A professional golfer stuck in a putting slump will try most anything to break out of it.
Altering the stance or stroke, switching to a new or different type of putter, even putting with the off hand – all things pros do regularly.
Changing grip technique is another popular slump-buster. In fact, some pros use highly unconventional means of holding the putter, like Chris DiMarco and his “claw” grip.
In his younger days DiMarco considered himself a good but streaky putter, not consistent enough to reach the game's upper echelon. He diagnosed that his left and right hands didn't work together properly, and sought a solution. Fellow pro Skip Kendall showed DiMarco the claw grip and, though skeptical at first, DiMarco tried it. Success ensued.
DiMarco's left hand holds the top of the grip in the traditional manner. He puts his right hand below the left, with four fingers open across the grip's front, the thumb wrapped around the back side of the handle.
Like most putting grips, the claw is designed to eliminate movement in the hands and wrists and promote a consistent, back-and-through stroke. Besides DiMarco, golfers who use the claw or a variation of it include Mark Calcavecchia and Mark O'Meara.
Give it a try if you're looking to improve your putting by any means necessary.
CAN THE CLAW GRIP HELP MY PUTTING
- Do you feel that at times your hands aren't working together?
- Do you have trouble committing to the line that you are putting on?
- Are short putts with a lot of break one of your nemesis?
- Are you good at jamming putts in but not so great at finessing putts?
- Have you lost confidence in your short putts?
If you answer yes to any of these questions then yes, the claw grip can help your putting!
The claw grip is actually a very sound grip that holds a lot of merit in both theory and practice. It's not a last-ditch method that should be tried only because everything else has failed! In fact, the claw is a grip that should be considered even if you only need a small upgrade. It's a grip based on taking the “grab” or the wristiness out of the right hand, which for some could be the difference between being a good putter and a great putter.
There are several ways to hold a claw grip, which is the main reason it can be used for an assortment of ailments. In all variations the left hand is placed on top like a traditional putter grip. Some players prefer to slightly exaggerate the angle in the left wrist and lock it into place.
The right hand is taken off of the club and situated back on so that the thumb and forefinger won't pinch together. Here are descriptions of a few claw grip styles:
Classic claw- The classic claw was a rudimentary attempt at taking enough of the right hand off of the putter so that it wouldn't dominate the stroke, but leaving enough on so that it could help guide it. Leaving the left hand in a traditional position on the grip, take your right hand off and open it up, looking down at the palm. Below the left hand slide the shaft between the 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 3rd fingers of your right hand. You can either let your right hand sit in a relaxed positioned or some players feel more comfortable closing the fingers of right hand. The classic claw allows more right hand on the putter than any of the other options.
Sergio's claw- The putter grip is placed in the lifeline of the left hand with the left thumb down the center of the grip. The right hand is then placed on the grip. The 'V' between right thumb and right index finger has the putter grip securely into the point of the 'V'. The right index finger is lying loosely on the grip with the fingertip of the right index finger pointing downwards- parallel to the putter shaft. The other fingers are loosely pointing downwards inside the target line with no tension in their muscles.
Saw-looking claw- The left hand is put onto the club in the same manner. The putter shaft is put down the lifeline of the left hand. The right goes onto the club in a slightly different manner. The shaft is put between the "V' formed by the right thumb and right index finger. The right index finger and other fingers are almost parallel to the ground, pointing towards the target. This gives the impression of a person holding a saw in their right hand and performing a sawing motion as the right arm goes back and forth during the rehearsal strokes. Most golfers put the tip of their right pinky or last finger against the edge of the shaft from more support and control of the shaft. Having the pinky finger resting against the shaft also gives the golfer more feel during the stroke.
Closed-hand claw- To try this weird-looking grip, start with a standard putting grip. Turn your right palm toward you and bring it to the putter's handle so that the handle touches the spot between your thumb and index finger. Now bring your index and middle fingers to the shaft, leaving your ring finger and pinkie off.
In all of the saw grips the right hand is limited to a guiding position. I recommend that you try each grip to find out which works best and which is most comfortable for you.
