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.

3 thoughts on “A Note on Grip Pressure”

  1. There’s a lot of opinions on grip pressure, that’s for sure.

    Hogan commented on Snead’s “baby bird” advice by saying “what Sam didn’t tell you is that the baby bird is a hawk.” (or to that effect; lots of references on line)

    In our recent company scramble, one of the players said he had watched Ernie Els in a tournament in Europe a few years ago (the player is originally from Germany). He commented that Ernie may be the “Big Easy” with his swing,but it appeared to him that Ernie was trying to twist the grip off the driver before he hit.

    And have you seen the impressions in Jordan Spieth’s driver grip? Lots of pics on the web.

    I go with Don Trahan’s “grip like a firm handshake throughout the swing, and both hands are equal.” Gripping *too light* at the beginning just begs for the grip to tighten up during the swing to keep from letting go of the club (whether or not you actually would, you might feel like you will). Too tight, of course, causes the arms and shoulders to tighten, thus restricting the swing and reducing clubhead speed.

    1. Grip pressure is like tempo. What is too fast or too slow? What is too tight or too loose? Your comment on Els and Spieth reminds me of what Harvey Penick said in his Little Red Book – “As for your grip pressure, keep it light. Arnold Palmer likes to grip tightly, but you are not Arnold Palmer.” Light is better for recreational goes, who are in the main not gifted athletes. As for finding your grip pressure, I believe it is better to start off too light and then work up as needed. It is easier to be aware that your grip pressure is too light than too firm, in my opinion.

      I once saw a graph of an electromyographic study on grip pressure that showed that pressure throughout the swing for a skilled golfer varied much less than it did for a high-handicap golfer. I’m still looking for the graph and will post it when I find it. The point was that in the swing, grip pressure will tighten, but it doesn’t have to tighten as much as you might think it would.

  2. I completely disagree. I have found that a very strong grip pressure gives me a much greater sense that I am controlling the clubhead. I hit many more solid shots.

    If it’s good enough for Arnie, it’s good enough for me.

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