Fully Equipped mailbag: Is there a benefit to building up a grip with tape versus using a larger size?
Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s managing editor of equipment, Jonathan Wall) fields your hard-hitting gear questions.
I’ve seen some players on tour have their club grips built up with extra wraps of tape underneath the rubber instead of going to midsize or oversize version. Is there a benefit to using wraps of tape versus increasing the size of the grip? — Nick Worthy
There isn’t a cut and dry situation where you should use more wraps of tape over going up in grip size, or vice versa. It really comes down to the overall weighting of the club and how you want it to feel in your hands.
For those who are unaware or maybe never heard the term “tape wraps,” there’s usually a single layer of grip tape (most are double-sided) underneath the grips on all your clubs. It helps keep the grip in place once the grip solvent — used to activate the tape and make it slick so the grip slides on — dries after the entire process is completed.
With that in mind, not every golfer likes the feel of a single wrap of tape under their grip. Some golfers have bigger hands and need the size of the grip to be increased to fit their mitts — but don’t want to do it by simply going to a larger grip.
For instance, Bubba Watson’s driver grip has 15 wraps of tape under the bottom half and 13 wraps under the top half. This is an extreme case, but it still highlights the importance of understanding what you’re trying to accomplish when you’re adding tape to a standard grip. In Bubba’s case, he doesn’t want the ball to hook as much, which is why he has the grip built up. Working the ball has never been a problem for him anyway.
As for why someone would even consider adding more tape versus going to an oversized grip, feel comes into play. Going to an oversized grip with more rubber is going to give you a softer feel because there’s more material in your hands. On the flip side, adding more tape to the grip is going to stretch the walls of the rubber, giving it a firmer feel. There’s also a good chance the grip will wear out sooner if you stretch the rubber, but if you’re employing this tactic, I’m going to guess that doesn’t matter.
You also need to be cognizant of what additional wraps of tape versus a larger grip will do to the overall swing weight of your clubs. Adding wraps will make the handle of the club heavier, which will no doubt alter swing weight. So if you’ve always played a heavier swing weight, adding more mass to the handle will completely alter the overall feel.
A rule of thumb is more wraps of tape should be used if you prefer a lighter swing weight; fewer wraps should be employed if you want a heavier swing weight. Swing weight plays into your swing speed, tempo, transition — basically all the major factors going into a good golf swing. That’s my way of saying you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before altering your grip with more tape or going up in size.
Of course, the best way to accomplish that is to go see a certified club builder.