The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Forty-Five

Here I continue to supplement the base of information put down to this point that will markedly change for the better the way golf equipment (and feasibly certain aspects of equipment in other activities) is fit to golfers.  There are select elements of both a golf swing and equipment fitting to that swing that need to be addressed to make sure that certain crucial consistencies between these two aspects of golfing are present.

The primary feature(s) of why one’s best golf grip size is what it is at any given point in one’s golf swing development will be discussed in a different post(s) that is yet to come.  While that is extremely important to know, this post sequence deals principally with how or the clubfitting “structure” of how to determine one’s best golf grip size (without really needing to know why one’s best golf grip size is what it is).  Without understanding and applying this clubfitting structure properly, one will not be able to choose one’s best grip size no matter how well one might understand the feature(s) that is most responsible for determining what one’s best golf grip size is.  So I will explore this clubfitting structure a bit more.  I have already thoroughly discussed how attempting to choose one’s best grip size based upon determining one or more physical dimensions of one’s hand(s) (usually one’s top gripping hand) is about as valueless with respect to the way one actually swings a golf club as attempting to choose one’s shaft flex based upon one’s static body weight.  I do not really think I need to go there again here.

The grip-on-a-stick method has been the “foundational structure” for golf grip size fitting since essentially the commercial inception of the clubfitting trade around forty years ago, and perhaps the old saying that life begins at forty will apply to this trade and hopefully it will become more mature and competent soon.  I temporarily use the term foundational structure here because more than one method of fitting golf grip size has actually been derived from this foundational structure (or sub-methods of the broader grip-on-a-stick method if one prefers, though beyond this paragraph I will just refer to them as methods).  One of these sub-methods is the hand sizing method that I have primarily been discussing to this point.  But a not-quite-as-prominent yet still widely-known second sub-method for fitting one’s golf grip size came along at some point and also continues to be widely used today.  This sub-method is that of fitting one’s golf grip size based upon one’s comfort of the grip size rather than one’s physical hand size.

Primarily performed without one even swinging a golf club again, fitting one’s golf grip size by comfort is even a worse method than fitting one’s grip size via one’s physical hand dimension(s) (even if one actually swings in the course of making a determination of the comfort of one’s grip size).  I have previously remarked that the general word “feel” in golf is often little more than an excuse word for many clubfitters and extensively abused when any given golf club specification value turns out differently than when a so-called scientific method is used to determine the specification’s value and it cannot be credibly explained why that happened.  Well the word “comfort” as it is often used in clubfitting takes on a very similar role of an excuse word that helps clubfitters try to explain away something when the final selected value of a given club specification does not agree with the so-called scientific method used to determine the specification’s value.

There is no better and simpler example of this than when the grip-on-a-stick hand sizing method is first utilized and determines that a standard size golf grip should be used for a golfer, but then a markedly different, jumbo size golf grip for instance ends up working best for the golfer.  The clubfitter and/or golfer will frequently rationalize that the jumbo grip size is simply more comfortable to the golfer, thereby producing better results.  This scenario is basically how the structure of the grip-on-a-stick comfort grip fitting method evolved, from the extensive number of situations where the grip-on-a-stick hand sizing method has produced results that are so far off from what is best for so many golfers that some reasoning needed to be found to explain such situations.  This reasoning has come to be comfort, with many clubfitters substituting this for the grip-on-a-stick hand sizing method.  But the grip-on-a-stick comfort method is even more ridiculous as a substitute for the grip-on-a-stick hand sizing method than the grip-on-a-stick hand sizing method is itself with respect to best determining one’s grip size.  Comfort is a much more subjective term that can be much more easily abused and gotten away with when something cannot be more objectively explained.

Additional terms that can pertain to clubfitting and merit more specific analysis here are that “comfortable” and “natural” can at times be synonymous and at other times be quite different in their meanings depending on the contexts in which they are used, and these uses must be discernibly distinguished from each other.  Natural is generally more of an objective term that signifies doing something in a manner through instinct or habit by what has been learned up to the point of when that something is done.  Comfortable is generally more of a subjective “feel” term that signifies whether or not one is physically and/or emotionally content with one’s circumstances.  Both terms can clearly apply at the same time in performing any given activity, such as when one grabs hold of a golf club in a natural manner and is also comfortable with the way one is holding onto the club’s grip.

However, each of these terms can have time elements associated with them that, if out of sync so to speak, can represent completely different meanings to one at any given point in time.  As examples, one can place one’s hands on the steering wheel of any given car in acceptable positions in a natural manner when attempting to drive that particular car for the first time or place one’s feet on the pedals of any given bicycle in acceptable positions in a natural manner when attempting to ride that bicycle for the first time.  Yet because of varying car steering wheel and bicycle pedal designs one might be physically and/or psychologically uncomfortable for a time until uncounted repetitions are performed in conjunction with the respective devices.  I will shortly narrate two different procedures to grip (take hold of) a golf club.  One of the procedures is very natural, yet a procedure in which my hand positioning on the grip can end up to be quite uncomfortable.  But from that uncomfortable hand positioning I might perform a far better golf swing than if my hand positioning were more comfortable.

