People new to golf can be confused by the terminology deployed by more experienced players and professionals, especially when they begin to describe the grip. Having a grip referred to as strong may seem like a good thing, it conjures up positive images in mostly any other sport.
However, calling a grip strong in golf doesn't refer to its physical strength but rather the way it will affect the club face. A strong grip will generally close the club face either at address or during the swing, causing it to point left of the target (for a right handed golfer).
The reason most golfers are better off deploying a neutral grip than a strong grip relates to how the club face should move through the swing. The club face should rotate away from the ball following the swing path; a strong grip tends to hold the club face closed. This means the golfer's club face is already pointing left of the target throughout the back swing. Through impact, unless the golfer manipulates the club face, the ball will shoot off to the left.
A strong grip also has the effect of reducing a club's loft. In general terms, this means golfers with a strong grip will hit the ball lower and further than someone with a weaker grip because of the lack of club loft at impact.
Again, this may sound tempting but golfers should beware that using a strong grip can be a form of self-denial. Players deploying a strong grip can sometimes hit a 7 iron fantastic distances but only because they are reducing the loft of the club, in reality turning it into a 5 or 4 iron. A strong grip can then become downright disastrous when hitting longer clubs such as a driver where the club's loft is already very low. Players with a strong grip can sometimes struggle to get the ball airborne and shots with a driver may only rise a few feet off the ground. A strong grip can make specialized shots, such as a high fade or soaring pitch shot very difficult.
A grip would be at its strongest when looking down at address. The left hand is wrapped over on top of the grip (for a right handed golfer) with all four knuckles visible and the right hand is tucked underneath the grip with no knuckles visible.
As a general rule of thumb, golfers need to see two and a half knuckles on the left hand and one and a half knuckles on the right hand. In this position, the V's created by the left thumb and forefinger and the right thumb and forefinger should point up at the right shoulder.
This is generally considered to be a neutral grip, however, different golf coaches have different opinions and every player's golf grip should be tailored to suit their needs.
Ben Hogan, for example, suffered with a hook shot during the early part of his career before changing his grip to what many people would consider a weak grip. Conversely, Arnold Palmer relied on his strong grip to bomb the ball around the course.
These grips worked for Hogan and Palmer, it doesn't mean they will work for you. Test to see which type of grip suits you best.
Too Strong a Golf Grip Causes What?
The concept of a grip is important in a long list of sports. In baseball, the batter must decide how to grip the bat in order to optimize his swing, while the pitcher will use a variety of different grips on the ball in order to create movement on his pitches. A quarterback in football will have a grip on the ball that enables him to throw long and accurate passes, and a tennis player will grip the racquet in a way that optimizes spin and control. Many of the most-popular games in the world require the development of a comfortable and secure grip, and golf is certainly no different.
One of the major determining factors in the kinds of shots that you are going to be able to hit on the golf course is the grip that you choose to use in your swing. There are nearly infinite possibilities for your grip, and you can see a wide variety even among the best players in the world on the PGA Tour. There is no one right way to grip the club – the only thing that matters is that you find a way to hold your clubs that feels natural and allows you to hit good shots over and over again.
As you are constructing your grip, you will need to decide if you are going to use a strong, neutral, or weak grip. Each of these methods comes with its own set of pros and cons, and a large part of the decision will come down to simple personal preference. There are good players that use weak grips, there are good players that use strong grips, and there are plenty of good players who fall somewhere in between. When it comes to picking a grip, you certainly don't want to copy anyone else – you want to develop your own grip, based on what feels good to your hands and what produces the best results.
Generally speaking, a strong grip will promote a draw or a hook while a weak grip will promote a fade or a slice. Of course, those are not hard and fast rules, and there are plenty of players who play a fade from a strong grip, or play a draw from a weak one. However, when you getting started in thinking about your grip, you can use those guidelines to get off on the right foot. If you are a player who likes to use a draw most of the time, you may be best served to keep your grip on the strong side so that it Isn't fighting your swing. Or, if you prefer a fade, consider weakening your grip slightly to promote that left to right motion (for a right handed golfer).
In this article, we are going to look at the strong grip – specifically, what happens when a strong grip gets a little bit too extreme. You can go too far with just about anything in your golf technique, and that applies to the grip as well. If you let your hands get into a position that is too strong before starting your swing, you may run into some problems that will only be fixed with a grip correction.
All of the content contained 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 Strong Grip?
