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The 5 Biggest Misconceptions in Golf Instruction: The Grip

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Note: This is the first article in a 5-part series on the Biggest Misconceptions in Golf Instruction.

For decades, the grip has been the most talked about part of the golf swing. Everyone has heard of the three styles: a neutral, strong and weak grip, and the effect each has on the golf ball. The neutral grip has always been the prescribed grip for all players, as it’s said to give golfers “the best chance of squaring the face.” I’m here to tell you all three grips can work depending on the player’s preference of ball flight, as well as their rotational ability and face orientation at impact.

After spending time around more than a dozen PGA, LPGA, and European tour players, as well as researching hundreds of others, I can confidently say that there is no “neutral” or standard grip on the professional tours. The majority of tour players have all done a fantastic job of either consciously or subconsciously syncing their grips with the natural rotational abilities of their bodies. This allows them to compete at the highest level, because they have a predictable ball flight they can trust.

Through my research and experience, I’ve identified three different rotational abilities that will dictate how each golfer should hold the club.

  1. Low-rotational ability
  2. High-rotational ability
  3. Neutral-rotational ability

Low-rotational players

Weak Grip

At impact, a low-rotational player has hips with less turn compared to the shoulders. This player could be considered more of an arms swinger. Due to this, their tendency is to close the club face at impact. A weaker grip is usually ideal for this style of player.

High-rotational players

Strong Grip

At impact, a high-rotational player will have hips that are more rotated, or open, when compared to the shoulders. This will cause the club face to stay open for a longer time leading up to impact. A stronger grip is usually ideal for this style of player. An example of this type of player on the PGA Tour is Dustin Johnson or Zach Johnson.

Neutral-rotational players

Neutral Grip

At impact, a neutral-rotational player will have hips and shoulders that match at the moment of impact. I’ve found this to be rare in my search, as one of the segments is typical either open or closed to one another at the moment of the strike. This style of player is usually best suited for the neutral grip that most golf books have described over the years.

Which grip is best for you? Here’s how you find out. 

Have a friend video your swing using a smartphone from a down-the-target-line view, as well as from the face-on position. Pause the video at impact. Are your hips and shoulders matching, hips open to the shoulders, or shoulders open to the hips? This will tell you which grip is best suited for your game.

If the shoulders show more rotation than the hips at impact, a weaker grip is most likely the best fit. This player’s natural ball flight will typically be a fade, because the face is open to the path. For the right handed golfer, this would be a ball that would start to the left of the target and then curve rightward toward the target line.

If the hips show more rotation then the shoulders at impact, a stronger grip is likely best. This golfer’s natural ball flight will typically be a draw, where the face would be closed to the path at impact. For the right handed player, this would be a ball that would start to the right of the target and then curve leftward toward the target line.

If the hips and shoulders are matching at the moment of impact, a neutral grip is likely the best fit. This player’s natural ball flight would be one that would have very little curvature. This ball would begin very close to the target line, if not on the target line, and then show very little curvature either way.

If you find this article interesting, I suggest you take a look at my book, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf. It’s an interesting look into what the best players in the world are all doing alike while maintaining their own natural swing signatures.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey. He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels. Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jim

    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:51 am

    There’s two parts to the golf swing. The body & the hands. We CAN play golf without legs, but ya need hands & fingers. While the body needs to produce a consistent path and is responsible for creating POWER & making the swing more athletic, the hands & fingers are responsible for creating SPEED and ultimately releasing the clubhead. I teach my students (10,000 hrs in the past twenty years) based on
    each persons physique and potential, but key in on the one
    thing all good golfers have done in common for the past
    hundred years – how the hands ‘work’. 80% of my students
    arrive without truly understanding HOW important the lead
    hand is. I’ve suffered through too many geniuses “quoting” Hogan & how “he wished he had two right hands”… only
    problem being they never read the next few sentences
    where he said providing of course the left hand is being
    used correctly…

    I’ve also heard “the left hand is the gas peddle & the right hand is the steering wheel” – WRONG. I can tell you as a therapist – more so than a PGA Professional that it’s the
    other way round! The strong hand is the gas & the lead
    hand is the steering wheel; when driving’you steer into &
    through a curve THEN step on the gas coming out…How
    many people ‘suffer’ from the dreaded ‘chicken wing’? If so
    many people do it it has a name, there must be a major
    attributable cause…It’s being pushed through impact by the
    ‘power hand’ and NOT actively steering. There’s NO WAY
    the power hand will rotate the lead hand properly through
    impact IF the lead hand isn’t participating. It’s purely a
    matter of functional human anatomy. At speed, bending of
    the lead wrist/hand is simply easier than turning.

