Selecting Your Golf Grips and Shafts
The golf grip is an important part of the golf club because it is the connecting point between the golfer and the golf club. The preferred material and texture of the grip and the correct size are essential in providing the best feel and performance for the golfer.
Grips are made from a variety of materials, with the majority of today's grips manufactured from synthetic or natural rubber. Multi-material grips, which are grips made of two or more types of material, are also available. The material(s), hardness, size and texture of a grip all determine its playing characteristics.
Grips come in a variety of materials, sizes and weights.
- Grip sizes vary from undersize to oversize, and the majority of standard rubber or synthetic rubber single-composition grips can be used to create small, large or jumbo grips.
- Weights can range from very light (20 grams) to heavy (75 grams). The majority of standard playing grips lie in the 50 gram range.
The sizing of grips is key to performance. To determine the correct size, the golfer should start with a standard size grip. The golfer should take his/her normal grip on the club while assuming his/her normal address position. Next, remove the right hand from the club (left hand for left-handers), and with the left hand remaining in the exact same gripped position, bring it up so that the fingertips are visible. If the two center fingertips dig into the heel of the palm, the grip is too small. If the fingertips barely touch or just miss touching the heel of the palm, the grip is correct.
- For golfers with larger hands, larger diameter grips are available or can be created through the build up process.
- For golfers with smaller hands, such as women golfers and junior golfers, smaller diameter grips are available.
Effect on Performance
The size of the grip can affect performance. A grip that is the incorrect size can lead to inconsistency in directional control of shots. The proper grip size allows the golfer to grip the club with the correct grip pressure, resulting in the proper release of the club through impact. A grip that is too small can cause a player to have too much wrist action, while a grip that is too large can cause a player to have limited or restricted wrist action.
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The golf club's shaft is designed to deliver the club head to the ball in a reliable and consistent manner. The shaft's function is to help control ball trajectory, assist with directional control and give the player a certain swing feel (how the club's flexing properties feel throughout the swing and the amount of vibration at impact).
Shafts are constructed with various flexes and flex profiles (bending characteristics) that are designed to match the golfer's swing speed and/or strength level. Shafts that are properly fitted to the golfer will provide the best combination of performance and feel.
The most common materials used in golf shafts are graphite composite and stainless steel. A variety of weights are available, with graphite options ranging from 40 grams to 100 + grams, and steel shafts ranging from 85 grams to 130 grams.
Steel shafts are often preferred in irons for stronger players and tend to have more consistent flex characteristics from shaft to shaft.
Graphite shafts are predominant in most woods and hybrids and offer advantages in irons for those players with slower swing speeds or with hand, wrist or elbow issues. The key advantage of graphite is the reduction in overall weight of the club, making it easier to swing. Graphite also reduces vibration at impact, helping to eliminate the stress on the hands, wrists, and elbows at impact.
Shafts are rated by their overall stiffness. Common designations are A (Amateur or Senior Flex), L (Ladies or Light Flex), R (Men's Regular Flex), S (Men's Stiff Flex), and X (Men's Extra Stiff Flex). There are variations of these designations, depending on the manufacturer.
Bend Point and Tip Stiffness are also characteristics that shaft manufacturers designate to help identify the trajectory and feel characteristics of a shaft.
- Lower bend points tend to produce higher trajectories, medium bend points produce mid-trajectories and high bend point shafts produce lower trajectories.
- Tip flexible shafts tend to feel softer and tip stiff shafts tend to feel firmer.
Effect on Performance
The golf shaft's role is to deliver the club head to the ball in a reliable and consistent manner. Matching the correct shaft flex and weight to the player's swing speed and tempo optimizes performance.
Overall shaft flex, the key element in shaft performance, is related to swing speed.
- The higher the swing speed, the stiffer the shaft flex should be.
- The slower the swing speed, the more flexible the shaft flex should be.
Swing tempo (how quickly a player swings) should also be considered. Faster tempo players generally will benefit from stiffer shafts, while slower tempo players will benefit from more flexible shafts.
Overall shaft weight is another important factor in performance.
- Lighter weight shafts (graphite and some lightweight steel) tend to be easier to swing for a wide range of golfers and can produce slight increases in club head speed, resulting in more distance.
- Heavier weight shafts (generally stainless steel) are primarily designed for more experienced or stronger players, and provide the feel and control they prefer.
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