THE GOLF GRIP
The most fundamental element in golf is the grip. It is critically important to get it right because the hands are the only physical connection between you and the golf club.
The proper grip will help you hit the ball longer with more accuracy and is essential for the short game around the green, which requires a softer, more sensitive grip.
Learning the proper grip is not difficult but it should be practiced until it becomes part of your muscle memory. If you are new to golf, the grip should feel comfortable within 2 to 3 weeks if practiced daily, which can be done without hitting balls. If you can get to the range several times during this period, it will help you adjust to the grip even better and more quickly. If you’ve been golfing for a while and haven’t had the proper grip it may actually take longer to get use to a new grip, because you must first unlearn the poor grip.
GUIDE TO GRIPPING THE CLUB
In general, you should grip the club with your left hand [for right-handed players], placing the handle across your fingers where they meet your palm. Next, curl your fingers around the handle to hold the club steady with your thumb over the handle. In this position, the handle is pressed against the palm’s thumb pad.
Then place your right hand onto the handle and slide it up so that the lifeline of this hand covers the thumb of the left hand and curl these fingers around the club with the little finger overlapping the crevice between the little and ring finger of your left hand. The hands should be in opposing positions on the handle. For a neutral grip, one left-hand knuckle should be visible when looking down in the address position, and the right hand should be gripping the club on the right side of the club 180-degrees from the left-hand position.
THREE GRIP STRENGTHS: NEUTRAL, STRONG & WEAK
The strong grip comes from rotating the player’s grip clockwise from the neutral position and it promotes a draw, or hook. When in position, the player can see two knuckles on his left hand and the knuckles of the right hand are turned under the handle. The two Vs in the hands will point more toward the player’s right shoulder. One issue with the strong grip is squaring the clubface due to the hands being rotationally manipulated clockwise. This grip promotes rotation of the forearms more than the other two grips and can be the reason some players struggle with hooks and deep draws.
The neutral grip is best for consistently hitting shots and is the best foundationally because it is easier to switch to a weak or strong grip for working the ball right or left as in a fade or a draw. To set the neutral grip, both Vs formed by the thumbs and forefingers should be pointing toward the player’s right ear [for right-handed players]. The downside of this grip is that it may be more difficult to generate high clubhead speed and to square the clubface at impact.
The weak grip is rotated counterclockwise from neutral on the handle and it promotes a fade, or slice. This grip is often preferred by players who want to hit fade shots for more directional and distance control. The fade doesn’t roll far after it lands, and its side spin sacrifices some distance compared to a draw produced by a strong grip. The downside of the weak grip is generating power, especially for shots out of the rough. It generally is not recommended for most players because it has less advantages.
THREE GRIP STYLES: OVERLAPPING, INTERLOCKING & BASEBALL
There are three popular grip styles among 99-percent of all golfers. These are the overlapping grip described above and the most popular for low-handicap and professional players, the interlocking grip and the 10-finger, or baseball grip. There are pros and cons for each one.
The overlapping grip provides more hand action including wrist hinge. It is preferred because it can increase clubhead speed and this provides more distance for most shots. However, this is mostly true for players with large hands and may not work as well for players with smaller hands.
The interlocking grip is also popular and is sometimes used by top pros. The little finger of the right hand interlocks between the middle and index fingers of the left hand forming a solid unit of the two hands, which remain bonded during the swing. This grip is particularly suited for players with smaller hands and for players with weak hands.
However, the interlocking grip may sacrifice clubhead speed which could affect the length of the shots. In addition, there may be less feeling of connection between the hands and the club with this style grip because not all fingers are touching the handle.
BASEBALL OR 10-FINGER
The baseball grip is the third style and is also known as the 10-finger grip. While it is less popular than the overlapping and interlocking grips, there have been world class champions who have successfully played with this grip.
This grip allows for a more freewheeling swing and can lead to greater wrist cock and wrist hinge which in turn can lead to greater clubhead speed. But there is a downside in that it’s harder to control the clubface at impact and this can lead to greater dispersion away from the player’s target.
There are many theories about how much hand pressure should be applied to holding the club during the golf swing. Learning the proper pressure requires understanding the dynamics of each golf shot. For example, the grip pressure for hitting iron shots from fairways is very different from the pressure needed to hit out of deep rough off the fairways. It’s also different for making delicate shots around the greens.
The most common error that amateur golfers make is holding the club with an overly tight grip. This causes tension in the forearms and is usually transmitted throughout the upper body. Tension in the golf swing leads to poor shot making.
Additionally, it is important how the pressure is applied by the hands and specifically where the pressure points are located in the fingers. I recommend the pressure points to be in the little finger of the left hand near the top of the handle where it flares out. This helps the player from losing their grip during the swing. I also recommend pressure be applied by the right index and middle fingers to stabilize the overall grip from one end of your hands near the butt of the handle to the other end nearer to the shaft.
Naturally, the club must be held firmly enough that the grip doesn’t breakdown during the backswing. This is especially destructive at the top of the swing where many golfers loosen their grip which exacerbates an overswing.
I prefer to think of grip pressure on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the tightest and 1 the lightest and these should be rarely, if ever, employed. The following scale is my recommendation for most situations faced by the player. The best range of pressure is within one of the three pressure ranges below.
1: This pressure is too low to recommend its use
2 to 3: For delicate shots around and on the greens
3 to 4: For most shots, including teed drives and shots made with irons, hybrids and woods on clean lies in the fairway
5 to 6: buried lies in bunkers and second cut loose rough not exceeding 6 inches
7 to 8: deep, thick rough, or other difficult shots that require extra strength to hold the clubface square
9 to 10: This pressure range is too tight to recommend under most any circumstance, but it’s included here to demonstrate there is a pressure that should be avoided
The player should try to maintain a consistent pressure for each one of these different shot situations. Otherwise, the players shot making won’t be reliable and the follow through awkward, such as the one-arm finish.
Discovering the proper grip for any player requires experimentation, however it’s not wise to stray from proven and accepted norms that have been established over many generations of golf. Considering there are three grip styles, three grip pressure ranges, and three grip strengths, golfers already have 27 different variations with which to experiment.
Tweaking the grip for your particular swing will lead to more consistent shots and this should be every golfer’s goal. And remember, the most important three words in golf are practice, practice, practice.
- Copyright, August 2020, Glen Bowen, Certified Professional Golf Coach, US Golf Teachers Federation