Category Archives: grip

More on Grip Pressure

Two weeks ago I talked about the importance of having light grip pressure. I wanted to put up graphs comparing the grip pressure of a professional golfer with that of a mid-handicapper, but I couldn’t find them in time for publication.

Well, while prowling around the house a few days ago, looking for something else, I found the book that has the graphs.

So here they are.

The graphs are taken from a paper titled, Evaluation of Golf Club Control by Grip Pressure Measurement, by D.R. Budney and D.G. Bellow, reprinted in Science and Golf, A.J. Cochran, Ed., 1990.

Golfers swung a club with three transducers built into the grip to measure left hand pressure, right hand pressure, and pressure under the left thumb.

The first graph shows the grip pressure throughout the swing of a professional golfer. Notice that in the early stages of the swing, pressure at all places is quite light.

Pressure rose during the backswing in the left hand and thumb, and peaked in the right hand and left thumb during the downswing. Notice the drop in pressure in those two spots at impact.

Left hand pressure reached its peak just after impact.

professional grip pressure graph

The next graph is of an 11-handicap golfer. Pressure is greater from the very start. The patterns of peaks and drops occur at roughly the same places as for the professional golfer, but there is much more pressure at every point.

The amateur golfer is holding the club much tighter.

amateur grip pressure graph

These graphs show that no matter what the grip pressure is at the start, it will tighten during the swing as the club moves faster and faster.

Keeping the pressure light at the start will minimize peak pressure, keeping as much tension as possible out of the hands and arms, leading to a more fluid and controlled golf swing.

A Note on Grip Pressure

After you get a general idea of how to swing a golf club, it becomes a matter of paying attention to the little things, that fine tuning which makes all the difference in the world.

One of the little things is grip pressure, which means having a light grip pressure.

In Jim Flick’s book, On Golf, he says in his section on grip pressure, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of secure but light grip pressure. If you gain nothing else from this book, I hope you come away with respect and appreciation for correct grip pressure.”

The night before Greg Norman was to win his first British Open title, Jack Nicklaus, who was not in contention, advised Norman to keep an eye on his grip pressure the next day, since it can tighten up under the stress of competition. That’s all Nicklaus mentioned, because he knew that was the only thing he needed to say.

How light should your grip pressure be? It can be too light. Then the club would move around inside your hands during the swing. A slightly off-center hit could twist the clubface, costing you distance and direction.

Sam Snead’s advice to hold the club like a little bird isn’t good advice. I’ve held a wild sparrow in my hands, and that’s way too light for swinging a golf club.

The key is how firmly you hold the club at the start.

Sole a club, say a 6-iron, and take your grip with just enough pressure to pick up the club without it drooping in your hands.

The grip should feel like it presses gently into the pads on the inside of your fingers and palms.

Your hands will tighten a bit as you swing, but swing and practice just keeping them from tightening too much. This is a feel thing. When you practice, err on the side of too light a grip.

It’s easier to know you have to tighten up a bit more than to know you have to loosen it up a bit.

Also to be attended to is the condition of your grips. If they are worn smooth, or are dirty, they will slide around in your hands, causing you to hold on too tightly just to prevent that. Make sure they have a tacky feel.

Here’s the difference grip pressure makes for me.

When I hold the club too tightly, my right wrist gets tense and unable to move. That gets my hand jammed up against it, and the clubface closes on the backswing. The result is a hook with my irons, and a duck hook with my driver.

When my grip pressure is light, my wrist can bend the way it is supposed to on the way back, keeping the clubface square. The result is very straight ball flight.

If you lighten up your grip pressure, that little thing can have the affect of opening up your swing, and better shot-making.

What Your Grip Should Feel Like

In last week’s post, I wrote, “It is one thing for your grip to be identical for every shot. That takes lot of practice, and is a good subject for another post.”

I use the phrase, “a good subject for another post” without following through more often than I should, but this week I’m following through.

My topic is what your hands are supposed to feel like as you take your grip — again, something you read very little about in discussions of the grip.

Most of what is written describes what the grip is supposed to look like. What it feels like is just as important in having your grip be identical every time you pick up a club. Your grip can look right, but still be off. It has to feel right, too.

Let’s begin without a club in our hand. We’ll take an air grip, so the feel of the club in our hands does not distract us from the main points of how the hands should feel when they come together.

The key feeling of the hands working as one lies where the side of the left thumb rests in the pocket of the right palm. It is not enough for the left thumb just to be placed there.

There needs to be a feeling that the thumb is locked into that place, and there is only one placement that will give you that feeling. A shift of even a quarter-inch either way, by sliding the thumb in the pocket, is enough to destroy that connection.

I have written that there needs to be a slight bit of pressure in this spot so the hands stay together, but that is not what I’m talking about now.

I mean a feeling that the left thumb and right palm touch each other, fitting so neatly together, that you feel as if someone who tried to pull your hands apart couldn’t do it.

