Over my lifetime in golf and over 40 years in the golf equipment industry, I have been amazed at how little attention most golfers give to their only connection to the golf club – their grips.
When I was a kid, leather grips were still pretty common, but rubber grips had begun to take over. We frequently cleaned our leather grips with warm water and household cleaner like Comet or Ajax, using a soft brush to clean them thoroughly. When you dried them off, they were amazingly tacky.
Those early rubber grips would get slick and hard and crack all apart after a season or two, so we replaced them often. But until they did just give out, we cleaned them regularly just as we did the leather ones. Run warm water on them . . . sprinkle on some Comet or Ajax and scrub away with a bristle brush. Dry them with a towel, let them finish air drying and they were like new.
As rubber grip technology has developed, grips last much longer, but still collect a lot of dirt and grime from your hands during the course of play. Of course, this happens slowly so you don’t notice, but what typically happens is this dirt and grime will cause you to begin gripping the club tighter and tighter, which is a killer to a fluid and powerful golf swing.
One good rule of thumb I’ve always followed is to give your grips a good cleaning every time you wear out a glove. Kind of like changing the batteries in your smoke alarms when you change your clocks back and forward twice a year.
And when you are doing that regular cleaning, pay attention to any wear pattern on your grips. The most common wear point I see on grips is right under the upper hand thumb (left hand for right-hand golfers). If the club is going to slip in the hands, this is where your grip will tip you off that it’s happening.
The other “grip mistake” I see in so many golfer’s bags is a mish-mash of grip styles and sizes from their driver to their highest loft wedge. That’s because we buy our clubs in “sub-sets”, rather than all at once, and the typical bag represents several brands and ages of clubs. I’m a huge believer that you should find a grip style and size you like and put that grip on all your “swing clubs” (not your putter). That is the only way to get a consistent hold on the club through the bag.
One trend I’ve seen as a golf club designer, builder and custom fitter is a movement to larger and larger grips. In our custom wedge business (www.EdisonWedges.com), I think we see an excess of orders specifying mid-size or even jumbo grips. My observation is that there are very few golfers whose hands are actually that large, but a majority of mid- to high-handicap players hold the club too much in the palms of their hands, rather than in their fingers, so a standard size grip feels small to them. But by fitting their clubs with oversized grips, they are effectively preventing themselves from ever learning a proper hold on the club.
And speaking of proper grip size, it has always baffled me how “ladies” clubs are always fitted with undersized grips. In my observation, most ladies have narrower hands than men, but their fingers are typically longer, so an undersized grip just does not fit them. The proper grip size is directly related to the length of your fingers, not the overall size of your hands.
So, that about does it for a high-level overview of the only part of the club with which you have a direct connection. Give your grips more love and attention and they’ll return the favor by making better golf easier to achieve.
Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.