Effects of Grip Features

The most important thing -- indeed, the only important thing -- about the grip is that it provide a secure handle for the golfer to control the club with relatively little hand effort. Indeed, since clubhead speed is generated by inertial forces and not by extreme hand effort, it is important that the hands and forearms not be tense; they should just allow the hands to be a hinge for the butt of the club.

Consider the situation around impact. The club is trying to pull itself out of the golfer's hands with a force that could be as much as 100 pounds. At the same time, the club is (a) moving the clubhead to the ball, involving an angular velocity of perhaps 2000 degrees per second and (b) rotating about the shaft axis to close the clubface, at an angular velocity of in excess of 2000 degrees per second. So the hands must hang onto the club with a 100-pound grip, while they stay relaxed enough to allow the club to rotate really really fast in two axes.

For this to happen, the grip must be well-designed, well-fit, and in good condition.

Next we'll talk about the fit and design, but let's not forget about maintenance. Keep the grip clean and free of  skin oils. Its surface should be tacky, not smooth and slippery. Some people like the grip soft and some firm, but it shouldn't be rock hard. If the grip gets hard and cracked, it should be replaced. And if it is smooth and slippery and cleaning doesn't restore the tack, replace it. Regripping clubs is not hard at all; grips are not super-expensive, and the right grip, clean and well fit, is practially essential to good golf.

It's worth mentioning here the rule of thumb for determining whether a grip is the right size for you. (The description appeared, with pictures, in the GolfWorks catalog in the 1990s. I don't have that any more, but this picture from Dan Bubany Golf is essentially the same method.)

Take your normal grip, then remove your right hand (assuming a righty golfer). Now look at the left hand, which is still gripping the club. If the fingertips of your two middle fingers just touch your palm, the grip is the right size. If they dig into the palm it's too small, and if they miss by more than 1/8" it's too big.

There are other grip fitting methods described on the internet, some involving charts based on hand measurements or glove size.

So why would you opt for a larger or smaller grip than one of these methods recommends?

  • A larger grip may inhibit the "release" of the hands through the ball; a smaller grip may facilitate this release. For this reason, a too-large grip might cause a slice, and a too-small grip a hook. But have a pro look at your swing before you decide this is the problem; it may be something else, and trying to fix it by tweaking the grip diameter could make matters worse. On top of that, grip sizing is very much a matter of feel; for some, a larger grip may allow the hand to relax more, promoting good release and perhaps even fixing a slice.
  • Since the large grip inhibits release, it may be inhibiting your power as well as the ability to bring the clubface square to the ball.
  • Since the large grip inhibits release, it may be just the thing to calm down your putting stroke if it's too "handsy". (This was written nearly two decades ago, long before the Super-Stroke putter grip came on the scene.)
  • The large grip may be easier to hold for someone with arthritic hands.

Grip diameter is something that can be "adjusted"; specifically, it can be made a little larger. It can even be made larger locally, e.g.- just under the right hand. The process is not new; clubfitters have been doing it the same way since long before I started making golf clubs in the late 1980s.

You make a spiral wrap of masking tape on the shaft before you slip on the grip. The masking tape adds about .01" to the diameter of the shaft, which adds that same amount to the diameter of the grip. If you want to add 1/32" to the grip diameter, that will take three wraps of standard masking tape. There are duct tapes that can be used, which have twice the thickness -- and therefore require half the number of wraps to build up the diameter. But I never see this used in practice; masking tape is the universal grip expander.

If you are thinking about increasing the diameter 1/16" or more, it is probably better to go to the next size of grip.


Except for the putter grip (which we'll cover in the "special cases" section on putters), the grip has to be round. So cross-section is not a shape we're allowed to play with. Moreover, any taper has to be in one direction only; the grip is not allowed a pinched waist. So the choices are tapered, straight, and reverse taper.

  • Tapered: this is the usual shape, with the butt wider than the throat of the grip. The main reason it is so popular is that it makes it easier for the hands to keep the club from flying away under the 100-pound pull. That means the hands can relax more and still resist the major force they face during the swing. That's all good -- unless you have an unusual swing or some specific issue.
  • Straight: Some golfers like them. Here are a few of the reasons they claim to prefer non-tapered grips:
    • Tames an over-active right hand.
    • It's a compromise in diameter between regular and mid-size grips.
    • They like to grip down on the club (especially wedges) and this doesn't change the diameter their hands feel.
  • Reverse Taper: I know a few golfers with a hopelessly "handsy" swing; they depend on wrist torque applied by the hands to release the club. The result is often a banana slice. Most of these guys are older, have been using this swing all their lives, and are not going to change at this point -- so the only choice is to build the club to compensate. (I said "don't do this" earlier, but there are exceptions and this is one of them.) In most of these cases the release action is coming from the right (trailing) hand. Sometimes a reverse grip, which is fatter under the trail hand, allows that right-hand hit to close the clubface and mitigate the slice. Not always, but often enough that it is worth a try.

Once upon a time, everyone used wrapped leather grips. When the modern slip-on grip (a composite of rubber and cork) was introduced, it quickly took over all but the very-low-handicap market. But the pros and their imitators stayed with leather for a while because it seemed to give a more intimate (i.e.- less resilient) contact with the shaft.

Today, even the pro-line clubs seem to be gripped with slip-ons. While wrap-on leather grips may still exist somewhere, they are hard to find and even harder to install.

There are many grip patterns to choose from (pick what looks and feels good to you), but really only a few material choices:

  1. Do you want firm or soft grips. When Winn came out with their grip line, they were the only ones on the market selling a grip other than very firm. Today (2017) you can get grips that are:
    • Firm, like the old Victory grip. Most offerings are in this category, more or less.
    • Soft, like the Winn grips. Today every major grip company has a model like this.
    • Resilient, like the Star or Pure grips. These are in between firm and soft in feel. They are my favorites. My midsize Star Grips wear much better than any other grip I have ever used; they retain their tack and soft feel for years, needing only a good cleaning.
  2. Do you want cord embedded in your composite grip? The pluses and minuses of the cord grip:
+ Holds with less slip, especially with wet or sweaty hands (in case you play a lot in hot humidity or rain).
+ Lasts longer.
- But your gloves (or hands) will wear out sooner; the improved gripping power comes from increased friction, which means faster abrasion of the surface it plays against.

Last modified May 15, 2017