January 26, 2009

That Personal Touch

Today's pros are particular about grips

Four to six changes a year give Mallinger a handle on his game.

Four to six changes a year give Mallinger a handle on his game.

Most average golfers give grips about as much thought as a tee. For tour players, however, the grip ranks up there with clubheads, balls and shafts in terms of importance.

That's because the grip goes beyond how well a player can hold onto the club. The size, weight, texture and position of the grip are important, too.

For Harrison Frazar, that means changing every four months. "I have one base wrap and one extra wrap on the right hand, to make the right hand feel a little bigger," said Frazar. "Some guys put the same grip on and off a club five or six times to get the right feel. It takes some time."

For other players it takes longer than most. Woody Austin and Bob Estes are legendary among tour techs for being fastidious about their grips. Padraig Harrington is another persnickety pro. The two-time defending British Open champion puts his grips on straight and then turns them 10 degrees left so the rib is more in the fingers of his left hand and more in the palm of his right hand. The process underscores the importance of the little tweaks made to grips to get just the right feel.

Regardless of how players put grips on their clubs, they share this: All have benefited from increasingly sophisticated grip technology. "There's probably no more than 10 players on the major men's tours still using the Victory grip," said Dan Koehler, global marketing manager for Golf Pride. "The majority use the Tour Velvet and some 15 to 20 players use our New Decade MultiCompound."

The latter has been an interesting addition to the grip scene. The two-tone, part-rubber, part-cord grip is noticeable and underscores that even in grips tour players seek a little form to go with function. Lamkin's Crossline series (used to win 15 majors over the various tours) also adds style to go with substance. Attention-grabbing, too, are Winn's colorful putter grips, used by several players, including Natalie Gulbis.

Still, how a grip performs far outweighs its looks, and because of that, it sometimes can be a lengthy process to get it just right. Third-year PGA Tour pro John Mallinger's set is among those requiring extra attention.

"I change mine every two to three months," said Mallinger. "I do it a little different. I use a size .60 round (the inside diameter of the grip is six-tenths of an inch), upside down with two wraps. The normal grip is a size .58, so I try to get it in between. It just feels good in my hands with the two wraps. I discovered it from trial and error. When I change, it usually takes a couple of tries before I can get it right."

For most tour players, that is time wisely spent.

Spotted

Be like Boo: Steve Marino had a pair of Cleveland CG 14 wedges in his bag last week (56, 60 degrees) featuring a unique camouflage finish (right). Word is that Boo Weekley, who often dons a camo hat, will also use the wedges the next time he tees it up.

Bag Room

TaylorMade's much-anticipated R9 driver made its debut at the 50th Bob Hope Classic and went into the bags of 13 players, including champion Pat Perez, who had the adjustable driver set ½ degree open with a neutral lie angle, with 5-gram weights left and right and an 8-gram weight in the rear. "I got it on Monday," said Perez (below). "I had to try this thing. It looks like the old 510 head which was my favorite before [this]. It's unbelievable." ... Stephen Ames used a prototype Nike putter last week, finishing T-5 while ranking eighth in putts per GIR. The blade-style putter is nicknamed "The Oven," which is what Nike's R&D team calls its Fort Worth facility. ... Ryan Moore, who does not have an equipment deal, wielded a set of Callaway prototype blade irons at the Bob Hope.