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Wishon: Getting the right grip size, time after time

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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.”

Wishon

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.

Not today.

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. Make note of the thickness and number of wraps of tape used.
  3. 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.

Related

Tom Wishon

  1. What length should your clubs be?
  2. What lofts should your clubs be?
  3. Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
  4. The best way to fit lie angle
  5. How to choose the right club head design
  6. Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
  7. Getting the right size grip, time after time
  8. What shaft weight should you play?
  9. What swing weight should your clubs be?
  10. What shaft flex should I use?

This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.

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Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014 Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA. He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting. Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. M

    Mar 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Tom – I have trouble with my right hand (RH golfer) coming off the grip at the top. I currently play an oversize grip (+1/32) plus an extra wrap of tape under my bottom hand.

    Would it be helpful to go smaller?

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

      M
      As much as there are definite “cause and effect” elements in other areas of clubfitting, this matter of grip size vs a golfer’s ability to maintain a secure hold on the club during the whole swing still very much is an area of trial and experimentation. Sometimes a significant grip size change can help in this area, many times not. So I wish I could tell you a for sure remedy, but I can’t. You would have to take one club and go through a series of trial grip size changes and then hit balls for a few weeks to see what works, what doesn’t.

      Gut feel says that you should try a LOT bigger lower hand grip – like install a grip with the left hand size as it is now, but then put 6 to 8 wraps under the lower hand to try that first. In the end, whenever I have seen a golfer who loses the lower hand during the swing, the golfer has to train himself to change the way he applies his grip pressure with the lower hand – more often to feel like he is squeezing the left thumb firmly on the grip with the thicker muscular area at the base of his lower hand thumb and to consciously hit several shots while thinking of always maintaining that squeezing feel during the whole swing. Not to hold with more finger pressure.

  2. KK

    Feb 24, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    It would seem to me that larger grips will have a larger surface area and thus require less pressure to maintain adequate hold. They’re also smoother in feel. So I would say, play the largest grip that is comfortable. As far as uniform grip size throughout the set, that’s a tough one with so many different shafts from driver to fw to hy, iron and wedges. And even then, easy club is swung in a slightly different way. But thanks for the article. Great history lesson.

  3. tlmck

    Feb 24, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I do not know the finished size, I just know I use a .580 grip on a .600 shaft, or a .600 grip on a .620 shaft with no extra tape. I buy the same tape from Golfworks everytime, so I know it will be consistent. Never failed me so far.

  4. theo

    Feb 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Golfer personal preference. End of story.

  5. FTWPhil

    Feb 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Once you find your preferred grip size there is a simple shortcut to conformity. Use 2″ grip tape and note the gap, our overlap on the final wrap used. Now regrip the rest of your set to that gap size.

  6. james

    Feb 19, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Tom, thank you for this series of articles! Great reads.

    I have a question, and it may be a stupid one, but should grip size be the same through the whole bag or does some clubs call for different sizes (e.g. thicker grip on driver vs. Smaller grip on irons)?

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 20, 2015 at 10:25 am

      James:
      The tradition for using the same style and size of grip for all clubs is sound because that is the most sure way to achieve the same grip pressure with all clubs and from it, the same level of forearm/hand muscle contraction so the takeaway and tempo has more of a chance to be consistent with all clubs.

      That being said, there could be a reason/justification to invent a totally new type of grip for wedges that would be longer in length and with a different diameter tapering design so that when the golfer grips down on the wedges, which is done so often in the game, he would then not have to deal with the grip being too small. Right now whenever anyone grips down on a club, he has to accept the fact that he now is playing a grip which in essence is a good bit smaller for both hands. Challenge in this would be to determine how you would create the tapering rate of the grip diameter so that when he doesn’t grip down, the grip is not too large in some manner.

  7. Eric h

    Feb 19, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Tom
    Thanks for the comments. I am a smaller male (5’4″) with a small hand (6.5″ with my longest finger at 2.75″. Normally use undersized grips on all my clubs.

    I started to think back and my two best drivers in the past 5 years have had standard and midsized grips on them. Never gave it much thought until this week. I bought some new irons and immediately put my normal undersized grip on it. Put it on a monitor and most every shot was a hard draw. I have a neutral to strong grip and my iron miss is usually an overlooked draw.
    I hit a test Demo iron and it was much straighter. So I put on an oversized grip on my new 7i and hit it on the monitor again. Much different results. Club head speed was up almost 2mph, Gained 6 yds of carry which is a lot for me as I am a short hitter and dispersion was 4 yds tighter.

