Most golf instructors advocate gripping the club with the hands in a “neutral” position. The telltale sign is when the crease between the thumb and forefinger of both hands point at (or near) the right-handed golfer’s right ear when addressing the ball.
The neutral golf grip may be considered ideal, but many players can benefit from rotating the hands a touch to the right, or into a “strong” position. A stronger grip can cure a number of ills, including slicing and a lack of power.
While most professionals’ grips are neutral or close to it, notable pros with strong grips include Fred Couples and Paul Azinger. If your grip is neutral or to the “weak” side (rotated to the left), you may find that a stronger golf grip:
• Feels more natural when setting up and taking the club back.
• Promotes a fluid, powerful release through the ball.
• Allows you to hit right-to-left shots (draws)
To adjust your grip into a stronger position, turn both hands about 1/8 inch to the right of where you normally place them. The 1/8-inch measurement is recommended because a grip change is one of the most awkward adjustments in golf and takes time to get used to.
To check your golf grip position, look at the knuckles on your left hand as you hold the club. If you can see three knuckles at address, your grip is in a good, strong spot.
Is a Strong Golf Grip Right For You?
Your chosen golf grip – that is, the way that you place your hands on the club – says a lot about the kind of swings that you will be able to make. The grip is a very personal thing, and no two golfers have a grip that is exactly alike. Depending on the size of your hands, the strength in your hands and forearms, your swing technique, and much more, you will have to develop a grip that is comfortable and effective for you. Copying the grip technique of another player is usually a bad idea simply because you and your swing are unique.
Most golf grips can be divided up into three general categories – strong, neutral, and weak. Each of these has its own pros and cons, and each will tend to favor a certain kind of ball flight. It is important that the kind of grip you use matches with the kinds of shots that you want to hit. Using a grip that favors a draw while trying to hit a fade, for example, is a recipe for trouble. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to which grip is best, but you need to make sure that the grip you choose is well-suited for the game that you wish to play.
Before you can decide what kind of grip is best for your swing, you need to know what grip you are using currently. From there, you can think about what needs to change in your game in order to reach your goals, and whether or not a grip adjustment is the right step to take. Following is an outline of how to determine what style of grip you have at the moment. Note that the instructions below are based on a right handed golfer – be sure to reverse them as needed if you play left handed.
- Pick up a golf club and take your normal stance and grip as if you were getting ready to hit a shot. This can be done just about anywhere since you arent actually going to swing the club.
- With your stance taken, drop your right hand off of the club so that you are only holding on with your left. The club head should still be resting on the ground.
- Look down at your left hand and count the number of knuckles that you are able to see from your address position.
- If you count three or more knuckles, your grip would be considered strong. Anywhere from two to two and a half knuckles would be a neutral grip, and less than two is considered a weak grip.
Since your right hand should simply match up to your left when placed back onto the club, it doesnt really come into the equation when determining the position of your grip. It is the left hand that you should be concerned with, as it will determine if your grip is strong, neutral, or weak.
The Characteristics of a Strong Grip
Once you have completed the exercise above, you should have a good idea of what kind of grip you are using currently. Many amateurs, especially those struggling with a slice, will find that they are using a weak or neutral grip rather than a strong one. If that is true for you, it may be helpful to get a better understanding of what a strong grip could do for your swing. You may or may not end up deciding to make the switch, but at least you will have all of the information you need to make a smart choice.
The first thing you would notice if you were to start using a strong grip is just how much more effect your hands are able to have on the golf swing. Your grip will simply feel stronger, and your hands will be able to manipulate the club more throughout the swing. This can be a good and bad thing. Some golfers feel like they are able to generate more club head speed when they use a stronger grip, simply because the hands have an easier time releasing the club through the hitting area. However, many golfers also feel that they lose consistency because of how much their hands influence the movement of the club. When you use your hands actively to swing the club, instead of relying mostly on the rotation of your body, you will have to have excellent timing in order to reach a square position at impact. Some players are able to do this consistently, while others struggle. In the end, your innate ability to time the release of the club through impact might be the determining factor in whether or not a strong grip is right for you.
