Golfers are often warned about the evils of gripping the club too tightly.
But just as many players hold the club with too loose of a grip. Once you've found a happy medium, the key is to maintain the same pressure from setup to finish.
To start with, on a scale of 1 – 10, you should grasp the club with a pressure around 5. The classic image is to grip it as though holding a tube of toothpaste and trying to squeeze out just a tiny amount.
Next, it's important to keep all parts of your hands on the club throughout the swing. Many golfers lose contact with the left palm at the top of the backswing, causing them to lose control of the club. Others allow the club to slide downward coming into impact – another big no-no which all but assures poor contact.
There are three critical pressure points in the grip (listed for a right-hander):
- The pinky, ring and middle fingers of the left hand.
- The right forefinger.
- The lifeline in your right palm.
If you have trouble keeping your hands connected to the club, first make sure you're applying enough pressure at address (remember, about 5 on a scale to 10). Then practice keeping those three key points on the club by making some easy half swings, increasing to three-quarter swings, and finally moving to full swings at full speed.
This small fix can make a big difference in your game.
How and Why Keep Your Grip Pressure Constant
The grip is a key part of your overall golf technique. Of course, the grip is the only point where the club actually comes in contact with your body, so you want to make sure that you get this piece exactly right before starting a swing. There is some room for personal style and comfort with the grip, so yours doesn't have to look exactly like anyone else's in order for you to play good golf. However, with that said, there are some basic rules that you should follow with regard to the grip if you want to achieve positive results.
For example, one of the keys to a good grip is consistency. You need to hold the club the same way each time if you are going to strike solid shots. Also, you the club to fall in your fingers rather than in your palms, as this placement will give your wrists the freedom of movement they need to accelerate the club through the hitting area. Finally, you want to be sure to maintain an even grip pressure from the start of your swing all the way through to the finish. It is this last point that will be the focus of the content below.
Grip pressure is one of those things in golf that is easy to overlook. There are plenty of other mechanical details to get wrapped up in besides this one, and it probably doesn't seem to you that grip pressure could make all that much difference at the end of the day. Well, it does, and this is a point that has the potential to dramatically affect how well you perform on the course. A player with consistent grip pressure is likely to be a relatively good ball striker, while a player with inconsistent grip pressure will always struggle to produce satisfactory results.
One of the reasons that this point can be so tricky to learn is simply the fact that it is difficult to teach. You can't actually see grip pressure, so this is a tough one for golf instructors. It is one thing for an instructor to tell you to maintain an even pressure throughout the swing - but with no way of knowing whether you are actually doing that or not, there is little else they can do to help. As is the case with a number of things in the game of golf, this is a point that is going to come down to you helping yourself improve. No one can fix this swing problem for you - once you are armed with the information, it is your job alone to put it into action.
All of the instructional 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.
Why Does It Matter?
Before getting into the details on how you can master this part of the game, you should first understand why it matters that you maintain an even grip pressure. Without a clear picture of how this is important, you are unlikely to give it the attention it deserves. Following is a list of three reasons why you should care about the consistency of your grip pressure in the swing.
- Full release. Changing your grip pressure while you swing will make it very difficult to release the club correctly going through the hitting zone. Typically, players who change their grip pressure while swinging are going to make it tighter, and putting a squeeze on the club is always going to mean bad things for the release. Maximizing your distance potential requires you to turn things loose through impact, but that isn't going to happen with a tight grip. By evening out the pressure that you apply to the club during the swing, your release should come to life and your shots should gain added power almost immediately.
- Clean contact. While it is fun to work on maximizing the distance of your shots, it is really clean contact that you should be focused on most of all. Making clean contact will enable you control the flight of the ball nicely, and it will allow you to ultimately place your shots closer to the hole. Golf is a control game first and foremost, and you will only have control when you are able to strike your shots cleanly time after time. By maintaining an even grip pressure all the way through your swing, you can make the task of achieving clean contact far easier because you will have removed a big variable from the equation. Simplicity usually leads to success in golf, and your game will be much simpler when your grip pressure does not change.
