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How to set up to the golf ball: Why grip, grip pressure, and posture are crucial

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When we are playing a round or hitting balls on the range over a long period of time, we tend to grip the club tighter, stand up, and quickly lose the ability to maintain posture during the golf swing.

As players, with the spine angle out of posture, we overcompensate in many ways. The first thing that many players do poorly, as a result of poor posture, is grip tighter and stiffen the arms. These are the two biggest culprits that will inhibit consistency and any innate ability to set up well and brush the grass. Gripping tighter also leads to poor use of the body’s bigger muscles ie. the core. The spine angle in good posture will activate the core regions and enhance the body’s ability to coil, thus allowing the transfer of weight from the trail to the lead side.

In the quest to better ball striking, our first priority is understanding the importance of grip strength and grip pressure. Our second priority is posture and always initiating the proper spine angle by bowing forward from the hip (pelvic tilt) and letting the arms hang. After positioning the spine angle, check the body’s alignment )ie. shoulders, hips, knees, and feet) by positioning them parallel to the target line. This process composes the beloved and all-important set up. 

How to set up to the golf ball: The basics

Our ability to set up and control grip pressure is the source of our ability to play well and consistently over time. 

 

The first essential step is setting the grip in the lead hand

The main pressure points to focus on in gripping with the lead hand are, first and foremost, in the initial placement of the club’s grip in the fingers and allowing the top of the grip to rest on the palms pad. The first pressure point is in the lead pointer finger behind the shaft and the second pressure point is when we let the club rest on the palm’s pad. The lead thumb is the third pressure point. Proper grip strength is determined by trial and error swings. 

As we grip the club in the trail hand, it is important to grip lightly and in the fingers with the right thumb pad placed on top the left side of the grip. For reference, there are markings on all golf gloves to help each player understand where their grip should be placed. 

The essential second step is bowing from the hips to create the spine angle

As we bow, the focus is to aim the leading edge perpendicular to the target line. Looking at the first groove of the club (if it is an iron) can help the eyes focus on this step. A lot of mistakes happen when our eyes start looking around while we do this instead of focusing on an intermediate target and using our eyes to line up the leading edge to that point. Being thoughtful in this process is key and just try to make sure the club isn’t wiggling around.

In the bow, with our shoulders just over the toes, we can see if the club is resting in good relationship to the body. Understanding the distance our body should be to the club is huge. This alone can make or break our ability to strike the ball well. Keeping one hand width from our body to the club is a general rule of thumb throughout the entire bag. The space in which we stand to the club shouldn’t change. What changes is the length of the club in our hands. 

These components culminate the very first steps we take to hit a shot. This is the essence of set up, which generates our best chances to develop consistent shot patterns to the target. As a result of properly managing these components, we can begin to maintain accuracy and easily repeat our movement patterns to get the ball close to the target. We can also begin to self-correct our misses if we are accountable with these steps. 

Foot width and ball position

Lastly, in the set up we step our feet to the ball’s position and generally maintain a stance that is approximately shoulder width. After gripping and bowing the next thing a player needs to do is step to the ball position. This will impact the club’s ability to generate loft, also depending on the chosen club. Generally, a driver ball position is forward in the stance. The mid-iron ball position is mid stance and most full-swing wedges are played just back of center with a more narrow stance. Taking the time to better understand the components of set up and ball position will generate 100 percent of our success to better ball striking. 

A final word

Take some videos of yourself and look at the body from head to toe. Is your setup in a ‘Z’ or ‘S’ formation? Where is your weight in your shoes? Heels, mid-shoe, or toes? Does your setup look like an ‘H’or ‘C’? Is your weight too far in the heels or toes? In my experience, it is easier to maintain posture in the golf swing and overall athleticism by keeping the stance’s pressure points more forward in the mid-shoe to the toes. This enhances the pelvic tilt and the arms’ ability to hang. Therefore, posture throughout the swing improves and we are less likely to grip so tight. 

Any questions? Book a lesson with LPGA instructor Donna Fiscelli through her booking site.

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Donna Fiscelli is from Dearborn, MI. Donna played Division 1 golf at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, where she led her team to a runner-up conference championship. She continues to follow her dream to play and teach. Donna was the Assistant Golf Professional at the Dearborn Country Club from 2015-2019 and Division 1 Women’s Golf Graduate Assistant at the University of Detroit Mercy from 2015-2018 while receiving her MBA. She left Detroit to teach winters in Boca Raton, FL, at the Kellie Stenzel Golf Academy at the Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton Resort and Club. She has recently accepted a new summer position as the first woman instructor at Philadelphia Country Club in Gladwyne, PA. Donna has a bachelor's degree in art with a very creative eye and hand. She acquired her skillset from playing, teaching, coaching, and drawing/painting. Donna is happy to work with players at all levels. She is currently an LPGA T&CP apprentice. Please reach out to Donna to schedule a lesson at [email protected]

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Josh

    Jul 1, 2023 at 12:08 am

    This is a great post
    Honestly so many golfers overlook the basics
    I love to re-check myself of these
    Can’t overlook the grip and posture
    Continue to post more of these Donna

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Clement: Weak grips are injuries in the making for many golfers

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The crazy things golfers do to square the face!

Like Jordan Spieth, trying to go to a bowed wrist at the top or in the downswing to square the club is placing you in a dangerous position for your lead wrist; you are one tree root or deep rough situation away from a nasty injury that could easily require surgery. Don’t let this be you.

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Clement: Laid-off or perfect fade? Across-the-line or perfect draw?

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Some call the image on the left laid off, but if you are hitting a fade, this could be a perfect backswing for it! Same for across the line for a draw! Stop racking your brain with perceived mistakes and simply match backswing to shot shape!

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The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, 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.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

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 hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). 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 at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, 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.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

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