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Salty Grips: Put a cork on it, golfers!

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Salty Grips
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Salty Grips are a lot like the grip of your favorite fly fishing rod. (Courtesy of Salty Grips)

A lot of golfers love to fish. Some love fishing so much, they think about swinging a golf club while they're casting their line. Such was the inspiration of Mark Button and Whitfield Flowers, two golfers who loved the feel of the cork grips on their fly rods so much, they set about crafting putter grips out of cork.

Thus was born in 2012 Salty Grips, a line of putter grips made from sustainable Portuguese cork.

Why cork? According to Salty Grips, the answer is several-fold.

First, cork is tough. Although it can be brittle before it's fitted onto the putter shaft (don't try to bend it), cork is resilient, dirt- and oil-repellant, and restorable to original condition with a light rub of fine-grained sandpaper.

Second, cork is remarkably good at conducting vibration. Salty Grips transmit very subtle differences in feel between off-center and center-struck putts immediately to your hands.

Third, according to the company, the light weight of cork, compared to rubber, is good for control. This one I'm less convinced of. The 40-gram weight of the mid-sized Salty Grip makes it the lightest mid-sized grip on the market. For some golfers, this may make it easier to "flip" the putter head. However, one could always add a counter-weight in the butt of the shaft before installing the Salty Grip to offset the lighter grip.

Fourth -- based solely upon my own observation -- if your putter is relatively light to start with, the Salty Grip just might make it buoyant enough to keep it afloat if you get mad and throw it into a pond. The oversized Salty Grip would be especially useful in this predicament.

Playing Salty Grips

Salty Grips, which come in mid-sized ($35) and oversized ($40) versions and can also be customized ($6 extra), do impart a novel, and ultimately finely tuned, feel to your putts. The sizing options both help counteract the flipping concern noted above, as they work to neutralize your hands and wrists during the stroke.

The cork is unexpectedly resilient to dirt and grime. I installed the mid-sized Salty Grip on my favorite putter a month ago, and it still looks brand new after over a dozen rounds.

A side effect of this dirt-resistance does bring is slipperiness, compared to rubber grips. This is the one aspect of the Salty Grip that took some time to get used to. My first instinct was to grip the club more tightly in response to the smooth texture. But I soon found that a somewhat counterintuitive looser grasp improved feel and stroke consistency. Now, when I go back to the newer super-tacky rubber grips, it feels like they are catching or sticking on my hands, and every tiny twitch or twist feels magnified.

Salty Grips: The verdict

The Salty Grip struck me as gimmicky when it arrived on my doorstep. But I took the plunge and put it on my tried-and-true putter. Within a few putts on the practice green and in the following round—in which I nailed a couple key putts on my way to breaking 80 for the first time this year—it had won me over.

The only lingering problem is that every time I putt, I crave a glass of wine.

For more information, visit www.saltygrips.com.

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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