- Ease your nerves. It is perfectly normal to get nervous from time to time on the golf course. Whether you are playing in a tournament or just trying to shoot your personal best score, nerves are an inherent part of golf. Unfortunately, those nerves can quickly cause your swing to come undone if you aren't careful. One of the best ways to play well in spite of those nervous feelings is to focus on grip pressure. Many players squeeze tightly onto the handle of the club when they feel nervous, and their swing suffers as a result. By keeping an even pressure even when the heat is on, you should be able to maintain your ball striking and continue to hit good shots all the way through the end of the round.
As you can see, there is plenty of motivation in place for you to work on the consistency of your grip pressure. To be sure, this isn't the most exciting thing in the world to practice - but it is rewarding if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Nothing comes free in the game of golf, and only those who are willing to practice are going to take their performance to the next level. Set aside some upcoming practice time for the purpose of working on your grip pressure control and you will start to see the benefits of that practice in the very near future.
Light is Right
When we talk about keeping a constant grip pressure in the swing, that really means that you should have a constant light grip pressure throughout the swing. Light is right when it comes to the way you are holding the club, because freedom in your hands and wrists is going to equal additional speed. There is no room for tension in the golf swing, and a light grip pressure is a great way to keep tension as far away as possible.
Right off the bat, most golfers have an obvious problem with this plan - they feel like they are going to lose control of the club if they use a light grip. The average player uses a tight grip simply because they don't want the club to go flying out of their hands as they swing through the ball. And, of course, that would not be a good thing. You need to make sure you hold on to the club from the start of the swing all the way through to the finish, to ensure the safety of those around you on the course (or on the range). So, your challenge is then to find a grip pressure that you can use which will be light enough to make a free and powerful swing while also tight enough to control the club.
One of the things you can do to make it easier to control the club with a light grip is to ensure that you have clean (and relatively new) grips on your clubs, and a golf glove on your hand that is in good condition (if you use one). It is common players to squeeze too tightly on the grip simply because there isn't enough friction between the hands and the club to form a tight bond. Give yourself a good chance to keep a light grip by maintaining your equipment in good condition and you will be starting out well ahead of the game.
Since you aren't going to be able to actually measure the pressure that you are using in your grip, you will need to decide for yourself what a light grip feels like on the club. To establish a 'range' that you can use as a frame of reference, try holding the club both as light and as tight as possible while standing around the practice area. Don't make any swings while doing this quick exercise - just take your grip with what you feel like is the lightest possible pressure, and then take another grip while squeezing as tight as you can. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being that light grip and 10 being the full squeeze, you should be aiming for something around a 3 or 4 with your actual grip. This is an inexact science, of course, but that range drill should give you a fair idea of what you are shooting for with grip tension.
If you are like most golfers, you currently hold the club too tightly. That means that the transition from a tight grip to a light one could be a bit of a challenge for you, especially at first. Don't give up on this idea, however, just because you may struggle with it at first. There is a lot to be gained in your game if you are willing to work through the challenges that come at the start of the process. Steady, light grip pressure can unlock ball striking that you didn't even know you were capable of, so it is certainly worth a little bit of perseverance and patience. After a period of learning and practicing, your new light grip pressure will become natural and you will never have to think about it again.
Mastering Light, Even Grip Pressure
It is one thing to know that you need to use even and light grip pressure - it is another thing to actually put it into practice in your swing. To make that transition, you are going to have to spend a significant amount of time practicing while focused on just this one particular part of your technique. However, you are not going to start off on the driving range as you might expect. Instead, you should head to the short game practice area at your local course to begin this process.
Why the short game area? Simple - it will provide you with an opportunity to make softer, smaller swings while getting comfortable with the changes that you are making to your grip. Think of this as somewhat like riding your bike with the training wheels on. You are going to get started by hitting only short shots, and then you can gradually move on to longer and longer shots until the 'training wheels' are eventually taken off and you are hitting full shots. It will take some patience to move through the process in this way, but you should be successful when you finally reach the finish line.
Once you have arrived at the short game area for a practice session, follow the steps below to begin your work.
- Start by taking your most-lofted club from the bag. You should have a pile of golf balls available to hit as well, and plenty of room to work. Since you are going to be experimenting with new grip pressures, you want to make sure you aren't going to hit anyone with errant shots should things go wrong. It will take you a bit of time to get comfortable with these swings, so always error on the side of caution initially.
