If you have trouble slicing the golf ball, the problem may not be your swing. It could be how you grip the club.
A grip position that is too “weak” – where the hands are rotated to the left of a “neutral” position – the clubface to close on the backswing and open on the downswing, creating a severe left-to-right slice (for right-handers).
To check your grip position, hold a club in your usual manner and look at the back of your left hand. If only one knuckle (index finger) is visible, your grip is overly weak. Two knuckles equal a neutral grip; three is strong; four is too strong.
Adjust to a stronger position like this:
- Grip the club normally, then relax your hold.
- Turn both hands about 1/8 inch to the right.
Note the position of the left knuckles and practice with your new grip. It will take some time to adjust to the feeling, and your shot shape may not change immediately. If you're still slicing after becoming comfortable, continue tweaking in 1/8-inch increments until you achieve a free release of the club.
If you reach the point where three knuckles are visible and your slice hasn't improved, your swing is the likely culprit.
Fix Your Slice with a Stronger Grip?
If you are fighting a slice, you have probably already tried countless fixes in the hopes of straightening out your ball flight once and for all. It can be difficult to enjoy the game of golf when you consistently see your ball slice off to the right of the target – in fact, some players have given up on the game altogether after being unable to fix their slice successfully. However, that does not have to be the case for you. As surprising as it might be, fixing your slice could come down to a simple grip change. By moving your grip into a stronger position at address, you may be able to correct the underlying issues that are creating the slice.
The grip that you use on the club at address has a powerful influence over the shots you are able to hit as you make your way around the course. A quality grip is one that compliments that swing you are trying to make. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers use a grip that runs counter to their intended swing, meaning they are fighting against their grip each time they hit a shot. Golf is a hard enough game on its own – you don't need to make it harder by working against your own grip time after time.
One of the reasons that many golfers who are fighting the slice never think to make a grip adjustment is the simple fact that it is difficult to get used to a new grip. When you do make a grip change, those first few shots are awkward at best – and downright uncomfortable at worst. You have to have the patience to see your grip change through to the end if you are going to wind up with improved results. While you might see minor improvements in your ball flight right away, the real reward is only going to come after plenty of practice, both on the driving range and on the course. It is certainly possible to make a successful grip change, but you should not count on it happening overnight.
Even though it may take some time, it is certainly worth your effort to look into using a grip change to solve your slice. Many players never manage to get over the problem of the slice, forever playing from the right side of the golf course (for a right handed player). You might be able to 'learn to live' with your slice as you play the game, but you will never have the potential to dramatically lower your scores if you always have to accommodate a big slice on each of your long shots. By taking the time now to work on eliminating that slice once and for all, you can give yourself a chance to enjoy the game at a higher level for many years to come.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
What is a Stronger Grip?
There seems to be a fair amount of confusion among amateur golfers as to what is really meant by the term 'stronger grip'. To the non-golfer, a stronger grip would seem to indicate one where the player squeezes more-tightly onto the handle of the club. That, of course, is not the case. Rather, a strong grip refers to the positioning of your hands on the club. Players who use a strong grip have their left hand turned farther to the right on the top of the grip, while those using a weak grip have that left hand turned farther to the left. It is possible to play good golf using either option, but players who are fighting a slice will almost always benefit by moving in a stronger direction.
Of course, you can't really make your grip stronger if you are already in a strong position, so the first step in this process is to evaluate the current status of your grip. To do so, follow the simple steps below –
- Take any one of your full swing clubs (not your putter) from the bag and get into a normal stance as if you were going to hit a standard shot. You aren't going to swing the club at all in this process, but you should still take the time to build a proper stance.
- With your stance taken, drop your right hand off of the club so that your left hand is holding the club still in the address position.
- Look down at the back of your left hand – how many knuckles can you see? The number of knuckles you can count on the back of your left hand will indicate how strong (or weak) your grip is at the moment.
