The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Fifty

I will broadly restate here the overall context of this post title sequence that multiple golf clubs or test clubs are sensibly often required in order to competently fit certain golf club specifications.  There is just no legitimate way around this no matter how much one may detest the thought.  A more technical way of stating this is that (at least) two specimens must be readily available with ideally all other club specification values matching exactly (the Twos) with only the one specification being fit being varied among the specimens.  No authoritative decision as to the best value of that golf club specification being fit can otherwise be made.  While the fitting of certain club specifications might be efficiently accomplished using just a single golf club (swingweight is a good example, where lead adhesive tape [with sufficient practice and experience] might be put on and taken off a clubhead in accurate amounts rather quickly for comparative purposes), this cannot be efficiently accomplished with other club specifications.  Fitting golf grip size is one such example, which makes reasonable sense since golf grips traditionally need to dry after being installed and the drying time is typically far too long for being able to make side-by-side swinging comparisons with various golf grip sizes on the same club, comparisons that need to be done in rather quick succession.  (I have already discussed serious pitfalls associated with using compressed air for quickly installing and removing golf grips on a single club for such testing).

This post title sequence has focused principally on golf grip size fitting, but the requisite of having at least two specimens strategically and readily available in order to perform certain clubfitting testing with expected precision does not just apply to grip size fitting and I will elaborate a bit more on that shortly.  Now while it is presumed that technology will continue to improve so as to help make certain clubfitting tasks more efficient (like interchangeable shafts and clubheads that are now rather common), direct trial and error swing testing of one club specification value against another will always be the nucleus of fitting any golf club specification to any golfer’s existent golf swing (with ball travel results separately applied within a comprehensively competent clubfitting process), thus the nucleus detailed here is a universal constant that always has been and always will be critical to apply no matter how much technology improves and makes it more efficient to apply the principles revealed.

But partly because the clubfitting industry as a whole commonly prefers to provide only “one” of every component so that more potential clubfitting combinations can be offered to customers for essentially the same inventory cost (often another one-upmanship type of thing), this industry has convincingly proven through this and other kinds of clubfitting shortcuts that it has failed to learn and is still essentially inept at correctly understanding some of the most basic, elementary clubfitting theories and practices.  Unless any given clubfitting entity is thoroughly examined and properly endorsed by the WaggleWeight® and/or Waggle Weight Wisdom™ names, this industry should generally be avoided until further notice regardless of whether one is a beginner or tour level player.  With golfers as a collective group being less athletically experienced as well as less educated about equipment fitting aspects, unbeknownst to poor golfers the clubfitting industry regularly takes golfers in and spits them out in a manner that both in the short and long run takes more golfers backward rather than forward in their overall progress of trying to play the game better.  The long-standing poor performance record and reputation of the clubfitting industry is certainly hurting the overall golf industry worldwide, and this fact has become more evident as the critical importance of golf club fitting has become publicized more in recent years, with multiple inept clubfitting theories and practices becoming more visible for more people to observe.

In staying with the sole example of grip size fitting for now, the major subject of this post title sequence, the fitting of grip size (in any activity, and golf is not special or exempt in this regard) always has been and always will be one of the most critical equipment fitting specifications there is as the only part of a golf club that is in direct physical contact with a golfer while preparing for and while swinging.  As such, it is one specification that even if only slightly off can literally change the physical golf swing performance efficiency of one’s underlying golf swing that one has presumably worked hard to develop and develop confidence in (unlike something like golf club lie, which can affect ball travel results but generally does not affect the coordination performance of one’s actual golf swing).  At the speeds that golfers can swing golf clubs at (even amateur golfers), the physical efficiency of a golfer’s swing performance changes even with remarkably small changes in golf grip size (even if not readily noticeable due to potential golfer adjustment[s] to any equipment changes).

This is a situation that might (maybe rightly) give an advantage to those having actually participated in a variety of activities besides golf and having more experience regarding how much one’s performance can truly change with very small grip size alterations.  This is particularly true under actual dynamic playing conditions and not static conditions like being handed grip-on-a-stick specimens or measuring physical hand size, through which no clue whatsoever is given regarding any swing changes that might take place between grip sizes, how much change, in what way(s), and so on.  Certain games are often called “games of inches” and there is no embellishment in this statement.  They are referred to in this way because it is true, and golf (for reasons I have already described including that a golf ball is not moving when swinging at it) is a game that can actually be expressed in thousandths of inches when it comes to golf grip size and how one’s golf swing efficiency can be physically affected by such amounts.

