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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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Instruction

Clement: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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