This part of the series is about how we teach club fitters to fit golfers for the proper grip size and style.
Many of you might be saying “OMG really? This will be a yawner.”
I’ll ask that you to hang on through the first part of this story, because we’ll get to some other information about grip fitting that many of you may not know.
OK, sure, there isn’t any rocket science associated with fitting golfers for the right grip size and style. Grip size/style fitting is chiefly a matter of golfer preference for what FEELS the best.
“WHAT STYLE AND SIZE ALLOWS THE GOLFER TO MAINTAIN A SECURE HOLD ON THE CLUB WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF GRIP PRESSURE?”
The more grip pressure golfers have to use to keep their hands securely on the grip throughout their swing, the more their forearm muscles will contract. And the tighter their forearm muscles, the less consistent golfers will find their swing tempo, timing, rhythm and shot consistency.
The result? More bad shots, which no one wants.
Grip size fitting charts, which offer a size based on a measurement of the hand and middle finger length, stand ONLY as a starting point. Just like a wrist-to-floor measurement acts only as a starting point for length determination, hand/finger measurements are done simply to give the club maker a starting point for coming up with the best grip size for each golfer.
Plain and simple, the golfer has to try different grip sizes to choose the one that is most comfortable and allows him to maintain a secure hold on the club with the least amount of grip pressure. That means trial and experimentation. While many club fitters do this with cut-off shafts and grips installed to different specific sizes, it is better for the golfer to try grip sizes on a fully assembled club. Holding a grip mounted on a cut-off shaft just doesn’t FEEL like a real club and has been known to adversely affect a golfer’s size decision.
Following this guideline, there has been a recent increase in golfer preference for building up the diameter of the lower-hand part of the grip. For example, a right-handed golfer might prefer two wraps of grip tape under his left hand and three wraps under his right hand. That’s great if that’s what’s comfortable for him or her. Remember, getting the right grip size is chiefly a trial-and-experimentation process, but building up the lower hand can be done to help a golfer who indicates that he is turning the ball over a little more than he or she would like.
So comfort and a golfer’s own preferred feel rule all in grip size/style fitting. That’s no news to most of you. What is worth your attention is whether you really do know exactly what grip size you prefer. If you do, you’re assured that you are getting the same size grips when you switch to a different shaft or club.
Because of the VAST amount of variation in shaft butt diameters today, the old tried-and-true procedures for calculating known grip sizes in club making are totally disorganized and confusing. It’s an area in club making that used to be very comfortably protected by standards upon which every company agreed, but it is yet another example of equipment specifications that are out the window these days.
For a very long time in this industry, a men’s standard grip was defined by a diameter of 0.900 inches at a point 2 inches down from the edge of the grip cap, coupled with a diameter of 0.780 inches at the 6-inch point down from the end of the grip. It was from this that the industry designations for under or oversize grip diameters were based. Thus a +1/32-inch (0.031 inches) oversize grip was 0.930 inches/0.810 inches at the 2-inch/6-inch positions respectively, and so on for each of the other common grip sizes.
Ensuring the accurate size was easy. Pretty much all X-flex shafts were made with a 0.620-inch butt, S-flexes were 0.600 inches, R’s and A’s were 0.580 inches and L-flexes were 0.560 inches. To match to this, grip companies made their men’s grips with core sizes to match. Men’s grips were available with 62, 60 and 58 core sizes, and women’s grips had a 56 core size. Match the core size to the butt diameter, use one wrap of 2-way grip tape and you ended up with the standard men’s or women’s size every time.
Oversize grips were created by applying layers of masking tape to achieve the desired increase in the butt diameter to stretch the grip larger in diameter. This, too, was pretty much a standard since virtually every roll of paper masking tape was made with a thickness of 0.005 inches. Hence, for each layer of masking tape wrapped around the butt, the shaft diameter increased by 0.010 inches. And from this came the vernacular of 3 wraps makes a +1/32 inches oversize, 6 wraps makes a +1/16 inches oversize, and so on.
Shaft butt diameters are all over the place now. Different model shafts of the same flex can now range in butt diameter from 0.580 inches to 0.640 inches. Not only that, but masking tape has been cheapened so much over the years that it’s tough to find a roll with the same 0.005-inch thickness as was so common before.
