Check out the new 2016 Winn Golf Grip line. For 20 years Winn Golf Grips have revolutionized the golf industry while adapting to the fickle wants and needs of golfers around the world.
What do bubbles, big butts and butt caps all have in common with Winn grips? I want to take you back 20 years ago when TaylorMade was riding high with their copper-colored Burner Bubble series. Their graphite-shafted clubs came equipped with the patented “Bubble” shaft which had a large enhanced area below the grip that made it distinctive. What golfers could not see (until much later) was hidden underneath the grip. The butt end of their Bubble shafts measured a whopping 0.810” and tapered down to 0.670” at the mouth of the grip. This required special thin-walled lightweight grips to be installed onto the shaft. By eliminating weight from the grip end it made the club much lighter overall and created a head heavy feel that could be swung freely.
Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?
Out popped a number of pseudo-bubble shafts on the market with the enhanced area under the golf grip, but none had had the true benefit of the larger butt end combined with the lightweight grip of the original Bubble. But for those who wore out their grips on their beloved graphite-shafted Burner Bubble clubs found their choices to be very limited. For clubmaking shops, you couldn’t just slip on a replacement grip. No, it required a special installation tool (and set of instructions) that would make a gynecologist blush.
Golfers yearned for “Big Butts”
The Bubble shaft spawned a whole new category of golf shafts called “big butt”. These did not have the enhanced area under the grip that made the Bubble shaft famous, but rather the diameters increase to 0.865” and even larger. The most notorious was Goldwin who came out with a club called the AVDP (short for avoirdupois). The AVDP system comprised of graphite shafts with a monstrous butt end @ 1.02” in diameter and an ultralight grip (as little as 11g). This created a very light club that was extremely head-heavy with swingweights ranging from D8-E1. To put this in perspective, an average grip weighed 50-52 grams.
First exposure to Winn golf grips
This 11 gram golf grip really looked like a leather strap you would find when wrapping a leather grip around an underlisting but instead wrapped directly onto the shaft. It was offered by a new company called Winn Grips and manufactured from a polyurethane material – more like what you would find on a tennis racket. It was much softer and even tackier than the rubber and the few leather grips of the day.
To install these grips onto the big butt shafts, one would remove the strip that covered the adhesive on the back side of the strap. Then you would start wrapping it around the butt end making sure each wrap butted up against the previous wrap. When done, you would secure the bottom of the grip with finishing tape (which looked like black electrical tape) and then cover the hole on the shaft with a butt cap. No installation tool required and you could re-grip without the use of solvents or a vise. They were even available in different thicknesses to allow for custom grip sizing; something the Bubble grips desperately lacked.
Enter the Winn 2-piece slip-on grip
For those too young to remember leather grips, you had to purchase several items. One was a rubber underlisting that you would install on a shaft like any other slip-on grip after installing the grip collar on first. Then you would apply the leather strap, cut it to size and the slide the collar up the shaft to secure the leather grip in place. Needless to say, it was extremely time consuming. There were leather slip-on grips available where the leather was applied over the underlisting where it could be slipped on like a rubber grip (with much more effort since they did not stretch). But even those required an end cap, locking pin and plastic disc.
Winn created something far more user-friendly for re-gripping regular sized shafts. The same polyurethane strap used for the big butt shafts was pre-assembled on a rubber underlisting with a piece of finishing tape to hold it in place. In effect, when the customer bought these Winn grips they were effectively one piece that you could slip on the shaft like any other. Over the years the finishing tape was replaced with a flip over bell collar on the underlisting to make installation no harder than a rubber grip.
Golfer’s today are accustomed to popular grips costing upwards of $10. Back when Winn introduced their self to the market, the average regular rubber grip price was less than a $1.50. Winn grips were more than twice that. Who in the heck was going to buy a grip for that much money that would wear quicker and need replaced sooner than a rubber grip? I can honestly say I was a pundit and figured that they priced themselves out of the market. But their grips felt so good and their jumbo model was so much softer and lighter than any other grip of similar size.
Coming full circle
What made Winn Grips popular despite the high cost of the day? They had a feel unlike no other grip, were lighter, available in multiple sizes and big butt shafts still were popular for several more years that gave more exposure their grips. Maybe forgotten was the grip material was conducive to being available in more than plain boring black. Winn introduced their tan grip in 1998 and followed up the next year with copper and blue and eventually multi-colors that we have all become accustomed to. This is why their newest grips to celebrate their 20th anniversary are copper.
Let’s not forget how quickly their putter grips went from an oddity to being virtually the grip of choice among putter manufacturers. Plus over the years Winn grip pricing have held fairly steady and are no more expensive than the average rubber grip on the market today. We will never know if rapid success and eventually the sudden decline of Bubble and big butt shafts had never existed whether golfers today would ever know the soft, tacky and unique feel of Winn golf grips.
So I want to wish a happy 20th Anniversary to Winn. You revolutionized the golf industry while adapting to the fickle wants and needs of golfers around the world.