STUDY: The Impact of Pistol Grips on Putting Performance
Labs

STUDY: The Impact of Pistol Grips on Putting Performance

Support our Mission. We independently test each product we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

STUDY: The Impact of Pistol Grips on Putting Performance

As part of the World Scientific Congress of Golf that was held in Vancouver this past summer, our team at PING gave a presentation about Pistol putting grips. We felt that some of the insights would be useful to the MyGolfSpy community. Here is a summary of that presentation.

Variations of the “pistol-type” putter grip have been part of the game of golf for much longer than one might expect. They are considered to be incredibly popular and have become the “somewhat traditional” shape of putter grip, according to the USGA [1]. This type of putter grip is characterized by a non-circular cross-section where the cross-sectional area increases approaching the butt-end and the axis of the grip tilts toward the player (figure 1). In some cases, these grips also incorporate an angled core.

There are a number of different ideas regarding the effect and purpose of the shape. The earliest references of grips incorporating some pistol design elements date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Two examples that show an increase in cross-sectional area, with a tilting of the axis toward the player are the Champion Grip and Murray Putter. The Champion Grip dates back to the early 1900s and was one of the earliest molded grips. It was also referred to as the “anatomical grip”. The Murray Putter dates back to the 1910s and incorporated a curved wooden shaft and grip. Inspired by ax handles, Avon Pardoe patented a similar grip in 1934. It was stated that it was designed to “ensure more accurate striking of the ball, and also a greater sense of security in holding the grip.” In 1936, McGregor started offering the Pardoe “Rel-Ax” rubber grip on their clubs. Another design to note is the Archie Compston putter, which incorporated a bend mid-shaft toward the player and was referred to as the “St. Andrews Bend”.

These early designs help shine some light on the inspiration that may have influenced the pistol grip designs we know today. As with these early designs, some manufacturers today suggest the larger geometry of a pistol grip’s end helps “lock-in” a player’s grip, leading to a more repeatable motion. PING’s founder, Karsten Solheim, viewed the pistol grip as an alternative to the Ballnamic bent shaft the company incorporated into iron and putter builds before it was deemed non-conforming by golf’s ruling bodies. His philosophy with the Ballnamic shaft was to incorporate a bend to align the grip with the center impact location of the club head, with the intention of reducing “twist” at impact [3]. Karsten began using the Golf Pride Informer grip on a number of his models as a result and eventually developed the PING PP58 putter grip to best replicate his Ballnamic shaft philosophies. Although this type of grip has been prominent for many years, there has been little-documented research exploring the effect of this type of grip on the delivery of the putter head during the putting stroke. A pilot study was conducted to explore whether there is a measurable effect on putter-head orientation at impact when comparing a pistol-type grip to a “straight” grip (uniform cross-section over the entire length of the grip).

Methods

Forty players carried out 5-putt sessions from 10 feet with two different putter grips installed on the same model of putter. The grips chosen for this study were the Golf Pride Tour SNSR Straight and Contour models, while the putter-head model tested was a PING Sigma G Tess. During each of these sessions, the motion of the putter was measured using the PING Putting app [4]. Additionally, players were required to use each putter to hit five 8-foot putts at one hole and five more at another. The miss direction and makes were recorded for every putt. Paired t-tests were used to compare the effects of the two levels of grip on specific dependent variables. The dependent variables evaluated in this study were the impact angle relative to address, impact lie angle, and impact loft.

Statistical significance was set at a < .05 for all tests. This is just a bit of academic speak that states how a difference in result is deemed “real” or “within the fuzz of the data”. Whenever two sets of data taken under different conditions (with a different club, for example) are compared, something called a p-value can be calculated. You will see this number reported in some of the graphs in the results section. When this p-value is less than 0.05, then we can say with a degree of confidence that there is a difference between the two clubs. If the p-value is above 0.05, then the conclusion from the test data is the variable in question is essentially the same for both conditions.

Results

Evaluating the delivered putter orientation data for each grip, there was a significant difference in impact angle between the two putters, as shown in figure 3, with the pistol grip being delivered more closed relative to setup. There was also a small, but statistically significant difference in lie angle at impact, shown in figure 4. The delivered loft showed no significant difference.

Additionally, when evaluating the miss/make data for the putts from 8 feet, the recorded data showed a slight tendency for the Straight grip to miss to the right more frequently than the Pistol grip (figure 5), but the difference was not “statistically significant”.

