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Get a grip: Find the perfect one for you

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Some years ago I was watching the great Spanish professional Jose Maria Olazabal hitting balls on the range at Bay Hill.  I was struck, not only by the quality of his shots, but also by his grip — particularly how far he had his left hand turned to the left on the club.  The guy next to me, another teaching professional said, “That’s the weakest left hand I’ve ever seen on a great player.”

The spot next to Olazabal on the range was vacant for maybe 45 minutes until David Duval stepped in and started his warm up routine. This was when Duval was on top of the Tour’s money list.  I could not believe how far to the right he had his left hand — it was in a super strong position.  The contrast with Olazabal was shocking.  Here were two of the best golfers in the world, with grips as far removed from each other as you can imagine. And here’s the best part:  Duval was fading it with a strong grip and Jose Maria was drawing it with a weaker one!  That’s when it occurred to me that there is no such thing as THE grip! How could these guys have developed such dissimilar methods of holding the golf club?  If you read on, I’ll explain why, and try to help you discover the best grip for you.

The purpose of the grip is simple: to square the club face and allow you the freedom and flexibility to swing the golf club so that you can square the club face.  There are three motions of the hands and arms involved in swing the golf club: flexion (Palmar and Dorsi), deviation (Ulnar and Radial) and rotation (pronation and supination).  In layman’s terms, flexion means bending your wrists, deviation mens cocking your wrists and rotation means rolling your forearms. So depending on your anatomy and preference (within certain parameters) you need to find a way to hold the golf club that gets the job done for you.

Every one of us has anatomical differences in these areas, including the size and strength of our hands and arms. Some golfers can rotate their forearms easily and quickly. Some have big hands, some have small hands and others have more flexibility. A select amount of golfers are even “double-jointed.”  You can do a lot of self discovery with your grip, and some trial and error experiments to see what works or and what does not. If it doesn’t work, simply discard it. It’s just another range ball. There are any number of books, website articles and videos showing you a neutral starting position, but that “classic” grip can be customized to you.

To help you find out what grip works best for you, try these experiments:

If you slice, or hit the ball shorter distances than you think you should, try a stronger grip.  I would experiment with a very strong left hand grip, turned all the way to a “3-knuckle” position.  Keep the right hand fairly neutral with the “V” formed between the thumb and index pointed to your right shoulder.  The left hand is your anti-slice hand.  Feel the golf club more in the fingers than in the palms, and keep the pressure very light.  Warning: You might hook the ball or hit it lower, but I guarantee two things:  the golf ball will not slice and it will go further. As you start to hook, you can increasingly weaken the hand until you find the position that gets the job done.

Conversely, if you hook or hit very low shots, place your left thumb a little more on top of the club, and be sure your right hand “V” is pointed at your nose or even a little left of that.  Try lengthening your left thumb a little, and feel the club a little higher in your hands, more toward the palms.  The right hand is the anti-hook hand.  This grip will get the flight up and reduce the hook. Interlock, overlap or ten finger?  Your call. Here is a short list of poor grips and the shots they might cause:

Weak left hand:  Slices, high short shots, difficulty hinging at top, casting, some shanks.

Strong right hand:  Hooks, low ball flight, long pulls, flat backswing, topping, drop kicks.

Weak right hand:  Over the top, getting in front of the ball, pulls and slices.

Strong left hand: Generally solid shots that might fly low and long, occasional hooks.

Pressure too tight: Slicing, some topping.

Finally, always, always let ball flight be your guide.  Don’t ever make a grip change because you heard it on TV or one of your buddies thought it was a good idea. The ideas above are from my experience, they don’t have to be yours.  I had seven (7) lessons today.  Three grips I strengthened a bit, one I weakened, and three had no change at all. You can hold the golf club one of a few ways, but it has to complement your action, your personal swing pattern. It is easier to change a grip to something that works for you than to change an entire swing you have had all your life!

Good luck.  DC

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

Click here fore more discussion in the “Instruction and Academy” forum.

