The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Twenty-Three

Those less experienced in particular may not be aware that at one time there were at least five different sizes of (men’s) Victory golf grips available, which were M62, M60, M58, M56, and a jumbo size that had a code associated with it that I think was M44 (I never did understand that one in the past, but just as I am writing this maybe I finally do [read further on]).  At any rate, the “M” stands for Men’s and the numbers represent the core size of the grip, whereby the grip core size and shaft butt diameter should match if one wants to achieve a men’s (predetermined) standard-sized grip.  For example, if an M62 grip were installed on a golf club having a .620 (inch) shaft butt diameter, an M60 grip were installed on a club having a .600 shaft butt diameter, and so on, all of the golf clubs would (theoretically) end up having the exact same (outer diameter) men’s standard grip size.  Ladies’ golf grips, customarily having a predetermined standard size smaller in diameter than for men will commonly have an “L” designation before the number, and other specific designations may exist as well, such as for a junior golf grip size.

Despite being able to accomplish the same final grip (diameter) size through this means, though, the grip weight of each of these grips will not be the same.  In order to achieve the same outer diameter sizes under such conditions, the inner core diameters and grip wall thicknesses of each grip size designation would need to be different, with smaller core diameters and greater grip wall thicknesses required as shaft butt diameters become smaller to achieve the same outer diameter grip size upon grip installation.  As such, the largest grip code designation within an otherwise identical grip model line (M62 Victory in this instance and in the absence of any tolerance ranges) would actually be the lightest grip model (or submodel if you prefer) while the smallest designation (M56 Victory, with the odd M44 jumbo quite a bit heavier still) would be the heaviest.  This can take some getting used to when first trying to become acclimated to this “system.”  (I might have read not too long ago that Golf Pride may have recently changed the coding system used for their grips in some way[s].  But I am not absolutely certain of this and if true I do not think it was major.  So there may now be some difference[s] from the coding I have just described).  Different golf grip manufacturers may use their own particular coding that can vary, for instance the absence of any letter designation generally means that men’s grip sizes are being referenced.

Based on this background, it would then make logical sense that perhaps the M44 grip required installation on a .440 shaft butt diameter in order to achieve a men’s standard grip size diameter (at least theoretically, because I am not personally aware of any golf shaft designs of the past that actually had that particular butt diameter).  Even if true, however, there was at least one incongruity that prevented such logic from firmly taking hold with me.  This was Golf Pride’s published recommendation (at least in the past) to not install a grip on a club that was more than two core sizes smaller than the shaft butt size, at least when installing grips in a conventional manner of using just one layer of double-coated adhesive tape and no additional build-up tape.  For example, installing an M58 grip on a .620 shaft butt was okay (the final grip size would be considered two sizes larger than a men’s standard size), but an M56 grip on a .620 shaft was not recommended.  And then there was this M44 jumbo-sized grip, which if trying to follow both the logic and recommendation would likely culminate in a grip that is considerably tighter fitting still, more difficult to install, and not recommended (for any of the common shaft butt sizes available).  I will discuss more about the interchanging of grip core sizes and shaft butt diameters below.

I do not actually know why such a blanket recommendation was made because certain golf grip designs, associated grip installation components, and/or installation procedures can work successfully in such combinations.  One feasible possibility might have been that the tighter fit of an M56 grip on a .620 shaft was determined to displace too much tape adhesive when sliding the grip on during testing and/or the grip was just deemed too difficult to slide on efficiently with the components and/or procedure(s) that were tried.  Or perhaps there was another reason(s) related to the surface texture of the grip changing with the grip stretching occurring under those circumstances, or maybe something else.  (Ironically, sometimes grip and shaft size combinations where the grip might be harder to install when using just a single layer of double-coated adhesive tape and no additional build-up tape may be easier to slide on when the shaft diameter is first made even larger through the use of build-up tape underneath the double-coated tape.  This is because a crucial area involved in the process of gripping, that of the very end of the shaft butt, can remain somewhat sharp when just a layer of double-coated tape is utilized [depending on the exact double-coated tape as well as the exact shaft butt characteristics].  But added build-up tape in this area can “soften” the area and reduce pinching or binding between the butt end of the shaft and the grip that can occur when sliding on grips, especially on shaft and grip combinations that are tighter fitting).

