3. The Grip
Appendix II, 3 begins by stating that:
The grip consists of material added to the shaft to enable the player to obtain a firm hold. The grip must be fixed to the shaft, must be straight and plain in form, must extend to the end of the shaft and must not be molded for any part of the hands. If no material is added, that portion of the shaft designed to be held by the player must be considered the grip.
The grip is principally for the purpose of assisting the player in obtaining a firm hold - so that the club does not slip or twist out of the player's hand. However, the installation of a grip is optional.
When no material is added to the part of the shaft designed to be held by the player, the Rules relating to the grip take precedence over the Rules relating to the shaft. Therefore, the dimensions and cross-section of that area of the shaft may change and equal bending in any direction would not be required (see Design of Clubs, Section 2b).
In order to accommodate both hands, the grip must be at least seven inches (177.8 mm) in length. This also applies to clubs which have been designed to be used one-handed. For putters with two grips, see The Grip, Section 3c.
Due to the nature of grips and the Rules regulating them, it is sometimes very difficult to make a ruling without examining and comparing examples of other grips which are known to either conform or not conform. However, this is not something which would normally be possible in the field. It may help to remember that the overall consideration is that a grip "must not be molded for any part of the hands." If a certain feature on the grip enables the player to place his hands in exactly the same position every time, solely by feel and without actually looking at the grip, then it must be determined whether that feature renders the grip "molded for the hands." An extreme example of a grip which would be ruled "molded for the hands" is the type of "training grip" often used to help beginners. However, a grip which has subtle changes in surface texture would usually be considered conforming. Likewise, printed markings which assist with the correct placement of the hands visually would normally be considered conforming. Most of the details contained in Design of Clubs, Sections 3b and 3c serve to clarify and expand on this basic principle.
Appendix II, 3(i) through (iv) provide more specific parameters for the grip and states that:
(i) For clubs other than putters the grip must be circular in cross-section, except that a continuous, straight, slightly raised rib may be incorporated along the full length of the grip, and a slightly indented spiral is permitted on a wrapped grip or replica of one.
(ii) A putter grip may have a non-circular cross-section, provided the cross-section has no concavity, is symmetrical and remains generally similar throughout the length of the grip.
(iii) The grip may be tapered but must not have any bulge or waist. Its cross-sectional dimensions measured in any direction must not exceed 1.75 inches (44.45 mm).
(iv) For clubs other than putters the axis of the grip must coincide with the axis of the shaft.
(i) Circular Cross-Section Requirement (Woods and Irons)
Grips on woods and iron clubs are allowed to deviate from circular by having a slightly raised rib running along the full length of the grip (often called a "reminder rib").
"Slightly raised" is interpreted to mean that the maximum and minimum diameters of the cross-section at any point must not differ by more than 0.040 inches (1.016 mm). Additionally, the dimension of the rib width, from edge to edge, should not exceed 50% of the grip's internal diameter. While the first measurement can be taken using a pair of calipers, due to the nature of gripping materials, caution should be taken in making decisions in the field.
In the case of a standard length grip (approximately 10 inches (254 mm) in length), the "full length of the grip" is interpreted to mean that the rib must extend to within 3 inches (76.2 mm) of the tip. This is generally regarded as enough to cover the span of the player's hands on the grip (see Figure 13).
Simulated leather wrapped grips molded out of a rubber-like material with an indented spiral surface pattern or other similar indentations are permitted, as long as the fingers cannot comfortably fit in between the spirals or indentations. Also, features such as lines, dots, or other patterned indentations, which are too small to fit even the smallest of fingers, would not of themselves cause a grip to be in breach of the Rules. Such features would not normally render a grip non-circular in cross-section (for irons and woods) or not generally similar throughout the length of the grip (putters).
(ii) Putter Grips
As clearly stated in the Rule, a putter grip may have a non circular cross-section, provided that, among other things, the cross-section remains generally similar throughout the length of the grip.
In order to accommodate the popular (and somewhat traditional) "pistol-type" putter grips, the phrase "generally similar" is interpreted to mean: (i) that the butt (top) end of the grip should not involve a sharp change in slope or dramatic flare on the underside (see Figures 14(a) and (b)); (ii) that the flat front must extend to within 1 inch (25.4 mm) of the top and bottom ends (see Figures 14(b) and (c)); and (iii) if the axis of the grip and the shaft do not coincide, the grip must be at least 10 inches (254 mm) in length.
As with circular grips, features such as lines, dots, or other patterned indentations, which are too small to fit even the smallest of fingers, would not of themselves render a putter grip not generally similar throughout the length of the grip or molded for the hands.
(iii) Cross-Sectional Dimension
This clause is self-explanatory and illustrated in the Rules of Golf. If needed, manufacturers should contact the USGA for further guidance.
(iv) Grip Axis
This clause merely reinforces that the grip on a wood or iron club must be circular. It also requires that the axis of the grip and shaft must coincide. In other words, a grip made for a wood or iron club must not be manufactured such that, when installed, it is not centered on the shaft.
c. Two Grips
Appendix II, 3(v) provides that:
A putter may have two grips provided that each is circular in cross-section, the axis of each coincides with the axis of the shaft, and they are separated by at least 1.5 inches (38.1 mm).
If a putter were allowed to have two non-circular grips, it would be possible to mount the grips such that their cross-section would not be "generally similar" throughout the entire length (see Design of Clubs, Section 3b). For this reason, putters which have two grips must have two circular grips and this is interpreted strictly to mean that the grips must not incorporate a reminder rib.
Where a putter has two grips, these grips are only considered "separate" if the gap between them is at least 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) in length. If such a gap does not exist, the total length from the bottom of the lower "grip" to the top of the upper one is considered "one grip." Therefore, in both of the instances mentioned above, it is unlikely that the grip would conform if two conventional grips were used. Either the exposed piece of shaft between the two "grips" would constitute a waist, or the fact that two grips met in the middle would cause a bulge. The second example may be overcome if the lower grip was a continuation of the top grip, that is, a continuation of the same taper (see Figure 15).
If a putter does have two grips, the upper grip must be at least 5 inches (127 mm) in length. If the grip does not satisfy this requirement, it would be considered to be ‘molded for the hands'.
Note that it is not permissible for wood or iron clubs, including chippers, to have more than one grip.