MGS Labs: Putter Grips

Tell me if you've heard any of these "myths" about larger sized putter grips before:

  • “It will take your hands out of the stroke.”
  • “It will cure your yips...guaranteed.”
  • “You won’t flip it.”
  • “You’ll make more putts.”
  • "You'll be more consistent."

I've been in enough golf stores to have heard all of these dozens of times and they always lead me to wonder, "Where did these ideas come from?  Is it just guys repeating some marketing BS?"

Call me a skeptic, but I find a lot of these hard to believe.  If becoming the next Brad Faxon was as easy as slapping a big chunk of rubber on the end of your flat stick, course records would be falling left and right.  But, as always, I was willing to suspend judgment until the FACTS were in.  So we took this issue to the "MyGolfSpy Lab".

WHO CARES ABOUT PUTTER GRIPS?  >> YOU SHOULD

Of all the pieces of equipment in the bag, the putter grip may be the most disrespected.  I've seen dozens of people pick their putter grip based on color and plenty of others who just tell the club builder to use whatever is cheap.  Is this smart?  Not according to this guy:

“The relevance of the putter grip is clearly underestimated.  The data collected with the SAM Puttlab shows that the correct putter grip directly increases performance and accuracy.”

That quote comes from Dr. Christian Marquardt, founder of SAM PuttLab, the state of the art technology for measuring the putting stroke.  When he talks about putting, it's probably wise to listen closely, so if he thinks that the putter grip is important maybe you should, too.

CAN A (BIG PUTTER GRIP) FIX YOUR STROKE?

If I told you that an equipment manufacturer was boasting about their product earning over $32,000,000 on the PGA Tour in 2012 (that’s $32 MILLION, for those of you who don’t count good), you’d probably think I was talking about a TaylorMade driver or maybe a Titleist golf ball, right?  WRONG.  In fact, I’m talking about SuperStroke putter grips.

If you’ve been paying any attention to golf over the last couple years, whether it’s the PGA, the LPGA, or your local muni, you’ve probably noticed the explosion in popularity of large putter grips.  Perhaps you’ve even tried one yourself.  MyGolfSpy has certainly noticed the trend, but we want to know what’s behind it.

Are big grips a "one sized fits all" solution?  We hit the Lab to find out!

HOW WE TESTED

For this Lab, we had five testers hit putts using five different grips:

  • SuperStroke Fatso
  • SuperStroke Slim
  • SuperStroke Ultra Slim
  • Pingman grip (Tiger Wood's putter grip of choice)
  • Round Golf Pride Tour Velvet.

All of these grips were used on identical putters: SuperStroke Bruce Sizemore DCF-4 at 35” and 350 grams.

Each tester hit 10 putts with each grip.  Every stroke was captured by SAM Puttlab.  Testing was done at Club Champion, whom we thank for their help and support.

RESULTS

How To Understand The Numbers

Since this is the first Lab that we’ve done with SAM Puttlab, and most people are probably unfamiliar with the numbers presented, here’s a quick cheat sheet.

  • Consistency: An overall measure of how similar the stroke is from putt to putt.
  • Face Angle: The direction the putter face is pointing at impact.  “0” would be perfectly square to the target.  Any number is how many degrees right (R) or left (L) of the target the face was pointed.
  • Path: The path the putter is traveling on at impact.  Like face angle, “0” would be a path that is perfectly perpendicular to the target.  Any number represents degrees right (R) or left (L) of the target.
  • Loft: The loft of the putter at impact.  The putter we used had 4* of loft, so anything less than that indicates that the shaft was leaning forward at impact.

ANALYSIS

After breaking down over 150 pages of SAM Puttlab reports, I sent the results to Nick Sherburne, Club Champion’s Master Club Fitter and Club Builder, and Bruce Rearick, PGA Professional and putting genius (read more about Bruce HERE).  After discussing the data with both, here are the five things that stood out to me:

CONSISTENCY - RESULTS

As a group, the larger grips did win the Consistency battle. The SuperStroke Slim posted the highest overall consistency score (77.20%) and crushed the competition at path consistency.  The Ultra Slim scored highest for face angle consistency.  SuperStroke’s Fatso grip was a close second in overall consistency (77.00%) and also eked out a very narrow win in rotational consistency.  While some of the differences were not huge, it does appear that our testers made more consistent putting strokes with the larger grips.

LOFT - RESULTS

One of the major selling points of the big grips: no “flipping” the putter, thereby adding loft.  Did the theory hold up in practice?

We found that the Fatso grip did lower effective loft compared to the other putter grips, but the change was minimal (.18 compared to the Pingman grip).

Surprisingly, the grip that most dramatically lowered effective loft was the round grip; it allowed our testers to deliver .5* less loft than they did with the Fatso, and roughly .7* less than with any other grip.

FACE ANGLE - RESULTS

Going into this Lab, one of my hypotheses was that the large grips would slow rotation and lead to a more open face at impact.  I turned out to be dead wrong.  The putter face proved to be more closed with the larger grips (almost 1* closed with the Fatso).  How much does 1* matter?  1* is the difference between making a putt and missing at 10 feet.

The round grip allowed our testers to return the face closest to square: 0.1* closed, on average

PATH - RESULTS

The dramatic change in club path was the most shocking piece of data in this entire test.

Regardless of the size of the grip, traditional putter grips led our testers to have a club path of at least 2.24* to the left of the target.  Bruce explained the “why” behind this very simply (I’m paraphrasing): the flat part of the putter grip leads players to steer the club “straight” back.  The result of this “straight” backswing was a forward swing that cut across the ball to the left.

With the round grip, our test group’s club path was less than half a degree from square, an improvement of anywhere from 1.8* to 2.5* compared to the other grips tested.  Without the flat spot on the grip, our testers made a more natural, arced backswing which led to a squarer path through the ball.

PUTTS MADE - RESULTS

The simplest statistic, and the only one that really counts on the scorecard, is how many putts were actually made.  By this measure, the big grips, again, came out on top. Not every tester performed well with the big grips, but, as a group, the big grips showed themselves to be very easy to pick up and adapt to. The SuperStroke Slim led all the competition with a score of 86% putts made.  While the SuperStroke Fatso came in with a very respectable score of 74% putts made.

On the other hand, it makes sense that the round grip came in near the bottom in actual putts made: it was the only grip that significantly changed our testers’ swing path or face angle, the only grip that forced our players to adapt.  As the lone outlier in the group, its low number of putts made is unsurprising.

CONCLUSION

Though the larger grips did perform well in certain ways, they were far from a silver bullet.  From what we’ve seen in this Lab, there’s no doubt that the size and shape of your putter grip are important, and, just like we’ve seen with countless other things, no single grip will fit everyone.

If you’re serious about improving your putting, the first step is understanding your stroke.  There’s no better way to do that than with a qualified fitter or instructor who uses a SAM Puttlab (I would suggest Club Champion or Bruce Rearick).  From there, you can explore the impact that different grips can have on your game.

That said, we know most of you aren't going to take lessons or get fit...at least that's what the numbers tell us.  For you, we recommend the following:

  • If you want a quick pick-me-up that might help you make a few more putts this weekend, by all means try a big fat putter grip, BUT...
  • If you have a tendency to pull your putts, our data tells us you would be much better served by trying a round grip rather than a fatty.

Regardless of which route you take, please do one favor for me: if you're at your local big box and the guy behind the counter tells you that jumbo grip will “take your hands out of the stroke,” please smarten ‘em up by sending them to the Lab.