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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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