One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday
No love for the glove?
The premise for this article had its nascence in a casual post-golf conversation where, it was observed, it seemed that fewer and fewer players wear a glove. I decided to follow up. (For the record, I haven’t worn a glove in about 20 years and have full-cord grips.)
A survey of my Twitter followers (most of whom are avid golfers) showed that 80 percent wear a glove. A questionnaire sent to the members of a central Ontario tour on which I compete showed almost the same result. The responses were varied, to say the least.
“Perhaps the sweatiest guy on the planet, change gloves a few times a round” … “started wearing one to avoid blisters but now just out of habit” … “when I heard Fred Couples didn’t wear a glove for better feel, I switched to no glove, plus the financial incentive of not replacing worn gloves” … “wore one because Nicklaus did and he was my favorite player” … “definitely makes a difference in control and feel” … “useless fashion accessory.”
Tony Covey of MyGolfSpy.com usually is my reliable source for all things equipment, but this one stumped even him. “Got nothing on this,” he said, “but am thinking the question should be included in our next equipment survey.”
Jeff Shepherd is the marketing manager for Winn Grips, the first manufacturer to produce premium polymer golf grips more than 20 years ago. You’ve no doubt seen renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon pitching Winn products on TV. The premise is that the polymer material creates a durable, tacky, comfortable all-weather grip that, according to Shepherd, might mitigate the need for a glove.
“The feedback we get from a lot of golfers is that they no longer have to use a glove,” he said. “It’s like it’s optional for most golfers, although a lot continue to wear one, likely out of habit more than any other reason.”
Kerri Kauffman agrees, kind of. As the vice president of marketing for Lamkin Grips, she has heard anecdotal evidence from consumers that the improved comfort and durability of the new grips makes a glove redundant for many golfers. That, she said, “is a huge compliment about our grips.” But she has no empirical data, adding that to conclude that the golf glove is headed for extinction would be taking the argument “a step too far at this point.”
Nevertheless, figures provided by Golf Datatech, a specialized market research firm, indicate that the total number of golf gloves purchased annually in the U.S. has dropped 15 percent since 2009. “The cause of the drop in sales could be because rounds played are down, improved durability of gloves makes them last longer, golfers simply prefer not to wear glove…,” according to Tom Stine, a partner at Golf Datatech.
We are told that gloves made their appearance in the late 19th century, to enable golfers to retain their hold on those slick leather grips. But they were anything but an instant success. It took until the 1960s for the glove to become a regular sight on the PGA Tour and at the local golf club.
In 1979, FootJoy, a division of Acushnet, entered the glove business. By the following year, its cabretta leather StaSof model was the best-selling glove in golf. (FootJoy still bills itself as “the No. 1 glove in golf.”) That year also marked the start of the company’s ongoing relationship with iconic leather maker Pittards of England.
“The golf glove and the golf grip – it’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Maria Bonzagni, senior director of Acushnet gloves and FootJoy accessories, who has been with the company since 1990. “More than 95 percent of professional golfers wear a glove. It’s paramount for better players.” It must be noted that pros get free gloves and most are remunerated for wearing a specific brand.
If you choose to wear a glove, Bonzagni has some specific criteria for your purchase, which ranges from $12 to $30 MSRP for FootJoy products. “Get fitted by a golf professional. It should fit snugly like a second skin. More than 50 percent of golfers wear a glove that is too big. There should be about a quarter of an inch of Velcro showing when it’s on, and the palm should be smooth when your hand is in a ‘grip-like’ position.”
A properly fitted glove, she said, will “reduce grip pressure, calluses and other wear on your hand, help manage climate and condition changes and perspiration.”
Lamkin’s Kauffman pointed out that, just like golf swings, there is “an entire spectrum of feel preferences among golfers.”
So, no glove, one glove or even two gloves… What’s your preference?
John Gordon, who has covered golf for more than 30 years for Canadian newspapers, magazines and a TV network, has authored eight books on the game. He lives in Midland, Ontario. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @gordongolf