"Drive for show, putt for dough." If you have played more than one round of golf, there's a good chance you have heard this saying.
In a quest to break par, golfers want to hit the ball farther and make a lot of putts. We spend tonnes of money on putters, training aids, lessons and books each season in search of an effective stroke on the greens.
Thankfully for many golfers, including some of the best in the world, SuperStroke grips created a line of oversized grips designed to feel comfortable and eliminate wrist action, promoting a more consistent stroke. You may have seen their advert on TV:
Much like anchored putters, thick grips have been in golf longer than people think. Companies like Winn, Lamkin, Golf Pride, PING, 2Thumbs and a host of others have created larger/oversized grips as early as the mid 1990s.
The idea behind a larger grip is to create a platform that relieves tension in the wrists and fingers, creating a stroke that is smoother and more repeatable. One study found a 32% reduction in grip tension with the SuperStroke versus a conventional smaller putter grip.
SuperStroke currently offers 12 different putter grips, ranging from ones suited to belly or long putters, to traditional putters and even a Claw grip designed specifically for a 'claw' putting technique, used recently by players such as Phil Mickelson.
The patented, non-tapered design of the grips means the grips are same width/diameter throughout the length, evenly distributing grip pressure between the right and left hands for a more consistent grip.
SuperStroke grips made headlines back in 2007 when KJ Choi added one to his putter before winning twice in the space of three events at The Memorial Tournament and AT&T National on the PGA Tour.
Today, more than 125 professional golfers have added a SuperStroke to their putter including players such as Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson. In fact three of the top-4 players at the US Open, and half of the top-10 the previous week, used a SuperStroke grip on their putter.
One of the SuperStroke converts, Jason Dufner, actually signed an endorsement deal with SuperStroke and went on to have a career best season in 2012:
Everything feels more solid. I just believe I can repeat the stroke, and that has helped me putt more aggressively rather than defensively.
Like many amateur golfers, I watch golf on TV and consistently spend time on course, range or putting green impersonating what I have watched. So after seeing the recent Tour success SuperStroke grips were having, I set about seeing what all the fuss was about.
I had an old centre-shafted Odyssey 2-ball sitting around that I had extended to belly-length in 2009 to again see what the fuss was about with the now-banned anchored stroke. I took it to my local golf shop to get it cut down and re-gripped with a SuperStroke grip.
After looking through the various grips and colour options, I selected a blue/white SuperStroke Slim 3.0 grip (most SuperStroke putters come in at least 4 different colours). Whilst chatting to the club fitter, he told me that his shop were selling and installing 7 to 10 SuperStroke grips per day at the moment due, in his opinion, to their success on Tour.
With the new grip installed, I headed out.
Upon gripping it for the first time on the putting green, my first thoughts were that it felt larger in my hands than it looked sitting on the display in the shop. With a diameter of 1.3 inches, it is hard to believe this is a 'Slim' grip, but to be fair SuperStroke do have five designs thicker than this up to 1.7 inches.
The round, non-tapered design sat comfortably in my hands and without even hitting a putt, I could feel what the design was trying to teach me: grip light and place less emphasis on my fingers, wrists and forearms.
The initial feel of the stroke took a dozen or so putts to get used to. The large size of the grip and impact on the position of your fingers feels odd at first, yet comfortable. Slowly, I felt myself beginning to putt a little smoother with less tension in my hands.
The exterior of the grip is very tacky, unlike the cord or rubber feel I was used to. In the heat, with sweat on my hands, it became even tackier. Some people don't like this feeling, and I have to say I am not a huge fan of it, but on the course it never really crossed my mind.
After an hour or so on the putting green, I headed to the first tee. With a 70ft birdie putt on the first hole it was time to see how my SuperStroke Slim 3.0 would do under pressure. Trusting the grip, I rocked my shoulders and rolled the ball within 6 inches of the hole. Joking with my playing partners that the new grip had an immediate impact, I continued putting with it for the remainder of the round.
I could understand how Jason Dufner improved from 150th on Tour in putting over 25ft in 2011, to 3rd in 2012 using the same Slim 3.0 grip.
The greatest benefit however in my mind was putts from 3 to 5 feet, a weakness in my, and most amateurs, game. Whilst only 24 players on the PGA Tour currently hole more than 90% of putts from this distance, it is a length that we all expect, or perhaps hope, to hole time after time.
The SuperStroke Slim 3.0 grip felt stable on these short putts. Where my fingers may have adversely impacted my stroke in the past, they were far more quiet in their new position. I holed one or two putts over 10ft, but finished the round extremely happy with my short putting, having not three putted once.
Long putts felt good and I did have more confidence taking a longer stroke than with a thinner, more traditional grip, but it was the performance on short putts that I will remember.
My advice to players curious about SuperStroke, or oversized grips in general, is give them a try.
My grip cost around £20 to buy and install (including cutting length off my putter), which is a lot less than you will spend on a new putter or even the more affordable training aids.
Larger grips are suited to people with a modern, textbook putting stroke and possibly fast greens. If you have a unique, old-style, popping or stabbing type stroke, you may not gain the same feel and control with a larger grip than ones you are used to.