Just like there is no exclusive connection between direct golf swing performance and ball travel results, there is also no exclusive connection between how comfortable one’s grip size feels and the quality of golf swing one makes.  One can make a superbly coordinated and efficient golf swing while feeling very uncomfortable with the grip size in hand and a horrible golf swing with an extremely comfortable grip size in hand.  Here too these are not rare but very frequent occurrences.  In more recent times, in an apparent effort to try to gain more business, the clubfitting industry as a whole has vigorously urged clubfitting for even the most novice golfers.  (I have already addressed this particular issue some and I will very likely address it again but not at this particular point).  While fitting one’s grip size by the comfort method is under normal circumstances not recommended for a golfer of any skill level, it is an especially poor clubfitting approach for lesser skilled golfers.  In such cases where one is not used to taking hold of a golf club with the regularity that more practiced players do, virtually any grip size that is put into one’s hands is going to feel uncomfortable to some degree.  Remember that I was a beginner myself once (and pretty much an adult already), and the only reference I had then with respect to golf grip size comfort was what I had become accustomed to in the way of equipment I held onto in other activities.  But the shape and size of a golf grip in general were so different than anything I had previously experienced that no golf grip size felt comfortable, basically inducing just a shrug of my shoulders at the thought of golf grip size comfort.

The competency of any given clubfitting theory and/or practice might sometimes be best analyzed from the point of view of a beginner and sometimes from the point of view of a very experienced golfer, but in the end solid fundamental clubfitting is solid fundamental clubfitting for everyone, with no required changes in basic clubfitting protocol regardless of whether one plays at a beginning or professional level.  In this case referencing golfers that are less experienced (inept clubfitting practices can often be harder to diagnose when more experienced players are involved partly because such players can often adjust better to certain ill-fitting golf club specifications) helps to better show how inefficient and even harmful the comfort method of fitting grip size can be toward helping golfers make their best possible golf swings at the time of the fitting.  (The comfort method is analyzed here from the sole perspective of grip size fitting, but it is a very broad clubfitting method that can be analyzed for merit independently for any golf club specification, with conclusions that could potentially vary for each specification).

Satirically when contemplating fitting one’s golf grip size based upon comfort, there is at least a vague implication of a culture of one riding in a motorized golf cart wanting and expecting to be so comfortable that one is not even required to make any effort to actually swing a golf club when golfing and that the club should essentially swing itself.  (As I have previously recorded, I am not making fun of legitimate conditions that many people experience, more so as they age, yet they want to keep playing golf.  That is a genuinely admirable quality and under such circumstances one’s comfort may indeed need to be a higher priority than one’s golfing performance).  While other sectors of the golf industry can be even worse offenders at representing golf as being this “leisurely,” the clubfitting trade has certainly done its part to promote such a culture.  Now absolutely there have always been, continue to be, and presumably always will be a large number of people involved in and drawn to the game that are essentially complete opposites of this, but like I have also previously noted there are generally more people involved in golf that do fit such a comfort profile than are involved in most other activities.  Various aspects of the game contribute to creating this image not limited to the relatively large financial expense required to play the game and the fact that athletically speaking a golf swing is about as easy as it gets and can generally be performed quite well even by one who has otherwise never been that physically active.

Now for a capable individual, comfort (especially initial comfort) should normally never be a factor such that it overrides the best performance of one’s golf swing.  And utilizing the highly subjective comfort excuse or ploy (particularly in its most generalized form without any further explicit defining of what it refers to) to explain away something that cannot otherwise be rationally explained is certainly not a clubfitting doctrine that will promote the consistent achieving of one’s best golfing performance.  Here again, no entity properly associated with the WaggleWeight® or Waggle Weight Wisdom™ name would ever under normal circumstances foundationally implement such an unsound clubfitting concept like the comfort method.  (While not the express intent of this post title sequence, many of the disclosures made to this point are forming a badly needed new and superior clubfitting doctrine over that adhered to in the past, which will ultimately help better the clubfitting industry from its current overall poor level of success and reputation into an industry that is more successful and respected.

In the end, if one wants to be comfortable, then by all means choose one’s golf grip size based on comfort.  Just do not expect and depend on that comfort to equate to better golf performance.  As one becomes more comfortable with one’s golf grip size, one’s golfing performance could technically get worse.  But if one wants to achieve one’s best golfing performance, then one’s grip size should be chosen based upon the direct performance of one’s golf swing (or secondary ball travel results if that is all one is capable of) and not comfort, period (unless something like a medical condition dictates otherwise).  One will commonly get comfortable with the feeling of the grip rather quickly, especially as one sees one’s improved golfing performance.  In the same way that one should steadfastly avoid clubfitters utilizing and/or clubfitting instructors recommending fitting one’s golf grip size using one’s physical hand size due to the very superficial nature of the method (even if claimed it is only a starting point), the same applies (and even more so) to those utilizing and/or recommending grip size fitting based on one’s comfort, however comfort is defined for one in the course of making such a decision.  As long as golfers continue to give business to and/or support those that utilize and/or recommend such inept clubfitting theories and practices, there will naturally be less motivation for the clubfitting industry to address its very serious problem(s) that have caused it to be the worst in all of sports.  Searching out the above trademarked names is one way to help remedy this situation.