- Pick out a target for your first shots that allows you to hit the ball around 30 or 40 yards in the air. This is a distance that falls into the 'pitching' category, as it is longer than a chip but still well short of a full swing. Give yourself good lies in some fairway-length grass for these shots, and try to find a flat piece of ground so you don't have to deal with any side slopes. Basically, you want to make these shots as easy as possible in order to allow your mind to focus on the task of learning the new grip.
- In order to settle on the best grip pressure for your swing, you are going to work through a variety of pressures until you find the one that feels right. For your very first shot, start out by using a grip pressure that you are sure is tight enough (and probably is too tight). Pitch the first shot toward the hole using this relatively tight grip, while making sure to keep your grip pressure even throughout the short swing. Pay attention to how this shot feels, as well as how the ball comes off the club.
- Next, you are going to hit another shot with a slightly lighter grip. Of course, every shot in this process needs to be hit with a steady grip pressure, as that is a big part of what you are trying to achieve.
- Continue to hit shot after shot, gradually making your grip lighter and lighter until you reach the magical 'sweet spot' where you are balanced between control and freedom. At some point, you will hit a shot where you feel like your grip was too light to control the club - at that point, you will know that you have gone too far. From there, simply tighten the grip back up just slightly, and you will be good to go.
This process of making your grip lighter and lighter with each successive shot is sure to provide you with a successful outcome in the end. It may take a while to find a point that you are happy with, but you are certain to get there as long as you have the patience to see it through. Of course, that isn't the end of the story, as you aren't going to get around the golf course only hitting the ball 30 or 40 yards at a time. If you want this process to help you actually score well on the course, you will have to stretch things out and begin to make full swings with your improved grip pressure.
To start stretching things out, gradually back up to 50, 60, 70 yards and beyond. At first, continue using the same lofted wedge that you have been using to this point. If you run out of room in the short game area to hit these shots, you will obviously need to move over to the full driving range to continue your work. By only increasing the distance of your shots by 10 or 20 yards at a time, you can be sure that your grip pressure is still working nicely before moving on. Eventually, you can reach for longer clubs to continue the process of stretching out your swing. As long as you maintain the even and light grip pressure that you located on the short shots, there should be no issue as you start to hit the ball farther. With a newfound freedom in the bottom of your swing, you can expect your shots to come off the club with impressive speed and outstanding accuracy.
Grip Pressure While Putting
Using a steady and light grip pressure while putting is just as important as it is when hitting full shots. Your putting stroke is only going to flow nicely when you have an even grip - changing grip pressures halfway through will inevitably lead to trouble. The advantage that you have while putting is that you don't really need to worry about losing control of the club. The putting stroke is a simple, methodical motion, so there is no worry about dropping the putter as you move through the shot. You are free to use an extremely light grip while putting, and that is exactly what you should do.
It is particularly important that you keep your right hand relaxed while making your stroke. Players who struggle with the yips tend to use a tighter right hand, especially as they are moving the putter forward toward the ball. Pay careful attention to the grip pressure you are using in the finger of your right hand to avoid running into trouble with the yips down the line. Keep your fingers relaxed, keep the pressure even from address through to the end of the stroke, and allow the ball to smoothly roll off the putter face toward the cup.
Maintaining a light grip pressure on your putter is going to be easier than it is in the full swing, so you might think that you don't need to practice this point very often. That would be a mistake. You should work on your grip pressure any time you are working on your stroke, as this is an extremely crucial part of your overall putting success. Nerves tend to get in the way while trying to putt out on the course, so you need to ingrain your light grip pressure during practice to have it hold up under the strain of competition. Once you are comfortable using light and steady grip pressure while putting, you will find that the putter flows nicely back and through the ball, and your ball will hold its line better on the way to the target.
There is nothing particularly exciting about grip pressure. It isn't going to be a ton of fun to practice, and nobody is going to be impressed by your improved grip pressure on the course - mostly because they won't even notice anything is different. However, if you are truly dedicated to shooting lower scores, working on your grip pressure is something that you should do regularly. Using a light grip pressure, and keeping that pressure constant from the start of your swing on through to the finish, has the power to make you a much better golfer. Good luck!