The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Twenty

If the individual grip grabbed is on the high or low side of the weight tolerance range for the grip model chosen and one is not fully aware of the model’s designed ideal weight and tolerance range (either of which may vary considerably from grip model to model and/or grip manufacturer to manufacturer) plus exactly where that individual grip weight is in relation to those figures, then this ignorance will not lead to bliss.  In the longer run one might regrip one’s clubs numerous times based on swingweighting using that chosen reference grip and not come sufficiently close to one’s desired swingweight value.  This can result in a potential chain of error-filled misunderstandings that only begins with golf grip basics but which can then also lead to misunderstandings regarding swingweighting, shafts, a golf swing, and far more.  This critical aspect of carefully choosing a reference grip could be ignored when utilizing the strategic method of swingweight prediction as represented, but not the model method without risking subsequent inaccurate results that could be substantial and might not be competently understood and/or explained.

If this seems like too much and unnecessary detail to get into, I can assure here and now that this will come into play again in a very big way as this testing further unfolds, and failing to pay strict attention to it will fundamentally guarantee erroneous results and a failure to learn what needs to be learned though this post title sequence.  So you may as well get used to the idea now.  The good news is that finding out such information today appears to be a lot easier than it used to be.  When Golf Pride and Lamkin were formerly basically the only two major players in the golf grip market, getting such information was very difficult (at least for me).  But eventually Golf Pride (I may have never even asked Lamkin) agreed to mail a specification sheet to me for my reference that contained many different specification design measurements for each golf grip model they produced at the time.  (Even I essentially stop at a grip’s designed total weight and tolerance range in my work, but perhaps I should not as might be seen shortly).  Where they were much more secretive in the past, nowadays designed grip weights at least are routinely listed in golf component catalogs for one to take into consideration.  I will caution you, however, that such component publications might contain no more than estimations of such figures and I would not entirely depend on them for acceptable accuracy without further investigating that facet.  Grip weight tolerance ranges should wisely still be investigated anyhow and can be noteworthy elements toward choosing one’s grip model(s).  That will be discussed more later, and those figures are not routinely publicly published, at least not at this point in time.

With this grip weight information hopefully known, one must then try to make sure that the reference grip chosen is representative of the median value of the grip model chosen.  In this way, no matter what individual grip of the model is subsequently grabbed (without even being checked regarding its weight) and installed on a golf club whose swingweight value is set using the reference grip, the club’s final swingweight value (at least in theory) should not vary a disadvantageous amount in either direction from what was set using the reference grip.  (I would still nevertheless recommend pre-weighing all grips and getting them matched in weight as closely as possible and not haphazardly “grabbing” them as just portrayed, as for one thing grips residing outside of their published tolerance ranges are not exactly something I have found to occur only on rare occasions).

At any rate, choosing the specific reference grip to utilize is not quite as simple as just picking one right in the middle of the grip model’s tolerance range limits.  When actually installing a golf grip, double-coated adhesive tape is also traditionally applied to the grip end of a golf club.  While the solvent (or other grip-installing substance) also typically used to aid in gripping clubs materially evaporates, the tape itself certainly does not, it can affect swingweighting results, and this tape might need to be accounted for when deciding upon a reference grip weight to use in order to obtain the best final results.  It is really hard to specifically advise regarding how much if any to allow for concerning tape weight.

Various brands and models of double-coated adhesive tapes can range from being ultra thin, very light, and almost negligible with respect to its swingweighting consequences (perhaps a reduction of a couple tenths of a swingweight point) to being quite thick and heavy to a point of potentially reducing a club’s swingweight value by a more notable amount (perhaps up to half a point or even more) relative to if no tape were applied at all.  Certain grip manufacturers may even specify a particular dimension (and potentially even a tape manufacturer and/or tape part number) for precisely how much tape thickness is allowed for under their grips in order for the grips to achieve their designed final outer diameters (at various grip locations and using a pre-determined shaft diameter[s] along the length of the grip) upon grip installation.  I am referring here to just a single layer of double-coated tape being applied to a bare golf shaft for golf grip installation purposes and not extra build-up layers of tape for grip sizing, to be addressed more later.

The latter case is a sufficient enough change where this grip tape element should not be ignored or this may be another situation where inaccuracies and confusion may arise later if not being familiar with the situation beforehand.  And just to be aware, some other elements can also apply regarding grip tape and grip installation that can combine with (or negate) each other.  This includes various shaft designs, particularly their butt diameters all the way down the length of the grip, which can naturally contribute to the grip tape weight effect.  Grip tape thickness (as well as other double-coated grip tape characteristics) can also affect grip stretching upon installation.  Thicker grip tapes typically result in slightly shorter grip lengths when grips are allowed to stretch naturally upon installation (resulting in still greater swingweight reduction).