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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

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Michael

    Oct 22, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I have both slice and hook , but more hook . I do follow ben hogan tips on grip . How ? Thanks

  2. wmtipton

    Apr 24, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I started playing 19 months ago and while I have been happy with my progress so far it was time to get it more together so I started working seriously on my putting and now I can typically one and two putt most every hole.

    My other problem is army golf…right, left, right, left…but generally always in play one side or another, but its something I figured I could fix somehow.
    I got oversized grips which apparently was the right size for me based on my hand size which helped tremendously. Standard grips feel like they are slopping around in my hands so I really have to sqeeze the begeezus out of them to old on so they dont slip.

    Better but Im still a little loose in my swing so that Im not entirely consistent.

    A few days ago I got to thinking about it and wondered if there was a way to ‘restrict’ (for lack of a better word) the remaining slop in my swing.
    I thought about taking a stronger left grip to four knuckles or so and then just slightly strengthening the right grip to try to keep the club from having as much ‘play’ as far as open/closed at impact.

    Wow. I couldnt believe the difference once I got comfortable with it.
    I danged near eagled a par 5 today and had so many bombs down the center fairway basically on accident that I cant believe I didnt stumble on this somewhere on the web.
    It worked so well that the guy I played with today who was a really good player was even taking notice.

    I have to agree with the author here because Ive had a number of players tell me what I should be doing and it didnt work, but I finally ‘found my grip’ that works for MY build and MY body, including a broken right arm that never really healed back to normal which seriously affects my wrist action on the right side.

    I think Im starting to understand some of the golf instructors Ive seen who dont tell their student what to do but more help them do what theyre doing on their own to make it better.
    I thought that there was ONE way to do the golf swing but it never occurred to me that with all of the differences in our bodies that very few people would be able to swing exactly the same as someone else.

    Very encouraging revelation.
    Thanks for the article.
    Its definitely good to hear that I dont have to be text book to play the game.

  3. Pingback: Scratch The Golfin' Caveman's Blog » Blog Archive » The Caveman’s Golf Essentials: Grip Part 2

  4. Anthony

    Jul 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I have not tried to play with the grip any but after reading this I played around in the living room (while watching the opening ceremony) withe a stronger left hand and I can actually feel the club head closing a little faster. I can’t wait to hit the range tomorrow and see what kind of ball flight I have. I’m a low end long hitter (8i=150+) but with my long irons I have a tendency to slice the ball. I think this will help with my draw shot also. I really appreciate this post, thanks DC!

  5. DCGolf

    Jul 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    To do a thorough driver fitting you need to have all elements of ball flight and club delivery factors examined. It takes time. And you need to see someone with a TRACKMAN or other good monitor to do it. Speed, attack angle, dynamic loft, launch angle, centerdness of contact, spin loft, spin axis, trajectory, landing angle etc. should all be monitored. And to do it right you need a variety of shafts, heads, and golf ball types to hit to see what combination is best for you.

  6. Mark

    Jul 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I’m wondering if I have to weaken my grip in order to keep from hooking my shots could it primarily be a result of not having the proper fit (shaft) for my swing.
    Is there a common tendency to make the swing/grip fit the clubs instead of the other way around? If so, before going in for a proper fitting should you practice swinging with a good, slightly strong grip and a full release for a swing that should produce the type of flight you’re looking for (with properly fitted clubs) or simply show up with the swing/grip that you use with your current clubs?
    A related question is whether the shaft flex should be determined by club head speed or ball flight. In other words, could I be slowing my release and/or weakening my grip in order to hit the ball straighter with the clubs that I have?

  7. Greg

    Jul 27, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Nice read!
    I personally like to experiment from time to time. So I will use this as food for thought to shake up my grip a bit.

  8. DC

    Jul 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Yes, thats why you need to play with the grip a bit. If you move the ball or flatten your plane or change you path, it may require a change in the way you’re holding it.

  9. Troy Vayanos

    Jul 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Nice Post,

    It’s interesting to note those 2 top players with different grips yet they were hitting shots against the type of grip they had.

    Yes the grip is important but more important in being able to get the clubface square at the impact point.

    Cheers

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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