The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Eighteen

Another way of trying to beneficially predict any given golf club’s final swingweight value before the club is actually gripped, and arguably the best way to attempt such a thing when reasonably possible, is to sacrifice a grip to be used as a “reference model.”  But this specific procedure is different from what I previously wrote of when discussing sacrificing a golf grip.  I say “when reasonably possible” because it may not be possible or practical to apply the following procedure under certain circumstances.  For instance, the following method cannot really be efficiently performed with a wrap-on-style golf grip.  And even for slip-on grips, it may be difficult to apply the following method with certain golf grip materials and/or constructions.  For example, if really liking leather as a golf grip material but if wanting to avoid the tediousness of wrapping it on a golf club as I previously discussed (although wrapping would commonly result in a higher quality of installation), at any given time there may be one or more pre-formed, slip-on leather golf grip models available for installation.  Such models might comprise similar elements of leather grips that I previously considered, with a rubber-type underlisting and a leather strip already wrapped around it and secured by the grip manufacturer.

But the next process requires that a reference grip be carefully slit open along its entire length.  As such (above and beyond that it is generally harder to cut through leather than rubber), no matter how well the leather is bonded to the underlisting and adding that the grip will thereafter be repeatedly opened and closed for testing purposes on clubs, such a reference grip might begin to fall apart and become useless before it is even used for the first time from both accuracy and convenience standpoints.  (As referred to above, this assumes the use of a spiral-wrapped leather strip used in the construction of the grip and not an “uninterrupted” leather design along the length of the grip, generally known as a “panel” style grip).  But even in moving away from leather grips, one may also find other materials and/or constructions used in making certain golf grip models that just may not be conducive to using the following process of golf club final swingweight prediction in an effective manner, and the previous procedure discussed or some other devised method might have to be utilized instead.

Before analyzing selected pros and cons of two specific methods discussed, I will first define each of these methods a bit more succinctly and then describe the second of these methods in a little more detail.  Because I have used the term so many times already in describing the first of these methods, I will label this method the “strategic” swingweight prediction method.  The major elements of this method are that an ungripped golf club and usable golf grip (often the same grip ultimately used to grip the ungripped club) are simultaneously placed on a swingweight scale, with the grip placed at a strategic location that does not seemingly coincide with its final gripped position on the golf club.  (This strategic location on the scale [if one is even specified] might be predetermined based on certain predetermined golf grip characteristics but can necessitate changing [usually of unknown direction and/or amount without further research and/or testing] for any given golf grip model).  Yet when the strategic grip location is correct, a reasonably accurate swingweight reading can be predicted of what the club’s final swingweight reading will be when the grip is actually installed.

The strategic method of swingweight prediction is commonly applied in an “absolute” form, where the same exact final swingweight reading is sought and worked for without regard to or a requirement for learning where a specific grip of a particular grip model is relative to the overall (weight) tolerance range of the model.  However, this approach may be altered to a “median” rather than an “absolute” form with the proper knowledge and suitable adjustment(s), of which you should understand better as I continue.  No golf grips need to be sacrificed and made unusable in the usual implementing of the strategic method.

The method that is about to be described more shall be known as the “model” method. The major points of this method include that a reusable reference grip is formed in such a way that the grip is rendered unusable for normal gripping purposes.  (One reference grip is required for each particular golf grip model used to grip a club[s]).  A strategic location to place the reference grip on a swingweight scale is not needed to obtain a reasonably accurate golf club final swingweight value prediction, as any reference golf grip is always temporarily installed on any hitherto ungripped golf club in essentially the same manner as when really gripped (thus mimicking actually gripped results fairly accurately).  The model swingweight prediction method is commonly a method of “median” operation, meaning the specifications of the particular grip model and reference grip are carefully researched and selected to attempt to produce a swingweight value right in the middle of a swingweight range that would exist when installing grips residing at the far ends of the chosen grip model’s tolerance range on a golf club and analyzing the swingweight results (referring principally to the grip’s designated weight tolerance range).

