Ask the Stringer: Is Natural Gut String Really What It Sounds Like? Is It Worth the Higher Price?

Q: Is natural gut string really what it sounds like? It is worth the higher price?

A: Yes, natural gut really is what it sounds like. To be a bit more specific, it is actually made by processing a part of a cow's intestines called the serosa. Contrary to what many people believe, natural gut tennis strings are not made from the intestines of cats and to the best of my knowledge, they never were. I'm not sure where that rumor got started but I hear it on a relatively frequent basis and as far as I know, it is not true.

So, is natural gut worth the higher price? The short answer is: It depends. In my opinion, high end synthetic multifilament strings have come a long way in recent years and a few of them even get somewhat close to gut-like playability (my personal opinion, of course—others might disagree). But, despite the progress of synthetic multifilament strings, the truth is that when it comes to playability, feel, liveliness, and elasticity, natural gut is still king. Compared to synthetic strings, gut has better tension maintenance and will continue to "feel" good much longer than synthetics. So, if you're not really a string breaker, natural gut can definitely be worth the price. It's a larger investment up front, but in the long run, natural gut strings could potentially remain viable and playable for almost twice as long as synthetic strings.

If you are a frequent string breaker, natural gut is a somewhat less practical option—at least as a stand-alone string. Despite all of its positive attributes, natural gut is still a pretty soft string and frequent string breakers will probably break it in a relatively short time. When you're breaking strings once or twice a week, strings that cost upwards of $30 a set can start adding up pretty quickly. For string breakers, natural gut can still be a viable option as part of a hybrid string job—in fact, many of the world's top players use natural gut for the cross strings of their hybrids. This allows string breakers to still enjoy natural gut's benefits while still getting some durability.

Either way, I think natural gut is something every player should try out at least once in their tennis career. It's a pretty unique experience and players of all levels and styles can benefit from it—especially if they suffer from arm pain.

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