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.
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.
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.
Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players
As a teacher, I obviously have my own particular biases as it pertains to the different stroke patterns I teach to the random levels of golfers I see, however, one thing remains the same they ALL want a predictable ball flight in the end.
To me, it doesn’t matter if you swing it upright like Wolff or flatter like Kucher because they both work, as do all the swings in the middle IF they produce a consistent result under pressure. What we now understand with the advent of GEARS and Trackman is that everyone has their own individual motion and sure there are certain fundamentals that everyone great possesses but end the end we are all left to “find what works best” for us. And over time, the great players have gravitated towards the best and most desirable way that they swing the club without worrying what it looks like only what it produces.
However, I have been noticing a trend amongst the highest level of players that is disturbing…and this trend that we’ll be discussing in a second is beginning to filter down to the kids whom have ready access to launch monitors in high school and just entering into. This trend is the culprit of a two-way miss, albeit a very small one, but a two-way miss nonetheless all in efforts to try and hit the ball too straight.
First, let’s show you examples of some of the best players I have seen personally at the top amateur levels. Every one of these players shown below are proven winners and are ranked very highly nationally on the amateur and Division I college circuits.
I asked each player above what their normal ball flight was day-to-day and each replied, “mostly straight, but if I miss it then it tends to go X, but very, very slightly.” (For those Trackman users, these swings are “normalized,” which takes out the wind etc. for a touch more reality regardless of the conditions outside at the time.)
Now look in the left frame of each player’s swing, and you will see a blue line, and if you look closer, you will see that it is laying directly on top of a white line. The white line is the player’s target line—where they were trying to hit the ball. And the blue line is the PATH of the club for the particular swing shown.
What you will see is that the path of the club is basically “zeroed” out where the path and the target line are moving directly in the same direction. While this might seem like a great idea, in fact no one can play from this position because it’s impossible to zero out the path and clubface at the same time. No teacher in history has seen this consistently. We have seen very small face to path relationships but never 0 for the path, 0 for the face, 0 for the face to path, and 0 for the spin axis. We’re talking trying to manage a degree which is basically 1/6 to of a click of your second hand on your watch dial!
If you could play from a zero path and zero face, then this is what it would look like on Trackman. I have only seen 0 path and a 0 face just once in ALL the shots I have seen with Trackman, and the shot I am talking about curved way offline due to the fact that it was a longer club coupled with a faulty impact position (gear effect).
Now here is the key for people who desire a ball flight that curves as little as possible and zeroing out the path is not the answer! The key is to play with a face to path ratio that is very, very low which helps to lower the ball’s spin axis and thus the ball would curve slightly. If you have the path sitting a couple of degrees left or right of the path then you will be able to have some predictability of your curvature which will give you freedom when you don’t have our “A” swing working that day.
NOTE: Think about pro bowlers, how many do you see that roll the ball directly at the head pin?! Zero. They curve the ball to some degree for more predictability.
As we know, in order to hit the ball where we want, we need to have some consistent curvature and when the path is on top of the target-line a slight twist of the face right or left causes baby pulls or baby pushes.
The goal of ballstriking efficiency is to eliminate ONE side of the course.
Secondly, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact and will curve away from the path with a centered hit. Therefore, regardless of the curvature left to right or right to left you must work in this order- PATH then the FACE then the Target (as shown below) if not then you will hit pushes and pulls, slices and hooks!
Let’s examine this player above, who moves the ball left to right. We see a path that is leftward at basically -3.0 degrees and the face is almost -2.0 degrees left of the target but only 1.0 degree RIGHT of the path thus the ball curved gently left to right. For players desiring a mostly “straight” ball without the danger of missing it both ways, then the path has to be just far enough left or right of the target line so that the face can fit between the path and the target so you can begin the ball in the correct direction before it begins to curve. This reduction in the face-to-path relationship is the forgotten fundamental of the straight ball hitters!
As you can see, this player has a path that is slightly leftward and the face is only 1 degree rightward of this causing a very low face-to-path, and from this point, he has a spin axis of 0.3 meaning the ball barely moved rightward. This is the key to hitting the ball straighter…not zeroing out the path but reducing the FACE-to-PATH relationship! This cannot be mastered with a zeroed-out path because the face won’t consistently have room to fit between your path and target line as discussed. Thus you will hit micro-pulls or micro-pushes giving you the dreaded two-way miss…all because you have the path working too much down the line!
Path, face, and target…in that order will help you reduce your face to path difference and this will help you to lower your ball’s spin axis and straighter but MORE PREDICTABLE ball flights will ensue. Anything else spells disaster for the people who desire a “straight” ball flight!
Clement: Stop hanging back
Whether you are a beginner hanging back or an advanced player hanging back, there are very specific reasons for this as well as a very specific task to focus on to OBLITERATE this issue. You will CLEARLY see how this simple task will engage your machine’s hard drive And get you the action you need to hit quality golf shots; TODAY!
Clark: On learning golf
“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”
There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!
Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to.
I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)
In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!
The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover. As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!
Good luck on your personal journey!
On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.
If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.
But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”
If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!
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