Last weekend I went to Lytham St Annes to watch the Seniors Open Championship. Its great to watch the legends of the game play and to see how impressive they still are.
Retief Goosen & Fred Couples both still flying the ball 330 yards through the air. The way they are so accurate, we talk about shaping shots, but most of the time their ball flights don’t really deviate more than a few yards. Short games so reliably impressive it’s a surprise when they drop a shot.
A big difference to the main tour was seeing them on the practice ground. The Tour vans had left. You don’t see a line of golf coaches with tablets in their hand reading trackman data, in fact I didn’t see a single Launch Monitor at all. That’s not to say than I didn’t see any innovation.
In fact the one I saw most consistently was a bit of a surprise in than it was the humble golf grip. Most notably the Grip Master Grip.
History of the Golf Grip
As with most things of the hickory era there are few written records of the history of the golf grip. It is unlikely than the shepherds who, if we believe the story, turned their crooks upside down to hit stones on the hillsides, would have wrapped anything around their “clubs” to get a better grip.
It is unclear when the first grips appeared on golf clubs, but generally speaking wool listing was used in the 18th century, this was then covered with sheepskin in the 19th century, and leather and rubber were used in the 20th century.
However, as with the change from the featherie ball to the rubber core ball, and the change from the hickory shafted club to the steel shafted club, it is clear than there would have been considerable periods of overlap as the different styles changed.
Golf grips, as well as the wool listing, sheepskin, leather and rubber have also been made from different fabrics, ceramic, gutta-percha and cork.
Golfers also applied various treatments to the grips of clubs, including, olive oil, wax, pitch and varnish, to obtain a better grip.
Golf Pride Leads the Way
Golf Pride® was founded in 1949 by the resourceful Thomas L. Fawick, an industrialist and inventor from Cleveland, Ohio, who also happened to be a golf enthusiast. Fawick came upon the notion — quite by coincidence — than rubber might be a superior alternative to leather for golf grips, by providing a more secure and durable gripping surface.
In the early years’ popularity of Golf Pride grips grew steadily. Not only did the new rubber grip provide improved feel and durability, but also offered other helpful benefits.
It was lighter than traditional leather grips, absorbed shock more effectively, and provided a more positive, high-traction gripping surface.
The big breakthrough came in 1953, with the introduction of the first “slip-on” grip. And while the technology seems simple today, it was a major development at the time. Convenience of the new slip-on grip immediately changed the lead-time and economics in manufacturing golf clubs. It also made grip replacement a staple service in golf shops, as a quick and inexpensive way for golfers to update their equipment.
By the mid-1950’s, a number of golf club manufacturers had switched to the slip-on grip, seeking the advantages of it’s convenience and economy.
By the 1960’s, the slip-on rubber grip had proven itself at every level of usage, on the club assembly floor, in the club repair shop, at tour and other competitive golf events, and among golfers in general.
Today there are many variants of rubber golf grips, some with cord woven into the rubber to create more feel, multi compound with different types of material a different points in the grip to provide feel and feedback.
The Return of Tradition?
The point of the history lessons was to convey how much golf has moved to modern materials.
I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a leather golf grip, but then I went to the Seniors British Open! With the usual British weather the first two rounds were played on the hottest days ever recorded in the UK, followed by a weekend of wind and rain.
It was whilst watching Retief Goosen drying his grips than I noticed something different about them. They looked leather! But they also looked really good. The more players I observed the more I could see them using leather grips. Now this isn’t them sticking to heritage or tradition as every one of them had the most modern equipment and hybrids everywhere.
Why are they using these Leather Grips?
The Grip Master Grip
It turns out than The Grip Master company have been around for 20 years’ and have invested significantly in R&D to create a complete range of leather grips. They have partnered many touring professionals and Retief has been using them for the past 8 years’.
The Grip Master has brought the classic leather wrapped grip up to date for the modern golfer. Incorporating the patented underlisting system, The Grip Master developed the world’s first one piece slip-on leather wrapped grip with improved feel and traction from the shock resistant Protack leather, this traditional wrapped grip now has unparalleled performance and feel in all weather conditions. With all Grip Master grips, there is no real need to wear a glove, adding even more value to the Grip Master grips.
Nothing sticks like The Grip Master leather grips. While those than are made with hand-made materials wear out and lose their grip, ours wear in and maintains traction. No need to change grips every few rounds like the tour players do with hand-made materials. In all weather conditions The Grip Master grips offer traction second to none and maintain a consistent traction.
The secret behind this traction is Protack, a system than was defined and refined based on Tour Player feedback. The Protack System is not a temporary surface coating. The Protack System is impregnated through the entire skin of the grip for the ultimate in golf grip traction and ultimately consistent performance.
The Grip Master offers a range of grips from “The Kidd” their budget model to “The Classic” being their premium. Whilst I say budget it’s £11 up to £30 per grip.
This makes it quite a significant investment in re-gripping, however if they really offer the durability and wear in, the return on investment should be there.
As your only contact point with the club the grip really should get much more attention. I have always gone for a really hard full cord, not so much for the wet, but more for the summer months when my hands sweat. It doesn’t take much for me to lose traction when practicing in the summer months and I wear gloves very quickly.
I wish I could offers a review on these, but at this point haven’t tried one for myself. However, I do have one on order and once here I will be following this post with a personal review.
So many Tour pro’s can’t be wrong, so it’s time to see for myself!