Even if previously stated, I reflect here on how the crucial fitting of golf grip size can be extremely deceiving to one who is oblivious to certain clubfitting theories and practices, even one that might already have extensive experience in other activities and/or may be an accomplished golfer.  Reasons for this can include but not be limited to the still quite unique condition of fitting golf clubs where switching between different individual clubs for successive swings is essentially constant, whereas in virtually all other activities the same exact implement is swung repeatedly.  Related to this constant switching between individual clubs is added the very effective but also very unique golf club specification of swingweight that has no other precedents for golf to reference and learn from (at least it is not applied in the same manner within other activities as the manner in which it needs to be applied within golf).  While athletically speaking it does not get much easier than a golf swing, the fitting of golf clubs in particular to a golf swing is indeed more complex than fitting equipment in other activities.

Elaborating, I can start my day with essentially any grip size ranging from a very small diameter (say just a bare shaft) to a diameter that is very large, and if I choose the proper golf club swingweight value for myself I can typically adjust my golf swing a limited amount (which is not even really a conscious effort and which virtually anyone will be able to do given the appropriate circumstances) and still make superbly coordinated swings all day long with either of these grip sizes (as long as I do not directly compare them against each other or against other clubs with different grip sizes on them).  This might give a person with insufficient experience a false sense of security that either grip size is okay from the standpoint of obtaining one’s best golf swing performance and that one can just choose whichever grip size is more comfortable.  However, even though one might be able to adjust one’s golf swing a limited amount and still swing consistently well with a grip size that is not a best fit for one, there will still generally be signs through direct swinging performances and/or ball travel results (which may be subtle depending upon how far off the particular grip size is from one’s ideal) that the grip size is not the best fit it could be.

Now in assuming that neither of the extreme grip sizes noted above is the best fit for me even though there are no “initial” signs of a poor grip size fit and each club is swung well at first (as long as they are kept apart and I have no opportunity to compare them directly against one another within a brief time span), once a golf club with a grip size on it that fits my swing better is swung and then either of the clubs having an extreme grip size is returned to (even if swung superbly literally one minute earlier), those clubs will now be swung horribly with it being more easily seen now how bad these extreme grip sizes are for being able to get the best distance and control I can out of the base golf swing I have.  (As usual, all other club specification values on the various clubs are assumed identical).  Based on this real testing, how would anyone ever be able to come up with a reference base golf swing that can be considered to positively be one’s best base golf swing when any real golf club is being swung?  The answer is that it cannot be reliably accomplished.  If not familiar with some of my earlier work, the earlier series Decoding One’s True Golf Swing DNA defines the one and only consistently dependable reference base golf swing for one to work from that should be utilized in the course of any clubfitting task that fits directly to one’s swing.

Failing to fit for one’s best golf grip size in accordance with the process specified within Waggle Weight Wisdom™, the only process to genuinely fit to one’s true base golf swing, can easily result in choosing a golf grip for one that is at least one grip size off.  And all it takes is being one grip size off for a couple of wayward shots to occur each nine (barely discernible especially because one often appears to be swinging extremely well), perhaps taking one’s golf score from par 72 to 76.  That is devastating for higher-level players but similar effects can also be noted for players of all other ability levels.  In referencing my discussion of colored golf grips in Part Forty-Nine and how this has contributed to fewer grip sizes being available, I reiterate here that there can be at least four distinct grip sizes between “standard” and “midsize” golf grips of the same grip model that can potentially be differentiated between by golfers of all abilities and another four grip sizes between “midsize” and “jumbo or oversize” golf grips of the same grip model.  Yet only standard, midsize, and jumbo sizes are now commonly available (and even then often only in select colors or perhaps just black).  So for one wanting to look his or her prettiest on the golf course, either a sacrifice might have to be made with regard to how well one performs or some added work might have to be carried out utilizing buildup tape under available grip sizes.  That procedure can have its drawbacks as related earlier.

