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Make your grip match your swing

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There is nothing more important in golf than a golfer’s grip. It’s as simple as that.

A golfer’s hands ARE the club face. By that I mean that they are the only contact golfers have with the golf club, and they return the club face to a certain position depending on the type of swing a golfer has. Having a great swing with a bad grip is like having a great automobile with a bad engine. There has been a lot written about “how to” hold the golf club, but not nearly enough about how the grip actually works. But I’m here to help.

It’s a given that many swing flaws come from a bad grip. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that MOST swing flaws stem from a bad grip. When you place your hands on the golf club, you must do in such a way that squares the face of the club at impact for you. Golf swings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there is no more important part of golf than matching your grip to the shape of your swing. Before we go any further, let’s look at some golf grips and define grip terminology.

Neutral grip: The hands are positioned  pretty much down the middle of the grip. See Photo 1.

Strong grip: The hands are positioned to the right of center of the grip. See Photo 2.

Weak Grip: The hands are positioned to the left of center of the grip. See Photo 3.

Photo 1

Neutral grip

 Photo 2

Both strong

 Photo 3

Both weak

A golfer could also have a grip with a strong left hand and a weak right hand (photo 4), or a weak left hand with a strong right hand (photo 5). But the bottom line is this: When golfers find the correct placement of each hand for their swings, they are headed for longer and straighter shots.

Photo 4

Weak right, strong left

Photo 5

Strong right, weak left

Now for the meat and potatoes of the grip: Let’s start with  a strong grip: Place both hands very far to the right on the grip, where you can see the entire back of your left hand and the palm of your right (Photo 2). You will notice that your hands and forearms cannot be rotated to the right. That’s because you are already at maximum rotation in that direction (try it). But you have plenty of room to rotate your hands forward through the ball. It’s called “strong” because the rotation of the forearms (pronation left, supination right) is a source of power in the swing.

Pros and cons of a strong grip

  • Creates a draw/hook (if that is your desire) and can help in hitting from the inside. 
  • When the hands are turned far right, it is easier to hit from the inside as the right side is “back and under” the left. I often strengthen grips initially for this purpose.

Now place both hands very far to the left on the grip so that you can see the back of the right hand and some palm of the left. The “V” should be pointed left of the left shoulder (Photo 3). You will notice that your hands and forearms cannot be rotated to the left. That’s because you are already at maximum rotation in that direction. But you have plenty of room to rotate your hands to the right (open). This is called “weak” because you lack the ability to add the rotational power source to your swing.

Pros and cons of a weak grip

  • Creates a fade as it helps swing arrive more from “outside.”
  • When the hands are turned left, the right side is more “out and over” and this can stop golfers from hitting too much from the inside and under.

Note: The rotation I am referring to (supinating left, pronating right) is from the elbows down through the hands, not from the upper arm and shoulder.

Now here’s the key: We all have a different rotational ability and speed to the movement of the forearms, and we all need a different amount of it depending on the position of the club face at the TOP of the backswing.  If you have the club face opened at the top of your swing, or you open it on the downswing, you will need an abundance of rotation coming through to square the face, and therefore a strong grip. If you have a closed club face at the top of your swing or close it on the downswing, you won’t need much rotation to square the face coming through the ball, and therefore a weak grip is more compatible. OK, so how does the club face get open or closed at the top of the swing or in the transition.

Contrary to a popular notion, the strength of your grip is not the primary cause of an open or closed face at the TOP of the swing; the verticality of your swing is. Swinging the club very up and down has on opening effect on the face; swinging around has a greater closing effect on the swing.  In more technical terms it might sound like this:

When the center of mass of the club gets ABOVE your hand path, you need a stronger grip to square the face. If the center of mass of the club gets UNDER your hand path, a neutral-to-weaker grip is needed to square the face.

The proper grip is different for everyone (as all suggestions and tips are), but a little experimentation might not be a bad idea. The less golfers have to work to square the face, the better they tend to play. And it’s always better to make a simple grip change than a whole swing change.

One final note: When you make a grip change, have a club in the house and grab it in the new way several times a day. Soon it will feel like it’s always been there!

