You can probably guess, being that we sell grips and have helped over a million golfers around the world find the right grip for their game, our answer to this question is a resounding "YES!" (no surprise there).
But there's a longer answer with a lot more to it.
Golf grips are the only part of the golf club that you touch. This is where the transfer of energy begins, and having a new grip means a higher percentage of energy from your swing will make it down the shaft through the head and to the ball. It's physics, really.
Let's dive deeper into the characteristics of golf grips to understand how new grips actually make a difference in your game.
Grip durometer is the industry measurement for how hard a material feels. The higher the number, the more firm the grip is.
Durometer is also an important measurement (though usually not published by grip manufacturers), because it can signal how long a grip can last. Higher durometers mean the grip material is usually higher in density, which can signal better durability.
For our purposes, we loosely translate durometer into a description of how firm or soft it feels. When we categorize grips, we always specify if a grip is Firm, Medium Firm, Medium Soft, of Soft.
Most golf grips are not designed to last as long as the shaft or club head do. This is because the material (at a microscopic level) used in the outer layer of the grip is porous. Meaning the surface will absorb moisture, dust, and dirt over time.
Why are grips porous you ask? Another good question.
If grips weren't porous, it would likely require a more rigid material or a surface that wouldn't allow for any tackiness (we'll talk about this in the next section).
A rigid surface could be something like plastic or metal. You'd get zero shock absorption. And let's face it. Not all our shots usually hit the sweet spot. So with some swings you'd suffer painful shock waves feeding back through your hands, arms, and shoulders. OUCH.
Here's the first problem with older grips.
Over time the porous nature of grips will allow elements in the environment to basically attack and break down the internal structure. This includes oils from your hand, dust in the air, and even the damp heat of your car's trunk in the summer.
Oxygen also adds to its demise, which is why some grip manufacturers wrap their grips in thin plastic, sealing them off from the oxidation process.
A common mistake amongst golfers is forgetting to clean their grips after each round, thus allowing dirt, dust, and sweat to buildup and begin seeping into the grip. Even exposing grips to extreme heat or cold can add to their natural break down.
But how do I know when the grip has started to break down?
If you've regripped before, you know the feeling. It can be amazingly tacky. Some call it a sticky feeling (there's even a grip named "Sticky" by IOMIC.
On the flip side, swinging with an old set of grips can feel like the club might just slip away from you. When there's little tackiness left, you'll have to work that much harder to grip the club, and keep it stable through the swing. Over-gripping can also lead to misalignment in your swing as well as unnecessary hand and wrist strain.
Tackiness, or adhesion, is the measurement of the force it takes to pull away from a surface.
Watch this video to see how Lamkin measures tackiness:
These days tacky grips are commonly found in most modern grip styles, and is usually a recommended feature to look for. The tackier the grip, the less force required to keep your hands in contact with the grip.
Tackiness eventually fades (and is usually the first sign of a worn down grip) because the porous nature allows environmental elements to seep into the grip breaking down the outer later.
There's another reason why grip tackiness fades.
The outer grip will wear down depending on how you place your hands, and how tightly you hold the grip. Just like where the tire meets the road, thats where you usually see the most damage.
Some articles have suggested that sanding down your grip can help bring back the tackiness. While this may be true for a little while, most who have tried this confirmed that the tackiness won't last and that's its really just a short term band-aid.
Regular cleaning with mild soap and warm water can help lengthen the life of your grip. But it's important to remember that when your grip starts to lose its tackiness, you'll want to switch them out fairly soon.
In addition to dirt/dust/moisture elements, there's one other environmental factor at work in limiting the life of grips.
UV damage from the suns rays are not only harmful to people. It's also a menace for golf grips.
The more time grips are exposed to the sun, the weaker the grip becomes. The first sign of UV damage is usually a fading or discoloration of the grip. The second, and more serious symptom, is when the grip surface starts to crack.
Before we continue, I want to take a minute to highlight the 2 main materials used in grips these days.
Some manufacturers such as Winn or Super Stroke utliize a polymer outer material sealed with a "clear coat" finish. The finish is used to help protect the grip from normal wear and tear, but unfortunately it is especially susceptible to damage from UV rays. When the color has started to fade or becomes yellow, that's the first sign that the clear coat has worn off.
Rubber compound grips on the contrary utilize a consistent material for their outer later with no clear coat. More like your car tires. Rubber grips will also deteriorate from UV rays, but usually not as quickly as polymer grips do.
Dark color rubber grips won't usually fade in color though if there is white paintfill, that may turn yellow.
The symptom of UV damage for rubber grips is loss of tackiness, followed by cracking of the surface.
Recently, Lamkin has introduced a collection of UV resistant rubber compound grips, made from their Genesis material. Chris Elson from Lamkin Corp explained to us "in 3rd party testing we've found that material degradation usually happens with softer grips. So we focused on developing a soft material that is both durable and UV resistant."
We feature a large collection of UV resistant grips here.
The final sign of an old grip is its increase in torque.
If you've ever worked with a club-fitter, you might already know that having the right amount of twisting can maximize energy transfer AND get your club head back to square at the point of impact.
And you can imagine, as a grips internal structure breaks down, it's unable to full hold its shape during the intense force of the down swing. You've got the club head (with center of gravity off from the plane of the shaft) rotating the club clockwise.
With old grips, the added torque will really mess up the shot. You'll start to see unexpected fades. Definitely another sign that it might be time for new grips.
At Grips4less, we're all about helping golfers find the right equipment for their game. Give us a shout here - we'd love to hear from you.