This is certainly a more complex and detailed process for fitting one’s golf grip size than the quicker, cheaper, and extremely faulty and inaccurate mail-order-type grip-on-a-stick or comparable process of merely measuring one’s physical hand size or the even loonier comfort process.  But if briefly overlooking the finer details of the process, the overriding principle is really quite simple, which is that one must swing in order to make legitimate comparisons of the type(s) that has been discussed.  No such comparisons are otherwise possible, clearly evidenced by the fact that the clubfitting industry overall has never been able to learn and/or publicize this extremely rudimentary clubfitting knowledge through the method(s) it has traditionally utilized to determine one best golf grip size.  Adhering to the imperatively fundamental “one must swing” rule will not only help one understand and apply golf grip size fitting (including grip weight) more properly than the clubfitting garbage strewn about in the past with respect to this particular golf club specification, but adhering to this universal rule can also help one understand and apply the fitting of other club specifications more properly, where multiple other clubfitting theories and practices have also been nothing short of butchered by the clubfitting industry to this point.  (Not meant to confuse this particular issue, I record here that there are specific exceptions to the one must swing rule, where certain golf club specifications and specification values that can profoundly affect one’s subsequent golf swing performance actually need to be selected based on one’s “pre-swing” movement and/or positioning.  This will be analyzed more later).

Learning and applying the one must swing rule for determining one’s best golf grip size is hardly rocket science, and for anyone claiming to be a professional golf club fitter this is pretty elementary stuff and some of the most basic fundamentals that need to be learned early and learned well by anyone wishing to call oneself a clubfitter of even very primary ability.  Attempting to attach the term “professional” to the clubfitter title of anyone who does not know this remarkably foundational information well is a total insult to the term and a complete joke.  This is an area where the so-called “independent” clubfitting trade could really make a name for itself, for applying the one must swing rule for determining one’s best golf grip size as one example commands a level of detail and service that most club manufacturer clubfitting programs could perhaps not accomplish with their business models in general.  Well the independent clubfitting trade has certainly made a name for itself through the years, but not in a good way to be sure, instead opting for many of the noted mail-order-type quick and cheap processes even for in-person clubfitting, and then on top of that often implementing ludicrous concepts like MOI (Moment of Insanity) club matching.  Plus there are often one-upmanship battles with other independent clubfitting entities or organizations regarding who can come up with the highest possible number of critical golf club specifications to fit to golfers that as a whole (and I include clubfitters as a whole here also) are already overcome by and cannot even comprehend the very basics correctly first.  This is instead of a sorely-needed focus on solid clubfitting fundamentals with consistently more detail and higher quality than that of other similar entities.

Based largely but hardly entirely on the information disclosed regarding competent golf grip size fitting, there are sadly (more sad for those more inexperienced) few if any truly qualified clubfitters to turn to at this point.  Without attempting to estimate percentages, the vast majority of clubfitters (including golfers fitting themselves) continue to use the totally inept grip-on-a-stick or comparable method of determining one or more physical measurements of one’s top gripping hand size as the sole factor in determining one’s golf grip size.  This is not surprising as it easily remains the method most recommended from certain so-called clubfitting educators that are highly overrated to the grip manufacturers themselves.  It is debatable as to who is leading and following in this particular matter of clubfitting incompetence.

Then there is a smaller but still influential faction that also contributes considerably to the current poor state of the clubfitting industry that fits golf grip size base purely on comfort, which can have one or more subcategories like the amount of one’s grip pressure (smaller grip sizes generally associated with more grip pressure and vise versa).  For reference if not stated earlier, one’s grip pressure is primarily a matter of talent.  I do not really detect any notable difference in my grip pressure on a conscious level for either of the extreme grip sizes described above under normal circumstances (though there may be a detectable amount if I were to really concentrate on that element alone).  But even if grip pressure is deemed a relevant factor, it is only a contributing factor in that one’s best grip size should still fundamentally be chosen based on the best overall coordination quality of one’s golf swing regardless of one’s grip pressure or comfort affected by grip pressure.  To that end, one’s grip pressure might contribute to the selection of one’s grip size.  But neither overall comfort nor just grip pressure should get in the way of choosing one’s best grip size based on how well one performs one’s swing relative to one’s true reference base swing.