Yet seemingly contradictory to the above recommendation, other information was given that the M44 grip was okay to use and in fact intended for installation on typical shaft butt sizes of the day that were commonly from .580 to .620 (for men’s shafts).  So that was confusing and I was able to install the M44 fairly normally from what I recall.  (I am reasonably certain that I also attempted to install M56 grips on .620 shafts against Golf Pride’s recommendation, but I cannot specifically remember how such attempts turned out).  I do not know whether any similar recommendations and/or some of these core size grips still exist today.  Now with the experiencing of these issues and a potential increase in other issues that can also arise as more elements are brought into play, perhaps a rather elementary question comes to one’s mind: Is all of this really necessary?  There is not just one overly-simplified answer as to why such conditions exist.

First, especially if one has any reasonable experience(s) that includes performing any other activities beyond golf that utilize equipment having a grip on it and where the grip size is allowed to be changed, then one should hopefully already be well aware of how momentous grip size is toward one’s performance of such activities.  It virtually defies description as to how a relatively small change in bat handle size was so instrumental toward changing me from more of a pull and power hitter (when using a smaller diameter handle) to an opposite field hitter where it seemed I could barely hit the ball out of the infield anymore (when using a larger diameter handle) during my baseball playing days.  I learned that elementary lesson at a fairly young age, and it does not necessarily have to be an athletic-type activity that one has to be performing to learn such primary lessons.  But even through the observations of others performing if one does not personally have sufficient performing experience, it should still be rather easy to see and understand that different people will perform their best with different grip sizes.  Regarding the amount of change being referring to here, this is not about a gargantuan “game of inches” as in the common expression used to characterize how little difference there can be between winning or losing in a competition, but rather a “game of very small fractions of inches” with respect to the fitting of grip size that can make a profound difference between one consistently performing one’s best or not.

Separately, the altering of shaft butt diameters (which would obviously alter the grip size if the exact same grip were installed on various shaft butt diameters) is one way that shaft manufacturers can design and control shaft flexibility, a different and relevant golf club specification with larger shaft diameters generally equating to more stiffness.  Different core sizes of golf grips are produced in part to accommodate such a shaft design feature.  Exploring deeper details of just these two aspects of why such varieties of grip sizes and shaft butt diameters exist and how they relate to each other might require an entire book to thoroughly analyze and discuss.  But even if technology advances to a point where any possible shaft bending characteristic can be produced using exactly the same shaft butt diameter, one is still left with a most basic issue of how small an alteration in grip size is required before a notable performance change can be detected and how different golfers need different grip sizes to perform their best.  So even in a case of all identical shaft butt diameters, various grip sizes would feasibly still be produced for these reasons alone and thus a much deeper discussion about various grip core sizes is not really necessary here.

As I have likely indicated previously, grip size is one of the most important equipment specifications there is in any activity that uses equipment a performer holds onto when performing.  It is a specification that directly and heavily contributes to the effectiveness of one’s performance.  And while baseball batters and tennis players as examples only need to be extremely mindful of what grip size is best on their equipment to help them perform their best individually, golfers need to take such cognizance to an even higher level still.  This is because when one swings at something that is just motionless and no adjustment(s) in the swing is commonly needed in the middle of that swing (unlike the other activities mentioned), one will tend to be even more sensitive to grip size changes that can dramatically affect one’s performance.

Due in large part to the fact that an overwhelming percentage of those involved in golf in whatever capacity have little if any other performing experience or the related equipment fitting experience that goes hand in hand with such performing, particularly with respect to genuine athletics, the following broad portrait can be painted of certain aspects of the industry.  There is an unbelievable percentage of so-called professional clubfitters that in actuality are quite clueless as to how to effectively fit one of the most critical golf club specifications there is, that of golf grip size.  And they are able to routinely get away with this because these clubfitters are dealing with golfers of which there is an unbelievable percentage that are so inexperienced that they are not even aware that golf grips come in different sizes to begin with.  This is not exactly a combination that will help incite badly needed improvement especially in the clubfitting industry.  But fortunately, through work including this post title sequence, this situation of the golf club fitting trade being the worst and most embarrassing in all of sports will not have to be tolerated much longer.

So the factors noted above have resulted in the production of both golf shafts having different butt diameter sizes and golf grips having different core sizes.  These particulars eventually lead to the question of whether shaft butt and grip core sizes should always match each other or whether it is acceptable to mix various combinations to accomplish various grip sizes if desired.  Well not only is it acceptable to combine various shaft and grip sizes in this regard, but intentionally “mismatching” shaft butt diameters and grip core sizes is actually a recommended and advantageous means of altering grip sizes whenever reasonably possible over adding extra layers of build-up tape under a grip for example to increase its final diameter.  In addition to being more laborious to first add build-up tape on a bare shaft before gripping, such a procedure could also add unwanted inconsistency into the equation if for instance one does not use the exact same brand/tape part number every time.  Build-up tape (oftentimes just common masking tape) can vary considerably in thickness (and weight) among tape manufacturers and/or part numbers and any such inconsistency will be magnified as more layers of build-up tape are applied.  There could also be a potential problem with the build-up tape compressing over time if many layers are applied (which a bare shaft will not do), thus changing the grip size even if minor, and/or more ways introduced for grip slippage or movement to possibly occur after installation due to the use of such components and processes.

