Swinging the handle is a teaching philosophy in which players are encouraged not to focus on moving the club head but rather the grip and forearms.
Teaching professionals who advocate swinging the handle say players often fall into trouble when trying to control the club face with the hands. They say players would be better holding the club lightly and focusing on using the forearms to control the movement of the handle. An analogy often drawn is comparing the golf swing to a two armed tennis stroke in which the tennis player uses the forearms and shoulders to drive a stroke rather than manipulating the hands and racquet. Swing the handle practitioners say the only action the hands should have during the swing is the hinging and unhinging of the hands and wrists.
The basic technique can be traced back to Eddie Merrins, nicknamed the Little Pro, a teaching professional at the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles for more than half a century. Merrins published 'Swing the Handle not the club head' in 1973 which charted out this teaching philosophy.
Swing The Handle Technique
Merrins used the two handed tennis stroke description with Jack Nicklaus before his 1978 victory at the Open Championship in St Andrews and his simplistic style of conveying this message continues into a more comprehensive description of the technique.
The first aspect of the takeaway sees the right forearm taking control. The arms move back with the left arm moving in a slow 'left jab' motion extending the club wide. The right forearm causes the turn of the club away from the ball as it does the shoulder and right hip. When the back swing is complete, Merrins says it should not be considered the 'top' of the swing as this could cause people to stop at the 'bottom'. He advocates thinking of the golf swing as a journey from one location to the other and not stopping in the middle but rather traveling through to the final location. During the down swing, the left forearm plays the more prominent role and causes the turn of the club through the ball, this follows a slight lateral movement towards the ball.
Swinging the handle takes away the club head dominated mindset many golfers have.
Swing the Handle Golf Swing Teaching Golf Tip
When you put the club in motion to start your swing, which part of the club is it that you are focused on swinging - the club head or the handle? This might seem like something of silly question at first. After all, the club head and the handle are directly connected, so they are going to move together when you put them in motion. However, your swing can take on a dramatically different shape and dynamic depending on which end of the club you pay attention to during your action. While it is possible to hit good shots thinking about either end, there is a lot to be said for the benefits of making an effort to swing the handle as opposed to the head.
The concept of swinging the handle has to be credited to the legendary golf teacher Eddie Merrins, who first popularized the idea. It has helped many amateur and professional players better understand the golf swing over the years, and the idea is just as relevant today as it was decades ago. If you would like to improve the way you think during your golf swing, and by extension, improve your swing itself, the idea of swinging the handle is one that you should give some serious consideration.
In thinking about swinging the handle of the club, you should be able to improve the way your hands and forearms work during the swing. It should be obvious that the action of your hands and forearms is important, since your grip is the only place where your body connects to the club. While the rest of your body does play a key role in the golf swing, you aren't going to see any success at all if you are unable to use your hands properly. Rather than manipulating the club all along the way, your hands and forearms should play a mostly passive role, only jumping into action at just the right time to strike the shot powerfully.
Very few amateur golfers actually succeed in swinging the handle. Most swing the club head instead, moving it about wildly from the start of the swing all the way through impact. The results of this technique can be seen in the shots that you observe watching golfers practice on the driving range. There is little control in the game of the average player, and that stems from not understanding how to move the handle of the club through the shot correctly. Better control over the handle will lead to better control over the club head, which will eventually result in better control of your golf ball.
Learning how to swing the handle isn't so much about overhauling your physical technique as it is changing the way you think about the swing. Placing the focus of your swing on the grip end of the club instead of on the club head - and then executing a few basic fundamentals that serve that focus - will help you to strike better shots. Nothing about the idea of swinging the handle should be particularly complicated or difficult to understand, so this is a method that every golfer can try to implement in their own game.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
A Reversal in Style
Most golfers think about swinging the club head when they put the club in motion. Of course, that does make quite a bit of sense. After all, it is the club head that is going to hit the ball eventually, so why not focus your efforts on how that part of the club is behaving? If you can deliver the club head properly into the back of the ball, everything else will pretty much fall into place on its own.
Unfortunately, there are several problems that can come up when you focus on the club head rather than the handle of the club. These problems will make it difficult to strike clean shots, and you may soon find that you don't have great control of your swinging motion as a whole. Players who swing the handle are usually in much better control of the swing than those who base their technique around the head of the club.