Most masking tape is 0.003 inches thick. Then you have the trend of the grip companies to mold separate grips to “midsize” or “oversize” diameters. Just how large IS this or that grip company’s mid or oversize molded grip?
Here we have one more club spec that used to have standards agreed upon by all that no longer exists. No more is “3 wraps a +1/32” or any other wraps versus size designation. To be sure you get the same exact grip size on all clubs/shafts you play, the only solution is to:
Make note of the butt diameter on the shafts you play.
- Note the core size of the grip you use. Typically, this will be seen as a 2-digit number on the underside of the mouth of the grip: 58, 60, 62.
- Make note of the thickness and number of wraps of tape used.
- Take a final micrometer or calipers measurement of the outside diameter of the installed grips done at different points along the length of the grip.
When you change clubs or shafts and find the butt diameters are different, ensure you get the same final grip size by calculating the combination of butt diameter, tape thickness and final calipers measurement. More work, in other words, but it’s now what’s necessary.
So the next time you tell your club maker your preferred grip size is an XYZ grip with X number of wraps and the grips turns out not quite right, you know why.
- What length should your clubs be?
- What lofts should your clubs be?
- Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
- The best way to fit lie angle
- How to choose the right club head design
- Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
- Getting the right size grip, time after time
- What shaft weight should you play?
- What swing weight should your clubs be?
- What shaft flex should I use?
This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.
On Spec: Please don’t play blades (or maybe play them anyway)
Host Ryan talks about the different ways to enjoy the game and maximizing your equipment enjoyment which doesn’t always have to mean hitting it 15 yards farther. The great debate of blades vs cavity backs is as old of an argument you will find in golf but both sides can be right equaling right. Ryan explains why.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
What’s going on with the decline in putting on the PGA Tour?
Watching the PGA Tour recently, I was struck by Frank Nobilo commenting on how professionals and their instructors work down to the smallest detail, a reflection on the intense competition on the PGA Tour and the fact that to be successful you cannot ignore anything. He made this comment with his thumb and forefinger barely not touching for emphasis.
That being the case, the numbers below should cause major introspection by every player and their coach. They are self-explanatory and have been verified by a third party expert who deals in putting data.
All figures are Shotlink data from the PGA Tour. To preclude undue influence by an anomaly years 2003-5 are averaged as are 2016-18
Average make percentage from 5 distances, 2003-2005 combined
- 6 FEET: 71.98 percent
- 8 FEET: 55.01 percent
- 10 FEET: 43.26 percent
- 15-20 FEET: 19.37 percent
- 25 FEET AND BEYOND: 5.96 percent
Average make percentage from the same 5 distances, 2015-2018
- 6 FEET: 70.43 percent
- 8 FEET: 53.54 percent
- 10 FEET: 41.39 percent
- 15-20 FEET: 18.80 percent
- 25 FEET AND BEYOND: 5.33 percent
- 6 FEET: 1.55 percent
- 8 FEET: 1.67 percent
- 10 FEET: 1.87 percent
- 15-20 FEET: .57 percent
- 25 FEET AND BEYOND: .83 percent
One comment, green conditions have been vetted to the point where they are not considered a culprit. Faster, yes, but pristine surfaces, and very consistent week to week. There are some outliers like the U.S. Open greens but they are included in the data shown and caused no significant spike for that week.
Further, on the subject of greens, today’s professional has booklets showing green patterns, high MOI putter heads, instruction from putting specialists, and caddies, expert green readers in their own right. Bottom line: if anything the greens help not hurt.
So your turn. Look at the data. Appoint yourself all-powerful guru to improve putting data. What would your plan, be? Oh and this little tidbit so you can earn a huge consulting fee: We took six players, three on either side of the halfway point, your solution resulted in a one-shot per TOURNAMENT improvement. Average INCREASE in earnings for the season: a smidge over $500K!
A merciful new local rule
This April, within a list of 2019 Rules Clarifications, the USGA and R&A quietly authorized a new Local Rule that you can expect to see enacted everywhere from the U.S. Open Championship to, if you’re lucky, your own club championship.
New Local Rule E-12 provides some protection from an unintended consequence of Rule 14.3c, which requires that your ball come to rest in the relief area for the drop you’re taking. When I first read about this option, I confess that I was a bit skeptical. But now that I’ve experienced the Local Rule in action, its value has become very clear.
