the greens.
I’ve used the same Ping Ketsch putter for 4 years. I just love the model. Every time we do internal putter testing the Ketsch is always a slam dunk and home run for me. I have a custom bronze sole plate to bring headweight up to 500g, I love the set-up, look and alignment characteristics.
Lots of golfers don’t realise the ball is a very important part of the fitting puzzle. I was looking for a flatter ball flight with less lift and less spin in the longer clubs but I didn’t want to give up any greenside spin. So I use a tour only Titleist Pro V1 (left dot). A lot of our Ping staff players use it as it’s got similar traits around the greens as a Pro V1x but it's more like a Pro V1 off the tee with woods, it’s also a little tighter (more accurate) into the wind.
I mark my ball with a single straight line, but people often don’t realise the importance of marrying up the marking on their ball (or no marking) with the type of alignment aid on their putter.
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