Another characteristic of a strong grip is the club head moving aggressively down through the hitting area. Most players who have a strong grip also take large divots and hit down hard through their iron shots. On the other hand, players who favor a neutral or weak grip tend to sweep the ball off the turf. Of course, these are just generalizations and there are golfers within each group that represent the exception to the rule. If you like to hit down hard through the ball and take a big divot after your shots, a strong grip might be something for you to consider.
One last characteristic of players who use strong grips is something for you to carefully consider as it relates to your own swing. In order to use a strong grip effectively, you are going to need to be able to rotate your body aggressively through the swing. Most players who use a strong grip make a dynamic move toward the target in the downswing so they can get their body out of the way as the club swings down. If you were to use a strong grip and fail to rotate your body enough through the hitting area, a hook is almost a sure result. Without the proper body rotation through the shot, the club face will most likely close early and the outcome will send the ball far to the left of your target. If you dont make this kind of move in your downswing, and you dont want to add it to your technique, a strong grip probably wont be a good fit.
What Problems Can a Strong Grip Solve?
There is no reason to change grips if you are currently happy with the state of your game. If you like the ball flight that you are hitting and you can hit it with a reasonable level of consistency, it would be best to stick with your grip and just keep practicing your current swing. However, if there is some kind of problem within your game that you hope to fix, moving to a strong grip could be a possible remedy. Following are some of the common problems golfers face which can potentially be solved with a change to a stronger grip.
- The Slice. This is likely the most-common reason for golfers to experiment with a stronger grip. If you play with a weak grip you might find that you have trouble getting enough release through the hitting area to get the club face square at impact. That will leave the club face pointing to the right, and make the slice a probable outcome. By using a stronger grip, you could give yourself a better chance to fully release the club through the ball and eliminate that slice. While a grip change alone wont solve the other issues in your swing that are at the root cause of the slice, it can help to limit the amount of slice that you get on your shots. This kind of grip change, along with some improvements to your technique, can effectively get rid of the slice once and for all.
- Poor Contact. Some players with a weak grip have trouble finding the sweet spot of the club face at impact. The reason for that is probably the reduced role that the hands play in the swing when using a weak grip. Since your hands cant react as quickly to what your eyes are telling them, some of the natural athletic nature of the golf swing is taken away in a weak swing. This can help to avoid big misses, but it can also make it harder to strike the ball cleanly in the center of the club face. If you feel like you are always hitting shots either out off the toe or in off of the heel of the club, changing to a stronger grip might allow you to square it up more often.
- Lack of Distance. Most golfers are going to create more speed through the hitting area when they use a strong grip. That doesnt mean that every golfer should use a strong grip – after all, there is more to the swing than just speed – but it is a factor worth considering. If you feel like you are making a good golf swing from a technical standpoint and still arent getting the results you would like, it might be worth thinking about making the change to a stronger grip. That extra speed through the ball may be hard to control at first, but the reward of additional yardage on your shots is certainly appealing.
Your ball flight will tell you everything you ever need to know about your swing and your grip. If you like your current ball flight, it would be a mistake to mess with it. It is only worth making a change if you have a specific goal in mind that you want to achieve. Think about your current game and make a list of what specific changes you would like to make that you believe would lead to lower scores. If those changes can be achieved by altering your grip, that just might be the right step to take.
How to Make the Change
As any experienced golfer will tell you, making a grip change is one of the most-difficult things you can do as a golfer. The way you grip the club is a source of comfort for you when making a swing, and changing that technique can be quite upsetting to the rest of your swing at first. If you decide that you want to make a grip change, you need to be strongly committed to that change because there will be some struggles along the way. If you are looking for a quick fix within your game, changing your grip is not it. This is a move that is made with the long-term big picture in mind.
Before we get into the right way to make your grip change, lets quickly discuss the wrong way to do it. When you set out to work on your new grip, dont just head to the driving range and start hitting full shots with your new, stronger grip position. That is a recipe for failure and frustration. Your current swing mechanics are used to working with a neutral or weak grip, and they are likely going to fight against this new grip. More than likely, you will give up on the project before you have even hit all of the range balls in the bucket. In order to make this a successful effort, you need to have a specific game plan and then execute that plan carefully.