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Ian Ward

    Aug 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Very good article, I play my golf at Rochford Hundred GC, a links like James Braid course. It is constantly windy and with an open club face, my inherent problem, fighting the wind with a naturally high ball flight has been difficult. I started to experiment with a strong left hand grip, mainly to keep the ball flight lower. What I am finding is, it has improved my setup, getting me square to the target.
    If I close my eyes and take what I feel is a balanced grip on the club, I noticed when I looked down at the club head the face was turned in by 30% or if you look at the clock face with square at 12 noon, my club face was angled at 11 o’clock. When I lifted the club up, and cocked my wrists up, the face was dead square! Putting the club down again the face closed, but when I aligned myself to square up the face my set up was perfect, with my head behind the ball, and right shoulder below left. Resultant strike was good contact and a divot passed the ball. Yippee! I will continue getting used to it.

  2. johnny g

    May 14, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Dennis,

    Good read. Most do not say that a weak right and neutral left hand works. But thank you as today I went back to my old setup and feel good again. Do NOT listen to most, swing your own swing. My baby fade is back and the left side is gone. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: All about the grip  | Road2Par

  4. Les

    Nov 10, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    i use the strong left hand grip and the neutral right hand,works for me and is working for my swing. i had a slice and a draw on the long drives,but i shift my stance a little to the rear end and it also work wonders. thanx for all the advice, a golfer never stop learning and testing.

  5. Le

    Jul 31, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Hi Dennis. Thanks for this article. I was searching for articles about an odd grip style of a “weak left & strong right” (right handed golfer) because I experimented it and found that it produced good hits for me. I recently discovered that Jordan Spieth has this grip style. My observation is that it allows the left hand to stay bent longer through impact while allowing the right hand to be strong to deliver more power. The result is a stronger and more precise swing. Can you speak about your opinion of the Pros and Cons for this style. Thx

    • jylos

      Sep 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Le. It is great that we share the same ideas on the grips. The problems of the strong left hand grips are that they lead a lot of compensatory moves such as early extension and block shots which causes push slices. A golfer must make the bowed left wrist from cupped position intentionally at sometime during the backswing as Dustin Johnson does. It may not be easy to perform for every golfer constantly. This grip was more popular among classic golfers. Moe Norman and Jack Nicklaus are great examples of this grip. If you watch the baseball swing closely, you will find the grips are rarely parallel, rather than they are weaker left hand and stronger right hand grips (for right-handed).

      • jylos

        Sep 13, 2015 at 3:27 am

        I forgot to mention one thing. This grip facilitates the tip of both elbows facing towards the body and it prevents flying right elbow during the backswing and left chicken wing during the follow through.

    • EagleFoot

      Aug 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      I’ve been experimenting with this grip too (weak left – strong right). This is the grip used by one of the greatest players in a generation – Phil Mickelson – so can’t be too bad hey!?

      I’m also trying out Bobby Jones’ ‘strong left hand – weak right’ – seems to work well for me.

  6. James

    Jun 18, 2015 at 8:05 am

    I’ve been working on my game considerably this year, I also have always used a neutral grip probably because I was alway told that was correct. I worked on reducing my slice by focusing on releasing my hands. This worked great I can hit the ball right down the middle 75% of the time if I take a nice easy swing hitting out to about 230-245. However when ever I tried to put some power on my swing I’d hit a 45yard slice without much added distance. After reading this and some additional research I opted for a slightly stronger grip. I implemented this last night in a 18 hole game and hit and 85 my best so far. Also i was able to swing at about 90% power and get the ball out to about 250-270 while also hitting the far way 85% of the time. Also this should go without saying but a second shot from 66yards from the pin is alot easier the 12 yards so the added distance really helped. Also I’ve been using this grip on my woods which helps with my control and consistency allowing my to push my 3 wood 200-230 while keeping it on target. I’m confident with some more time I’ll be able to increase my club head speed and finally get out to 300yds. I’m not saying this grip is all I needed to push my driver farther out there but it was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to take strokes of my game. I’ve always have had a pretty good natural swing and have never takin any lessons but I would say after you understand how to swing comfortably and control your hands on impact this also might be something to consider when trying to remove that last bit of slice from your tshots

  7. Pingback: Q&A with Josh Episode 4: Choosing the Perfect Grip | Josh Boggs PGA Golf Lessons

  8. Tam

    Mar 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I have just started to use a stronger grip because I have a wicked slice. I have been told by pros how to correct it by turning my hands over when I swing through. I try but it doesn’t work for me. What do I say the next time I go to my pro and they try to get me to change my strong grip for a grip that looks neutral? Any suggestions!

