w/ Don Irving, Artisan Golf
The winter snow is beginning to disappear and you can feel the sun’s warmth begin to strengthen. There is a general thought that “maybe we will have an early spring”. It is again that time of year when we start thinking golf and golf equipment. Maybe it will be the year for a new driver or a new set of irons or maybe just adding a wedge or two to the bag. Whatever your equipment needs or plans might be, a frequently neglected component of a golfer’s equipment is the grip.
Does it really matter that your grips are worn, drying out or glazing over? You bet it does! Considering that the grip is the only part of the club that we actually touch, it is extremely important that the connection of your hands to the golf club is one that not only feels good, but is correctly sized for your hands.
Why is the condition of your grips so very important? For starters, when a grip becomes worn or glazed over, the golfer will put more pressure on the grip to maintain control. This extra pressure puts tension in the hands and forearms. Ask any swing coach about too much tension in the golf swing and he/she will tell you it is a swing killer. Too much grip pressure can inhibit the golfer from making a well tempo’ed and fluid swing. You want to be able to hold the club in your hands very loosely with very little grip pressure. The correct grip pressure has been likened to holding a small bird gently in your hand. However, for many of us, especially on the first tee, it is more like trying to strangle a giant bird! Not a good idea. Having grips that are in good shape will give you the confidence to hold the club lightly in your hands.
A big benefit to maintaining proper grip pressure throughout the swing is distance. You will see an increase in distance. Good grip pressure, as I mentioned, produces a more fluid swing and creates more loading of the club’s shaft as well as a better release of that load, i.e., more lag. This is what creates more clubhead speed and therefore more distance.
So, what should you look for in a grip? First of all, there is the feel or texture of the grip. Some golfers prefer a soft, tacky feel, some want firm but tacky or firm and coarse textured and so on. There is a wide choice of grips available in the market place because of the fact that people have different preferences. This sense of feel in your hands is extremely important. The texture of the grip should be such that you say “yes, I really like the feel of this”.
What about the size or diameter of the grip? All hands are not the same size and neither are grips. The rule of thumb for fitting grips is that the grip is the proper size when the fingers of the top hand gently touch the pad on the thumb or there is just a slight separation of the two. This is a great starting point, but many years of experience has shown that there are exceptions to that rule. Conventional wisdom says that if the grip is too large, it may promote a slice or if the grip is too small it may produce a pull. This is theoretically valid, but I have seen many exceptions to the rule. Ultimately, the most important factor is that the grip feels good in your hands and that when swinging the club, you are not even aware of the grip. One aspect of grip design that is gaining in popularity is the rate of taper in a grip where the largest diameter of the grip is at the butt end and then it tapers from there, sometimes quite a lot. I have found that a lot of golfers prefer to have this taper reduced by building up the grip in the more tapered section with grip tape. In response to this, we are seeing more grips coming to the market with much less taper. The best way to determine the correct size is to get measured and sized by a professional fitter. He or she will be able to fit you to the proper size for your hands and the feeling you want.
A professional fitter will recognize if you have special needs, such as a golfer who has arthritis in the hands. There are grips definitely more suited to the golfer with this issue. For someone with this challenge, it may be necessary to go to a larger size grip than would normally be recommended. Even though a particular grip may not be labeled as an arthritic grip, because of the larger size, it may be the perfect fit for the situation.
Another consideration for your grip choice is playing conditions. Do you play a lot of golf in damp weather or do you have an issue with hands that tend to sweat a lot? If so, you may want a grip that performs better in damp weather, but also feels good in normal playing conditions.
The best advice I can give you is to have a professional fitter assess your grips and if they need to be replaced get it done. Your return on investment for new groups will be worth it. The important thing to remember is that grips are a critical part of your equipment so give them the attention they deserve.