The second feel is of the right little finger interacting with the back of the left forefinger and middle finger.

There are lots of places this little finger can go. Wherever that is for you, it needs to have the same feeling as the left thumb does — it’s comfortably in place, but fitting in with the other hand, in this case, the left, in an inseparable way.

Those two fingers, the left thumb and the right little finger, are what lock the hands together — not because they are fixed in place by pressure, but because they are in the right place.

Now we can pick up a club and work with the fingers that actually hold it. They are the last three fingers of the left hand and the first three fingers of the right hand.

The feeling in the last three fingers of the left hand is that they, and no others, are holding the club. That doesn’t mean to squeeze those fingers, just hold on with them.

The feeling in the first three fingers of the right hand is of stability. They support the action of the last three fingers of the left hand, but do not take over their function.

The segment of the right forefinger closest to the palm presses gently against the handle of the club. That pressing action keeps the right hand rotated inward a bit, in support of the left thumb resting against the right palm, to keep the hands from coming apart.

In all, none of these feelings should be pronounced. There should be firmness, but light firmness and not heavy or tense firmness.

Finally, regarding grip pressure, you know how Sam Snead said you should hold the club as if it were a little bird? Sam Snead had large hands and very strong hands. You might not be able to get away with holding a club that lightly.

If you feel the handle pressing against, but not compressing, the soft pads of your palm and the underside of your fingers, that is about right.

The Way You Take Your Grip

The tagline for my advice on how to help you play better golf is, “Little Things That Make A Big Difference.” Today’s post is about a thing so tiny you can hardly see it, and which I have never read or heard about before.

It’s about the way in which you place your hands on the handle, no matter what kind of grip you have or what it looks like.

Go get a golf club and I’ll show you exactly what I mean. A 5-iron will do nicely. I’ll wait.

[wait]    [wait]    [wait]

Got one? Good. Now. Hold the club out in front of you, in your right hand, so the shaft is inclined a bit above parallel to the ground. Turn the club until the leading edge of the clubhead is exactly vertical.

While watching the leading edge, don’t take your eyes off it, put your left hand on the handle in its grip position. The bottom line of the clubhead must not get disturbed as you’re doing this. If it got turned slightly to the right or left, the clubface is now out of alignment and, guess what, the ball won’t go where you want it to go.

We’re not finished. Assuming you passed the left hand test, now add your right hand to complete your grip. Do not take your eyes off the leading edge as you do this. If the leading edge turned, even just a bit, you blew it. You haven’t even put the club on the ground and taken your stance, and the shot has been ruined.

Cary Middlecoff said in his book, The Golf Swing,

“… it is quite easy to vary the grip slightly without being aware of it, and just a slight variance can make a vast difference in how the shot comes off.”

And again,

“So many golfers do not relate their bad shots to a basically bad grip, or to slight but relevant changes in their grip from one shot to the next.”

It is one thing for your grip to be identical for every shot. That takes lot of practice, and is a good subject for another post.

But the way you place your grip on the handle is part of it. Doing that haphazardly can make a grip that is perfect in every way ineffective because you did not relate the grip to the clubface when you placed your hands on the handle.

The clubface acts as a surrogate for your hands. They must be coordinated from the very start. Practice this deliberately, and when you play, be that much deliberate when you take your grip. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

Pronation In the Golf Swing – Supination, Too

Ben Hogan, in his book, Five Lessons, talked about supinating the left hand at impact.   This is seen when the left wrist is bowed out, and not arched inward.   

A supinated left wrist keeps the club accelerating, keeps the clubface traveling directly at the ball, and ensures a clean hit.   All the good things that can happen at impact are encouraged.

The trouble is, this is fairly difficult for amateurs to learn how to do.   What is simpler is to concentrate on a feeling that gets the job done without you being concerned with pronating or supinating.

It’s all in how you take your grip.   

The base of your left thumb fits into a pocket formed by the pads at the bottom of the right hand when that hand folds over the left.   The trick is to press your hands together at this spot, very lightly, but by enough to keep them from separating during the swing.

This is done by taking your grip and then and turning your hands about just a bit toward each other.   If you do, you will feel increased pressure of the base of the left thumb against the pocket of your right hand.

Don’t push your hands together too hard.   There should be no tension radiating into your forearms.   Sitting firmly next to each other might be a better image for what your hands are doing than pressing together.

When you don’t have solid contact here, your hands can separate and start acting independently.   This has the immediate effect of turning the club, which moves the clubhead out of square.   

It also encourages you to hit with your right hand, which leads directly to flipping the club through impact, a well-known cardinal sin of the golf swing.

Now you can still flip, but you have to do it with both hands at the same time, and that’s pretty tough to do.   If, however, your hands are leading the clubhead through impact, like I tell you gals and guys over and over and over, you can’t flip.   You just can’t do it.

So try this out.   At first you will likely push your hands together too much, and you will feel all locked up when you swing.   Ease off until you find the pressure at which your hands stay firmly together, yet you are still able to swing the club freely.   