    I also hit the same test demo iron to ensure the monitor was reading consistently and it was spot on my results the week before.

    Oh and forgot to mention, I play a 10 finger grip and the larger grip just “feels” better and I bet my grip pressure is down a good 50% than what it was before with the undersized grips.

  8. Felipe Aspillaga

    Feb 19, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Tom,
    Always enjoy reading your in depth articles here on WRX.
    Also happened to find your book in some random used bookstore bin 😀

    When it comes to dialing in the correct grip size, especially for the garage builder/tinkerer, I would have mentioned installing grips using masking tape and air compression.
    This would allow the builder to easily switch out grips and add/subtract layers of tape with zero wait/drying time and without the need to destroy the grip to try the next setup.

    What do you think about grip installation via air compression, particularly as a “permanent” installation method?

    Cheers,
    Felipe

    • Don Greenwood

      Feb 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      I have used an air compressor for years to install & remove grips. A pancake compressor from Lowe’s or Depot works good. The only other things to get are the air nozzle for grips and a sleeve to put over old grips (nylon or PVC pipe) when using air to remove them. This helps contain the grip from blowing up like a balloon. Makes a really loud bang. What is nice is that you can install a new grip, remove and add tape if needed, reinstall grip and test to see if the customer likes. Remember the 2″ & 6″ measurements. Keep a record of the grip type and layers of tape. When your customer come back for new grips later, you can just blow those off and install new grip fast and easy. Always check that under the top 1″ or so does not turn in the hand. I have had some grips that needed additional masking tape there. Use a rough service masking tape. I get mine from Ace Hardware. Just start the grip on the shaft like normal, put one hand by the shaft end to push the grip down and add air to the butt end of the grip. Practice a couple times and you be fine. Hope this helps.

      • J.R.

        Feb 20, 2015 at 1:56 am

        I’ve seen that air compressor method demonstrated on YouTube, but I’m not sure it would work for everybody.
        As you mentioned, there’s the possibility of blowing up the grip (exploding it), especially if it isn’t a very high quality grip, even if you use a sleeve to prevent it from happening.
        Also, I’ve heard that this method works poorly if one is using double-sided golf grip tape as opposed to just standard run of the mill masking tape. You mentioned that you bought Ace Hardware masking tape, which is only sticky on one side, then slick on the other. Using double-sided grip tape made specifically for golf gripping purposes may preclude the air compressor method. If your customer comes in with grips that are not worn but simply wants to try a diameter change, his existing grips may have double-sided grip tape already on them.

        • Felipe Aspillaga

          Feb 20, 2015 at 10:09 am

          Yeah, double-sided tape + air compression isn’t really a compatible combination.

        • Tom Wishon

          Feb 20, 2015 at 10:32 am

          JR:
          It’s highly unlikely that a grip will explode in an air removal if there is a tube over the grip, even a cardboard tube from the inside of a roll of paper towels. While the tube certainly is there for safety reasons, it also prevents the grip from bubbling up so much that it becomes ruined should you be wishing to re use the grips being removed. Plus the alternative for an intact grip removal is a hypo needle and solvent, and THAT can be a very dangerous thing to do. Years ago I saw a clubmaker who slipped and accidentally injected some solvent into his hand doing this and he just happened to have a HORRIBLE tissue reaction that almost caused him to lose the hand.

          Also, as long as the grip core is not larger than any area of the diameter of the shaft, air installation over plain masking tape is just fine for keeping the grip secure to not slip. So if a golfer needs an oversize grip to be achieved by multiple wraps of build up tape, that can be done with masking tape with the grip installed over the wraps by air, and the grip will stay put.

  9. Dave S

    Feb 19, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Wow, that was a lot more complicated that I thought. My biggest issue is having a place to actually try different grip sizes on full clubs (I imagine this is an issue for a lot of people). I can’t just try a bunch of grips and various wraps and then pick the one I want put on all my clubs. Instead, it’s more trial-and-error… I get a grip i think feels good then put it on all my clubs. Regripping all clubs gets pretty expensive so I really just play with what I have (which I’m sure is not an optimal scenario). I have no way of knowing if there’s a better grip/wrap combo out there that I just haven’t tried yet… suggestions???

