An important but oft-overlooked factor in producing maximum distance is correct golf club grip pressure. Here's why it’s so crucial:
- If you grip the club too tightly, your muscles become firm and rigid with less flexibility. This will reduce your swing speed, and the clubhead won’t release at the correct time through the impact zone.
- Alternatively, a grip that is too loose reduces control of the club and decreases your ability to hit the sweet spot consistently.
The right amount of grip pressure is difficult to convey in words, but getting it right could add five to 20 yards to your drives. Try this:
- To get the feel for the right amount of grip pressure, hold a club in front of you pointing vertically to the sky. Your sand wedge works well for this as it typically has the heaviest head.
- For a right-handed player, put your left hand on the bottom of the grip with just enough pressure in your last three fingers to keep the club from falling or leaning over from its vertical position.
- Add the right hand so that it is in the correct grip position. This hand should have essentially no pressure, yet still make full contact with the grip and work in concert with the left hand.
- Once you have this correct golf club grip, you will feel a bit of controlling pressure in the last three fingers of your left hand, with a very small amount of pressure in the two middle fingers of your right hand. Try to maintain this pressure throughout your swing. Once you get the hang of this, you will achieve your maximum swing speed and distance, without losing accuracy.
Dialing in the Perfect Grip Pressure in Golf
It is tempting when working on the golf swing to only pay attention to the major points. Things like swing plane and shoulder turn occupy the minds of most golfers, and for good reason – they are key elements to creating the kind of ball flight that you are looking for. However, there are countless other details contained within the swing that can have just as big of an impact on the outcome of your shots. Only when you are able to handle all of these various details correctly are you going to be able to play up to your potential.
Grip pressure in golf is one of those small details that is often overlooked. Even if you know that a light grip pressure in golf is ideal, you might not have spent too much time thinking about it, or working on it during your practice sessions. It is easy to let your mind get caught up in other areas of the swing while forgetting that the pressure you put on the grip with your hands has a lot to do with where the ball is going to end up. From tee to green, grip pressure in golf is a major factor that serious golfers will spend time working on in order to make big improvements.
One of the challenges in learning how to hold a golf club without pressure is that you can’t see the grip pressure that other players are using. For example, many golfers look to the pros on Tour to learn their techniques and try to copy their swings as closely as possible. While that might work okay for copying static positions such as the top of the backswing, you can’t actually see how tightly they are holding the club. Learning to take the proper light grip pressure in golf is something that you have to develop on your own through practice and attention to detail.
The importance of this fundamental extends all the way down to even the shortest shots on the course. In fact, having a light grip pressure on the putting green might be even more important than when you are hitting a full shot. Think about it this way – the tighter you hold the club, the less feel you are going to have in your hands during the shot. You want to make sure you have plenty of feel on your short game shots, so a light grip pressure is essential. While you grip will naturally get a little tighter as the clubs get longer and the swings get harder, keeping your hands and forearms as relaxed as possible will benefit you greatly.
The instructions included below are written for a right handed golfer. Left handed players will simply need to reverse the directions so that they are applied correctly.
How Light Should You Go?
Obviously there is a point along the grip pressure spectrum where you would be holding the club too lightly. You need to maintain control of the swing throughout the swing, and you definitely don’t want it flying out of your hands on the follow through. Therefore, the challenge in terms of learning how to hold a golf club without pressure is striking the perfect balance between too tight and too light. The only way to get there is by experimenting on the practicing range.
When you are hitting practice balls on the driving range, you have the opportunity to tweak different parts of your swing and check out the results. Experimenting with different grip pressures is the best way to find the right amount of pressure to optimize your swing. While all golfers should benefit from a light grip, the exact amount of pressure that will work best is going to vary some from player to player.
To get started, use one of your wedges and hit a few short shots on the range. You don’t want to be hitting long shots just yet because it is easier to experiment while hitting pitches of only 40 or 50 yards. Hit five shots toward a target about 50 yards away using your normal grip pressure. Next, hit five more shots with a slightly lighter grip pressure and see how they feel. Do you still have complete control of the club throughout the shot? If so, do another set of five while making your grip even a little more relaxed. Continue this process until you reach a point where the club starts to feel too unstable in your hands.