Moving on to other related details and having disclosed that one’s best golf grip size will need to get larger as the shaft weight one uses gets lighter (and thus the total club weight gets lighter when all else remains equal), perhaps one may wonder whether there is at least a general reference regarding how much of a grip size increase should accompany a given amount of shaft weight decrease.  As an example, when decreasing my test club(s) swingweight value by one point it has been seen to date that I need one grip size larger, no more and no less, and perhaps this relationship can be connected to and expanded on in a consistently accurate manner with respect to shaft weights and grip sizes.  Well the simple answer is that there is no such relationship that can be consistently depended on, at least not in a relatively simple form.  And even if some reference matter is developed in the future pertaining to this relationship (even by me), I would still strongly advise one to never consider such information to be a worthy substitute for direct swinging results (assuming fitting to one’s golf swing) if one expects clubfitting results to be the best they can be (and unless one does not really mind being known as a short-cut prophet-for-profit clubfitter to anyone that does know what a competent clubfitting process is really like).

Even when such reference material is developed for use and even if it is well known that it is “only a starting point,” it is still just so easy for anyone (fitter and the one being fit included) to unjustly begin feeling that a chosen specification value must be within or very close to the reference value(s) or else the golf swing of the one being fit might be considered a poor swing.  That is not a good starting point for anybody, particularly unfortunate if the reference material is poorly developed in the first place as a result of so many clubfitting theories and practices that have been poorly developed in the past and still exist today.  In the case of any reference matter developed for shaft weight versus grip size relationships, there are multiple interrelated elements involved in developing any such reference matter.  And if any elements are missing and/or integrated in a flawed manner, the reference information provided may be as faulty as with the grip-on-a-stick or other comparable method of fitting one’s golf grip size, thus potentially creating the above scenario all over again.  But if one is able to keep one’s focus on the “ultimate prize” of performing one’s best possible golf swing through clubfitting (assuming again that one is fitting to one’s direct swing) and one uses and keeps one’s actual swing as the focal point of the fitting (now there is a novel idea in golf club fitting), one will be able to better keep the proper perspective regarding the value of any such developed reference material.  (Golf ball travel fitting, a subsequent step, is relatively easy after first properly learning how to fit any given golf club to one’s base golf swing performance directly).

The two major reasons why any shaft weight versus grip size reference material cannot be formulated in a very easy manner are wide variations in golfer performances and wide variations in golf equipment in general, and more specifically the individual components that make up that equipment.  In looking at golfers themselves first, I shall first make an assumption that in using identical 120 gram shafts in test clubs that are also otherwise identical (except for grip sizes when testing for that club specification), two golfers with very different swings are both proven to make their best golf swings with the identical grip size and model when testing in accordance with that presented in Waggle Weight Wisdom™.  However, if subsequently testing both golfers using the same 60 gram shaft model, while it will generally be seen that the best golf grip size for each golfer will increase over what was best when using the 120 gram golf shaft, the exact grip size that is best for each golfer may be notably different with the 60 gram golf shaft even though it was the same when testing with the 120 gram shaft.  There are multiple reasons that can contribute to this that are as varied as the two golf swings themselves, but this is best left for any further analysis at some point in the future.

And now I shall instead assume a situation where two golfers’ swings are identical and would have the same grip sizes as being best with each of the golf shaft models described above when the other test club components are kept identical.  However, in this case the components will be varied, and the sizable differences in club components (which will feasibly become even broader in the future) make it literally impossible to come up with any simple reference information that might remain even reasonably close in consistency regarding something like recommended golf grip size changes versus golf shaft weight changes.  In looking at just a sampling of differences, I have already noted that one’s best golf grip diameter is quite dependent upon a golf grip’s designed weight, both elements of which contribute to a golf grip’s overall “size.”  With many grip models these days having similar diameters yet varying considerably in their weights, reference information for grip sizing would have to be reevaluated for uncounted golf grip models, even as shaft weight remains the same.  (Similar to lighter shaft weights producing lighter club total weights and lighter total weights generally needing larger grip diameters for one to produce one’s best golf swing, the same overall logic can be applied when lighter grip weights are used, also producing lighter total club weights and thus generally also necessitating larger grip diameters in order for one to produce one’s best golf swing).

Then there is the fact that various shaft models have various butt size diameters that can vary widely.  In some cases any given 60 gram shaft model may already be designed with a larger butt diameter than any given 120 gram shaft model, so using the same grip part on both shafts will already provide a larger grip diameter on the 60 gram golf shaft (yet at the same grip weight).  In other cases the butt diameters may be the same for a 120 gram and 60 gram shaft comparison, in which case a smaller core size thus heavier grip weight (assumes the same base grip model) would have to be used on the 60 gram shaft in order to obtain a larger diameter grip on that shaft.  Then there is the element of different golf shaft balance points, which can require that one’s best golf grip size be different for two shafts even if the shafts have total weights and butt sizes that are identical (if one wants to swing one’s best).  Elements not limited to these could greatly impact the development and/or accuracy of any shaft weight versus grip size reference information.