Following are three common problems experienced by players who focus on swinging the head rather than the handle.
- Long backswing. When you think only of the club head, you may be tempted to take it as far back around your body as possible. That leads to a long backswing, and long backswings often result in poor ball striking - especially from a consistency standpoint. If you take a moment to watch some golf on TV, take note of how compact and controlled the backswings are among the best players in the world. This is the model that you should strive to copy. A compact backswing is more repeatable than a long one, and it can still offer you impressive power as long as you execute the rest of your technique correctly. Most players associate longer backswings with longer shots, but that simply isn't true in most cases.
- Inside takeaway. It is common for players who focus on the club head to quickly turn the club head inside of the proper path during the takeaway. You want to take the club straight back from the ball for at least the first few inches to get started on a good plane. This is a task that is made easier when you train your mind to worry about the handle of the club instead of the head. The club head traces a long arc during the swing, meaning you have to be patient to give the swing time to develop properly. Most amateur golfers lack this patience, instead choosing to rush through the swing to get the club head back to the ball as fast as possible. Swinging the handle will help you correct this problem, as the motion of your hands feels more methodical and controlled. By starting your swing slowly with a gentle move straight back from the ball with your hands and forearms, you can put the club on the right plane and establish a great tempo at the same time.
- Quit at impact. A good golf swing is one that moves all the way up into a full finish position. Unfortunately, most golfers give up on the swing right at impact, as they look up to see where the ball is going. Set yourself up for success by focusing on the handle of the club instead of the head, and make sure you swing that handle up into a balanced finish. Swinging through the ball will help you maximize your power, and it will also help make you a more consistent ball striker round after round. On the driving range, work on swinging the handle of your clubs up over your left shoulder in the follow through and you should quickly notice an improvement in the quality of your shots.
To turn around the three problems listed above, it might be time for you to start focusing on swinging the handle of the club rather than the club head itself. It might seem unlikely that you could actually change the way you swing the club simply by changing the way you think, but it's true. Golf is a game that is largely controlled by your mind, so altering your focus during the swing can have a profound impact on the results you see on the course. As an added bonus, it will take less time to change the way you think than it would to work on a specific, physical swing change. Therefore, you can expect to see improved results rather quickly when you learn how to swing the handle.
Learning how to swing the handle starts in the same way that almost every other improvement to your golf game will start - with a trip to the driving range. When you have decided that you would like to give this method a try, simply head to the range with your set of clubs and a bucket of balls. At the start, it would be best if you could find a quiet end of the driving range where you can focus in on your work without the distraction of other golfers around you. Practicing golf with other players can be fun, but these are practice sessions that will require concentration - so they are best completed alone.
As the idea of swinging the handle is more of a mental game issue than it is a physical one, it can be kind of tricky to get started on a practice session. You aren't trying to accomplish anything specific with the club at first, so you can't use a certain drill or technique to teach yourself the new method. Instead, you are trying to train your brain on how to think about swinging the club. Without a good plan in place, you could wind up standing on the range hitting shot after shot without making any real progress.
With that in mind, the following steps should help you improve your ability to swing the handle in your very first practice session.
- To get started, take one of your mid-irons from the bag to hit the first few shots. A seven iron is a popular choice, but anything from a six iron through eight iron will do the job just fine. You want a club that is long enough to allow you to feel the swinging motion, but not so long that it is difficult to hit.
- Pick out a specific target for your first shot and take a quality stance over the ball. This is a step that should apply to each and every practice shot that you hit, no matter what you are working on.
- Before starting your swing, take your eyes off of the ball and look down at your hands. Carefully look at the way they are wrapped around the club, and how they are connected to one another. You want to take this moment to become 'aware' of your grip, so that you can use it to your advantage throughout the swing.
- Next, move your eyes back down toward the ball and prepare to start the swinging motion.
- To get the swing started, think only of your hands and their task of moving the club back away from the ball. Don't think about the club head, and don't even think about the target for your shot. You are already set up to hit the ball at that target, so you don't need to spend any more mental energy thinking about that element of the shot. Your sole focus should be placed on moving the handle of the club with your hands and forearms.
- Now that the club is in motion, it is your goal to keep the handle moving steadily from the start of the swing until it is up over your left shoulder in the finish. Again, you should be focused on nothing but the movement of the handle of the club throughout the swing. If you notice your mind drifting onto other elements of your technique, stop and start again.