One element of the PING Putting App is something called a putting handicap. This looks at the consistency of different elements of a putting stroke and equates the variability in those elements to a handicap number. The consistency score was calculated for every player’s 5-putt session with each of the putters. The consistency of the closing angle, impact angle, and total consistency (which includes tempo, lie, and loft) is reported in figures 6 and 7. The first group consisted of players with low closing angles (less than 7.5 degrees on a 10-foot putt) which basically says they had less rotation in their stroke. Conversely, the players in the second group had average closing angles of more than 7.5 degrees.

Discussion

The results from this experiment suggest the pistol grip tends to promote a more closed face angle at impact when compared to a constant cross-section grip. Recorded misses on 8-foot putts show some evidence that the players are delivering the face more open at impact with the Straight grip, as opposed to setting up more closed at address. A previous study investigating the kinetics of the putting stroke using two putters with different CG locations relative to the shaft axis showed a similar result. A face-balanced putter delivered the face more closed relative to setup when compared to a heel-shafted putter [5]. It appears the design of the pistol grip orients the axis of the hands relative to the putter CG in a way that produces the same effect, making a heel-shafted putter play more like a mid-hang putter.

The most practical application of this insight is in putter fitting. If a player being fit finds a putter model they prefer, but they struggle with a miss in one direction or another, using a grip that is straight or has a pistol design could help fight this miss tendency. For example, if a player loves his Anser model with a non-pistol grip and is fighting a push, a pistol grip may potentially help. Additionally, the consistency results may suggest players with more rotation in their stroke could perform more consistently with a straight grip on a putter like a Tess, since this maintains the “toe-hang” nature of the design (figure 7). For players with less rotation in their stroke, a pistol grip may be the best option on a putter like a Tess, since it appears a pistol grip makes the heel-shafted putter play with a little less “effective hang”, leading to better consistency (figure 6).

References:
1. USGA (2018) Guide to the rules on clubs and balls, United States Golf Association. http://www.usga.org/rules/equipment-rules.html
2. Ellis, J.B. (1997). The Clubmaker’s Art: Antique Golf Clubs & Their History. Oak Harbor, WA: Zephyr
3. Ellis, J.B. (2017). And the Putter Went … PING. New York: C&C Offset
4. Cottam, R.J., Wood, P.D., Henrikson, E.M. (2017) Systems, methods, and articles of manufacture to measure, analyze and share golf swing characteristics U.S. Patent No. 9,821,210. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
5. Mackenzie, S., Henrikson, E.M., (2018). Influence of Toe-Hang vs Face-Balanced Putter Design on Golfer Applied Kinetics, ISEA 2018 Engineering of Sport, Brisbane March 26-28 2018

For You

For You

Partner Content
Feb 22, 2024
What Club Should You Use to Get Up and Down?
adidas tour360 24 adidas tour360 24
Golf Shoes
Feb 22, 2024
adidas TOUR360 24: The Return of an Icon
News
Feb 22, 2024
Opinion: Pro Golfers Should Still Keep Score—But Let’s Reduce the Penalty for an Incorrect Card
Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik currently manages the Innovation and Fitting Science Department at PING Golf. He obtained his Ph.D. in 2010 from Arizona State University, where he studied plasma physics and micro-satellite propulsion. Since starting at PING in 2010 as a research engineer, Erik has played a part in the development of various technologies and projects, including iPing, Turbulators, nFlight fitting software, and the PING Custom Fitting Manual.

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

R&D Tools: Player Testing
Sep 19, 2017 | 9 Comments
R&D Tools: PING MAN
May 22, 2017 | 17 Comments
R&D Tools: Eye tracking
Mar 8, 2017 | 14 Comments
Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson

Erik Henrikson





    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

      Dennis Beach

      4 years ago

      Used to use pistol grips when I first started playing. Switched to a “fatso” grip before Super Strokes came out. Found that I could relax my hands, with arthritis, and putts were a lot smoother thru the stroke, which is back and thru. Use a Carbite ZH, which I bought in 2000, and will probably never replace. I have a Super Stroke 2.0 for the last 7-8 years, and it feels great when putting. My putting is subjective to that day, ala green speed, moisture, wind, and in general how I am feeling that day. Some days are better than others. Is this a new trend, that we’re going back to smaller putter grips? I have seen some people have just a round grip on their putter. Is this something new? And what about the tour? What is the latest trend for putter grips with them?

      Reply

      spencer

      5 years ago

      what about how the player holds the grip how does that interplay with grip style and toe hang/face balance
      Just changed my grip from right hand side on claw to right hand under claw to stop pulling

      Reply

      Bandit

      5 years ago

      I have a tendency to have my Putter face open when lining up to a straight Put, giving me a miss to the right on longer Putts. To overcome this I have recently moved back to a more Toe hanger Putter. I have also fitted an Mid-size Forward Putter Grip (which has a bulge top & target side) this locks your wrist in a great position and the new combo are giving great results.

