Category Archives: grip

A Key to Hitting a Golf Ball Straight

There are lots of things you have to do hit a golf ball straight. If there were only a few, everybody could do it, and we know that’s not the case.

I want to talk about just one of those things today, and it’s something I have never read about anywhere.

The clubface is a proxy for the right hand (left hand, for left-handed golfers). The right palm, however it is oriented on the handle, controls the orientation of the clubface throughout the swing.

Try this once. Grip a club and put the right hand loosely against the left, like you probably do now. Without moving the right hand to a new place on the grip, just wiggle it from side to side.

See how loose the right hand is, and how much freedom it has to wiggle in either direction? Notice how that’s enough to get the clubface out of alignment.

If the right hand wiggles a bit to the right (clockwise) during the swing, the clubface opens. If it wiggles a bit to the left (counter-clockwise) during the swing, the clubface closes.

It’s hard to sense the right hand moving this way during the swing, and believe me, once the alignment has been upset, you won’t get it back in place before you hit the ball.

We solve this problem by making sure the right hand cannot wiggle at all, so the clubface stays in its original square orientation.

How do you make sure there’s no right hand wiggling? Easy!

When you place your hands are on the handle, turn the left hand slightly to the right so the left thumb presses gently into the pocket formed by the right palm. Left-handers will press the right thumb into the pocket formed by the left palm.

Or if you want to, you can turn your hands tightly toward each other.

Try that and see how it feels.

Since the right hand feels the pressure, if it relaxes and drifts rightward that release of the pressure lets you know right away something is wrong.

Also, the right hand can’t wiggle leftward because the left hand already will let it go no further.

What we now have is a right hand that’s stuck in place, and that’s what we want.

They key to making this work in the swing is for the light feeling of the hands pressing against each other to be the same, unchanging, throughout the swing. That’s your sign that the right hand is behaving itself.

So now you have this part of hitting the ball straight taken care of.

How Your Grip Affects Ball Flight

The way you place your hands on the club directly affects the flight of your ball—left-to-right or right-to-left. But I’m not talking about weak grips and strong grips, though they do contribute. There are two points that are much more subtle, yet just as important, and which rarely get talked about.

Most books tell you to put your hands on the handle with the palms facing each other, parallel to each other (left photo, left hand only shown). That can, though, encourage right-to-left ball flight. The reason is that the lower hand can easily push the upper hand sideways, turning the upper hand over, which closes the clubface.

To prevent that, there’s a simple fix. Rotate your upper hand into the lower hand so that it acts something like a buttress (right photo). You end up with a neutral lower hand and a strong upper hand.

The lower hand can push against the upper hand, but because that hand is angled into the lower hand, it’s more difficult for the lower hand to turn the upper hand over. You’ll hit it straight, or maybe get a fade out of it.

The other point regards the location of the thumb on the lower hand. Ben Hogan advised having that thumb and the side of the hand tightly pressed against each other (left photo). Doing this firms up your wrist, which again inhibits the the lower hand from turning over. Goodbye draw, hello fade. This is what Hogan was trying to achieve.

If, though, you leave a gap between the thumb and the side of the hand (right photo), that loosens up the lower wrist, making it more possible for the lower hand to turn over, encouraging a draw flight. Goodbye fade, hello draw.

[Note: In the right-hand photo it looks like the right hand has rotated. It has not. The camera angle changed slightly.]

These two features, the rotation of the upper hand, and the position of the lower thumb, can be used separately or in tandem. You have to experiment to find what works for you.

Let me go over this again:

To promote a draw, (1) place the upper palm parallel to the lower palm, and/or (2) have a gap between the lower thumb and hand.

To promote a fade, (1) rotate the upper hand into the lower palm, and/or (2) rest the lower thumb against the hand.

If you’re at you wit’s end trying to cure unwanted curvature, give these a try.

The Trigger Finger in Your Golf Grip

There’s a grip feature that isn’t talked about very much. You hardly ever read about it in instruction books, maybe because the authors think it is an advanced technique. It might be.

