I don’t want this to become yet another article about my putting woes but suffice to say, I have had my ups and downs on the greens over recent years. Given that I am also a terrible tinkerer (does that word even exist?) when it comes to my equipment in general, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have tried almost everything you might care to mention with my putter too. Surprisingly though, playing with thicker putter grips took me a little while.
Thicker Putter Grips: Do they Really Help?
Traditionally and even today, most putter grips are actually hardly thicker than the grips on the rest of your clubs. I honestly don’t know whether this is because nobody thought about doing it differently or not. What is doubtlessly true is that there has always been a deep connection between putting and feel. No surprise here. Putting doesn’t require power but it certainly needs touch.
When I am putting well (and it does sometimes happen) I certainly feel in touch with the club, ball and even green. There is an almost unconscious understanding of dose and line that makes good putting more art than science in some ways. The opposite is also true. When my confidence on the greens is at a low ebb, I am relying on mechanical things rather than any feel for what the putt might do. A standard, thin grip fits in with this idea of being in touch with the clubhead and ball. After all, how are you supposed to feel what is going on through an inch or two of sponge and rubber?
In theory then, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for going to a thicker grip outside of simply having bigger hands and adjusting things up slightly. OK, but what happens when things go wrong?
The Dreaded Yips
Unfortunately, putting is prone to a set of very specific problems that can ruin your chances of making anything on the green and change golf from an amazing experience to a dreaded ordeal. The ultimate end to this is the yips, something that any golfer wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy, but even if you never get quite to this point (and I hope this is the case), it can still be an issue.
Putting, unlike other parts of the game, really is dependent on fine motor control and the science pretty clear that things can go wrong with this. This isn’t just true in golf, but in other sports that rely on similar small, controlled movements. For example, you might have heard of darts players that suddenly can’t actually release the dart.
The result in golf is that the previously smooth putting movement become jerky. This makes it difficult to hit consistent putts and there are two areas where you will notice some immediate problems. The first is with distance control on longer putts. Golfers (myself included unfortunately) who start to experience these parasitic spasms in their putting will find themselves leaving that 20 foot putt either ten feet short or ten feet past. Suddenly an easy two putt becomes a rather stressful three putt.
The other type of putt which is a real problem is the very short putt, or even a virtual tap-in. Speaking from experience, this is an absolutely horrible situation to be in. Missing the cup entirely from two feet or less and seeing the pitying looks of your playing partners is just soul-crushing. It messes with your mind and spoils an otherwise enjoyable round.
Thicker Grips for a Smoother Putting Stroke?
This isn’t something you can fix with more time putting. In fact, it can even make things worse! These twitchy movements tend to appear over time and more putting won’t make them disappear. The only way to get rid of them is to change something in the stroke.
This is where a thicker grip starts to make sense. It allows us to relax that death grip on the club and suddenly that handsy stab at the ball becomes a smooth back and through stroke again. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Putting with a traditional thin grip uses a lot of small muscles and depends on the coordination of everything from fingers through to forearms and shoulders. Trying a fat grip essentially takes the smaller muscles and joints out of the equation. The movement can become a simple swing or pendulum from the big muscles of the upper body.
This type of movement has a massive advantage-it isn’t prone to the same problems that lead to the yips when very fine motor unit control is the main driver of the movement.
If you have tried a fat grip, with the superstroke range probably being the best-known out there, you might be thinking “hold on, my putting actually got worse!” There are a couple of points that are worth remembering here before abandoning things completely.
Firstly, fat grips (like many things in golf) aren’t for everyone. You might be fine with a very thin grip, enjoying the sensation of being in touch with the club. The yips have never even been on your radar. More power to you, but don’t rule out the thick grip just yet. The second point is that you have actually made a significant change in quite a detailed movement and it will take time to learn to use the bigger muscles in the body instead of the smaller ones.
Ultimately, for many golfers this transition to thicker grips really is worthwhile. The learning curve isn’t that steep and, in theory at least, the putting movement is now far less prone to breaking down.