Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grip: The Ultimate Fundamental

How many times have we all heard it? "A good swing starts with a good grip." There have been any number of such aphorisms uttered about the grip in golf. It has been repeated so much that we all sort of get sick of hearing it. There's a reason it's repeated so often, however. Because it's true. The grip is the ultimate fundamental in golf. Some pros teach the acronym GASP (grip--aim/alignment--setup/stance--posture) as the bedrock fundamentals around which we should build our swings.

The Grip chapter is the first one in most golf books and the first one we usually ignore. We ignore it because we think we know it already. But I can tell you from experience, the grip deserves thorough and CONTINUOUS study. It really can affect how your backswing and downswing come off. It can, when performed correctly, AUTOMATICALLY create other often touted fundamentals in your swing, such as a flat left wrist and lag. With a neutral-ish to strong grip, it's easier to shape the ball flight or hit it straight.

I'm not talking about Vardon versus Overlap or strong versus weak, necessarily. I'm talking, simply, about how you hold the club--how you put your hands and fingers on it. You would think that wouldn't be so important, but it is!! When you put your hands on correctly, you'll have a good grip--one that's neither too strong nor too weak. You'll have the Goldilocks grip: it will be JUST right.

The first thing I recommend that you do is pick up a copy of Hogan's book, Five Lessons. Read the Grip chapter. Then read it again. Study it until you could teach it yourself. Actually work on the grip as you read--try out what's being illustrated. Then look around at other reputable golf instructors--such as Hank Haney, Shawn Clement, and Herman Williams--and see the similarities to Hogan's teachings. Fundamentals are fundamentals for a reason. Yes, I know that pros use all sorts of grips and play well, but again--YOU'RE NOT A PRO. You'll have better results going with a good, fundamental grip and building a swing around it.

Forming the correct LH grip.
Hogan's LH grip.

If you're anything like me, it might be a year or so after picking up a club before you go back and give the grip serious attention. And when you do (if you're like me), you'll discover that your grip was TOO STRONG. A grip that's too strong may be better than weak, but it's still a compensating grip that can change your swing for the worse.

Having said that, it's important to note that Hogan was fighting a hook and used a weaker grip. Most pro golfers today advocate for and use a stronger grip. Tom Watson stated that you should use as strong a grip as you can without hooking the ball. Shawn Clement advocates for a stronger grip. There aren't just three grips--weak, neutral, and strong. There isn't a switch on your hands that causes you to neatly segue from one to the other. Instead, grips occupy a spectrum in terms of strength: They blend from one to the other and you must find which position suits you and your swing.

You may also discover that your "Vs" and knuckles all seemed right but that you still WERE NOT gripping the club correctly. Where you have the club sitting in the palm and fingers (different for each hand) is SO IMPORTANT.

  • For the left hand (always grip with this hand first), have the club sit diagonally across the open left hand, such that the grip rests on the first phalange of the index finger and the heel pad rests on the end of the grip. Close the hand around the grip. The club should feel both in the palm slightly and in the fingers slightly. Checkpoints: Thumb/index finger are close together. Pressure in bottom 3 fingers. V points to the right. You can see two to three knuckles. The thumb is right-center of the shaft and it's a "short" thumb (the tip of the thumb is just past the index finger). If you were to loosen all fingers except for the index finger, the grip would balance perfectly against the heel pad and first phalange of the index finger (as illustrated in Hogan's book). The club shaft and club head leading edge should feel like a straight line extension of the left arm, with the club face corresponding to the back of the left hand.
  • Hogan's grip test
  • Hogan's Right Hand Grip
    For the right hand, place the middle two fingers on the club. As described by Hogan, place the club along the first phalanges of these two fingers. DO NOT place the club along the base knuckles of these fingers (i.e., more towards the palm). The right hand grip should feel far more in the fingers than the left hand grip, which help eliminate excessive right hand action that can cause flipping or excessive delofting of the club. Slide the hand down over the left and place the left thumb into the life line of the right hand. Form either a Vardon or interlocking grip with the right pinky. Checkpoints: Thumb/index finger are close together, appearing pincer-like. Pressure is only in the two middle fingers and on top of the left thumb (not in the palm of base knuckle). The V points to the right of the chin or right of the neck. The left thumb is covered. The right thumb is left-center of the shaft.
  • For both grips, adjust the grip pressure by ensuring it's not too tight or too loose. A light grip pressure that can keep the club from moving in the hands is all that's needed. A looser grip will relax the arms and allow the generation of more speed and increased capacity to close the club coming through.

A more NEUTRAL grip will feel really weak if you're used to a strong grip and vice versa; but trust need to learn to adjust if you want to get better.

I think that the right hand grip should preferably be neutral (and the right wrist should be *level and *vertical) - irrespective of the strength of the left hand grip. The idea of the palms facing each other across the grip should only apply to a dual neutral grip - where both the left hand grip is neutral (or weak) and the right hand grip is neutral.


So get your grip right, and stick to it. If you can't play golf with an orthodox grip, it's your swing that needs attention . . . not your grip. You can't cure a bad swing with an equally bad grip...

Note that when the arm and hand is correctly placed on the shaft the possibility of independent wrist movement (breaking or rolling of the wrist through the ball) is eliminated. The hand and arm is firm, and will remain so through the stroke...

Hence grips in which the right hand is either on top of, or under the shaft have no logical basis whatsoever! Thus, the right hand is placed on the shaft so that the palm squarely faces the target. this is the sole guiding principle for the placement of the right hand in the grip.

Golf Lessons - Lesson 2 from Golf Today

Humans definitely don’t walk around with the right palm facing up, but they will sure put it on a golf club that way if left unsupervised.

Golf Grip: How to Grip a Golf Club – Herman Williams Golf Instruction


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