This is not about fitting grip size to one or more physical measurements of one’s hand(s) or to how comfortable a grip feels to one, regardless of whether under non-swinging or swinging conditions.  For anyone using the physical dimension(s) of one’s hand(s) as the sole consideration for fitting one’s “best” golf grip size, then one should also feasibly take one’s body weight, multiply that by a factor of one’s height, then divide that product by a factor of one’s waist circumference or utilize some other comparable “scientific” formula, to come up with a number that is then to be referenced against a corresponding chart, the chart information to be used as the sole determinant for selecting one’s “best” shaft flex.  While this prospect generally appears to be utterly stupid when examined in this manner, it does not appear to be utterly stupid to anyone fitting grip size in a comparable manner.

Now if comfort is one’s top priority to an extent of not wanting to hold on to a golf grip more firmly even if doing so results in a better overall quality of golf swing performance as one example, then one should attend a comfort session rather than a clubfitting session (but as I previously stated, for those with legitimate physical issues like but certainly not limited to arthritis or back pain, this is another matter altogether).  This is about choosing the grip size with which one makes one’s best swinging motion relative to one’s true base golf swing in order to achieve one’s best swing speed and control.  Further remember my disclosure that any proven fundamental might be notably uncomfortable to enact for one until becoming accustomed to it, making it harder still to justify certain comfort concepts.  Virtually the entire golf industry continues to operate under these methods of fitting golf grip size that have no basis whatsoever for fitting one of the most basic and critical golf club specifications there is to the way one actually makes one’s golf swing.  Little regard is usually paid to the only a starting point jargon (and rightly so) because it is essentially an empty statement more often declared for the purpose of trying to cover up a previous giving of inferior advice and a statement which itself contains zero advice on how to best proceed next.

It is an industry that has never fundamentally known before being disclosed here that if one’s swingweight value is raised by only a single point (with all else being equal), then one’s best golf grip size will need to become slightly smaller in order to sustain the same level of golf swing performance.  It is an industry that has never fundamentally known before being disclosed in Waggle Weight Wisdom™ that going to a lighter golf shaft in a golf club and thus reducing the club’s total weight (again with all else being equal) will require a progressively larger golf grip size for one to maintain the same level of swing performance quality.  Yes, this will partially negate the advantage of lighter golf shafts, but in applying such a capable clubfitting process there is no limit to how low the weight of a golf shaft can go even for the strongest players while superb golf swing performance is maintained (provided that other shaft performance characteristics can be implemented satisfactorily), still a formidable advancement.

To be frank, if clubs having lighter and heavier shafts and otherwise comparable overall characteristics were both fit superbly directly to any given golfer’s true base golf swing performance, there would not be much difference in the performance between the two clubs (this is not to say that there would be absolutely no difference at all).  If there is, then one or both of the clubs was not likely fit to the golfer’s base reference golf swing performance as well as could be.  Either one has the skill to get the most out of a golfer’s base reference swing through clubfitting with available golf club components or one does not.  Opposingly, when choosing one’s grip size by the totally incompetent grip-on-a-stick method or its equivalent like a measuring chart for hand size and that grip size is maintained no matter what weight golf shaft is used, there is commonly a limit to how low a golf shaft’s weight (and consequently a club’s total weight) can go before one starts swinging determinedly poorer.

Given that a golfer’s base reference golf swing is and always should be performed with no golf club in hand and that superb and superbly consistent swings can be performed under such circumstances with absolutely zero weight within one’s hands, this is clear scientific evidence that the latter clubfitting scenario described directly above is faulty clubfitting, with clubfitting theory and practice that is poorly comprehended and applied and thus preventing an accurate presentation of one’s golf swing performance capability.  This kind of flawed clubfitting can especially show up when changing between clubs in a set that have different weight shafts in them (for instance switching from a driver with a lightweight shaft to an iron with a standard weight shaft or vise versa).  Such conditions are not traditionally considered for evaluation when just fitting a driver for example, thus no other clubs are tested side by side with that driver in the course of fitting that driver (another extremely useful clubfitting “tool” that the clubfitting industry would commonly implement and learn from if this industry were capable enough.  This is another situation where one’s golf swing will commonly be considered flawed due to any inconsistencies in one’s swinging among two different golf clubs like that just described, when in fact it is the clubfitting process that is flawed if the proper grip sizes were not chosen correctly individually for the clubs having the lightweight and standard weight shafts in them.