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

      DAVE:
      There are two ways to go about this. One, you work with an experienced clubmaker who can do these calipers measurements for diameter to start with your current grips as a baseline, and then have him install different size grips on clubs from perhaps previous sets you may still have around that you can hit over time to get a sense for whether something different is more comfortable or not. Or two, you learn how to do grip sizing and installation yourself so you can do your own experimentation. Bottom line is really to not over think it – if you feel that you are able to maintain a secure hold on the club with a minimum amount of grip pressure with your current grip size, then leave it at that. But if curiosity is strong, then you have to look at either option one or two I explained above and tinker around with it over time.

      • Justin

        Jun 27, 2016 at 2:32 pm

        I realize I’m late to this party (as always lol), but there’s another option. Gauze, the kind trainers use to wrap ankles and wrists, can be used.

        Take a 6 or 7 iron to the range, hit shots as a baseline, then add a layer of gauze and hit some more. Keep adding a wrap until you get your best result.

        Take that info to a local clubfitter, so s/he can duplicate the test and measure the new diameter with calipers and install grips at the new size.

  10. Kevin

    Feb 19, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Tom,

    You mention measuring at various points along the grip. Where do you measure in addition to 2″ down from the but cap?

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 19, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Kevin
      The customary points of grip diameter measurement are at 2″ and 6″ down from the edge of the grip cap – 2″ covers the upper hand, 6″ the lower hand in the grip. One commenter made a valid point here when he observed that in addition to shaft butt diams being all over the place these days, so too is the tapering of the butt section of the shaft which then controls the lower hand grip size. Hence the need to also have a lower hand diameter measurement for serious golfers who are very picky about the whole size of the grip.

  11. 8thehardway

    Feb 19, 2015 at 12:15 am

    The top photo shows a striking resemblance to William H. Macy in Showtime’s series Shameless.

    More to the point, your breath and depth of knowledge is staggering – beginning with Search for the Perfect Golf Club (read it around 2006) I’ve never come across anyone who packs so much detail, experience and help into their communications; at the very least you deserve a Lifetime Achievement awards for common sense in golf equipment. Thanks for being so involved and for the continuing education.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 19, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Thanks very much but it all goes back to very long ago when I was just starting to get consumed with learning everything possible about golf clubs and continually got put off, rebuffed or BS’d when I would call club and shaft companies asking questions. After about the 12th time of this, I really got pissed and told myself that I was going to have to do this on my own and if I did ever get to a point where I knew this stuff, I was going to be sure to share anything I learned with whoever was interested.

      Some here on WRX have formed the opinion that the only reason I do this is to further the business of my company. But I have been continually writing books/articles and sharing what I learn ever since the late 80s and will continue to do so as long as I can because I just feel there is a real need for the facts in the face of all the misinformation that has been a part of this industry for so long. Thanks again.

      • Cyd

        Feb 19, 2015 at 4:34 pm

        All I can add is:

        Thank you!

      • J.R.

        Feb 20, 2015 at 2:08 am

        @Tom Wishon. When I see a Wishon article on GolfWRX, I always read it, and I always appreciate the info.
        You’ve also helped to clarify and often de-bunk a lot of the info put out my major OEM’s about such things as moveable weights (how much weight will actually affect ball flight), and such things as the adjustable hosels.
        I recall reading an article somewhere about how often major OEM’s mis-lable the lofts on their drivers. I wish I could find that one on GolfWRX. It listed several big companies and the actual lofts versus the stated lofts of their drivers.
        As for criticism that you are writing articles to promote your personal business, please ignore those baseless claims. I’ve never seen you promote or even mention any of your specific models, and your bio at the end of the article simply serves to explain your expertise in the area of golf technology.
        Keep up the good work 🙂

  12. Shallowface

    Feb 18, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    The biggest problem I have is with shafts like the Aldila NV that have a butt diameter listed as .620 or .625, but taper so rapidly that one can end up with a grip that is significantly undersized under the trail hand. Other than trial and error, it’s difficult to know just how much to build up and where to start it. I remember having the same problem with an HM-40 20 plus years ago.

    I don’t think very many realize what havoc even slightly different grip sizes plays with one’s consistency. With it being so common today for one to have a number of different shafts in one’s set, it’s very difficult to get all of those grips exactly the same. But it is worth the effort.