The grip pressure you want to use in your swing is the lightest one that still feels stable and in control. Don’t judge it so much by the results of the shots you are hitting, as those will improve with practice – instead, focus on the feeling that you get in your hands when swinging the club. The club should feel light and free to move quickly through the hitting area. With just a little bit of practice, you will start to wonder how you ever played with just a tight grip previously.
Now that you have found a comfortable grip pressure for your pitch shots, gradually increase the distance that you are hitting the ball on the range. Move up to a full swing with that same wedge, then reach for longer and longer clubs until you arrive at the driver. As mentioned before, it might be necessary to squeeze a little tighter as the clubs get longer, but not too much. Even with the driver, you want the grip to feel comfortable and relaxed so the club is free to move through the hitting area as quickly as possible.
It should be noted that the quality of your grips on the golf clubs that you use is important toward helping you maintain a light grip pressure. If your grips are worn or slippery you will need to hang on tighter just to control the club. Try to keep your grips as clean as possible, and replace them periodically before they get too worn down. Also, if you use a golf glove, make sure it is in good condition and dry so it forms a secure connection with the club.
Adjustments to Your Swing
While making swings using a lighter grip pressure has the potential to do great things for your game, it can also cause some problems at first. If you have been playing with a tighter grip up until this point, you will probably experience some challenges as you try to transition into a more relaxed grip. However, after a few minor adjustments to your technique and some time spent practicing, you should be able to get on track and start hitting great shots.
Following are three basic adjustments that you may need to make to your swing in order to accommodate your new, lighter grip pressure. All of these points may not apply to you, so work on them on the range to see what helps you swing better, and what does not.
- More aggressive lower body rotation. Using a lighter grip pressure means that your hands are going to have less influence over the movement of the club – especially in the downswing. This is a good thing for the most part, but it can change the dynamics of your current swing. Up until now, you may have been trying to get the club face square at impact by using your hands to force the release of the club through impact. That isn’t going to work as well with a lighter grip, so that job is going to be transferred to your lower body. Use your legs and hips to rotate your whole body toward the target and allow the club to come along for the ride. This type of swing will help you build more speed in your swing while also improving your timing. Keep your hands out of the action as much as possible and let the rotation of your body swing the club.
- Maintain a good tempo. If you are squeezing the club tightly throughout the shot, you can sometimes get away with an uneven tempo because you are just forcing the club to go where you need it with your hands. This isn’t a great way to swing the club, but it is what many amateur players do. Getting away from this habit is a step in the right direction, however you will need to focus on maintaining good tempo throughout your swing if you are going to make it work. Any kind of a rushed motion will throw off the sequencing of the shot, leading to all sorts of problems. Focus on tempo and allow your swing to build speed gradually as the club follows the turning of your body.
- Hit down through the shot. Like many amateur players, there is a good chance you currently use too much of your right hand to ‘scoop’ the ball up into the air rather than hitting down through it at impact. If that is the case, the switch to a lighter grip pressure is going to cause you some challenges at first. You need to trust the club to do the work of getting the ball into the air for you. Hit down through the shot with your irons, take a divot, and watch the ball climb into the air and hopefully head straight for the target.
All of the mechanics of your swing are interconnected, so changing one can have a trickle-down effect on many others. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of as you make an effort to lighten your grip pressure. Don’t expect to just take a lighter grip onto the course and start hitting great shots all day long. Once you successfully adjust your grip, you will then need to alter your swing slightly to facilitate the grip change. Only when all of those tweak come together just right will you start to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
On the Greens
Using proper grip pressure when putting is every bit as important as when you are swinging the club for a full shot, if not more so. Feel is the name of the game on the putting green, and you want as much feedback coming up the putter and into your hands as possible. A light grip pressure should be easier to achieve in this setting, as well, considering the fact that you only have to rock the putter back and forth rather than swing it around your body.
One of the main benefits of using a lighter grip on the putting green is improved speed control. Most golfers focus on getting the line of their putts right, but speed control is even more important because it allows you to leave the ball close to the hole for an easy second putt. By letting the putter hang from your hands in a relaxed manner gives you the best chance to swing it back and forth freely and roll the ball nicely up next to the cup. Squeezing tightly onto the grip of the putter will only serve to reduce the feel you have in your hands for the shot, making it far more difficult to get the distance correct. While professional golfers have all kinds of different putting techniques that they use to get the ball into the hole, one thing they all share is an effort to keep the grip as light as they can.
