Karsten Solheim

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Karsten Solheim
Born(1911-09-15)September 15, 1911
Bergen, Norway[1]
DiedFebruary 16, 2000(2000-02-16) (aged 88)
Resting placeHansens Desert Hills Memorial Park, Scottsdale, Arizona
MonumentsASU Karsten Golf Course
Tempe, Arizona (1989)
Karsten Creek Golf Course
Stillwater, Oklahoma (1994)
Occupation(s)Engineer, inventor, executive
Known forPING golf clubs
Solheim Cup
SpouseLouise Crozier Solheim (m. 1936–2000, his death)[2]

Karsten Solheim (September 15, 1911 – February 16, 2000) was an American golf club designer and businessman. He founded Karsten Manufacturing, a golf club maker better known by the name of PING, and the Solheim Cup, the premier international team competition in women's golf.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Bergen, Norway, to Herman A. and Ragna Koppen Solheim,[1] the family emigrated to the United States in 1913, and settled in Seattle, Washington, in its Ballard neighborhood. Herman was a shoemaker, and Karsten graduated from Ballard High School in 1931 and enrolled two years later at the University of Washington, with aims at becoming a mechanical engineer.[4] Due to family financial hardship during the Great Depression, he withdrew from UW after his freshman year and then worked in the family shoe shop.[1][5]

Upon the outbreak of World War II, he resumed his engineering studies via University of California extension courses and joined the defense industry, working at Ryan Aeronautical in San Diego. After the war he initially worked as a salesman, but then returned to engineering with positions at Convair and General Electric.


While living in upstate New York in 1954, Solheim took up golf at the age of 42 when his colleagues at G.E. invited him to make up a foursome. He quickly took to the game and found that his main problem was putting, so he designed himself a revolutionary putter. Using sugar cubes and popsicle sticks he came up with a design he would innovate and test.[6] Instead of attaching the shaft at the heel of the blade, he attached it in the center. He applied scientific principles to golf club design, which had previously been based largely on trial and error, transferring much of the weight of the club head to the perimeter.

Solheim took to manufacturing golf clubs in his garage and after a move to Phoenix he touted them to skeptical professionals at tournaments. Acceptance came when Julius Boros won the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open, using Solheim's "Anser" putter in early 1967.[7] Later that year, Solheim resigned from G.E. to establish Karsten Manufacturing, makers of the PING brand of clubs. In 1969, he introduced irons based on the same principle of perimeter weighting, and these were quickly successful. The other golf equipment manufacturers soon followed his innovations, which became industry standards.

With the success of PING, Solheim became a benefactor of golf. He donated millions of dollars to the Karsten Golf Course at Arizona State University and Karsten Creek Golf Course at Oklahoma State University, and sponsored LPGA tournaments in Oregon, Arizona, and Massachusetts. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Solheim Cup, the biennial tournament between teams of women professionals from Europe and the United States, which was modeled on the men's Ryder Cup, and was first played in 1990.

2009 Solheim Cup – Team of USA (2)

Solheim developed Parkinson's disease and in 1995 he handed over his company to his youngest son John.[8] He died in Phoenix in February 2000 at the age of 88.[9]

Solheim's contribution of perimeter weighting and usage of investment casting are recognized as two of the key innovations in the history of golf.[10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

For increasing trade with foreign companies through Ping, Solheim received an "E" award from President Reagan[11] in 1988.[12][13]

Solheim was inducted in 1991 into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

Two collegiate golf courses bear his name: ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Arizona, opened in 1989, and Karsten Creek Golf Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma, opened in 1994.

Solheim was a ME Hall of Fame recipient from the University of Washington's mechanical engineering department. After his passing Solheim's wife Louise established an undergraduate scholarship fund and the Solheim Manufacturing Labs within the ME Department in memory of her late husband.[14]

Solheim was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001[15] in the category of Lifetime Achievement.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "Karsten Solheim (1911-2000)". Go Norway. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  2. ^ "Louise Solheim". Go Norway. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  3. ^ Brown, Clifton (February 18, 2000). "Karsten Solheim, 88, is dead; Creator of the Ping golf club". New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  4. ^ "Solheim Gift Totals One Million". Dept. of Mech. Engr. newsletter – 2001. University of Washington. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2009.
  5. ^ McDermott, Barry (September 12, 1977). "It all began with a garage sale". Sports Illustrated. p. 67. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "Ping celebrates 40 years of golf club innovation". Brownsville Herald. May 26, 1999. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  7. ^ "Ping In Julius' Putter Music To Veteran's Ears". Fort Lauderdale News. February 14, 1967. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Bamberger, Michael (February 5, 1996). "Rich Legacy". Sports Illustrated. p. G12. Archived from the original on June 28, 2013.
  9. ^ "Karsten Solheim obituary". Sports Illustrated. February 16, 2002. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2009.
  10. ^ "Great leaps forward". Sports Illustrated. February 28, 2000. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Walters, James E. (December 14, 1989). "Maker of Ping golf clubs learns life's big lessons". Standard-Speaker. Hazleton, Pennsylvania. p. 36. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  12. ^ Coates, Bill (October 24, 2004). "Family creates demand for products in international markets". Phoenix Business Journal. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Reagan, Ronald (May 23, 1988). "Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the "E" and "E Star" Awards". Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  14. ^ "ME Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on August 10, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "World Golf Hall of Fame Karsten Solheim". Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  16. ^ "Induction Category: Lifetime Achievement". Retrieved February 2, 2019.

External links[edit]