    The hands are essential to playing golf well, and I’ve had many highly athletic golfers who were playing to <14 hcp but had hit a wall. In almost every case they had no idea how to really use the hands correctly.

    The grip is an important issue as it can really hurt ones ability to square & release the club, and hard to 'tweek'. Even a 10 week beginners hands are comfortable in the position they've assumed, so making subtle changes to the grip and being able to assess the effect is predicated on having a pretty sound and repetitive swing to begin with.

    If thatvs the case, everything's pretty good elsewhere, now wrist size, range of motion, flexibility – radial flexion
    especially – need to be assessed, as well as the finger size & length relative to palm size when building the grip size of the clubs…this is one of the most neglected aspects of club fitting, yet to achieve the maximum results I assume most
    people reading stuff like this are looking for – ie: getting to single digit level hcp / breaking 80, this is when nitty gritty stuff matters. So, if your foundation is solid and your looking for a break through, now's the time to focus on grip and hands at an advanced level

    Get GRIP FIT by a true Master Club Fitter – as I'm sure if you're still reading this – you no doubt are aware of the eccentricities of tour players and all the wraps of tape they have applied – many times differently under each hand.

    So, in closing, make sure WHAT you're gripping – or about to change your gtip ON is REALLY sized to assist your hands in doing what they're supposed to do. As Jack said "You've got two hands, use them both!"

  2. Jo

    Jul 20, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I disagree with your ball flight analysis.

    I’ve seen guys use weak grips with an over the top swing and create pulls. I’ve also seen strong grips that still push slice. There is more to it than just grip I think. The forearm rotation, where the elbow is pointing, how the elbow is pointing influencing the forearm rotation. There is also folks who roll/twist their hands. Huge list of issues other than just grip.

    An avid pool player would want to use a strong grip regardless of his shoulder/hip at impact. The reason why is he has developed a natural tendency to twist his wrist with a pool cue, so he will naturally twist his wrist with a golf club. So for him a square/closed face at address with a strong grip is essential. Otherwise, everything will start right of the target and either push, slice, or push slice. Then if he comes over the top, with the same grip, he would hook, pull, or pull hook every shot.

  3. Andrew Cooper

    Jul 17, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Bill, all good golfers will have their hips more open than their shoulders at impact yet will make weak, strong and neutral grips work?

  4. Rick

    Jul 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I am not sure I follow your article. Ben Hogan was a high rotational player and he played with a weak grip.

    • Hogan Hero

      Jul 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Supposedly. There are several articles out there by people who said during his prime he had a stronger grip, and as he aged he slowly adjusted to a weaker grip. At the time he wrote his book on the 5 fundamentals he was using a weaker grip.

  5. Paul

    Jul 15, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I thought this made perfect sense. I use a more neutral grip on my upper hand and a stronger grip on my lower hand (fast rotation guy). I found that when i moved my thumb about a 1/4″ stronger without moving my entire upper hand i got a massive case of the hooks. Like, 30 yards with a PW. Experimenting to fix it. But in my last range session i lost 5-10 yards but straight shots were ridiculously common, and small push draws made up a majority of the not straight shots.

  6. Bob Pegram

    Jul 15, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    The author sounds like an excellent teacher. He fits technique to a player’s natural tendencies rather than trying to make every player’s swing fit a standard set up.

  7. Phil McKeown

    Jul 14, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    You just made the whole thing more complicated! Comparing hip and shoulder rotation as a generalisation is making those looking for a change force a change. There is no right grip just the one that works for you. People should know the different grips and the shape then tend to produce (again a generalisation) as it all depends on impact. I can be crazy with my arms and square up with any grip or rotate like a Tasmanian devil and do the same

    • Snoopy

      Jul 16, 2016 at 6:03 am

      I agree. As long as you hold the club in a fundamentally sound way, I don’t think it matters a whole lot if your grip is strong or weak. Control, Comfort, and Confidence is key in the grip I think.

  8. Deejaymn

    Jul 14, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote the big mistake I often see golfers make myself included for years is mistaking a neutral grip for a strong grip until I tried a truly strong grip I assumed I already was and when I went to a truly strong grip my iron game changed way more for the better the problem I now see with my game now is I draw the ball nicely with all of my irons but have a tendency to really hook the driver and have to weaken my driver grip

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Instruction

Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Instruction

Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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