To work on your own putting grip pressure, start by hitting one one-handed putts from close range. First hit these putts with only your left hand, and then switch to hitting some with only your right hand. Doing this will help you feel how the putter should be swinging through the ball, rather than being forced through by your arms and hands. You won’t have as much control with only one hand on the grip, so your only option will be to let it swing freely. After rolling a few short putts with each hand from close distance, put both hands back on the putter and focus on rolling the ball with a light grip pressure. Hopefully, the one-handed drills will have helped you get this feeling just right.
Another element to putter grip pressure that is often overlooked is the pressure that you can feel when putting. If you get nervous before a certain putt, your body may naturally grip the putter tighter as a response to the pressure that you are feeling in that moment. Even if this only happens from time to time on the course, it can come up when you are facing a big putt and cause you to perform below your ability level. Having the capability to control your nerves and maintain a light grip under pressure is something that the best putters are able to do. Following are a few tips to help you work on that skill –
- Take a deep breath. There is nothing like a long, deep breath to relax your muscles and clear your mind. If you can feel yourself getting nervous on the putting green, take a step back, close your eyes briefly, and take a long breath in and out. This simple trick can go a long way toward slowing down your tempo, relaxing your mind, and softening your grip on the club.
- Focus on the read. It is important that you center your mind on properly reading the line in front of you – not what might be on the line if you make or miss the putt. Get your mind locked in on the details of the putt such as how much it is going to break left or right, and how much up or downhill it might be. By immersing yourself in the process of the read, you can actually ‘forget’ about what is at stake.
- Let your mind wander. This tip is basically the opposite of the previous one, but it can be beneficial as well. If you have an extra moment on the green while waiting for your playing partners to putt, look off into the distance and let your mind wander onto something other than golf. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it isn’t golf related. After a few moments, bring yourself back to the task at hand and refocus on the putt you are facing. This mental ‘break’ should help relax you and relieve some of the pressure that has been building.
Maintaining a light grip pressure is a technique that you can practice, but it also has to do with managing your nerves and your emotions. Using the tips above can help you to keep your mind in a good place and make sure that your grip doesn’t get too tight when the pressure is on. Now that you know how to hold a putter without pressure, get out onto the practice green and start working on your new stroke.
Around the Greens
Putts aren’t the only short shots that you need to be concerned about. Playing shots from around the green with a soft touch requires the same kind of light grip pressure that you have been working on in your swing and with your putter. The lessons you have learned regarding how to hold a putter without pressure are similar to those you need to learn when playing chip shots and pitches from around the green. A tight grip is never a good thing when trying to hit a delicate shot, so relax your grip and your chipping should quickly improve.
Much like your putting practice from above, try hitting some short chip shots with only one hand on the club at a time. This is going to be much more difficult than it was with your putter, but you are trying to accomplish the same goal. The weight of the club head on your wedge should swing the club back and through with minimal effort from you. Once you can successfully get the ball into the air with both your right and left handed chips, use both hands once again and hit a few more. Of course, you are to remain focused on a light grip pressure and you want to feel the weight of the club dropping onto the back of the ball.
Proper setup technique at address will make it easier to chip the ball with soft hands through impact. Make sure that your weight is leaning left toward the target when you get ready to hit a chip. By leaning a little left, you will be setting up the downward angle of attack that is critical for hitting solid chips shots. Since your grip pressure is going to be light, you can rely on your hands to route the club down into the ball. Lean left to set your shoulders on a downhill slant, then just rock the club back and through to chip the ball cleanly out of the grass.
Chipping is an area of the game that many amateurs struggle with more than any other – and using a lighter grip can help to solve that struggle. When you squeeze too tight before a chip shot, you put pressure in your hands and forearms that works to prevent a smooth swing of the club. Without that smooth rhythm, the club is usually forced down at the ball with all kinds of bad results occurring from there. Give the lighter grip pressure a try and you will be amazed at how much your short game can be transformed.
Any time you alter your grip on the golf course, you can expect for there to be some growing pains along the way. Make sure to put in plenty of practice time with your new, lighter grip, and be prepared to make a few other adjustments to your technique to bring everything together. There may be some work required, but it will be more than worth it when you see the results start to take shape out on the course.