But if you have been around the game for a while, you might have seen it, and you might want to try building it into your grip in an advantageous way.

Your right index finger is probably resting alongside the right middle finger when you hold the club, and doesn’t do much but sit there. If you play left-handed, I’m taking about your left index finger.

What I want you to try is separating that finger by placing it farther down on the handle. Put about one finger-width away from the middle finger so there is a gap between the two. That makes it what people call a trigger finger.

For you Golfing Machine nuts, it is Pressure Point #3.

You can stop there, but I went a step further. With my thumb, which is sitting on top of the handle, I press the handle against the middle bone in my index finger (medial phalange, if you must know). That clamps the handle between those two fingers and gives them a major role in guiding the club throughout the swing.

For Ben Hogan buffs, of which I am one, this is the exact opposite of what he said to do with these two fingers in his book Five Lessons, which he called swing wreckers. A more careful reading of the book reveals that he was opposed to the use of these two fingers for the average golfer, but they are used by advanced golfers for touch in striking the ball.

I see what he means. I find I have placed the club in the firm grasp of the two most sensitive fingers, the ones with which I, or all of us, do any kind of precision handwork. Given the precision that is required to hit a golf ball on the center of a square clubface, why wouldn’t I want to have these two fingers play a leading role?

When I take the club back, I take it back with these two fingers. That lets me bring the club up to the same place for the start of the forward much more often than not. During the forward swing, the pressure of these two fingers serves to prevent my right hand from turning over the left and hooking the ball.

The result is a stream of very straight shots, rather than draws that can get out of control without notice. I wish I had discovered this twenty years ago!

More specifically, I get more center hits with my driver, and more precision hits (ball first, ground second) with my irons.

What about short shots, that get hit with finesse stroke? Aren’t your right thumb and forefinger the name of the game when it comes to finesse?

What I’ve told you so far is how this is going for me. This might not work for you, or work in this form. I went through several variations of the trigger finger, to figure out just how to do it, before I hit upon this one, and it has taken some time to get to this place with it.

It’s just something you can play with that you might not have heard about. A few videos might be help you along.

Shawn Clement has a video that led me to the grasping concept, but he emphasizes power. And those are muscles in your forearm, not tendons.

One more, from the irrepressibly cute Aimee Cho, emphasizes the control aspect.

Getting the Right Golf Grip

The right grip opens or closes the door to good shots. It is much more important than you might think. Here’s how to find the grip that works for you.

To make golf easy, the clubface needs to be square at three places: address, the end of the backswing, and impact.

Everybody can get the first one right. The second one is what I will talk about today.

Now you don’t have to have the clubface square at the end of the backswing. Many championship golfers do not. But golf is a lot easier if you do. Let’s find out where yours is facing.

Take your normal grip, swing the club all the way back as you normally do, and stop. Without moving your hands, turn your shoulders back so they face the front again. Lower your hands until you can see the clubhead. If you have horizontal hinging in your backswing, you’ll have to straighten the shaft so it is vertical.

Now look at the clubface. Is it square? If it is not, I guarantee that your right hand is not in the same orientation that it was in when you addressed the ball.

If you find that the clubface is no longer square, keep your hands oriented where they are, twirl the club with your fingers until the face is square again, and re-test. And you know what you’ll get? A square clubface at the end of your backswing.

Why does this happen? A golfer’s flexibility, habitus, and sense of movement can force the right hand into a certain position when the club gets taken back. But if the hand is already in that position at the start, it does not move, and the clubface stays where it was: square.

If I start with a square clubface on the ground with the V in my right hand pointing toward my right shoulder, the so-called neutral grip, after I do this test the V will be pointing straight at my chin, and the clubface will be closed.

Getting a properly oriented grip is only one step. If you swing down and stop at what would be impact, is the clubface still square? If not, you have a swing correction to make.

But if the clubface is square, welcome to the world of straight shots.

Check your grip this way periodically. Everybody’s grip drifts over time.

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

[August 2019. I don’t follow this advice anymore. Neither should you. To avoid flipping, see The Hands Lead the Clubhead- IV.]

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.