Before we worry about addressing a grip that has gotten too strong, we need to outline a clear definition of what is meant by the term 'strong grip. Some players mistakenly believe that a strong grip is one where the club is held tightly in the hands, but that is incorrect. In fact, it has nothing to do with grip pressure at all. Instead, it has to do with the positioning of your hands relative to the position of the club face.
The best way to understand this concept is to take out a club and evaluate your current grip. Follow the steps below you check on the grip you currently use, and you will be able to see if you fall into the 'strong' category.
- Take your stance and place the club head down behind the ball. Note – you don't actually need to be hitting shots to do this quick drill. In fact, you don't even need to be at the golf course or driving range. As long as you have room to make a stance and put the club down, you can work through this process without making a swing at all.
- With the club head behind the ball, take your grip on the handle of the club as you normally would. Don't try to do anything different from your usual grip – the point is to evaluate the status of your current grip.
- Once your grip is complete, look down at your hands and take note of the position of your left hand. How many of the knuckles on the back of your left hand can you see? If you can see three or even all four knuckles, you are using a strong grip. If you see two or two and a half knuckles, you are in the neutral category. Anything less than two would be considered a weak grip.
From the perspective of looking down from above, you would turn your left hand to the right in order to make your grip stronger, and you would turn it to the left to make it weaker. Therefore, a grip that has your left hand turned way to the right is going to be extremely strong, and a grip turned way left to the point where your left wrist is bowed would be extremely weak. For most players, good golf swings are going to be found in the middle of this range. There are a limited number of golfers who are successful with extreme grips – most of the top players use a grip that hasn't strayed far from neutral.
In most cases, a strong grip is a great thing. Gripping the club with your left hand turned at least slightly to the right will help you engage your wrists in the swing, meaning you can load and unload the club effectively. Many amateur golfers use weak grips which limit the role that the wrists can play in the swing, and those players struggle with power as a result. For the most part, a strong grip would be preferable to a weak one when it comes to the typical amateur golfer.
However, it is easy to take it too far and wind up with an extremely strong grip that starts to cause ball flight problems. Should you start to notice that your ball flight is getting out of control and you don't think you have made any changes with your swing, you will want to check up quickly on the status of your grip. It doesn't take much to go from strong to too strong, and the results can be damaging to your score at the end of the day.
Ball Flight Patterns
There are some common ball flight patterns and problems that will pop up for players who have allowed their grip to become too strong. Of course, the exact outcome of an overly strong grip is going to vary from player to player, but you should look for the symptoms below as signs that you have let your left hand move too far right on the handle of the club.
- Quick hook. This is the classic ball flight problem that is associated with an overly strong grip. Using a strong grip makes it easier to release the club head through the hitting area – but if you are hitting a quick hook, you are releasing the club head too easily. As the club comes down toward the ball, you need to maintain control over the release so that you can find a square position at impact. If your grip is too strong and the club head is releasing too quickly, you will wind up in a shut position at impact and the ball will quickly curve to the left. If you are hitting more than your share of hooks and you think everything else in your swing is working properly, take a look at your left hand grip to make sure it hasn't gotten too strong.
- Block. In many ways, this is the opposite of the quick hook, and it can also be caused by an extremely strong left hand grip. As you are coming down toward impact, you may feel the club face trying to close and your hands may respond by holding off that release all the way through the shot. Now you are left with a swing that never allowed the club face to square up, and a ball that is sailing out to the right of the target. This is obviously not a desirable ball flight to use while trying to get around the course with a good score.
- Fat shots. One of the other signs of an overly strong grip is the tendency to hit the ball fat, especially on short iron shots. As mentioned above, a strong grip makes it easy to release the club on the way down, and an early release could cause you to stick the club in the ground behind the ball. The timing of your release is key to solid contact, so make sure you are using a grip that will allow you to release the club head at precisely the right moment.
It is important to note that the presence of any of the three mistakes on the list above in your golf game doesn't necessarily mean that your left hand grip is too strong. After all, there are plenty of mechanical mistakes that can lead to those problems. However, if you are struggling to get these problems out of your game, it would be worth your time to explore the possibility that your strong grip is at the root of the problem.
Short Game Issues
One of the overlooked issues that can come up when you use an extra-strong grip is the challenges that it can present in the short game. Generally speaking, a neutral grip is great for the short game, but it is hard to switch between types of grips while you are in the middle of the round. Ideally, you will be able to use just one grip to get your way around the entire course (with the exception of putting), but trying to play short game shots with an extremely strong grip can be tricky.
