It is my opinion that inconsistent, or too much, grip pressure is the early cause of a great number of bad golf shots. The golf swing requires a secure but light grip on the club in order for the hands to operate as they should. Today’s question was posed by Phil H. of Florida:
"I have read so many tips and thoughts on how to judge the proper pressure of the grip. But how do I process this and incorporate the right and consistent grip pressure in my own game."Well, Phil, as I said, this is probably one of the most far-reaching and under-diagnosed errors made in golf. No one has ever devised a true grip pressure monitor, but I would think it could be a boon for teaching. Imagine if we could get past the clichés about grip pressure, and actually quantify it . . . hmm, gives me a few ideas to pursue. But back to the subject at hand (pun fully intended.)
As for those clichés, there are a bunch of them, maybe the most common being “hold it like it was a little bird in your hand”. Really? How many of us have actually held a little bird in our hand? Pretty hard to relate. One of my favorites is to hold the golf club with the same pressure you would hold your small child’s hand if you were walking along with them, firm enough to keep them from getting away, but light enough to not hurt them. That’s something more of us can relate to, but how to I translate that into holding a golf club during a swing?
I was working with a young player a while back, whom I could see was just putting a death grip on the golf club. He was a strong kid, and I tried every way possible to get him to understand that you simply cannot hold a golf club too lightly. Finally, I told him to get a tube of toothpaste, take the top off and make golf swings in his living room. Not just short chips and pitches, but full-bore driver swings. And then I explained that when he no longer had to clean the walls, ceilings and floor, he would understand proper grip pressure!
But let’s get into the details of grip pressure. It goes beyond just “gripping it lightly”, as what’s really important is which fingers are exerting the pressure. Here’s an illustration of this. Clench your last three fingers of your left hand like you were holding a club, leaving the thumb and forefinger in the air. Reasonably tight is OK. Then move your wrist around – see how it remains pretty flexible, even with the tight squeeze? But the tighter you squeeze those last three fingers, you’ll see how your motion becomes more difficult. Then close your thumb and forefinger tightly into the grip and notice how your entire forearm tenses up and your motion is restricted much more . . . at any pressure. Aha, Lesson #1 – control the club with the last three fingers of your left/upper hand.
Now, do the same experiment with the fingers of your right hand. Begin by clenching your two middle fingers, where the fingertips just touch the pads at the base of the fingers – this is how you hold a golf club. Again, notice the range of motion you have in your wrist with a lighter grip with just these two fingers. Then, again, clench your thumb and forefinger together into the grip and see how the entire forearm is tensed and the range of motion restricted once again.
This winter, keep a golf club around the desk and/or sofa, and practice gripping the club with the last three fingers of the left/upper hand, and just those two middle fingers of the right/lower hand. If you spend time getting comfortable controlling the club with the lightest grip possible, it will pay off huge dividends on the course.
Good topic, Phil, and I’m going to follow up Friday with more on the importance and function of proper grip pressure, as there probably aren’t 10% of us that aren’t holding the club too tightly, at least some of the time.
See you Friday with Chapter 2. (PART 2 HERE)
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[ comments ]
i think i might piss off the wife if i am squeezing a tube of toothpaste all over! good idea though. Great tips overall, ya i heard the bird in the hand too, i probably grip to tight when i am looking to put some power in my shot and the finese shots less grip pressure. Sometimes with my sweaty hands though i need to grip a little tighter.
SD Charlie says:
While watching golf this past season, I heard a tweak on the bird analogy. It went something like this: When you grip a club, imagine you're holding a bird in your hands. Now, what no one told you before, imagine that bird is a hawk. It's maybe more illustrative, but still very foreign. I used to over-grip the club, but after working on staying more relaxed, that has gone away. Now I fear that I may under-grip the club at times, especially when I start over-thinking shots. I'm pretty sure I had a couple shots where my right hand slipped during the swing, leading to very ugly (and frustrating) shots.
"You simply cannot hold a golf club too lightly"
Arrgh, how confusing! That's like the statement "You cannot stand too close to the ball." Does that mean the closer the better, and that there's no such thing as standing too close to the ball? Or does it mean that standing too close is a bad idea?