On the other hand, however, grip tape is traditionally applied in a way that also completely covers the butt end of the shaft.  Shaft butt edges generally need to be covered to aid in grip installation, and completely covering the shaft butt helps prevent foreign objects from accidentally getting through the hole in the butt end of slip-on grips and into the shaft after gripping (regripping is often the most reasonable choice when something like that occurs).  Due to this common technique, various tape thicknesses will very slightly increase the golf club’s final length to varying degrees and slightly offset the decrease in the club’s swingweight value due to the grip tape’s weight consequences (that is a swingweight reduction due to the tape’s weight but a swingweight increase due to the same tape also being wrapped over the butt end of the shaft upon tape application, very slightly increasing club length).

The cumulative effects of adding grip tape typically decrease a club’s final swingweight value and do not increase it.  In light of this, one might decide to just make an educated guess about what grip weight of the chosen model to use for a reference grip.  As a broad example, assume one correctly identifies through research that the median weight for a given grip model is 50 grams, with an allowed weight tolerance by the grip manufacturer of plus or minus 3 grams.  Generally speaking, it should be anticipated that fewer grips should be found at weights approaching the outer edges of the tolerance range (though this reasoning is not always true), which in this case would be 47 grams on the light side and 53 grams on the heavy side.  Without considering any grip tape element effects, one can simply search out a grip that is right at 50 grams, slit it, and use it as one’s reference grip for that model.  However, if using a grip tape that is on the thicker, heavier side and that would decrease the final swingweight value by an additional half a point, this half-point difference would equate with a grip weight increase of roughly 2 grams.  Based on this information, if one were to search out a grip weight of 52 grams within the chosen grip model for use as a reference grip rather than 50 grams, then the grip tape effect(s) would generally be accounted for within the reference grip itself without having to tape up every shaft butt of every club that the reference grip is tested on.

Because of the number of different and variable factors at play, one might consider doing a bit of testing beforehand to more accurately determine exactly what golf grip weight to use for a reference grip and eliminate some guesswork.  One can first search out at least a couple of grips of the chosen model that are right in the center of its total tolerance range.  One can be slit and turned into at least a temporary reference grip while another can be installed in a normal manner on an ungripped golf club using the same specific grip tape, solvent, and installation method one intends to use for future gripping.  It would be good reference information to take an accurate swingweight reading of just the ungripped club to be used before gripping.  (Reusing the same club for each grip specimen is assumed, but if two distinct clubs are used, make sure they are as identical to each other as possible in their ungripped states in order to obtain accurate results, with another option below).

Subsequently comparing the final swingweight values between the normally-installed (and dry) grip and the (temporary) reference grip installed instead can provide helpful details of whether the best eventual (permanent) reference grip might be selected with a grip weight that is the same, lighter, or heavier (and by how much [referenced in Part Seven]) than a reference grip with simply a nominal center weight.  A more educated determination can be made as to what the permanent reference grip weight specification should be.  If desired, some varying weight grips of the chosen model can be slit and tried on the club to help one make one’s decision, with the goal being to determine a reference grip weight that when installed most closely matches the final swingweight value of the same golf club when the center grip weight was installed on the club in a normal manner.

A couple of added notes here are that grip installation drying times (during which a club’s swingweight reading [and grip size] can be affected some [commonly resulting in heavier effective grip weights, lighter swingweight readings, and larger grip sizes when still wet]) can vary considerably depending upon the type of solvent used and can literally extend to days before all of the solvent is completely evaporated.  Even water-activated grip tape is available, which takes longer still to completely dry than most typical solvents used for gripping (although clubs can oftentimes be safely put into play before such evaporation is finished).  Also, the term “permanent” reference grip as used here still has its limitation(s), as all grips to varying degrees will probably ultimately deteriorate, resulting in one or more altered characteristics and likely needing eventual replacement.

Such testing can be done with additional grips of the same nominal weight and some (intentionally) different golf clubs if desired (the same temporary reference grip can be used).  First, one might gain more overall confidence in the results in case there is an anomaly of some sort within a single test, and second, final swingweight values on test clubs (for normally-gripped and/or reference-gripped clubs depending on the specific circumstances) can vary some for reasons not limited to having shafts of different butt diameters and/or materials installed in the clubs being tested.  Similarly to the effects of grip tape thicknesses as discussed above, variances in shaft butt diameters all the way down the length of the grip can not only alter the amount of grip tape used and thus its weight effect, but this can also alter the way the same grip stretches when installed on various golf shafts that one might use.  Both effects can lead to swingweight variations; an overall average can be determined and used if desired.  But even if testing with just a single club and perhaps being a little less accurate under certain circumstances as a result, this is still far better than not at all taking into account a situation where grip tape usage can have an effect that is generally too much to ignore and if ignored can result in critical errors and/or misconceptions that can lead to other critical errors and/or misconceptions.  Doing some such testing at the outset can result in a long-term advantage of more simply installing the selected reference grip on bare-shafted clubs, measuring and producing a determined swingweight value reliably time after time, and removing the reference grip.