  13. Chuck

    Feb 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Another great no-nonsense Tom Wishon article. Because I am someone who does my own grips, and who fastidiously uses the same grip model (Lamkin Crossline .58 Rib) and even the same rolls of tape (one layer of blue painters tape, then one layer of Golfsmith two-sided masking tape), and the same regripping technique every time, I get exactly what I like.

    It is remarkable to me, how often somebody casually picks up one of my clubs, does a double-take, and says something like, “Hey, that’s really nice; what a good feel that is.” I used to think that it was because I almost always have fresh grips on my clubs. Then I began to think that it is the Rib grips. So few people re-grip with Ribs, because they are so hard to come by. I think a lot of people nowadays — younger players in particular — are more concerned about grip color than grip feel.

  14. Barry S.

    Feb 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Another great article by Mr. Wishon. Something to possibly factor in would be the type of release. I like to add 4 or 5 one inch wraps of masking tape when I regrip to the butt of the shaft to create a wedge.

    I have super lite grip pressure and I sling the club out and away from my left side. The wedge keeps the club from flying out of my hands.

  15. Ian

    Feb 18, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I’ve started measuring the buildup tape first, since measuring the grips can be way tougher. Plus, it saves time from putting on grips, realizing they’re too small, then cutting off grips and redoing the tape.

  16. Donnie

    Feb 18, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Tom, I remember reading a while ago in GD about the effect of an oversize/undersize grip on shot shape tendencies, and how most people aren’t using a properly sized grip. Do you have data or feedback on that?

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      If you are referring to the statement that too big of a grip will cause a slice or push and too small of a grip will cause a hook or a pull, this is something that can happen to some golfers but by no means even close to all. This depends on different variables in the manner the golfer releases the club, the aggressiveness with which they release the club, not to mention how much larger the grip would have to be before it even can have an effect on the release. At the best for those golfers who do experience this change in delivery of the face angle from a different grip size, it is more slight than big time pronounced. In other words if the golfer hooks or slices the ball more than 10-15 yds, a grip size change does not get rid of the hook or slice.

      At the end of the day, it is FAR better to simply find the MOST COMFORTABLE GRIP SIZE that allows the least amount of grip pressure to maintain a secure, non moving hold on the grip during the whole swing. And then if the golfer has a hook/pull or slice/push problem, address that with a proper fitting change in the face angle or the shaft weight or the swingweight or lengths, and make sure the lie angles are all correctly fit in a dynamic lie fitting procedure.

  17. Pingpro1959

    Feb 18, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Tom-Brilliant as usual, a couple of questions…
    1. Most golfers don’t grip the club properly in the left hand, with the club in their fingers. While comfort is a priority do you think that a proper grip trumps feel?

    2. What effect from a scientific basis does grip size affect wrist cock and ability to square the club? Does this change for lower handicap/pro players?

    Keep up the good work!

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Pingpro:
      Among the many things the clubfitter needs to do in the “player interview” as part of the pre fitting analysis, we advise that they need to ask the golfer, “Are you presently taking lessons and if so, what are you working on, and are you seeing changes from the lessons that indicate you will make the swing/grip change that your teacher is working on with you?” The question has to be asked so the clubfitter can know whether he fits the golfer for how he IS or whether he addresses the fitting to focus on how the golfer WILL BE with the swing/grip changes. So for your #1 question, if the golfer is not taking lessons or has no plans to take lessons to make any swing or grip changes, you fit him for grip comfort on the basis of how he grips the club when he comes to you. At the same time, if you notice his grip is less than stellar, this gets into that area that each fitter has to decide for himself as to whether he combines a little teaching with the fitting or not. Some clubfitters who may have decent teaching knowledge may do this. Those clubfitters who do not have any experience or background in teaching should leave that to the teaching pro.

      For #2, this one is all over the map in terms of whether golfers find that grip size changes have an effect on the release. Some do, many to most do not, at least from what I have seen in our work and what I hear from the many clubfitters I correspond with over the years. Typically though, if a golfer finds a new grip size that is much more comfortable than before, the decrease in grip pressure from finding the more comfortable grip does tend to allow them to release the club more freely, with less manipulation and in many cases with more speed too since the arm muscles are less contracted from the excess grip pressure.

      But no, one cannot say that for all or most golfers that they would leave the face open with a larger grip or close it more with a smaller grip. For a few, yes this can happen. For most it doesn’t.

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The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

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