Golf tips:Get a grip on fundamentals

By: Shawn Kelly
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It’s about time to review a few fundamentals for an end of summer tune-up to get us ready for autumnal golf. In the next few weeks we’ll review in depth some of the basic fundamentals of swinging a golf club. We’ll begin the series this week with grip basics. I make it a point to check my fundamentals periodically to make sure all is in balance. I have always asserted that “85 percent of hitting a golf shot is fundamentals and that 85 percent of those fundamentals, is ‘The Grip.’” Your grip is the only connection between you and the club and it needs to be balanced in order to work properly. What I mean by balanced is that when you grip the club you should then be able hinge your wrists freely over your shoulders without having the grip turn in your hands. When you hold the club horizontally out in front of you, the toe of the club should point toward the sky and the club should feel balanced. The best way to achieve a balanced grip is to lay the club on your shoulder, letting the club head fall to its balanced position (toe down) behind you. Then grasp the grip in your fingers with the thumbs aligned down the shaft and unhinge your wrist 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 move it around and you shouldn’t feel any twisting of the shaft, if you do, you’ll need to re-grip and feel a new balance position. Weaker or stronger are the terms you will hear in most dialogue about the grip; this refers to the position of the hands on the grip, not how hard you squeeze the club. A weak grip (when the target side hand is turned open to the target) will not allow the club to release through the hitting area usually producing the dreaded slice. Too strong of a grip will cause the hands to work too much through the ball and will promote a hook. There will be a position of the hands between these two that will allow for a straight shot and when you find this position, you will have won the battle of the grip. A competent awareness of stronger or weaker positions on the grip will become important in order to control the flight of the ball. I endeavor to have my students understand that improper grip pressure at the start of the swing is the number one cause for poor golf shots. You must have a firm, but not squeezing, grip pressure at the start of every swing. My best analogy for grip pressure at the start of the swing is to imagine that you are holding a tube of toothpaste and trying not to squeeze any out of the tube — firm but not squeezing. Your grip pressure will gradually increase the longer the club swings back until at the end of your back swing your pressure will be appropriate for the shot at hand. It should happen naturally without conscious effort. Do not try to maintain a constant grip pressure throughout the swing because, to me at least, that seems impossible. The only stroke where we do try to keep grip pressure constant is in the putting stroke. Work with the above suggestions on a proper grip and I can assure you that you will make better golf shots, improve your golf game and amaze your friends. Be sure to tune in next week for a discussion on target orientation to produce more accurate shots.