      Reply

      Shanon

      5 years ago

      Well, whatever you did seems to work now for you but in theory a putter with more toe hang is essentially there to slow down the face rotation and fight a pull and not a push.

      Reply

      Donald

      4 years ago

      Dead wrong Shanon, a toe hang putter is designed to release through the stroke. You’re thinking of a center shafted putter.

      mackdaddy

      5 years ago

      I would love to get an oversized pistol grip. I have never found one. My hands are huge, I wear a size 20 ring, and need an oversize grip. I would switch immediately if someone could tell me where I could get one.

      Reply

      Brandon

      5 years ago

      I got one from some brand called “Karma” on eBay for about 10 bucks. Used it to regrip an old broomstick putter I had lying around that I decided to cut down to normal length. I’m pleased with it so far, but it’s just a back up putter I have at my office, not my gamer.

      Reply

      James

      5 years ago

      Golf Pride has them.

      Reply

      Vas

      5 years ago

      This is excellent. It confirms my suspicions on this matter. The moral of the story is to use something that can counter your main weakness, so for me, it’s a quarter toe-hang with a SS 3.0 grip.

      Reply

      KM

      5 years ago

      Suppose the USGA has limits on the amout of pistol curvature.

      Reply

      Alf

      5 years ago

      Was there any difference between a conventional putting grip and left hand low or a saw grip?

      Reply

      Al

      5 years ago

      So how do we extrapolate to the popular fatso grips, or this an entirely different animal?

      Reply

      Jerry

      5 years ago

      The testing methodology of hitting putts (perhaps I spaced out reading your technical description) one after another is not the real world of playing where unless you take a Mulligan you actually have to count your first putt. So a typical golfer taking 5 putts in a row at the same hole will correct his stroke and in theory miss the first but get closer by the fifth. Not sure how you tested but a pure test would only allow a single putt at each distance with some interruption of playing time in between putts. This is why we all can make putts at Golf Galaxy on their AstroTurf greens by adjusting our stroke demoing putters but using them on the course in actual play is another matter. Most every avid golfer owns enough putters to start their own museum. Your testing is no doubt a good comparison between the two grip types but a more interesting test might have been 18 holes with each putter over two days or better yet a longer period of continued use. I know, not practical.

      Reply

      Alan

      5 years ago

      I recently got an Edel putter with a round non-tapered grip. I’m supprised how natural it feels and my putting has been better than ever.

      Reply

      Howard

      5 years ago

      I would like to see a similar test done with small grips compared to large ones.

      Reply

      Robert

      5 years ago

      This is interesting. I always thought the toe closed a little faster with a pistol grip. My main question now is what classifies as a pistol grip? For instance do the Scotty Matador grips qualify? They don’t have the bend in them, but they do not have equal matter around the shaft.

      Reply

      Pete

      5 years ago

      What is a ‘yip? I have never suffered from them when putting!

      Reply

      michael agishian

      5 years ago

      I think it’s a punchy putt

      Reply

      Bert pit

      5 years ago

      It is an uncontrolled contraction of your muscles just at the wrong moment of the putting stroke.

      Reply

      Darrel Bentley

      5 years ago

      I have used the pistol grip for years,,,tried the straight grip ,,,putting was ok ,,,went back to the pistol grip ,,,I use a heel shafted putter,,the pistol grip is better for my putting stroke…I like the feel ..

      Reply

      Terry McDowell

      5 years ago

      I have been using a P2 putter grip this year and I love the results. My hands are in a locked forward position which has drastically helped me make shorter putts. In the past I have struggled with the ‘yips’ and this grip has given me alot of confidence now.

      Reply

      1putt

      5 years ago

      How many players changed their putter grip after this trial? Which did they choose?

      Reply

      Tom Beery

      5 years ago

      Have used a pistol grip on my PING Tess putter for 16 years. Had always been a decent putter, but the new putter and grip has taken my putting to a whole different level. I have putted cross-handed for 50+ years with my putting stroke power coming from my right hand. (A Nicklaus trait.) Over the past 20 years, I have taken my league’s putting title 15 of 20 years…and missing out on two more by hundredths of stroke average. Pistol grips ROCK!

      Reply

    Leave A Reply

    required
    required
    required (your email address will not be published)

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Partner Content
    Feb 22, 2024
    What Club Should You Use to Get Up and Down?
    adidas tour360 24 adidas tour360 24
    Golf Shoes
    Feb 22, 2024
    adidas TOUR360 24: The Return of an Icon
    News
    Feb 22, 2024
    Opinion: Pro Golfers Should Still Keep Score—But Let’s Reduce the Penalty for an Incorrect Card