After being set to a desired swingweight value using the reference grip, each tested club is gripped for real using a grip of the same model and the final swingweight is left as is.  Because a “non-reference” grip will regularly vary from its ideal specifications, so too will a club’s final swingweight regularly vary from its median value.  Now the model method of swingweight prediction can ultimately be operated in an “absolute” fashion (like the common usage of the strategic method) rather than a “median” fashion if desired by altering the method some from what is described here.  The exact alteration(s) needed could vary and would depend on factors like whether a clubhead has an adjustable weight port in it to work with.  I caution you, however, to not start contemplating this potential option too seriously before reading further about certain advantages and disadvantages of each method, as you might be quite surprised about what you learn.

Now having defined these two swingweight prediction methods side by side so that more direct comparisons might be made between them, I shall now describe how to develop a reference golf grip for use with the model method.  This practice involves taking a chosen golf grip and slitting it lengthwise along its entire length at a chosen location around the grip’s circumference, basically cutting through one side of the grip but not the other.  The grip can then be momentarily spread open over its entire length (it will usually spring back nicely), installed on a heretofore ungripped golf club in fundamentally the same manner as if it were installed for real, the assembled test specimen can be placed in a swingweight scale, and a pretty close swingweight value can usually be acquired as to what the club’s final swingweight value will be after installing one of the same model golf grips for real.  Although a somewhat disconnected statement to be making here but something that does comes to mind when discussing taking readings from a swingweight scale (particularly a sliding-weight mechanical scale), it might be initially confusing to know which side of the sliding weight to take a swingweight reading from.  I have been there.  A close inspection should reveal an arrow or other mark of some sort to indicate exactly where the reading should be taken from.  But such markings can often be rather inconspicuous.

I generally prefer to slit a reference grip in as straight a line as possible along the front centerline of the golf grip (though there might be one or more valid reasons to choose a location other than the front under certain circumstances).  I repeat here that the exact same golf grip model should be utilized for a reference grip as that with which the golf club(s) will actually be gripped, with a different reference grip created for each model of golf grip that is intended to be used for real gripping.  One reason I prefer the top center is that clubs generally sit in a swingweight scale with their clubheads resting downward.  In other words it is actually the back portions of golf grips that commonly face upward when working with clubs in the scale.  So if the reference grip is slit along the back, then that area (up around the grip cap) may engage the club-holding mechanism of the scale meant to help hold clubs securely in the scale for measuring.

That situation can potentially cause problems including but not limited to inaccuracies and inconveniences depending on ingredients like the exact design of the club-holding mechanism itself and how the specific reference grip fits on the specific golf club/shaft.  Also, when working with the slit facing upward, a situation can be created whereby the grip might inadvertently be moved or started to be pushed back off the shaft with one’s hand when simply handling a club in a normal manner while using the scale.  This is not a condition one wants to invite.  This presumes that all golf grips will be installed in an “ordinary” manner relative to the originally intended designs of the grips (and not upside down as some people prefer for one or more reasons), including all reference golf grips.

Another reason to avoid splitting a reference golf grip along its backside in particular is because many slip-on golf grip models have a “rib” molded into them along the back of the grips.  This rib generally comprises material that is thicker along the ribbed portion (which usually extends a considerable segment of the length of the grip) than the rest of the circumference of the grip.  This makes it harder to slit the grip along that area and potentially harder to effect a straight-line cut due to the design and construction of many ribbed grips.  (Ribbed golf grip design is another topic I plan to thoroughly address later.  Without getting too far ahead, I will simply note here that there appears to have been a reduction in the use of ribbed grips in recent times compared with the past, much of this reduction being ill-advised.  This is in large part due to the fact that most people currently do not correctly understand the true functioning and reasoning behind ribbed golf grips any more than they correctly understand the true roots of basic golf club concepts like swingweighting and golf club face angle.  [As with other statements I have made, I am alluding here to understanding pure golf swing performance that has nothing whatsoever to do with golf ball flight characteristics].  I anticipate that the use of ribbed golf grips will rebound and increase considerably after I dissect this specific subject in more detail down the road).

