Okay, so I'm hyper-focused on grip pressures lately, in the TGM sense. In the previous post, I went on at length about TGM's Pressure Points #1--where the right palm presses down on the base of the left thumb--and #3--the base knuckle of the right index finger--and how they're used to sense lag pressure, either actively or passively.
This post--like the last one--will not deal with pop golf instruction's treatments of grip pressure. Those descriptions of gripping to a certain point on a 1-to-10 scale, holding a baby bird, holding a baby's hand, holding a tube of toothpaste, etc. are not really helpful in describing WHERE you should feel pressure in the left and right hands. The whole 1-to-10 scale thing is really silly if you think about; how many times have you shaken hands with someone who feels like they're barely gripping your hand, while another person feels like they're about to break your hand. This proves that scales vary from person-to-person. And how many people hold baby birds? I'm going on out a limb (and agreeing with several reputable teachers such as Hank Haney and Shawn Clement) by saying that you probably should be gripping the club harder than you think. But the key is WHERE you put that pressure; it's not with the entire hand!
Pressure Point #2 Should Be Called Pinky Pressure #2
This time, I'm focusing mostly on TGM's Pressure Point #2 (PP #2)--the last three fingers of the left hand (for a right-handed player). Recall that PP #2 and PP #4 (pressure of the upper left arm pressing into the left pectoral muscle) are strongly associated with the swinging style as described in TGM; also recall that distinctions between the swinging and hitting style aren't black-and-white; there is a gradient between the two in which all golfers find themselves.
I was recently reading an article in Golf Digest that described a way to help golfers get out of greenside bunkers. The article advocated removing the left hand pinky from the grip completely, either by curling it under or letting it hang off the end of the grip. The purpose was to allow the left wrist to cup coming through, which is important for using the bounce of the sand wedge properly to escape bunkers. Golfers are taught to avoid cupping the wrist in the full swing; it's called a flip and it's a major fault. But in a bunker, the added loft is needed to avoid digging into the sand. On a side note, one would do the same cupping technique when trying to hit a flop shot.
So what does this have to do with PP #2? Well, it stands to reason that if removing the pinky from the grip is important for encouraging a flip in a bunker or when attempting a flop shot, the pinky must be important for stopping a flip in the full swing. The opposite condition of a flip is a flat left wrist (FLW) at impact--just what we need in the full swing. This brought me around to PP #2, which is described as the pressure felt in the last three fingers (pinky, ring, and middle) of the left hand.
Digging further, I found a few articles on the internet that delved deeper into PP #2. And wouldn't you know it: The pressure in these three fingers should NOT all be the same. The left hand pinky pressure should be greatest, followed by the other two fingers in decreasing amounts! This was a huge revelation, because I had always gripped with the same, non-bird-killing pressure in all of the left hand fingers, except the thumb.
By gripping tightest in the last two fingers of the left hand, your left wrist will stay very loose and allow a full release, while making it more difficult to clip the left wrist. Now it's easy to see how PP #2 and PP #4 work together so well. Also, I noticed that my wrist extended downward a little more at address, putting the club shaft at slightly more upright position at address. But maybe most important, this pinky pressure consciousness does--in fact--help create the FLW condition at impact and helps produce the swinging style lag.
Luckily, learning to use the bounce is as easy as removing the pinkie of your top hand from the grip. With this finger off the club, your grip pressure naturally lightens, and it's almost impossible for the hands to stay ahead of the clubhead at the bottom of the swing. I use this tip to teach the right feeling, but you can hit shots like this on the course, too.
BONUS: Open the face and address the ball off the heel. This might sound like Shank City, but remember, you're hovering the club. When the clubhead enters the sand, it will inch slightly closer to you, putting the center of the face under the ball. The shot will come out more predictably.
With your top hand (left hand for right handers) you should be holding onto the club firmly with your pinky, ring, and middle fingers while the other 2 should be relaxed. In your bottom hand (right hand for right handers) you should be gripping the club tightly with your thumb and pointer finger while the other 3 fingers are just along for the ride. The 5 fingers that you are gripping the club firmly with are primarily responsible for releasing the club in a manner that will provide you with more power and consistency.
Properly placed hands work together as one facilitating unit. The left hand (or right hand for lefties) grips the club with pressure felt in the last three fingers and most heavily on the pinkie. This keeps the butt of the club securely attached to the hand.
Too firm of a grip restricts arm and wrist movement in the swing. Most of the pressure should be in the pinkie and ring finger of the bottom hand [error: actually the top hand if the club is on the ground], and the index [error: actually the ring finger--the index finger is the first finger] and middle finger of the top hand [error: actually the bottom hand if the club is on the ground]. The remaining fingers are mainly used for balance and stability, and the thumbs should rest comfortably on top of the grip.
The left hand provides the primary connection for controlling the club. It is very common to grip too tightly with this hand. According to teacher Michael Hebron, the secret is to tighten only the last two or three fingers of your left hand—the pinky and ring fingers, and perhaps the middle finger. In doing so, you create a strong grip without locking the wrist muscles and interfering with the free movement of your wrists.
Engage your ring-finger and middle-fingertip pads with pressure around the grip for stability. The index finger has the least amount of pressure on the grip. The pinky fingertip pad maintains the most grip pressure throughout the swing.
The other reason this is an important fundamental of the golf grip is because it helps with developing the flat left wrist that every “flipper” of the club desires in their golf swings. If you grip the golf club with just your left pinky, you’ll see that it’s actually quite easy to get into a nice flat left wrist position at impact because the pinky leads the way.
Now, take your grip with just the middle two finger and see how the tendency is to get the wrist into a slightly cupped, scoopy position at impact because of the different muscles used in the forearm.
Now, go back to just using your pinky by itself and note how gripping the golf club more snuggly with just the pinky firmly “locks” the wrist in this slightly bowed position, thus making it much harder to flip the club through impact.
Then, Jack Nicklaus comes along with Golf My Way (1974). He talks about grip pressure objectives also (pp. 70-73):
Left hand: Pressure with the last two fingers, pressing the shaft into the L palm.
Right hand: Pressure primarily with the middle two fingers.
Overall: Maintain constant pressure