How do different grips affect my golf swing?

A fully equipped listener asks: I’m about to get my entire set of golf clubs back on. What should I know before doing this?

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Welcome to another edition of the Fully Geared Mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive series in which we answer your hard-hitting gear questions.

How do different grips affect my golf swing?

Ah yes. We get asked this question often, and it never hurts to have a little refresher on how different grips affect the way you swing the club. Before we dive in, let’s be clear on one thing – there’s a definitive right and wrong answer when it comes to grip textures, sizes, and styles.

The harm is playing with worn, warped or slippery grips. We know some of you have grips well past their prime (we’ve even seen worn grips in the bags of our own employees) and there’s really no excuse for playing a handle that will compromise your well-being. able to hold the club during the swing. Really, if this is you and you’re still reluctant to pull off that “lucky handful” on your wedge that’s been there since college – please stop. It’s time.

As for the right way to do it, it’s that simple: start with what feels right and looks good on you. The common misconception is that thinner grips are only for golfers with smaller hands and/or thinner fingers, and larger/fatter grips are for players with larger hands. And while that’s generally true, it’s not always the case for everyone. There are exceptions to every rule. Within reason of course.

Speaking of rules, the USGA really isn’t very particular about grips other than they have to grip the shaft and be plain/straight in shape. There is no rule as to how much the grip should taper from top to bottom, and generally most golfers prefer the feel of a tapered grip because it establishes a firmer grip on the top hand (which is the dominant hand in the swing) and a supporting grip on the lower hand. Some golfers also like what are called booster grips, which have a slightly raised rib running the length of the shaft, which when used under, to the side or even above the grip allow you to to remember where the hands should hold the handle.

Other than that, almost anything goes. Whether it’s leather (you can always find them online), rubber or polymer in velor, wraparound, corded, etc., there is a wide variety to choose from. Some models are even made of mixed materials and different densities for soft/firm combinations. Let’s just say that if you search hard, you will eventually find something you like.

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But this is only the beginning. Looks and feel certainly matter, but so does the diameter, weight and firmness of the grip. As mentioned, grip diameter isn’t just relative to the type of hands you have. It also has a lot to do with your shooting tendencies and what you want to do and/or avoid. If you are a slicing player, having thicker grips can reduce your ability to rotate the club through the stroke leaving the face open at impact. A thinner diameter can help add more hand action to your swing. On the other hand, the reverse works for those who hang. Having a thicker grip can alleviate overactive hands during the stroke.

Then the weight of your grips can change the feel of your whole club. Lighter handles will make the head heavier (increasing the weight of the swing) while heavier handles will do the opposite, making the head lighter. And, the firmness of your grip should not be overlooked. You can find a handle that looks the part and is nice in terms of grip, but if it’s too soft it can cause you to squeeze harder with your fingers and strain your hand. The same can be said of a too firm grip: your fingers and hands will not feel as relaxed as with a comfortable grip. Generally, rubber grips with corded textures are the firmest and multi-layered polymer grips offer the most cushion.

In a previous edition of the fully-equipped mailbag, we covered Bubba Watson’s penchant for duct tape and while we haven’t settled the debate between thicker handles and more duct tape, we did explain it by detail to help you decide. If you want the summary, just know that more tape can not only thicken a grip, but also make it firmer. More tape also adds weight, which can reduce your swing weight and make the clubhead lighter.

I hate to follow up on last week’s mailbag with another “It’s up to you to decide what works best” advice, but it’s the right way to be when it comes to handles. We recommend that despite some people using different diameter grips in different clubs (it’s not uncommon to see players with thinner grips for more feel), you avoid this strategy and stick to consistent from driver to corner. We think it’s best to keep your grips consistent and the same with every club, because fewer gear variables are always better when it comes to playing your best.

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Michael C. Ford