Even staying within recommended limits, however, hardly guarantees an infinite number of possibilities regarding the interchanging of shafts and grips.  For example, an M58 grip of one grip manufacturer or manufacturer’s model may install easily over a .620 shaft butt diameter, yet trying to get an M58 grip of another manufacturer or manufacturer’s model on a .620 shaft might be a real nightmare.  Individual golf grip models can vary widely in material(s) and/or any other number of characteristics that can affect among other things how and how much each model will stretch.  In addition to that, different grip designs may react quite differently to different double-sided grip tapes, solvents or solutions used for grip installation, and/or installation methods.  Tighter fitting grips usually, though not always, expose such disparities more.

And just like there can be limits to increasing grip size by interchanging shaft and grip sizes, there can be limits to decreasing grip size, for if the grip core size is too large and loose relative to the shaft size, adhesion between the two components can be insufficient and permit grip movement that can obviously affect performance and even be a potential danger.  In the past it has been generally recommended to not install a grip that is more than one core size larger than the shaft butt size (for instance an M62 grip on a .600 shaft butt was judged acceptable but an M62 grip on a .580 shaft butt was not recommended).  But as can be seen there are a number of various factors involved.  (There are reference charts available from many different sources indicating resultant grip sizes [usually stated relative to a standard grip size] from combining various shaft butt diameters and grip core sizes, but such charts may not always be reliable).

So despite some potential drawbacks of procedures like using build-up tape for increasing grip size (then there is stretching a golf grip further down the shaft for making it smaller), sometimes such procedures must be used aside from the simple mixing of shaft and grip sizes in order to achieve a sought grip size.  (A grip can be stretched down the shaft more during installation to make its diameter smaller if the specific grip style will allow this, but it is very easy if not careful to just stretch the bottom, thinner part of the grip while the thicker top part remains essentially the same size).  Such procedures can still work well.  They are fairly common, accurate, and safe when applied well, and in fact many people prefer such methods over the mixing of shaft and grip sizes for various reasons.  For instance, one may choose to purchase only a single core size grip to work with and from there may need to produce various golf grip sizes with it.

And sometimes parts of different processes are used together, one example being that some people prefer to build up the grip size only under the bottom hand, first applying some build-up tape on the bare shaft just over the particular area of the shaft where the bottom hand would be gripping the club.  Then a single layer of double-coated tape is wrapped over that combination and the club gripped.  To that I first say I will be going over very basic golf grip fitting before considering a more compound technique like that since the clubfitting industry as a whole does not even understand primary grip fitting yet.  And second, for those reading this that consider themselves a bit more advanced, even at a more advanced level I do not recommend such a procedure for anyone when gripping one’s golf clubs, but as for my reason(s) why, that will have to wait for another time.  I only mention it here to illustrate some various ways in which golf grips can be installed and installed to various sizes on various golf shafts for various golfers.

As a couple of added notes here, there are also reference charts available from multiple sources that indicate what the exact numerical diameters of various predetermined grip sizes are at different points along the length of a grip.  Such charts may include standard size men’s and women’s grip dimensions plus several other grip sizes.  For example, a standard men’s grip is generally stated as having a diameter of .900 (inches) at a point two inches down from the grip cap end of an installed grip (.850 for women).  The two-inch point is deemed to be the approximate middle of a golfer’s top hand when taking hold of a golf club.  The grip size is measured from side to side and not front to back, because if the grip has a molded rib in it the rib will protrude and increase the grip’s front to back diameter.  From there down, as a typical grip tapers, the diameter of the standard men’s size will decrease and its predetermined value at various locations will commonly be listed in such charts.  Although such charts have been fairly standardized for years, I caution you here again that different sources may contain different information and/or grip manufacturers may produce specific grip models that intentionally stray from such reference figures.  Certain grip models for instance may taper less and be slightly larger under the bottom hand for those that prefer such an effect (so that build-up tape does not have to be added to that area).  All told, it should be no big surprise if standard golf grip size dimensions were changed in the coming years.  There are already signs of this, and you will understand more of why this is occurring by the time this post title sequence is entirely rendered.