My initial skepticism came from the fact that I like it that every time, we drop we now must drop in a relief area. I also like the simplicity of requiring the ball to come to rest in that relief area — no more awkward need to figure out if your ball stayed within two club lengths of the point where your drop first struck the course, as used to be the case. So right from the start, I was very comfortable with the new rules in this regard. But in some cases, particularly for those who haven’t carefully studied the revised rules, this simple approach has caused problems.
The freedom this new Local Rule provides applies exclusively to back-on-the-line relief drops, such as you might make from penalty areas or for unplayable balls. It’s a bit complicated, but let me take you through how it helps. We’ll use yellow-staked penalty areas as an example. Last year, for back-on-the-line drops such as these, you’d identify the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and draw an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point, select a nice place to drop anywhere you chose back along that line, and then let it drop. If you picked a point sufficiently back, and your ball didn’t hit anything prohibited, and it didn’t stop more than two club lengths from where you dropped it, you were good to go.
This year, instead of dropping on that imaginary line, you drop in a relief area that surrounds that imaginary line. Just like before, you identify the edge of the penalty area where your ball last crossed, go back as far as you wish along an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point — but now you should identify a relief area around your selected drop location. To do so, you pick a point on the line, then define a relief area one club length from that point no closer to the hole. So you typically have a semicircle two club lengths in diameter in which to drop. If you drop a foot or two back from the front edge of the semicircle, there’s almost always no problem with the ball coming to rest outside the releif area and you’ll be ready to play. But if you drop right on the front edge of your defined relief area, or if you didn’t bother to identify a point/relief area along the imaginary line before you dropped, and your ball bounces and comes to rest even the slightest bit forward — it’s now outside the relief area and subject to a two-stroke or loss of hole penalty for playing from the wrong place if you end up hitting the ball before correcting your mistake.
That might seem kind of harsh — you take a back-on-the-line drop like you did last year, it bounces and stops an inch forward, you hit it — and you get severely penalized. If you had simply established the relief area an inch or two forward, things would have been perfectly legal! The 2019 rules, in their effort to simplify and make consistent the drop/relief procedure, created an unintended potential trap for players that weren’t careful enough managing their business. This seemed like it was going to be a big enough problem that the USGA and R&A decided to graciously do something about it: Introduce Model Local Rule E-12.
When this Local Rule is adopted, a player is given some additional freedom. If he or she applies the relief area/drop principles correctly, there is, of course, still no problem. But if he or she ends up with the ball somewhat outside the relief area, there still might be no penalty. As long as the ball originally struck the course within where the relief area should be, and as long as it didn’t come to rest more than one club length from where it first hit the course when dropped, you can still play it penalty-free (as long as it’s not nearer the hole than where the ball originally lay in the case of an unplayable ball drop, or nearer the hole than the edge of the penalty area where the ball last crossed for a penalty area drop).
While all that’s a bit complicated sounding, in practice it’s intuitive. And as an added bonus, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it or even know it’s in force — there are simply more occasions when you can blissfully, even ignorantly, play on penalty-free.
This new Local Rule provides another advantage as well. When it’s in effect, an opponent or ref (or a TV viewer) won’t have to concern themselves with whether or not the player making the drop actually followed the recommendation of first defining a relief area before making a back-on-the-line drop. If you’re at a distance, and you see a player taking a drop which bounces slightly forward, you can relax. You don’t have to wonder whether or not you should rush up and confirm that the ball didn’t squeak out of the player’s intended relief area in an effort to prevent the player from incurring a penalty. One way or another, everything is more than likely just fine.
With all that in mind, maybe you’d like to see the specific wording of E-12:
“When taking Back-On-the-Line relief, there is no additional penalty if a player plays a ball that was dropped in the relief area required by the relevant Rule (Rule 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), 19.2b or 19.3b) but came to rest outside the relief area, so long as the ball, when played, is within one club-length of where it first touched the ground when dropped.
“This exemption from penalty applies even if the ball is played from nearer the hole than the reference point (but not if played from nearer the hole than the spot of the original ball or the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area).
“This Local Rule does not change the procedure for taking Back-On-the-Line relief under a relevant Rule. This means that the reference point and relief area are not changed by this Local Rule and that Rule 14.3c(2) can be applied by a player who drops a ball in the right way and it comes to rest outside the relief area, whether this occurs on the first or second drop.”
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