I was watching some classic British Open golf video the other day and noticed the difference between how the players of the past stroked a putt versus the method of the modern golfer. In the past, a stroke that engaged much more wrist action was most often used. Clearly, the grass was not clipped quite as close as that on our modern greens, so the ball did not roll as fast or as smoothly compared to today. Most golfers were hunched over the ball, almost contortionist-like. The putters golfers used were mostly blade style and quite unforgiving. As for the grip, they had nowhere near the choices that the golfer in 2008 has.
Until just recently, the putter grip's evolution has been minimal when compared with the rest of the components that make up the golf club. In contrast to the ever-changing options available in shafts, the putter grip appears virtually unaltered. Sure, there are some minor differences, but a visit to a golf store in 2008 reveals that most brands of putters employ the same style and size grip as their competitors. Obviously, in order to fit the individual golfer's needs, putters need to be customized as much as (if not more than) the rest of the clubs in the bag. The putter grip is surely a place where clubmakers can look to make a golfer more comfortable with their stroke.
The putting stroke has evolved over the past couple of decades. Because the speed of most putting greens is much faster now than in the past, most teaching professionals lecture to their golfers that the big muscles and not their wrists must initiate the putting stroke. One way to discourage the action of the hands and wrists is to use a bigger putter grip. Large putting grips allow the hands to rest on the putter, hindering wrist action. The grip manufacturers have been on top of this trend. Most now offer midsize putter grips and newer pistol grips that are slightly larger than their past models.
The paddle grip was the choice among putter grips for many years before being replaced by the now common pistol grip. The paddle grip has a flat front that is quite broad on the top of the putter and decreases in width as it moves toward the bottom of the grip. The top third of the back of the pistol grip is curved, and the flat front is normally constant in width from top to bottom. There are many variations of the pistol grip, in both shape and texture.
Recent grip putter evolution is very evident in the number of oversize putter grips being offered by grip manufacturers. The Jumbo Crown grip from Golf Pride has been a mainstay for years for those golfers who prefer a very large putter grip. The Super Stroke from Stroke Solutions is fairly new but already quite popular, as are the putter grips from Tiger Shark, which are also above average in size. All these grips are traditional in shape but vary in size. Some resemble the shape of the traditional paddle grip, while others are similar to the pistol grip. The 2 Thumb putter grip is nontraditional in shape and size; it is flat and wide across, yet quite narrow from front to back. All these grips allow the golfer to control the putter's movement while discouraging use of the hands and wrist.
For those golfers who use mid-length putters, there are several different styles of grips to choose from. Initially, the favored grip for a mid-length putter was the round, two-piece grip. The top piece is 4-6" in length, while the lower grip is roughly 12" long. Installing this type of grip correctly is a must. The rules of golf state that a two-piece grip must have a separation between the two grips of at least 1.5". However, the mid-length putter's two-piece round grip is rapidly being replaced by the longer, flat-front, traditional-shaped grip. These range in length from 16" to 22". They offer the flexibility of allowing the golfer to place their hands anywhere along the length of the grip.
With all these grip options available, failing to choose a putter grip style that fits the specific needs of the golfer would be a crime. But there is one more aspect of the grip that may provide the most positive results on the putting green. The Golfsmith Research and Development Department has been at the forefront of backweighting, or counterbalancing, golf clubs, which involves adding weight to the top of the club. This operation is not new, but adding the amount of weight that has been tested recently is very new. To test whether backweights will improve your putting, find a new putter grip that fits your needs, then cut a hole in the cap with the Tour Lock Pro Grip Modifier. This tool fits into any drill and cuts a precise hole in the grip cap that allows insertion of various weights. Slide the weight into the hole in the grip and secure it with an Allen wrench. Tour Lock Pro Weights are available in 20, 30, 40, 50, 75 and 100 grams. Usually, at least 50 grams or more works best for putters.
Adding weight to the butt end of a putter dramatically improves the feel of the putter without adding stress to the hands and wrist. Often when, in a fitting, the putter is shortened, the result is a putter that feels lighter. Partly, this is due to the change in length, which moves the weight of the head closer to the hands. In the past, weight was usually added to the head until an arbitrary swingweight number was achieved. Adding weight to the head taxes the wrists and can lead to excessive wrist motion in the putting stroke. By contrast, a Tour Lock Pro Weight added to the butt end adds heft in the hands, which may stabilize the stroke without taxing the muscles of the hands and wrist.
Don't look to the assembled putters in most stores for the answer, as most grips on name-brand putters are very similar in style and shape; they just have different names. Since improved putting is such a major part of achieving lower scores, golfers owe it to themselves to experiment with different putter grips and find the one that works best. A small investment may turn the one club that was out of favor into the best in the bag.