OPPOSING FORCES-HOW THE CLAW GRIP CAN HELP YOUR PUTTING
A traditional putting grip works best for the putter who can get both hands to work together as a unit. If you have difficulty getting your hands to work together then any of the claw grip styles can help your putting. To begin with you may want to try the traditional claw grip just as a drill so that you can pinpoint how much your right hand is fighting the left.
Beginners often struggle with getting their hands to work together in putting. The first few times beginners putt, distance control is more about keeping the ball on the green rather than getting the ball near the hole. As they get better then distance control becomes an exercise in not hitting the ball more than 5 or 10 feet past the hole or getting it more than half-way to the hole.
You may not remember those days, but everyone goes through them. The reason is because beginners putt with one hand at a time. Left hand back, right hand through. How many times have you seen a beginner top a putt? Unfortunately it happens a lot.
Amateurs without a lot of time to practice putting might have this type of problem their entire playing careers. The claw would instantly give a player in this situation the opportunity to shave strokes off by making more putts.
It could be that just hitting practice putts with the claw grip will give you the awareness you need to get your hands working together during the stroke. The classic claw is a good grip to start with. Putt ten 5-foot putts with the classic claw and then ten back with your normal grip. Move back to 10-foot putts and hit ten with the classic claw and then ten with your normal grip.
You should feel as though your arms, shoulders and left hand are having to work much more than before. Your right hand can provide more power than needed for putting and if you are not able to restrain yourself from using the right hand then you will need to remove it from the equation.
Now, try Sergio's claw grip. It' may feel a little shaky at first. Alternate between ten 5-footers with the classic claw grip, then 10 with Sergio's claw grip. Keep doing that drill until you feel comfortable putting just with Sergio's claw grip. If when you extend out to the 10-footers you find that you cannot control the speed of the putt, then just stick with the classic claw grip.
The claw grip can take an unrefined motion of two hands opposing each other and turn them into a unified motion. The classic claw grip is especially effective for beginners and players with dominant right hands. Just practicing with a classic claw grip can give a player the awareness needed to get the hands to work together in the putting stroke. If the hands oppose each other during the stroke the contact and the ball speed will be inconsistent and the total putts each round will be high.
DEMONS WITHIN- HOW THE CLAW GRIP CAN HELP YOUR PUTTING
The secret to being a good putter is that you need to have control of your putting stroke right up until your putter contacts the ball. If you are putting well it never occurs to you that you would not have control of your putting stroke. It's only when you start to struggle that you begin to scrutinize more closely what might be causing you to have a problem.
Phil Mickelson has at times been called one of the best putters in the world. When he starts missing short putts the critics come out en masse and all of a sudden the best putter is in a slump. I am pretty sure that Mickelson has high expectations for himself and equally confident that he doesn't need a bunch of people in the press box telling him he should be making more short putts.
When someone like Mickelson tries a different putting style, like the claw grip, it is because he is trying to shock his system. He was trying to regain his feel. He wouldn't plan on not being in contention for a few months while he tried a “crazy new putting grip.” The claw was not so radical a change that he couldn't win while using it and he wasn't so desperate that it wasn't the only thing left for him to try. It was simply the best solution for him while he fought his demons.
Mickelson bounced back and forth between the claw and his conventional grip for a couple of years. Known to be a “feel” player, the claw was beneficial in helping Mickelson create a softer roll and keep a lighter grip. He tends to be a bit aggressive and it seemed to help him smooth out his stroke a bit too.
Junior golfers are taught early on one putting method. Most of the time it is the conventional putting method with the left hand on top, the right on the bottom and the putter held in the lifelines. If a junior shows promise early then his/her parents usually get them entered into tournaments, signed up for lessons and then buys them a course membership so they can practice. There isn't a lot of “outside of the box” thinking time for junior golfers.
When the young players start watching professionals they pick up new methods, learn about new equipment and try new things. Finally, when they get to college they may start to implement some of these innovative or unconventional methods, but are they ever truly comfortable with them?
The point is that most players are engrained with very conventional methods from a young age. Switching to a putting style such as the claw may seem radical and that alone may cause them to abandon the technique sooner than it takes time for them to see if it can actually help them.
