Theres More to Grips Than Meets the Hand

By Adam BarrFebruary 14, 2004, 5:00 pm
The secret, we discovered, to teeing up a ball on the Great Wall of China is to find the moss between the stones.
Golf is where you find it, even in places where the grass is a bit sparse. True, we had to bring the worlds greatest game to one of the wonders of the world. But there we were, in China, on said wall, preparing to videotape my attempt to loft a Titleist into the wild lands beyond the parapets.
You can see how the shot came off on the season premiere of Whats In The Bag?, which is set for Monday, February 16 at 10:50 p.m. ET, part of TGCs Your Game Night. But theres much more to the show than my golf goofing-off north of Beijing. The WITB crew peered into the worlds least-known center of golf equipment manufacturing ' and into a particular company there ' and got a look at a big part of the future of golf gear.
First, an explanatory note about this season. There were 13 WITBs in 2003, and they were all topical: each show was about a topic, such as drivers, or golf balls, or some other subset of golf equipment. This year, we plan 24 shows, some topical, but others that are in-depth look at the companies and people who develop and build the latest in golf equipment. The first of these Whats In The Bag? Spotlight shows, which youll see Monday, is on Winn Grips, which is based in the Shenzhen region of southern China.
Its not the intent of these Bag Tags columns to give away whats in the show, but I dont want to be irritating about it either. So Ill tell you this much: turns out grips really are rocket science. Far from being a commodity item, grips are now performance enhancers for golf clubs. Its that premise, that desire to elevate grips from the dime-a-dozen reputation that once plagued them, that drove Dr. Ben Huang to found Winn.
Huang, a true rocket scientist who worked with the great Dr. Werner von Braun in the 1960s, switched to polymer science after his work with engineering doctoral candidates at Georgia Tech began to wind down. He was looking for a business opportunity, and after trying tennis and some other grip-central sports, landed in golf.
Theres much more to the story, but suffice to say, Winn brings a great deal of science to the process. At their plant in the town of Humen, Winn research engineers are using polymer technology with your hands in mind. We saw a lot of concern about and focus on how grips perform in wet conditions (from perspiration on your hand or the rain), and also about how grips should look. Youll even see some innovative ideas about how grips should be put together. But in the end, be it construction, design, or even cosmetics, the final goal is good feel in your hands.
Then there were the surroundings. China is a sensory feast for the adventurous traveler, a constant mlange of sights, scents and sounds that amaze at every turn. The Great Wall is one of those rare experiences that exceeds its own hype; seeing it snaking through the mountains in the distance, one is compelled to wonder, With terrain like this, why did they even need it? But mountains plus wall notwithstanding, the Manchurian horsemen finally got through, careening fearlessly down hillsides a man could hardly stand on, let alone a horse.
The Chinese as a people are warm and welcoming, even though they behold Westerners with a dose of curious wonder. They are not averse to laughing out loud at attempts to speak accent-free Mandarin, but they are always willing to smile, listen and help. More than once, I was certain that after I brushed against someone in the street and saying Ma fan nee, (excuse me), the brushee laughed and said to his companion, Where did that giant Westerner learn to speak Mandarin?
The most interesting golf fact, though, may be that much of the gear we all play is made by 18-year-olds from Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangdong and other Chinese provinces. Much has been made in recent years of child labor abuses and other problems with workers in Asian countries, but we saw no evidence of that in our travels.
Instead, we saw well-fed, eager workers who are probably making more money than their families have ever seen. They take as much overtime as they can get (Dr. Huang said that in fact the company has to limit the hours so the kids dont get too tired), and they are quality freaks. Everyone has a caliper or other measuring device to make sure products are on the mark. The environment is clean and orderly. And when the work day is done, workers return to modern dorms, where they eat three meals per day, all prepared by a full-time kitchen staff. The young employees even gather every morning on the big basketball court between the dorm and the factory for a pre-work stretch.
I think youll enjoy our look around China, from the golf to the Great Wall and beyond. And for the February 23 show, its off to Japan to check out the latest in golf balls.
Thanks for coming along for the ride. Youre next on the tee.
Related links:
  • What's In the Bag - Show Page
  • What's In the Bag - Airtimes
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    Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

    The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

    The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

    This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

    After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

    “I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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    Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

    Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

    “I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

    To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

    “More punishment,” he said.

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    DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

    Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

    Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

    It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

    With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

    Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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    TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

    • Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

    • This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

    • Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    • In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

    • At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

    • Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

    • My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.