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The Pros and Cons of High vs Low Hands at the Top

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As a full-time golf instructor for the last 27 years, I have seen a many swing theories come and go, but one thing has come full circle: hand position at the top of the swing.

When I was first starting out, golf was just coming out of the high-hands phase; from the Jack Nicklaus era and into the more-rounded swings of the Nick Faldo-era. And most recently, Brandel Chamblee has been a very sound advocate of teaching higher hands to the players of today, citing examples of Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.

Here’s the Tweet that ignited the feud between him and Jason Dufner (a flat-swinger).

Personally, I have no issues with either swing method, but as always there are pros and cons for each depending on your level of coordination and handicap level. In this article, I would like to address these issues.

Here are the two basic hand positions we’re discussing as shown by my assistant: Higher Hands (more upright) and Lower Hands (flatter).

Now, as I’ve stated already, you can play well from both positions but it all depends on what you want as the player.

High Hands: Pros and Cons

• Club stays in the air longer and tends to produce more clubhead speed
• Players tend to stay more centered over the ball with higher hands
• Tends to produce higher trajectories and more spin
• Harder to control the club at the top and maintain the width of the arms
• Good for rear-knee straightening players
• Can cause a reverse weight shift if not controlled
• Easy to “fake” the shoulder turn and just lift the arms to the top
• Higher handicap players tend to come over-the-top from this position
• Harder on the back during the follow through
• Works well with taller players
• Feels more free and less restricted (think Payne Stewart)

Low Hands: Pros and Cons

• Players tend to have more arm width and lean over the right leg with this
position at the top
• The more rounded swing tends to be better with the longer clubs off the
ground for higher-handicap players
• More control from this position due to the lower clubhead speed
produced in general
• Works well with flexed rear knees and level hip turn players
• Easier to come from the inside for most players
• The club can easily get stuck going back or coming down since it is
already in a more rounded position
• Works well with shorter players, but requires more flexibility
• Easier to return the rear elbow and clubshaft through the ball effectively
• Can lead to an overly in-to-out path for better players
• Tougher on the shorter clubs

Now obviously you must choose for yourself which position works best for your game and what feels better to you. Enjoy the ride as there are no wrong answers!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. SK

    Feb 6, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    High Hands: “Works well with taller players”.
    Low Hands: “Works well with shorter players, but requires more flexibility”.
    ———————————-
    Both these observations fall into what was written in the golf swing book:
    The LAWs of the Golf Swing – Body Type Your Golf Swing and Master Your Game — Adams, Tomasi, Suttie
    ———————————-
    The authors not only match golf swing mechanics with golfer’s body types, but also relate golf shaft loading profiles to body physique and technique.
    The LAWs acronym for Leverage/Arc/Width matches physique to technique PLUS a hybrid mix of body types.
    The LAWs book provides great detail into the physique/technique match-up. The authors claim that 2 out of 3 golfers are mismatched to their swing attempts.

  2. Sid

    Feb 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Very insightful article that relates body physique to hand and plane positioning.
    In an old golf instruction book I read that tall golfers are better with their short irons due to their steep swing plane while shorter golfers were better with their long irons and flatter swing.
    I’m tall and I can confirm this pattern for tall golfers. My short game from 170 yards in is rather good while I struggle with my longer clubs particularly the driver. Curiously, my 4/5/7/9 fairways are good but not the 3-wood. Go figure.

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