The problem comes down to the control of the club head. The club head needs to be extremely stable when playing short game shots, and you can't be releasing the face prematurely if you want to make solid contact and keep the ball on line. Those who play with a strong grip will likely find that it is easy to 'chunk' their chip and pitch shots, which can quickly lead to other problems as confidence starts to fade. For these reasons, it is important to keep your strong grip within a reasonable range to avoid running into trouble around the greens.
Most golfers prioritize their full swing when they decide on things like how to place their hands on the club, but the short game needs to be strongly considered as well. If you have an excellent long game and a lousy short game, you still aren't going to be happy with your final performance at the end of a round. In fact, given a choice between the two, it is more important to have a great short game than it is to have a strong long game. Think about both your short and long game equally when settling on a grip so you can build up your skills fully from tee to green.
So how do you know if your strong grip is getting in the way of your short game? The first sign of trouble is making inconsistent contact at the point of impact. There is nothing in the short game more important than making clean and solid contact, but your ability to do just that may start to slip if you are using an extremely strong grip. A neutral or even weak grip will have your left wrist in a flatter position, meaning there will be less movement in that part of your body as the club swings forward. Some of the best chippers and pitchers in the professional golf ranks are those who use weaker grips, so it can be an uphill challenge to build a great short game around a strong grip.
If you are committed to your strong grip but would like to improve your short game, start by focusing on using your shoulders more than your arms and your hands in the swing. Your shoulders have the ability to supply plenty of power for a chip shot, even if your hands do nothing more than hang on for the ride. In fact, that can be a great way to think about your short game shots – rock your shoulders back and forth while your hands keep the club face steady as it collides with the ball. By making the short game as simple as possible, your grip won't play as much of a role in the action, meaning the strong grip that you use won't keep you from hitting nice shots.
There is one part of the short game, however, where a strong grip is a great thing – in the bunker. When playing from a greenside bunker, you want to use plenty of hand action to cut through the sand and loft the ball up onto the green. For that task, a strong grip is the perfect tool. Since you want to hit slightly behind the ball in a greenside bunker, you don't have to worry about hitting the shot fat – that is the goal. Thump the wedge into the sand a couple of inches behind the ball and watch your shot loft nicely up onto the green. You don't want to make your grip strong just for this purpose necessarily, but the ability to hit great bunker shots is a nice side effect of being a strong grip player.
Keep It Moving Under Pressure
One of the hidden issues with an extremely strong grip is the potential for that grip to jump and bite you when the pressure is on. What does that mean? The problem is this – the grip can function just fine until you reach the critical stages of a round of a tournament, when suddenly you may find that you are having trouble avoiding a quick hook. So what is going wrong? Most likely, your body has stopped moving aggressively enough through the hitting area, which is allowing the club face to flip closed at impact, resulting in a hook.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that tends to get worse before it gets better as the pressure stays on in the late stages of a round. Once you get the hook going, you will start to slow down your body even further in an attempt to ease the ball out into the fairway or up onto the green. The thinking is that by swinging softer, you can avoid the big mistake of a hook way to the left. Of course, in reality, that is only going to make the problem worse. It is a slow body rotation that is causing the trouble to begin with, so slowing down will lead to more and more hooks.
The solution to this problem is to keep your nerve and swing aggressively even when you are feeling the pressure. Specifically, you have to make sure your lower body is moving all the way through the hitting area and up into a full finish. This is easier said than done, however. To give yourself a good chance at avoiding the hook, make a couple of aggressive practice swings before actually stepping up to the shot. Focus on getting all the way to your finish, because there is no way to fake that part of the swing – if you finish with your weight mostly on your left foot, you will know that you swung aggressively and used your lower body properly.
As you swing through with plenty of leg and hip rotation, the club face won't have a chance to flip over and you should be able to keep everything relatively square at impact. Even if you do get into a slightly shut position, the big hook should be avoided simply by turning quickly through the downswing. This is a good part of your swing to focus on at all times, but it becomes especially important when the pressure is on.
Extremes are almost never a good thing in golf. If your technique is too far toward one end of the spectrum, you are going to wind up dealing with a host of challenges. That is certainly true of the strong grip. There is nothing at all wrong with using a strong grip – it is probably the best choice for most amateur players – but you can't let it go too far. When your strong grips turns into an extremely strong grip, you are likely to face challenges. If your ball flight begins to get out of control or you are having trouble making clean contact, it is a good bet that you have turned that left hand too far to the right. Make a slight adjustment by turning it back to the left slightly and you can hopefully iron out any ball flight issues after just a quick practice session on the range. The grip is an important part of golf technique, as it effects basically everything that you do with the club. Take the time to evaluate the current state of your grip, make changes as necessary, and get your game on a good track for the long haul.