  9. Bill Pennington

    Aug 30, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Hi,
    I had a light bulb moment two days ago when I discovered that my right hand was a tad strong and my left had strong too. This facilitated my swing to hit the ball straight and long consistently for the first time. My grip doesn’t look “ideal” – and I had been striving for this look – but it works so well for me. I wish I had stopped aiming for “the ideal look” a few years ago. Still this blog has confirmed my thought that you have to make things work for your body. Hogan is indeed a very good example of experimentation over asthetics. Thanks

  10. PeterW

    Apr 30, 2014 at 1:55 am

    This video has been a HUGE help to me. you explain things so well. I never realized that the hands position was so important. Although I do hit the ball very straight, I don’t always hit it where I intended to, but now that I understand how the grip affects ball flight, I’m hitting longer shots, and where I want them to go! I’ll watch all the other videos now. Thanks for taking the trouble for making them to help us average golfers. 🙂

  11. DavidOber

    Apr 24, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Good stuff, however I have noticed that many of the best faders of recent years play with very strong grips, which contradicts your observations. I play a very strong grip, and I either hit trap-pull draws, or low fades with lots of spin with my strong grip.

    David Duval, Fred Couples, Bruce Lietzke, all have strong grips if I’m not mistaken. Calcavecchia too, I think — especially with the left hand.

    Thoughts?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 5, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      david, Sorry I missed this earlier…yes this is what many great faders do; Trevino, Azinger. But their delivery is quite unique. “knuckles up” swing thought or NO release in terms of pronation or supination is A way to play; not recommended for the average player in any way or form. Thx

  12. Peter

    Apr 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    VERY helpful. thank you!

  13. Dave S

    Apr 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Great article! I’m trying to understand why my miss w/ any club above a 7i tends to be a hook (to snap-hook!). I use a stronger grip now than I had in the past (remnents of me fighting a slice), so I’m wondering if all I need to do is weakin it a bit. Thing is, when I try to change my grip everything feels wrong and I find that my hand instinctivly move the club around so that it feels ‘right’… i.e. stronger grip. First off, is it supposed to feel really odd and second, do you have any drills/tips for making a change and not inadvertantly changing back to the old, more comfortable grip?

    Thank you!

    Dave from D.C.

  14. Marko

    Feb 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Great post, very helpful.
    Is there a chance you could talk about the different body types*and how they
    Change the swing?
    *body type meaning a player with a long torso short arms.
    Or long legs and short arms, etc…………
    Thanks

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      This article concerns grip. The principles I have discussed are universal. I am writing another article soon about body types and swing styles. Stay tuned.

  15. Dennis Clark

    Feb 7, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Send me video with close up of grip

  16. Dapadre

    Feb 7, 2014 at 6:28 am

    DC

    Thanks for this. Im of the opinion that the grip is the most important factor of a good golf game and there is not enough emphasis on the fact that we swing different, are built different and as such cant have the same grip. It astounds me sometimes the search to be Hogan-esk (that cant be a word) whereas its been documented he fought a hook. Now I understand why from your explanation. As he had a flatter swing, this related to closing, hence he needed to weaken his grip. Light bulb moment.

    Love your articles, keep it coming.

    Greetings from Rainy Holland (The Netherlands)

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      The Netherlands! Seems pretty far from 83 degree South Florida! I always loved the song “The Dutchman”.

  17. Adam

    Feb 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Great info and well stated DC!

  18. paul

    Feb 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I am a lefty, I sprained my left wrist (driver head flew off, dumb used club…) So I have been playing with a neutral right hand and a strong left, but I have taken my left thumb off the grip and relaxed it to spare me some wrist pain. Hitting a wonderful controlled fade. I might just keep the grip once my wrist is better.

    • paul

      Feb 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Love your articles btw. I read everything you write very carefully. Keep it up!

  19. Dennis Clark

    Feb 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    You got it AJ…That’s the point of the article; what works for you, works for YOU!

  20. AJ Jensen

    Feb 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    My game never really took off until I let go of convention and went with a fully strong, thumb-down-the-side grip… and I’ll never go back. I even hit wedges that way now. I’m not suggesting everyone do it, but I love your advice on trying new grips in search of what works.

    • mulliDan

      Feb 7, 2014 at 2:10 am

      I have trying to “fix” or rather find an alternative grip for a few months now that I can use for my iron as well as my woods. With driver in hand my grip is as strong as strong gets. I do this 2 reasons. 1. I can really go hard at the ball on my downswing and crush it. 2. It feels like I have more control over the club face. Whenever I try to use a neutral grip or just slightly strong like I would have if hitting an iron shot I feel like I completely lose the ability to swing hard, and I think that feeling trickles down and causes me to swing poorly. The downside to having such a strong grip is my forearms are really sore post round. I just need to get lessons…

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