Karsten (UK) Ltd., known as Ping was founded in Britain in 1973 by Karsten Solheim and Roy and Pat Freeman. Ping was the first manufacturer to offer high-quality clubs by using manufactured fitting techniques that developed throughout the world. This high-level service ensured that professionals and people involved in the sport could have a club that was custom fit to their own individual specifications. The development of this service helped people to play golf more efficiently.
The story of Ping began with Karsten Solheim from America who was interested in the sport of golf and realised that his main problem was putting so he designed himself a revolutionary putter. Instead of attaching the shaft at the heel of the blade, he attached it in the centre. He applied scientific principles to golf club design with his engineering knowledge and transferred much of the weight of the club head to the perimeter.
The reason for the company brand being named Ping was thanks to Karsten who in 1959 ‘putts with his first prototype putter head, and the tuning-fork-like construction makes a ‘ping’ sound when impacting the ball. Karsten excitedly runs into the kitchen and announces to his wife, Louise, “I’ve got a name for my putter!” Soon thereafter, he files for a patent on the PING 1-A putter.’ Three years later, the patent was granted. Karsten then began to manufacture golf clubs in America during the 1960s.
Pat and Roy Freeman pictured above in the Gainsborough Ping factory in the late 1970s
The story continues in Britain when Karsten meets Roy and Pat Freeman who became the people who developed the Ping business in Gainsborough. Roy was a Gainsborough lad and originally worked with his father and brothers in the family grocery business E. W. Freeman and Sons based near to the Market Place in Gainsborough. Unfortunately, the business was struggling and times were beginning to change with the rise of the supermarket industry, so his father decided to close the grocery shop.
Roy and Pat recall the grocery shop in the clips below and Roy recalls his role in the family business at that time:
Due to the family business closing, Roy and Pat, therefore, had to look further afield for work, however, a chance meeting with Karsten in Cambridge led to new adventures and new beginnings. Listen to the clips below to find out more:
Roy explains how he travelled to America in the clips below to learn how the Ping business worked. The knowledge he gained while working in every role of the business helped Roy and Pat when starting up the Ping business in Gainsborough:
Roy and Pat explain below how they set up the Ping business in Gainsborough:
The photograph above shows one of the first buildings that Roy and Pat Freeman purchased in the setting up of Karsten UK in the mid to late 1970s
Roy explains how important quality workmanship was in the business of Ping:
Roy and Pat explain the types of machinery that were used at Karsten’s factory in America and devices that were used to assist the production of golf clubs in the Gainsborough factory below:
Pat explains the essence of Ping assembling the golf clubs and the materials that were provided from elsewhere to create the golf clubs:
Recalls promoting the Ping business around the world and how they re-designed Thonock Golf Club, creating a new venue in the town of Gainsborough:
The photograph above shows Thonock Golf Club when Roy and Pat Freeman set up Karsten UK
Pat recalls what the Ping factory in Gainsborough looked like and how they developed the factory over the years:
Recalls an element from the start of Roy and Pat’s typical day working at the Ping factory:
The clips below reflect on their work with Ping and how it has helped to develop the town of Gainsborough and how it expanded through their work with the golf professionals:
Pictured above is an aerial view of the Karsten UK Ltd complex in Gainsborough
Through a chance meeting with Karsten, Roy and Pat Freeman brought Ping to Gainsborough by developing the business through hard work and determination. The work of Ping continues today in Gainsborough with custom golf fittings, assembly line production and two 18-hole courses at Thonock Golf Club as well as much more to explore. Roy and Pat have left a fantastic legacy to the town with the Ping factory and golf club that both continue to thrive.
The Gainsborough Heritage Centre is working with Ping this year to celebrate 60 years of Ping in Gainsborough and 125 anniversary of Thonock Golf Club with an exhibition this July. So, make sure you keep checking the Centre’s social media or latest news to watch out for dates of another fantastic exhibition that will share more about the story of this amazing factory that was developed in Gainsborough and continues to grow from strength to strength.
- Photographs courtesy of Roy and Pat Freeman.
- Oral history interview with Roy and Pat Freeman, (10.01.2019) Gainsborough Heritage Centre Archives.
- Story of Karsten’s invention, Ping Moments in History, click here… to find out more on Ping’s website.