If you can see just one or two knuckles, you are using a weak grip and your slice can probably be improved by adjusting into a stronger position. However, if you can see three or even four knuckles, you are already using a strong grip and you will probably need to look elsewhere for changes that can eliminate your slice. It is important that you take the time to do this quick evaluation as you don't want to try making a strong grip even stronger – you could harm your swing and cause even more problems in your game. Go through this quick check and only proceed with the rest of the instruction in this article if you are, indeed, using a weak grip in your current swing.
There are a number of ways in which using a stronger grip can help you to avoid the slice pattern that has been giving you trouble in your game. Since your grip is the only connection you have between your body and the club itself, it is important that you position your hands in a way that is going to cause the club to do the right things. Even a great golf swing can be ruined by a poor grip – and a so-so swing can actually lead to quality results as long as the hands are positioned properly on the club.
So, how can using a stronger grip help you to steer clear of the slice? Consider the following points.
- Easier release. This is really the key point related to using a stronger grip, and it is the reason you may be able to improve your slice by making this change. When your left hand is in a stronger position on the top of the grip, you will find it easier to release the club head through the hitting area. Most players who fight a slice never really manage to release the club properly – and if they do, that release takes place too late. With a strong grip, your left hand will have a much easier time achieving the release, meaning you should be able to get the club face back to square in time to avoid a dramatic slice. Even if you still hit a bit of a fade, your ball flight pattern should be improved thanks to this adjustment.
- Better takeaway path. By moving your left hand into a stronger position, you will be more likely to take the club back away from the ball on a better path. Those who play with a weak grip are prone to moving the club outside of the target line early in the backswing – which can wind up leading to an outside-in impact path in the end. With your strong grip in place, all you will need to do is turn your shoulders away from the target in order to trace an appropriate path back from the ball. While many golfers think of the slice as a downswing problem, it often is caused by a faulty takeaway. Move your grip into a stronger position and the takeaway that has been giving you problems could soon be far more effective.
- Hold your lag. This point goes along with the previous point relating to the release. When you use a stronger grip, you may find it easier to hold your lag on the way down toward the ball – which is a key in hitting straight, powerful shots. Most amateur golfers struggle to hold on to their lag during the downswing, which is why they don't tend to hit the ball as far as their professional counterparts. Moving your grip into a stronger position won't automatically allow you to use lag more effectively in the downswing, but it certainly will be a good start.
- Stability through the hitting area. Not surprisingly, a stronger grip will help you hold the club face in a steady position through impact. Players with a weak grip often allow the club to twist at impact when the ball is not quite struck on the center of the face – but that is not a problem usually encountered by players with a strong left hand position. Not only can the ability to hold the face steady help you in terms of preventing the slice pattern from taking over your game, but it will also help you to play better from poor lies, such as when the ball is sitting down in the rough.
Playing with a strong grip is a great idea for many players, even if they don't struggle with a slice. However, for those who do need to find a way to get rid of the slice, using a strong grip is almost a no-brainer. There are plenty of benefits, and few (if any) drawbacks to speak of with this technique. A great number of players in the professional ranks play with a strong grip, which should be all the proof you need that it is possible to take your game to a high level by employing this technique.
To provide both sides of the story on the matter of a strong grip, it is only fair to point out the potential minor drawbacks that can be experienced. In some cases, using a strong grip will make the player prone to hitting a quick hook, especially if the player allows their lower body to stop moving through the downswing. However, since you are working on fixing your slice at the moment, there is almost no chance that you are going to run into problems with the hook. Also, for some players, the strong grip will make it difficult to hit down through iron shots properly. The improved release that comes along with this kind of grip can potentially cause the club to shallow out early, leading to an impact that is flatter than desired. Again, this is a problem that will only affect a small portion of players, and it is an issue that can be dealt with by making a couple of other adjustments.
In all, it is hard to find too much bad to say about the strong grip. For most amateur players, experimenting with a strong grip is a smart move, as there is plenty to be gained and very little to be lost. Even if you don't wind up sticking with the strong grip over the long run, the practice time spent working on this technique will still help you in your pursuit of a slice-free future.
Making the Change
As was mentioned above, making a grip change is one of the trickiest things you can do in the game of golf. You are used to the feel that your current grip provides during the swing, so making a chance to a new grip position is going to dramatically alter the whole feel of your motion. Of course, you can't make progress without going through a period of adjustment, so you will need to accept the fact that you are going to have to put up with some uncomfortable swings before you can make the strong grip a natural part of your technique.
