Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your Grip is Personal

Your hands are your only connection to the golf club.  What that means to you is, your grip should allow you to cock and release the club, create maximum club head speed and control the club face to produce the shot you want to hit.  In other words, your hands should be in control of the movement of the club.

While that opening statement seems obvious, I have seen many golfers with an ineffective grip that will start the club swinging, but soon the club is in control instead of the golfer.  How could the club be in control?  Simple, momentum gets powered from the club's head instead of the club's handle.  Many call this casting or an early release.

Everyone who plays the game has a unique hand.  My hands are long in the palm.  Many women have small hands or short fingers.  I have also taught men who were 6'6" and had hands like paws.  With that in mind, there is no one grip that we should all put on the club.  Here are two pictures of tour player's grips.  The top picture is Freddy Couples, who has a strong grip with a cupped left hand.  The bottom is Paul Casey, whose grip is more neutral with a flatter left hand and wrist.  Both players have great control and great distance off the tee.  

If your grip is unique to you, how do you know if you are gripping it correctly?  Here are some ways to figure out if you have a good grip that allows you to produce great golf shots.

1.  Is your grip on the club exactly the same after you hit a shot as it is before?  If not, did your hands twist or move on the handle?  Take some time and feel exactly where the club lies in your left hand prior to hitting the shot and then check closely to see if it there when you are finished.  Golfers whose handle moves while swinging will often have a lot of wear on their gloves.

2.  Can you cock your wrists with relaxed arms and get the club head from the ground to in front of your nose easily?  Often, this simple test fails people and they find that they cannot break their wrists, but must lift the club by bending their elbows.

3.  Can you take a half swing and stop the club easily at any point in your through swing?  In other words, do you have control of the club at all points in your swing?  Golfers with an early release often end up with the club down their back and when asked to stop their swing earlier, they cannot.

4.  Finally, can you relate your hands to the club head?  In order to control the club and hit shots, you must know where the club head is in relation to your hands.  If you don't maintain a firm grip on the club through impact, you will not be able to relate to its movements.

What do good grips look like?  First, the palms generally match up.  In other words, if your right hand is strong, like Freddy's, your left hand will also be strong and a bit cupped.  If your right hand is strong and your left is weak, one hand or the other will have to be in charge at every point of the swing instead of working together.

Next, your grip needs to create leverage even before you cock your wrists.  By this I mean that your club's shaft shouldn't be set up matching the angle of your forearms.  If the shaft of your club is too parallel to your fingers, you will not easily create a wrist cock.  You can also get the club too deep in your hands and create too much angle between the shaft and your forearms.  I see this most often in golfers with a deep interlocking grip.  A deep, interlocking grip reminds me of how you would grab a rope in a tug of war.  You are grabbing for strength and stability, but not wrist cock or speed.  Now think of how you would grab a fishing pole and cast a line into the middle of the lake.  The pole would be more toward the fingers than it was in the tug of war.

One tip that helped me a lot when I was learning was, hang on a bit tighter with your pinkie and ring finger on the top hand and the middle finger and ring finger of the bottom hand.  As I learned how to teach, I understood that the two fingers on the top hand control the handle and rotation of the club while the two fingers on the bottom hand are crucial for holding your angle on the way to impact. 

Think about how you hang on to the handle of the golf club and if you are truly in control.  If not, go see your local PGA or LPGA Professional and have a conversation about your grip.

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