There is an ancient exercise that teaches this same point.   Get a long blade of grass and put it between your left thumb and the right hand pocket.   You should be able to swing the club without the grass falling out.

Be aware that this post is not about grip pressure.   That refers to how firmly your fingers hold the handle when you wrap them around it, and that’s another post.

A golf grip fundamental

“That’s everything,” Sam Snead said, when Jim McLean asked him, “How important do you feel the grip is in the golf swing?” So many problems are caused by a bad grip, and so many are solved by a good one.

Here is one aspect of a good grip that you don’t read about too much, but is nonetheless a vital feature.

In Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, he said the the V in the left hand should point to the right eye, and the V in the right hand should point to the chin. That’s a pretty weak grip, which most recreational golfers could not use successfully.

What this alignment does, however, is get your hands working together as a unit, something your grip does not likely do for you now.

Try this: Put a tee between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, all the way up in the V. Put another one in the same place of your right hand. Now take your grip.

The tees should be lined up and pointing in the same direction, as in the pictures below.

If they point off to different places, the means your hands are not lined up, and thus not working together. Everything good in your swing is working under a great handicap. Controlling the ball could be a problem.

The good news is that it is not necessary for the Vs to be pointing in the exact direction that the Hogan grip describes. You might want to rotate both hands to the right, but in doing so, making sure the tees end up pointing in the same direction.

There is, on the other hand, Sam Snead’s method. He tells you to have both Vs pointing to the right shoulder. That’s a stronger grip, good for most recreational golfers, but it gets the hands out of alignment. The tees will be pointing in different directions.

It worked for Snead, and it might work for you. But if it doesn’t, the Hogan method is something you can try.

It could be the only adjustment you need to make to bring every shot around to the center. That’s what it did for me.


Two Grip Tips

The grip is the first fundamental of golf. Get a good grip and building a good swing is much easier. Read about it, or see the video.

1. Every golf book talks about how to take your grip by showing you how the club lays across the palms of your hands. Try building your grip by looking at the back of your hands.

Your fingers have three rows of bones in them, called phalanges. In the left hand, the relevant section is the proximal phalanges just above the back of the hand, where the fingers attach to the hand. For the right hand, the relevant section is the medial phalanges, the middle section. The third section, distal phalanges, where the fingertips are, is not relevant to the grip.

Set your hands on the club so the proximal phalanges of the left hand line up with the medial phalanges of the right hand. That is, there is a neat row of bones all in a line. (photo)

Now slip your left thumb into the pocket formed in the palm of the right hand. Finally, lift up your right little finger and slide your right hand down, placing the little finger on top of the left index finger, or between the left index and middle finger. There’s your Vardon grip.

Lining up the bones locks your two hands together without having to press them together. If you hands come apart even a bit during the swing, the clubhead turns and accurate contact is lost. This is the way to prevent that from happening.

2. Hold the club at its balance point. If you feel around about an inch from the top of the handle, you will find a place where the clubhead feels like it is an extension of your right hand. Above this point the club feels whippy. Below this point, the club feels stiff. In neither case do you feel connected to the clubhead.

Be sensitive in finding this balance point. Sometimes moving your hands just a quarter of an inch up or down the shaft makes the difference. By holding the club here, it will feel like a tool in your hands ready to do your bidding.

In review: Line up your knuckles, and find the balance point. This is how to make your grip work for you.

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Lighten Up on the Golf Club

I just got back from a day at the range. It’s been raining hard here for the last few days, so the putting green was closed. The only thing to do then was to hit balls off the practice tees. Sometimes I just go through the motions on the tees because I like the practice green better. Tees, beets. Green, chocolate pudding. Since the option of the green was taken away today, I focused a lot better than usual on my full swing. Here’s what I took home with me.

Lighten up your grip pressure. You hear this all the time. Don’t squeeze the handle. Relax your hands. Yet you don’t. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense that a grip that light can hang onto and control the club during such a violent act (more on that in a bit) as the golf swing. Well, it can.

Try this. Pick up the club and hold it so it sticks straight out in front of you. Relax your grip to where the club starts to fall out of your hands. Now tighten up your grip pressure again just to the point where that does not happen. That is how much pressure you should have on the club when you hold it. Any more pressure in your hands will start locking up muscles throughout your body, preventing them from moving freely to build up the clubhead speed that you want.

Then there’s that slash at the ball you call your swing that makes the ball go everywhere but straight and long. There might be nothing wrong with your swing, it’s just that you’re overdoing it.

Here’s another thing to try. Swing at your normal speed, but feel like you’re swinging in slow motion. Imagine that you’re watching yourself swing, from inside your head, and you want to go slow enough so you can see everything. That will feel slow, but it won’t be slow. The result will be a swing with all the clubhead speed you need.

Lighten up your grip pressure, lighten up your swing. Especially with your driver, but that’s another post. Do those two things and see what a difference it makes. A good difference. And in the meantime,