Replacing the whipping on a club is the most common maintenance for hickory players. Fortunately, it requires no special tools and can be done in just a few minutes. The black, waxed linen thread needed for this work is manufactured by Crawford Threads, Ltd. in Belfast, Ireland and comes in 100-yard spools. It is available through this link: http://www.hickorygolfworkshop.com/hickory-golf-products.html
100-yards may sound like a lot of thread, but you will be surprised when you run out and have to order another spool. Clubs from the modern era—1900 to 1935—require 4-ply thread. Pre-1900 clubs (smooth-faced gutty era) use 7-ply thread. The technique for “modern” and “gutty” clubs is the same, however the style of whipping is slightly different.
There are various jigs and stands available that are useful if you whip a lot of clubs; fortunately, you don’t need anything special for this job. All that is required is a spool of waxed linen thread, a piece of the thread you have cut to a length of about 8 inches, a razor blade, and a round object such as a pencil, awl, common nail, or ball-point pen. This is a job you can do in your living room without making a mess.
Let’s start by whipping the grip on a “modern” hickory club. The first step is to cut a bevel at the base of the leather with a razor blade. This will allow the thread to flow evenly from the shaft onto the grip, and prevent an unsightly lump at the transition point. You need to use a tack at the top of the grip, but there is no reason to put another tack at the bottom of the grip. The more holes in a shaft the weaker it will be. The whipping at the base of the grip will keep it in place.
Sit in a chair and lay the club across your knees. You will notice that the weight of the club head forces the toe of the club to point towards the floor. This is one of the few times that gravity works to your advantage, because you want to start the whipping on the back of the club.
Place the end of the 4-ply thread roughly ¼ inch from the base of the grip along the back of the club. You will wrap over this bit of thread, and that will secure this end of the whipping. Start winding the thread around the grip, maintain an even pressure on the thread as you wrap, pulling it taut as you go.
Wind the thread about 15 times around the grip, and then open up a gap in the whipping ⅛ inch wide, and complete three more wraps. Now turn the thread so that it is at a right angle to the grip and go around one more time.
Take the 8 inch piece of whipping you cut earlier and fold it in half to make a loop at one end. Lay this along the shaft with the loop end towards the butt end of the club. Wrap the thread around the grip and over this loop with 5 wraps. Cut the thread so that about 1 inch extends past the loop. Thread the end of the whipping through the loop. Pull the loop through the whipping. Cut it flush to the whipping with a razor blade. This style of whipping not only looks professional; it secures a greater expanse of leather with a minimum of thread. It is also fairly typical of the whipping on higher end clubs from this era.
Finish the whipping by rubbing it lightly with a round metal object. I used a metal bar for this picture, but you can use anything at hand. Press down slightly against the thread that is trapped underneath the whipping, and go around the whipping to spread the wax and seal it together.
Now let’s wrap the top of the grip. Start the whipping ¼ inch from the top of the grip. Fold ¼ inch of whipping along the shaft, and place your whipping loop next to it along the shaft. Make 5 wraps around the grip and over the loop. Cut the end of the thread 1 inch past the loop. Thread the end of the whipping through the loop. Pull the loop through the whipping. Cut it flush to the whipping with a razor blade.
Rub this whipping with your round metal object to seal the threads trapped beneath it, and around this narrow bit of whipping.
For grips on gutty-era clubs use 7-ply waxed linen thread. At the bottom end of the grip you should eliminate the second tier of whipping, and just whip the bottom portion with about 12 wraps. After you have encircled the grip 7 times, insert the loop and wrap it 5 more times, pull through the thread, and finish it as described for a modern hickory club by rubbing it with a round metal object.
The top or butt end of the club should have a bit of “reveal” showing up to ½ inch of shaft above the grip. Wrap ¼ inch below the top of the grip as for a modern club. Traditionally, gutty-era clubs had 4 wraps at the top, but it’s not a bad idea to go with 5 wraps to ensure that it doesn’t unravel during play.