As far as gripping the club goes, I would argue that it is very possible to hold it too lightly. The club needs to be stable in the hands and resist twisting, especially on mis-hits. For me personally I don't like too light pressure. It seems to promote too much wrist action. To me a far more serious problem than grip pressure is re-gripping at or near the top of the backswing.
The teaching pro I work with told me what his Dad did to him as a drill, though he didn't like to use it with his students. For right/lower hand grip pressure, his Dad had him take his index finger and move it on top of the grip/shaft rather than underneath as with our usual grip. What then happens is that if your right/lower hand pressure is too much during your swing, it hurts your index finger. Trust me, I tried it after the lesson and it definitely hurts and is a great deterrent for not gripping too tightly.
kingwood hacker says:
my mom always told me not to touch birds because they carried diseases. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's my mom's fault that I'm not on the PGA tour. If she just would have let me pick up baby birds, I probably would have the perfect grip pressure.
Fred Couples recommends a strong grip for amatuers
With the "holding the bird" metaphor... what if the bird just "decorated" your car, or pecked a hole it your golf bag? I'd be holding it a little tighter than I would my golf club.
I have a great piece of equipment that I work with at home that gives me instant feedback on grip pressure. Unfortunately it is not for sale.
@homer - Sounds like you're over-gripping that unit! Har.
@Banker - Was Freddy referring to the left hand turned so more knuckles are showing, rather than how much pressure to exert?
Terry, a monitor/machine wont work for this. the reason being people are all different, they have different swings ie speed, release, torque etc and they have different hands and arms so one guy strong grip would be another guy weak grip. it is very individual thing as well as which type of grip to use and even down to equipment ie the actual grip of the club. love the part about toothpaste tho! :)
Terry, it's amazing how simple, basic concepts can translate across various sports. In addition to my love of golf, I have also been practicing "kendo," Japanese fencing, for a good 10 years. The way you described how the last three fingers of the left hand (for a righty) should control the golf club is exactly the same as how one controls a sword. Thank you for the tip and also inaverdently help me realize that I should be controlling my golf club the same way that I have been controlling the "shinai" (bamboo sword) all along.
Matt F says:
Golf magazine had a few articles related to grip this month. Here's one: www.golf.com/golf/gallery/article/0,28242,203352 They also had a story on grip size, basically saying that a very high percentage of golfers (IIRC over 75%)use the wrong size grip on their clubs...makes you think.
Terry - a follow up question. Due to arthritis, I use a ten finger/baseball grip on the club. I've tried everything else and this seems to work best. With that in mind, the
3-finger left hand/2-finger right hand pressure points should still work; correct?
@Envythepea: I dont recall, it was on the golf channel "tips from the pros" episode, I think he was saying overall grip pressure himself always had a strong grip and recommended it for amatuers. here is link to vid of Freddie talking a little about grip.
@Banker - Great video. I love Freddy. But yeah, I believe he's referring to strong grip being (for right-handed golfer) left hand turned to the right when gripping the club-- not how tight you grip the club. The saying goes "grip it strong--hit it long" I don't know why they call this a strong grip or why when you have the left hand turned left on the club it would be called weak... but it is.
Good stuff guys. As for "you can't grip it too lightly", what I meant is that your body will not let you lose the club, most likely. And there is no correlation to the stance/ball position as there is ONE right spot for each club/shot. The "strong grip" advocated by Couples and Azinger refers to hand position, not grip pressure. And Steve, the ten finger grip relies on the same grip pressure principals, and it really isn't a "baseball" grip, as the baseball bat is held more in the palms, as it is much bigger. The golf club is held in the fingers, hence the smaller grip. That's why I'm not a big proponent of built-up grips, unless it's for arthritis reasons. The more in the palms the grip gets, the more restrictive to proper hand action through impact.
I'm one of those people who unfortunately can grip it too lightly. I often have to mentally remind myself to grip it a little firmer, because I took the bird analogy too far; I was actually costing myself speed and solid contact. I've found that as long as I'm gripping it in the proper fingers that Wedgeguy describes, I can grip it pretty firmly. Gripping it lightly is great advice for most golfers. But like everything else in this wonderful sport, you ultimately have to try it for yourself to be certain.
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