SuperStroke innovations aim to help putting

Arnie Cunningham with Super Stroke on Wednesday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

Arnie Cunningham with Super Stroke on Wednesday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

The braintrust behind the SuperStroke putter grip has developed a formula for innovation.

“We sit down every Monday,” said marketing director Jon Luna, “and we talk about what we like and what we don’t like. Then we starting cutting grips apart and shaving them down and re-gluing them and re-wrapping them and tinkering with them. That’s how we invent new shapes.”

From this melting pot of ideas has come a steady stream of new grips that carry the SuperStroke banner.

The original SuperStroke was oversized and designed to take the hands out of the stroke. No flippy-dippy putting stroke allowed.

The emphasis was on using bigger muscles and developing a stroke that could be repeated. K.J. Choi saw a television commercial and liked the concept, so he ordered a grip just like any consumer would do.

Choi, though, could do something else that most humans are not capable of doing – in 2007 he used the SuperStroke to win the Memorial and AT&T National. After that, SuperStroke never looked back.

SuperStroke winners on the PGA Tour or Champions Tour now include Choi, Matt Bettencourt, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Ted Potter Jr., Fred Couples and Sergio Garcia.

When a guy named Phil Mickelson began experimenting with the grip, attention intensified even more.

Responding to mushrooming demand, SuperStroke officials quickly increased the number of models. Some are larger, some are smaller. Today it is possible to buy more than a dozen different SuperStroke varieties. Among them are the Slim, Ultra Slim, Mid Slim, Fatso, Claw, Flatso (four versions), Belly (21-inch and 17-inch) and Split Grip.

The newest model is the Claw, and SuperStroke tour rep Arnie Cunningham says it was inspired by Mickelson. Seeking to fine-tune his claw putting method, Mickelson took a 21-inch Superstroke and cut it to 13 inches to accommodate his lower hand (a normal grip has a length of 10 inches or so).

Mickelson isn’t the only well-known touring pro to customize a SuperStroke grip. Kuchar, clamping his putter against his left forearm, cut a 21-inch SuperStroke to 17 inches.

As all this was happening, SuperStroke designers were watching and learning. The 17-inch Belly grip is now part of the line and so is the 13-inch Claw.

On Tour, the 17-inch version of the Belly is attracting golfers who use it in two different ways – with the flat side turned sideways so it rests against the forearm, emulating Kuchar, or with the flat side on top to provide a conventional gripping surface for both hands.

“Just about every day I talk to the guys at the Detroit headquarters,” Cunningham said. “They really pay attention to the feedback I get out here on the Tour.”

One result of that feedback: Some SuperStroke grips now are available with additional texture – simply for a matter of feel.

“We want to keep evolving,” Luna said. “We’re working right now on the grips that people will see at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show. We want to be trendy, hip and innovative. We have fun with these grips, always remembering that the goal is to help golfers make more putts.”

Dufner says the grip has allowed him to be much more positive about putting.

“Everything feels more solid,” he said. “I just believe I can repeat the stroke, and that has helped me putt more aggressively rather than defensively.”

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