In golf, the word “grip” has two definitions. It can describe the part of the golf club a player holds onto or the manner in which a golfer grasps the club. So, too, does the term “wishbone grip” have two meanings. The term can describe a specific type of oversize putter handle or the way a player positions his hands when using the oversize handle. Either way, the grip is legal on the PGA Tour.
The wishbone grip was designed to combat “the yips,” a condition that makes accurate putting difficult. PGA pro Mark Blakemore defines the yips as “nervous twitching in the putting stroke resulting in poor accuracy and a lack of touch.” The Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center did a 10-year study on the yips and concluded that it's a type of neurological condition exacerbated by high stress levels.
Wishbone Grip Invented
When college professor Gary Carter began suffering from the yips he responded by conducting his own experiments. He added duct tape and molding material to his putter’s grip to make it easier to control the putter with his large upper body muscles, rather than with his hands and wrists, he explained to the Clear Key Golf website. As a result, Carter said, “I could more consistently execute a pure stroke.” Aynsley Smith, lead researcher of the Mayo Clinic study, told “Esquire” magazine the wishbone’s design “makes huge sense biomechanically.”
The wishbone grip is a bit longer, and much larger in circumference, than an ordinary putter grip. As with a typical grip, it does taper down, but in this case it becomes much narrower only at the bottom, as it meets the shaft.
Holding the Wishbone Grip
The oversize wishbone handle prevents golfers from using a conventional interlocking or overlapping grip to hold the putter. The handle is designed so the user holds her hands on opposite sides of the club, palms facing each other and thumbs pointing down. If you face the golfer head-on, the position of her hands and forearms at address resembles a wishbone shape, hence the name. The grip is designed to keep a player’s wrists and fingers still and to square the shoulders, resulting in a simple, easily repeatable stroke.
On the PGA Tour, players must use equipment “which conforms with the USGA Rules of Golf,” according to the 2012 PGA Tour Player Handbook. USGA rules state that grips in general “must be fixed to the shaft” and cannot be molded to fit a player’s hands. Furthermore, putter grips cannot be more than 1.75 inches wide. The wishbone grip conforms to these rules and is legal on the PGA Tour.