Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Grip choice and Grip Sizing.

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.
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.

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