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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

Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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Fix early extension: 3 exercises to get your a** in gear

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It’s pretty common knowledge that “early extension” is a problem for golfers everywhere, but how does it affect your body and your game? And what can you do to fix it?

First, let’s look at early extension in its most simple form as a physical issue rather than a technical issue.

During the swing, we are asking our body to not only create force, but also resist a number of different forces created by the aggressive rotational pattern we call a golf swing. The problem comes down to each player’s unique dysfunction which will likely include bad posture, weak glutes or a locked out thoracic spine for example.

So when we then ask the body to rotate, maintain spine angle, get the left arm higher, pressure the ground, turn our hips to the target (to name a few) a lot of mobility, strength and efficiency are required to do all of this well.

And not everyone, well actually very few of us, has the full capability to do all of this optimally during the swing. The modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it, but so does physiology and it has been shown that tour players as well as everyday golfers suffer from varying levels of dysfunction but can ultimately get by relative to learned patterns and skill development.

But for the majority of players early extension leads to one or more of the following swing faults:

  • Loss of spine angle/posture. During the swing, a player will ‘stand up’ coming out of their original and desired spine angle, this alters the path and the plane of the club.
  • “Humping” the ball. Johnny Wunder’s preferred term for the forward and undesirable movement of the lower body closer to the ball.

Lack of rotation during the swing occurs due to the shift in the center of gravity caused by the loss of posture as your body does its best to just stay upright at all.

Ultimately, early extension leaves us “stuck” with the club too far behind us and nowhere to go—cue massive high push fade or slice going two fairways over (we’ve all been there) or a flippy hook as your body backs up and your hands do whatever they can to square it up.

Not only is this not a good thing if you want to hit a fairway, it’s also a really bad way to treat your body in general.

As a general rule, your body works as a system to create stability and mobility simultaneously allowing us to move, create force, etc. When we can’t maintain a stable core and spinal position or force is being transferred to an area that shouldn’t be dealing with it, we get issues. Likely, this starts with discomfort, possibly leading to prolonged pain, and eventually injury.

The body has a whole lot to deal with when you play golf, so it’s a good idea to start putting in the work to help it out. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also likely play better too!

So we have three simple exercises for you here that you can do at home, or anywhere else, that will help you with the following elements

  • Posture
  • Core strength
  • Glute function
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Ground force development

#1: Forward lunge with rotation

  1. Standing tall, core engaged with a club in front of your chest, take a reasonable step forward.
  2. Stabilize your lead knee over your front foot and allow your trail knee to move down towards the ground, trying to keep it just above the surface.
  3. Maintaining your spine angle, rotate OVER your lead leg (chest faces the lead side) with the club at arm’s length in front of your torso keeping your eyes facing straight forwards.
  4. Rotate back to center, again with great control, and then step back to your original standing position.
  5. Repeat on other leg.

#2: Bird dog

  1. Get down on all fours again focusing on a quality, neutral spine position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Control your breathing and core control throughout as we test balance, stability and core activation.
  4. Hold briefly at the top of each rep and return to start position.
  5. Repeat with right arm and left leg, alternating each rep.
  6. If this is difficult, start by working arms and legs individually, only life 1 arm OR 1 leg at a time but still work around the whole body.

#3: Jumping squat

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, eyes fixed forward.
  2. Engage your squat by sending your knees forwards and out to create pressure and torque, whilst sending your hips down and back.
  3. Squat down as far as possible whilst maintaining a neutral spine, active core and heels on the ground.
  4. As you naturally come out of the squat, push the ground away using your whole foot, creating as much speed and force as possible as you jump in the air.
  5. Land with excellent control and deceleration, reset and repeat.

Got 10 minutes? Sample workout

3 Rounds

  1. 10 Forward Lunge with Rotation (5 each leg)
  2. 10 Bird Dog (5 Each side or 5 each limb if working individually)
  3. 5 Jumping Squats
  4. 1 Minute Rest

If you can take the time to make this a part of your routine, even just two or three times per week, you will start to see benefits all round!

It would also be a perfect pre-game warm-up!

And one thing you can do technically? Flare your lead foot to the target at address. A huge majority of players already do this and with good reason. You don’t have to alter your alignment, rather keep the heel in its fixed position but point your toes more to the target. This will basically give you a free 20 or 30 degrees additional lead hip rotation with no real side-effects. Good deal.

This is a great place to start when trying to get rid of the dreaded early extension, and if you commit to implementing these simple changes you can play way better golf and at least as importantly, feel great doing it.

 

To take your golf performance to new levels with fitness, nutrition, recovery, and technical work, check out everything we do on any of the following platforms.

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