Get a grip! Leather v Rubber
Neil Cooke is a Professional Clubmaker and the Tour Technician on the European Seniors Tour and Golfshake is lucky enough to have Neil writing a blog on Golfshake to give the inside view on a professional golf tour.
Neil's got over 30 year experience in club fitting, club making and was the Technical Director at Golfsmith Europe. He's considered an expert in his field and regularly writes technical articles for various golf publications and runs Golf Technical Services supporting the European Seniors Tour.
The golf industry is always looking for new breakthroughs in technology, whether it’s lighter shafts, new lighter and stronger materials for heads or adjustable face technology. However, sometimes we need to take one step back to take two steps forwards. The early 50’s saw the introduction of the first slip on rubber golf grip, these replaced the original type of grip made from leather. But why were the slip on rubber grips invented? It was simply that they were easier to install and more importantly, cheaper. There was no improvement in performance from the new material. Over the next half century leather has been overlooked by both the manufacturers and the golfing public, although there are still quite a few tournament professionals using them.
Let’s have a look at those two benefits of the rubber grip. Certainly the rubber grip is easier to install than those wrap on leather grips of old. On the tour truck, as things can get pretty hectic, I look to put on a new grip within 30 seconds. Leather grips are now available already installed on a rubber underlisting and so are equally quick and easy to fit. Secondly, there is no doubt rubber grips are significantly cheaper, a decent quality rubber grip will cost anything from around £5 up to corded or semi corded at about £10. A leather grip is going to cost you double this, but there is more to value than the initial price. A serious golfer playing once a week should change their grips every season, a less regular player, once every 2-3 seasons. A leather grip, if properly cared for, will last 5, 10 or even 15 years! So on a £ per season ratio a leather grip is better value.
Other misconceptions are, leather goes hard and shiny, leather is too hard, leather is too high maintenance, and leather looks boring! The hard and shiny issue comes from that fact that the only leather grips people tend to see nowadays are on old clubs at car boot sales or at the municipal tips. Remember, these clubs are possibly 40, 50 or even 60 years old and haven’t been looked after for nearly as long. Just have a look at the state of the rubber grips on clubs at the car boot and some of these are just a few years old. The original leather grips were wrapped onto a paper underlisting, and yes, they were pretty firm, but that was the way all those years ago. Nowadays leather comes in a variety on types and on variable underlistings, so there are almost as many durometers (hardness) available as there are with rubber. Leather takes no more effort to maintain than rubber, simply wipe clean with a damp cloth periodically and the grip will serve you for many years. In fact the extreme elements, such as leaving clubs in either, a very cold or very hot, car boot have a more detrimental effect on rubber than leather. As a fashion statement, leather is now available in array of bright colours.
Golf is not a fashion show (for most of us, anyway!) so if we’re paying top dollar we want the performance to match. Leather is a better grip in the wet, just quickly wipe with a towel and the tackiness gives solid, secure control of the club. Leather has less torque, again so more control of the club. In fact, although independent testing proves that any grip will have an adverse effect on the mechanical values of the club, leather has the least degradation. So maybe, just maybe, it might be worth looking back in history, rather than to the future for better performance.
To find out more about Neil Cooke and Golf Technical Services or for further information on club fitting or how the Tour truck could visit your event or Corporate day visit www.technicalgolfservices.co.uk
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