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KELLY: Get a grip — your game depends on it

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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I have always preached that 85 percent of hitting a good golf shot is in the fundamentals. Of those fundamentals, 85 percent has to do with the grip. Your grip is the only connection between you and the club. It needs to be balanced in order to work properly. By “balanced,” I mean that when you grip the club you should be able hinge your wrists freely over your shoulders without having the grip turn in your hands. Then, when you hold the club in front of you, the toe of the club should point toward the sky and the club should feel balanced in your hands. The best way to achieve a balanced grip is to lay the club on your shoulder, letting the club head fall into its balanced position (toe down). Then grasp the grip in your fingers with your thumbs aligned down the shaft. Bring the club down to waist level so the club is now in front of you with its toe 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 your torso. 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 two words you will hear in any dialogue about your grip. Those words do not refer to how hard you squeeze the club but the position of the hands on the grip. A weak grip (when the target-side hand is turned open toward the target) will not allow the club to release through the hitting area, usually producing the dreaded slice. Too strong 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. When you find this position, you will have won the battle of the grip. Tension or improper grip pressure at the start of the swing is the No. 1 cause for poor golf shots. You must have a firm, but not squeezing, grip pressure at the start of every swing — imagine that you are holding a tube of toothpaste and trying not to squeeze it out of the tube. Your grip pressure will gradually increase as the club swings back until, at the end of your back swing, your pressure will naturally become appropriate for the shot at hand. It should happen instinctively, without conscious effort. You’re better off to 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. Practice with the above suggestions for a proper grip and I promise that you will improve your golf game. Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.