To start making this change, the best thing you can do is spend plenty of time working on your short game. That's right – even though you are trying to fix the slice that occurs when you take a full swing, the first place you want to head when making a grip change is the short game practice area. Why? To start to develop a level of comfort with the feel of your new grip. Hitting chip and pitch shots is like making miniature full swings, so you can build up comfort and confidence at this level before gradually working your way up to full swings with long clubs.
Take one of your wedges from the bag and hit as many chip and pitch shots as you would like with your new, stronger grip . At first, this is going to feel uncomfortable even with a short swing. Do get over your discomfort, focus your mind on the task of hitting the ball cleanly each time. Don't worry too much about how it feels at this point – just think about putting the sweet spot of the club on the back of the ball. Spend as much time as possible over the first few days of this change hitting chip and pitch shots with your lofted clubs. As you gain confidence, gradually start to work your way into longer and longer shots. Pretty soon you will find that your pitch shots are turning into half-swings, and those half-swings will then turn into full golf swings. By building up in this way, you can almost 'trick' yourself into being comfortable with your new grip. Of course, as an added bonus, you will have spent plenty of time working on your short game, which is never a bad thing.
It is common to make the mistake of gripping the club too tightly while working on a grip change, so watch out for that issue as you move along. Your grip pressure should always be relatively light, as a light grip will make it easier for the club to swing freely through the hitting area. You need to have enough pressure on the club to keep it under control, of course, but you should never feel like you are squeezing as tight as you can during the swing. This is another reason why it is a good idea to start with short game shots before moving into the full swing. Using light grip pressure on short game shots is easy, so get comfortable using the right amount of pressure when pitching the ball and then monitor that point as you add more and more speed to your shots.
The biggest hurdle in this entire process is simply getting out of your own way. You will likely be uncomfortable with the new grip in the early stages, so you will be tempted to move back into a weaker grip just to get back to a point that feels comfortable to you. That would be a mistake, and it would mean you would have to resign to many more months or years of hitting a slice. Stick with this process even through the tough times at the start, and look for minor signs of improvement along the way to keep you motivated.
Taking It to the Course
You might be thinking that shooting a good score will be no problem at all once you have eliminated your slice through the use of a stronger grip. While it will be easier to post good scores when you hit the ball straighter, it might not quite be the 'walk in the park' that you are expecting. Why? It comes down to learning how to play a new game. If you have been dealing with a slice for some time, you have adapted your game to accommodate that left-to-right ball flight. Even though it wasn't ideal, you learned how to score your best by playing for your slice in most cases. Now, you don't need to play for the slice anymore, but your body may not be adjusted to that new reality.
The first thing you will need to change is your alignment at address. Most players who slice learn how to aim out to the left of the target in order to give the ball room to curve back toward the fairway or the green. Of course, now that you aren't slicing the ball, that kind of adjustment is not necessary. You will be able to aim much closer to the target, although you will still want to aim slightly to one side or another to account for your new ball flight (hopefully either a small draw or small fade). To get your aim right, you need to pay attention to the pre-shot process that you use to get ready for your shots. Pick out a very specific target, align your body and the club to that target, and then make a quality swing.
Once you have learned how to aim properly with your new ball flight, the other change you will have to make is to the strategy that you use around the course. Most likely, you have taught yourself to be scared of hazards that lurk on the right side of the golf course, as you would have had trouble avoiding those spots with your slice. Now, you no longer need to play with that fear, as you should be able to keep your ball safely away from the right side when needed. It can take some time to 'recalibrate' the way you think about the game, so pay attention to your course management decisions until you get familiar with playing without a slice.
It is hard to have very much fun on the golf course while fighting a slice. Countless golfers deal with the slice each time they tee it up, and those players are unable to move their scores lower as a result. By working on using a stronger grip in your swing, you just might be able to break free of the slice pattern that has been following you throughout much of your golf career. Good luck, and hit 'em straight!