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Golf Tips: Back to basics: Get a grip

By: Shawn Kelly
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Our lesson plan as we move into this new year is to reacquaint ourselves with golf’s fundamental basics. With consistency as our goal, the preeminent fundamental in the game becomes how we grip the club. The grip is our only link between us and the club and it needs to be balanced to work properly. What I mean by balanced is that when you grip the club you should be able to hinge your wrist freely above your shoulders and not have the grip turn in your hands. There are three styles of grip that I preach: 1. The 10-finger baseball grip, where all the fingers are aligned on the club, usually a good style for kids or people with smaller hands. 2. The overlap grip, where your pinky overlaps the index finger, otherwise known as the Vardon Grip. 3. My preference, the interlock grip, where your pinky and index finger interlock with each other. This style is used by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. I don’t care which grip you choose, because if it’s balanced, it will work for you. The best way to achieve a balanced grip is to lay the club shaft on your shoulder, letting the club rotate downward to its balanced position. Then grasp the grip in your fingers with the thumbs aligned down the shaft and unhinge your wrists so that the club is now in front of you with the toe of the club pointing to the sky. You may have to adjust the club slightly to achieve complete balance and comfort. Now swing the club or waggle it around. You shouldn’t feel any twisting of the shaft, but if you do, you need to re-grip and feel a new balance position. I hear a lot of well meaning advice about the grip. “You should see two knuckles, or the Vs formed by your thumb and forefinger should be toward your back shoulder, or just keep your thumbs on top.” I don’t care which theory you subscribe to, your grip should allow you to square the club at impact without loosing control of the club. When you get to the top of your back swing and when you finish the swing, your hands should be in control of the club. I advise my students that excessive grip pressure at the start of the swing is the No. 1 cause for poor golf shots. You must have a firm but not a “squeezing” grip pressure to start every stroke. The analogy I like best for grip pressure at the start of the swing is to imagine that you are grasping a tube of toothpaste while trying not to squeeze any out of the tube. That would be, firm but not squeezing. At the top of your back swing you will unconsciously squeeze the grip naturally depending on the shot and then swing the club to the target. How tight you grip it coming down to the ball will be determined by the shot distance and length of grass — the longer the shot and thicker the grass the tighter you better grip it to hold on. Using a right-handed golfer as an example, some like to pull the club through impact with their left hand and others like to push the club with their right hand. I feel that my left hand is my controller of the club to square it at impact and my right hand is my power. But I don’t try to pull or push the club through impact; both hands are needed to work together to swing the club and manage the centrifugal swing force. I have observed different grips that effectively square the club at impact, but there doesn’t seem to be any single one that is universally best. The best grip for you is the grip that is most comfortable and allows you to square the clubface. Try them all until you find the grip that suits you and provides control and consistent results. Next week we’ll be discussing aim for more accurate shots and an elevated fun quotient.