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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

28 Comments

28 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. 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

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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

  9. 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. 🙂

  10. 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

  11. Peter

    Apr 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    VERY helpful. thank you!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Dennis Clark

    Feb 7, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Send me video with close up of grip

  15. 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”.

  16. Adam

    Feb 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Great info and well stated DC!

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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