I see only disadvantages in trying to split a reference golf grip along one of its sides, as for one thing on many grip models it can be difficult to accurately and consistently assess where the side of the grip is all the way up and down the grip.  Starting a side cut at an accurate location down at the bottom of the grip but ending up more toward the front or back of the grip by the time one gets to the top when slitting the grip by just simple visual reference and without taking any more detailed steps is a fairly common event.  However, most golf grips (even round versions without a rib) do have alignment marks along the front of the grip for reference at least at the top and bottom (though this is not true in every case).  This can help making a straight cut easier.  I will add here that making as straight a cut as possible on a reference golf grip will help toward getting the grip on and off clubs more efficiently than if the cut were not straight, plus making the cut along the front of the grip will help in quickly aligning the reference grip to the clubface pretty accurately when putting on the grip.  In certain cases, again depending upon the exact design of the grip model, it is possible that different grip alignments could yield different swingweight results, even if minor.  So these are details that should not be overlooked.

With respect to how far up the reference grip to make the slit, there can be exceptions and/or adjustments made to this feature depending upon the particular circumstance(s).  There can be many variables involved including but not limited to the reference grip size and/or material(s) and the shaft size(s) that the reference grip will be utilized on (if even known beforehand) for swingweight prediction purposes.  But I would recommend using the following procedure whenever possible.  Starting at the very bottom front of the grip, carefully cut completely through the front grip material to the hollow inside core of the grip and continue up the entire grip as straight as possible.  When reaching the grip cap, carefully continue slicing through the front half of the grip cap to the grip cap hole, and then continue through the back half of the grip cap a little at a time until the back inside of the grip body is just reached and then stop.  You should be able to open the grip fairly freely along its entire length and inspect the inside thoroughly if you wish.  You might be surprised at what you could find in there sometimes.

In the past I used to cut “nearly” all the way up the grip but stopped just a little short of cutting into the grip cap itself.  My main reason for doing that was that I felt (and experienced) that the grip cap was prone to deforming when cut all the way through and put on a club, with half of the grip cap often visibly sticking out a little further than the other half and potentially resulting in inaccurate and/or inconsistent swingweight readings.  This potentially slight deforming can still take place if not careful and conscientious about it, but it has still become preferable to me over the drawbacks of leaving the leaving the grip cap completely intact.  First, lacking the temporary slippery condition created when installing golf grips for real, reference golf grip and shaft combinations are commonly very tight, preventing the reference grip from easily installing on the shaft completely even if the grip is slit virtually all the way to the grip cap.  It was a routine occurrence to have to turn the club upside down and bang the grip cap on a hard surface to get it completely on.  And even then I was often not confident of the result.  I would often see grip caps deformed under that condition also, indicating that the grip was not on correctly and/or completely.

While I am not familiar with grip manufacturing methods, I do know that many grips have a seam on the inside that is close to (but not quite all the way up to) the grip cap inside surface.  With a tight fit a shaft butt can stop at this seam, short of where the grip cap end inside the grip really is (an artificial increase in club total length resulting in an inaccurately higher swingweight reading).  (Even when installing grips for real I have had shaft butts stop at this seam and not make it all the way to the grip cap inside end).  I was often not absolutely sure when this might have occurred because I could never physically see where the shaft butt ended inside the reference grip.

So often not being sure of that result, I often pounded on the grip cap still more, noticing afterward on occasion (particularly when dealing with thin-walled, sharper steel shafts) that I actually started to cut through the grip cap with the shaft, causing damage to my reference grip and slightly shortening the effective length of the club and again producing inaccurate results.  And it naturally followed that I then often had a harder time removing the reference grip than should be expected.  But virtually all of these problems are solved by following the recommended procedure.  It is a great improvement over the way I used to do it myself for a very long time.  Reference grips are now able to be put all the way on clubs/shafts securely by hand with relative ease, where exactly the shafts end inside the reference grips can be visibly seen and investigated if need be (an extremely critical aspect), and it generally provides the best overall way to obtain the needed information.