Following are the recommended steps that you should work through when attempting to switch to a stronger grip position.
- Chipping is the key. Although you want to change your grip for all of your shots, start by using your new grip position only when chipping. The reason is simple – the chipping motion is very similar to a full golf swing, but it is easier to execute because the club isnt moving nearly as fast. You can hit chip after chip in the practice area without having to worry about watching an ugly ball flight head down the range. Also, because it doesnt take as much effort as a full swing, you can hit hundreds of chip shots in a single practice session if you wish. That repetition will help you start to develop a level of comfort with your new grip that can carry over to your full swing. Allow yourself at least three or four chipping-only practice sessions with the new grip before you move on to longer shots.
- Left hand only. When the chipping segment of the process is done, head back to the driving range and get ready to hit a few shots. However, you arent going to go after it with your normal full swing just yet. Instead, grip the club with just your left hand and hit a few shots using just one hand on the club. Of course, these arent going to be full swings and you shouldnt expect to hit the ball very far. Use a wedge and only try to hit the ball 30-40 yards. The idea here is to learn how the release will work with your strong grip as compared to your old grip. Once you hit a few shots with the left hand only, put your right hand back on the club and hit a few more. Still, only hit them 30-40 yards and focus on solid contact through impact.
- Go for it. At this point, you should have done enough work that your new grip position will not feel so foreign. You still shouldnt expect incredible results at first, but go ahead and hit some full shots with some of your longer clubs. Ignore the quality of the ball flight for now and just pay attention to the quality of your ball striking. Are you hitting the ball squarely in the middle of the club face? Does the impact feel solid in your hands? As long as you are hitting some shots that feel good through the hitting area, you will know you are on the right path.
The only thing that stands between you and learning how to best use your new grip is time and experience. There is no substitute for practice when trying to make a grip change. Hit plenty of balls on the driving range and dont rush back out onto the golf course until you are starting to feel confident and comfortable with your new grip.
Finding Your New Ball Flight
Once the grip change has been made and it starts to become a natural part of your game, you will certainly notice that you arent hitting the same kind of shots as you were with your old grip. Your ball flight will likely be quite different, and that change in itself will be quite a challenge. In order to turn your new shots into lower scores, you will need to learn how to play your new ball flight on the course and use it to your advantage. If you have switched, for example, from a fade to a draw, this change might be a little more challenging than you expected.
Watching your ball flight on the range to make this adjustment might not actually be the best option. Most driving ranges use golf balls that are flight-limited, meaning that the ball flight you see on the range isnt necessarily what you can expect on the course. Also, you probably arent as target-oriented on the range as you are on the course, meaning it will be harder to evaluate your shots and make the necessary corrections.
If you have the chance, the following process can be a great help when learning your new ball flight tendencies. Head to the course on a day when you can play a round of golf without caring about your score. In fact, it would be best to not even keep score at all for this round. The idea is simple – for each shot, you are going to aim as if you are going to hit the ball perfectly straight. Pick out a target and then aim directly at that target. Dont play for any room on either side of the target to hit a fade or draw, just aim at the target and make your best swing. When the ball comes down, make a note as to what the ball flight looked like, and where the ball landed (left or right of the target). Do this exercise both off the tee, and on your approach shots.
When the round is over, you will have a nice little collection of data to review. How many shots landed to the left, and how many to the right? More than likely, one group will contain the vast majority of your shots. Now you know what kind of ball flight you should be favoring when you play your next serious round of golf. If the ball is turning to the left almost every time, play for a draw and you should be able to get the ball close to the target. Since you will have done this experiment on the course, your results should be far more reliable and they should greatly help you use your new swing to maximum success.
Changing your grip to a stronger position is something that could potentially be a great help to your game – but only after careful consideration and plenty of practice. You shouldnt expect to make a change in your grip and suddenly start to play great golf. Adjusting your grip is challenging and the shots you will hit at first likely wont live up to your expectations. Only the golfer who is committed to this process and is willing to put in the necessary practice time will come out on the other side and be happy with the results. However, if you do put in that work, you can be rewarded with a swing that is more powerful and finds impact on the center of the club face more often.