After hitting a few shots while keeping your mind solely focused on the handle of the club, take stock of the results. How do your shots look? Has your ball flight improved from its usual profile? You might see progress already at this point, and you might not. Either way, continue to hit shots thinking only about the grip of the club until you are finished with your practice session.
It won't be a surprise if you have some problems early on in this process. While changing the way you think about your swing can lead to quick improvements, you will likely have to work through at least a couple of different issues before you can see those improvements take shape. You should be proactive about fixing the issues that come up during this process so that you can cut them off before they have a chance to cause bigger problems in your game.
One of the most common problems that is faced by golfers who are trying to swing the handle is overactive hands during the backswing. This probably seems counterintuitive - if you are trying to swing the handle, shouldn't your hands be doing all of the work? No, they shouldn't. You are trying to move the handle of the club through the swing, but that work actually needs to be done by your whole body, not just your hands. There is a point in the swing when the hands will take over and release the club through the ball, but a large majority of the swing is handled by your torso turning back and through the shot. For example, you want your takeaway to feature the handle of the club being moved back away from the ball, but that work needs to be done mostly by your shoulders.
If you feel like your hands are being too active in the golf swing, which is causing the club head to move around excessively, try lightening your grip pressure at address. When you relax your grip, you will find that it is easier to control the swinging of the handle with your body instead of your hands. Of course, you need to hold on tight enough to maintain your grip throughout the swing, but you shouldn't be squeezing extra hard unnecessarily. Find a good balance in terms of grip pressure where you can take some of the power away from your hands in the swing while also keeping control over the club even on your fastest swings.
Another problem that is frequently encountered during this process is a lack of aggression in the downswing. While the golf swing should be a controlled motion, the bottom of your swing should be aggressive as you attempt to tear through the ball. Many players who decide to focus only on the handle lose that aggression and they simply push the club weakly through impact. No matter what kind of swing method you are attempting to use, the fundamental of accelerating the club through impact is non-negotiable.
The only thing required in order to accelerate the handle, and the rest of the club, through the shot is commitment. You have to be committed to the process of the swing, and you have to believe in your technique enough to speed the club through the ball with total belief that the shot is going to be a success. Most of the problems that golfers have with not accelerating come from self-doubt, so don't let that be your downfall. Trust the work that you have put into your swing, and let the club head rip all the way through the hitting area.
These two problems - a lack of acceleration through the hitting area, and overactive hands - are just two of many possible challenges that you may encounter. Even if you have trouble with this method at first, be sure to stick with it and give yourself plenty of time to make the adjustment. Some players will take to this way of thinking about the swing faster than others, so it would be a mistake to give up after just a couple of practice sessions.
Take Advantage of the Simplicity
One of the reasons that it is so attractive to work on swinging the handle is the fact that this line of thinking can help to clear your mind when you are on the course. Many golfers suffer from a 'cluttered' mind while playing golf - meaning they are trying to think about too many things at the same time. When you combine three or four swing thoughts with other thoughts about your course management or pressure, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. However, when your only swing thought is related to swinging the handle, there will be more brain space available to process everything else that is happening on the course.
The most important thing you can use this 'extra' brain space for is planning your shots. Most golfers don't do nearly enough in the way of planning shots before they hit them. You shouldn't just walk up to your ball and swing away - you should think about all of the potential options for the shot, such as things like club selection and target line, before deciding on the route you are going to take. Now that you feel more comfortable and confident in your swing thanks to the swing the handle method, you can turn your attention on the course to shot planning, knowing that your swing will be up to the challenge of sending the ball in the correct direction. Good golfers don't just hit quality shots, they also make quality decisions. Hopefully, by using the swing the handle method and line of thinking, you can do both of those things on a regular basis.
When you start to think about it, swinging the handle instead of the club head makes a lot of sense. You are holding on to the handle, not the club head, so shouldn't you be focused on swinging the grip end? This way of thinking has the great potential to simplify your swing, declutter your mind, and allow you to play your best golf. However, these improvements aren't just going to happen automatically. Practice is always required to get better at golf, no matter what kind of improvements you are trying to make. From physical improvements to mental ones, everything you try to incorporate into your game is going to take time and effort. Dedicate yourself to learning how to swing the handle and you can be confident that an improved overall game will be coming your way shortly.