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The Wedge Guy: More on learning – the grip

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I’m a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper grip and learn how to put your body in the starting position that promotes a sound golf swing. Today, I want to talk about the grip only.

As you can imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. One of the universal truths of golf is that it is very rare to see a good player with a bad grip! There are some, for sure, but they are very few and very far between — and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

But if you want to make the swing easier to learn and repeat, a sound and fundamental hold on the club is mandatory. Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock, or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply. A proper hold on the club allows it to function in the swing in a correct manner, and a bad grip will completely prevent improvement and consistency.

Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency.

Too tight

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, and it tenses up everything. You must feel that the club is controlled in the last three fingers of the left (upper) hand, and the middle two fingers of the right (lower). If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself.  Hold the club in your left hand, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

Too much right hand on the club

Almost all golfers have the club too far into the palm of the right hand, probably because they are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not a hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club — so the proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. If you will slide the grip down into your fingers, so that you feel “weak” with the right hand, you will experience increased clubhead speed immediately.

The position of the grip in the left hand

I observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the pad of the left hand. It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean. Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it in each of the pictured positions. Make that simple little change and you’ll get the club square through impact much easier.

Mis-aligned hands

By this, I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to grip the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain old wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align together, and shows you how this feels. If you will grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

So, those are the four fundamentals of a good grip that anyone can learn in their home or office very quickly. A good grip will help any golfer make an immediate improvement to his/her swing!

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Sep 29, 2021 at 10:23 am

    No two winners of Major tournaments have or had identical grips.
    ie there is no fundamentally correct grip
    As long as there can be an efficient exchange of arcs in BS and DS
    the hold on the club is good.

  2. Robert Johansson

    Sep 28, 2021 at 7:33 am

    My grip fixes all golf issues you guys teach golfers.
    120 years now you been teaching bad grips

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQjoDX32Jqg&t=1s

  3. Jeff

    Sep 22, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Get yourself a copy of John Jacob’s PRACTICAL GOLF. Goes into more detail than this article on the grip and the golf swing. A book the number one teacher in golf, Butch Harmon, recommends! A must read!!

  4. Tanner

    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:22 am

    Picture please: It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2? of the butt is beyond the left heel pad.

  5. Dana Horton

    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:00 am

    You mentioned ‘pictures’ in the paragraph on positioning the grip in the left hand. I do not see any pictures except the single one at the top. Is there another link?

    Separately, great insights, as always.

  6. Ac strong

    Sep 10, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Great article

  7. Greg V

    Sep 8, 2021 at 10:01 am

    IN the picture above, it looks to me as though the right hand thumb is too much on top of the club. In my experience, there is more of a gap between the right hand thumb and forefinger, and the thumb is more on the left hand side of the club.

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Clement: Smash your fairway woods!

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This video is chock full of fairway wood wisdom that will allow you to understand several things including why a low spinning 5-wood would go much farther and what to focus on feel wise and sound wise with the SOLE of the club through the turf and ground. At least four solid nuggets throughout this video that will be sure to sharpen your fairway woods and hybrids!

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The Wedge Guy: Chipping away strokes

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I’ve always admired golfers who can really chip the ball well. Through my years in golf, I have seen players of all handicaps who are excellent chippers, and all tour professionals are masters of chipping it close. But for such a simple little stroke and challenge, chipping seems to be a part of the game that eludes many of us.

A good short game just cannot be achieved without a commitment to both learning and practicing. In watching the best chippers, it seems that their technique or chipping “stroke” is very similar to their putting stroke in style, form and pace. I think that’s because both chipping and putting are primarily “feel” shots. Yes, technique is important, but I’ve seen good chippers with all kinds of form and fundamentals.

This brings to mind two of my golf buddies who are both good chippers of the ball while employing totally different styles, but each one closely resembles their individual putting style. One uses a more stiff-wristed technique and quicker pace and tempo — just like his putting. The other, who is a doctor with a delicate touch, uses a more rhythmical pace not dissimilar from his syrupy smooth putting stroke.

Now let’s talk about techniques.

I personally prefer to use two different chipping techniques, depending on the chip I am facing. If I simply have to carry a few feet of collar and then get the ball rolling, I’ll choose a mid-iron or short iron, depending on the balance of carry and roll, and grip down on the club so that I can essentially “putt” the ball with the club I’ve chosen.

In employing this technique, however, realize that the club you are “putting” with weighs much less than your putter, so you want to grip the club much lighter to make the club feel heavier. It takes just a little practice to see what different clubs will do with this putt/chip technique.

On chips where the ball has to be carried more than just a few feet, I prefer a chipping technique that is more like a short pitching swing. I position the ball back of center of my stance to ensure clean contact and set up more like a short pitch shot. I usually hit this kind of chip with one of my wedges, depending on the balance of carry and roll needed to get the ball to the hole.

On that note, I read the green and pick an exact spot where I want the ball to land, and from there until impact, I forget the hole location and focus my “aim” on that spot. Your eyes guide your swing speed on chips and short pitch shots, and if you return your eyes to the hole, you are “programming” your body to fly the ball to the hole.

So, while sizing up the shot, I find a very distinct spot on the green where I think the ball needs to land to roll out with the club/trajectory I envision. From that point on, my complete focus is on that spot, NOT the hole. That loads my brain with the input it needs to tap into my eye/hand coordination. I think many golfers chip long too often because they focus on the hole, rather than where the shot needs to land, so their “wiring” imparts too much power. Just my thinking there.

One of my favorite drills for practicing chipping like this is to take a bucket/bag of balls to the end of the range where no one is hitting, and practice chipping to different spots – divots, pieces of turf, etc. – at various ranges, from 2-3 feet out to 20-30. I do this with different wedges and practice achieving different trajectories, just to load my memory banks with the feel of hitting to a spot with different clubs. Then, when I face a chip on the course, I’m prepared.

I’m totally convinced the majority of recreational golfers can make the quickest and biggest improvement in our scoring if we will just dedicate the time to learn good chipping technique and to practicing that technique with a purpose.

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