The fundamental element in any golf swing is the set-up with stance and grip determining everything else that follows. Yet few amateur golfers care much about their grips, using the factory supplied grips for the life of the club, regardless of their hand size or increasing wear as the grips age.
Ss Paul Steels, managing director of G-Rip Grips points out, “The grip is the only part of the club that you touch so it has to be in good condition. An easy way to explain that to a golfer is that a slick, worn grip makes you grip the clubs with too much pressure because your brain knows it will slip. If that happens and you grip the club with too much pressure it means the golfer cannot release the club face through impact. This also affects the swing path and makes it look very wooden because of too much tension.”
Steels continues, “A grip that’s too big will cause a fade or slice because the hands are slowed up though the swing, therefore leaving the club face open at impact. The opposite is true of a grip that is too thin.This makes the hands work quicker. Therefore, the club face at impact is closed, giving a hook. We all wear different size gloves and it’s the same for grips. One size does not fit all. Ask any tour pro and he knows exactly what size grip he uses.”
Conor Dillon, sales and marketing manager for Golf Pride agrees. “A fresh grip allows a golfer to hold the club lightly without the subconscious fear of the club slipping during their swing. This trust in your grip promotes proper swing mechanics and wrist action. The average player should be looking to re-grip at least once a year, as they will be able to feel the improvement and enjoy the confidence new grips provide.” Put more simply, Richard Wells, European sales manager for Champ Grips, says “It’s similar to car tyres, you would not drive with bald tyres so why try and swing with worn grips!”
For golf retailers, grips can be a good source of profitable revenue says Richard Dixon, sales manager for Lamkin. “A club of 500 members has a re-gripping potential of 7,000 grips, that’s a lot of untapped profit and a lot of opportunities for lower scores.” Paul Steels explains: “At an average of £6 a grip, this could generate £42,000 potentially. You are never going to get everyone to re-grip but even 30 percent of this would be nice. If the club pro says you need new grips, in most cases the golfer will get it done, as they want to play the best they can.”
So how can retailers promote the sale of grips more effectively? Tony Fletcher, sales manager for Brand Fusion which distributes Super Stroke grips advises, “We’ve seen massive increases in grip sales where retailers have given as little as a half metre of floor space to a bespoke grip display. Therefore, I recommend that golf stores and pro shops promote grips as a retail product rather than just a service. By that, I mean retailers will benefit from dedicating more space in the shop to a proper grip display rather than just keeping the grips in a workshop drawer where customers will never see them.”
Richard Wells advises, “Pros should be encouraging the benefits of better grips and educate golfers will improve their game if the grips are not slipping.” Connor Dillon adds, “Golfers like to touch and feel grips prior to making their decision, so it is imperative that the correct point of sale materials are available. We have seen the most success with stores and pro shops that install ‘Grip Walls’, which act as a visual reminder to re-grip and offers consumers the opportunity to feel shafted samples before making their purchase decision.”
Paul Steels offers some important tips. “Put a notice up in the changing rooms with prices and grips that you offer. Check players clubs when you are giving them lessons. If you see bad worn grips then suggest that if they want to play better, a good grip that’s the right size will really help. Always have a new grip on the club that you have with you when teaching so you can show them the difference between what they are using and a new grip.” Richard Dixon confirms, “We’ve also published tried and tested tips on how to drive grip sales that many retailers have found invaluable. These have included, scheduling in annual MOTs when they sell a set of clubs, putting on demo days, offering free single grips to try out or offering first tee assessments where golfers get to feel a variety of new grips.”
Custom fit options
Suppliers are also in agreement that correct grips are a vital part of the growing custom fitting process. Richard Wells comments, “Proper fitting of the right sized grip can create a better feel and more consistency in the grip and swing.”
Elaborating the point, Conor Dillon says, “Selecting grips doesn’t have to be a long, tedious process. While grips are highly personalised pieces of equipment, there are common performance benefits for each family of grips. Choosing the right size is important as a golfer will have trouble squaring the club at impact with the incorrect size, causing inconsistencies in the ball flight.” Richard Dixon agrees, “If a retailer can let a customer feel a range of sizes and styles and assess the conditions they most often play in, then the right grip for the right golfer isn’t too hard to find.”
As there are so many different grip types now what do the suppliers consider as the best option to recommend? Paul Steels summarises the pros and cons of the various types. “Over the years, grips have stayed pretty much the same as far as shape is concerned, as the R&A have very strict rules on grips.
The main difference is compound. Many different compounds have been developed to help the feel, torque issues and shock dampening. Rubber grips are pretty much standard on all makes of golf clubs and suit most golfers. There are also full and half cord which offer a firmer feel. Full cord may wear longer. A TPO compound offers a tacky feel and comes in a variety of colours. PU grips are mostly used on putters as they are soft with a tactile feel and are also lightweight.”
Room for improvement?
It might be thought that something as basic as a golf grip could not be greatly improved by technical innovation but the major suppliers see plenty of room for development, as Richard Dixon explains. “At Lamkin we’ve introduced the UTx grip this year which has been the biggest leap forward we’ve made in many years. UTx features the patent-pending Tri-layer technology that blends two layers of different firmness ACE 3GEN material and a moisture wicking fabric. This combination allows us to give incredible traction in wet weather while retaining a soft, tacky surface texture.”
Conor Dillon highlights last year’s launches with further developments planned. “The greatest innovation last year has been in our CP2 grips combining high-performance technology with a soft, tacky feel to deliver the softest rubber grip we have ever made. The CP2’s reduced taper design adds greater comfort and Golf Pride’s exclusive control core technology reduces torque by 41 percent. Stay tuned, as we are excited to launch a new innovative product in March!” Richard Wells confirms, “Champ has made its first technical grip with the C8. It’s made from TPO, has an anti-shock membrane in the top part of the grip and the material is tacky, so it won’t slip giving fantastic grip.”
For Tony Fletcher it’s putting where the big changes lie. “The biggest innovation over the last few years has been the new wave of putter grips such as SuperStroke. These larger and more parallel putter grips have proved extremely popular on the tour and consequently have exploded in the re-sale market, based on very sound technology and more importantly great performance. Watch out in 2015 for some other great new innovations!”