The demons are active both when they suggest to the player they need to look for an alternative to the conventional putting grip they currently use and then again when they talk the player into thinking that the alternative (in this case the claw grip) is TOO radical and that they must be a real mess to be using it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Don't wait for your demons to talk you into trying the claw grip. Experiment to see if it does help with the tempo of your putts and practice with it to see if it will keep your right hand from trying to dominate your putting stroke. Try it now with an open mind.
And if you like the putting grip, then use it. Just like a bunch of deadbeat friends telling you to drop the girlfriend you really like, don't listen to the demons when they say you must be desperate to try the claw grip. You are being proactive. There are no rules that say you have to putt a certain way and we all know that at the end of the day the only thing that matters is that when you add up your score it's lower than everyone else's.
HOLDING THE LINE- HOW THE CLAW GRIP CAN HELP YOUR PUTTING
One real advantage to using the Sergio claw is that the putting stroke is more “down-the-line” than a conventional stroke. When you don't have a lot of conviction in your starting line then the claw can be a good confidence builder.
If you are not trusting your line then chances are the pace of your putting stroke is not smooth. Let's looks at a couple of examples that might indicate you aren't trusting your line.
EXAMPLE 1: You are a player who typically hits short putts firmly. You specifically have problems when your short putts break sooner rather than later. So, if there is a two inch break that happens near the end of your putt it's fairly easy for you to pick a spot outside the hole and hit it to that spot at the right speed so it goes into the hole. However, if the break happens early in the putt you might have trouble envisioning where to start the putt so that it breaks down toward the hole.
To make a putt with an early break it takes a steady putter because the initial speed and line of the putt determines the break. Therefore, if you are at all timid, the putter decelerates and the face closes. If you jab or accelerate at the last second, you add speed and the face stays open.
By taking the right hand off of the club so it's not in a position to control and putting it back on so that it can act more as a counterbalance your stroke will have a smooth cadence. You can hold the line of the break better because the putter will have less tendency to accelerate or decelerate.
EXAMPLE 2: You are right-handed and struggle with left-to-right breaking putts. If this is you, think about how many times this has happened; you have a 10 foot left to right putt that breaks 5 inches. You think you have a good line on the putt and you even play it a little further left than you think you need to, but putt ends up below the hole and 5 inches to the right of it.
There are a list of reasons as to why you might struggle with these types of putts and why you might always leave them short-sided. Whatever the reasons for your struggles, the claw grip does promote a straighter putter path and it can help you with these types of putts.
Try the claw grip a few times and tell yourself that both the path of the stroke and the path of the ball will be straight until the ball begins to fall to the hole. That way, the straight lines are within your control while the break is out of your control. You set the ball up for the break and then let it go. The feeling that you need to manipulate the line of the putt because you don't trust it will be overcome by the confidence that you only need to hit the ball in a straight line.
Confidence comes from having the ability to rely on something you know will work. Your brain can throw out warning signals at the worst possible times and in putting your hands will be the things that will react to them. By relieving the right hand from its gripping position you can eliminate the grabs and jabs. The claw lets the right hand steer the putter and as a result you will have a more consistent tempo and a straighter path which will help you hold the line of your more trickier breaking putts.
TAKING A LITTLE OFF- HOW THE CLAW GRIP CAN HELP YOUR PUTTING
It's hard to believe sometimes that the same player who just hit a 360 yard drive and 150 yard wedge also just finessed a 12 foot downhill 3-foot left to right breaker for eagle. It takes a great athlete to go from full on power to full on brakes and then hit a nail-biter for eagle at the end of it.
Professionals have game plans for every condition they might encounter on tour. It's not a new strategy to have different putters for different types of greens or for different green speeds. It's not even that rare for players to have different grips for different length putts.
The claw grip can be a very good “niche” grip. It's great for short putts and it's also very good for fast putts. You don't need a long stroke for a fast putt and you obviously do not need a faster tempo for a quick putt, which makes a claw grip perfect.
To try out the claw grip I suggest going to a fast practice green if available. If not, try a few extra putts while playing on the golf course the next time you are out.
First, start with a long putt around 20-30 feet downhill. Putt the first ball with your normal grip and then putt the second from the same spot using one of the claw grips. I would recommend the Sergio claw grip. Try to ensure that you use the same length backstroke and forward stroke with both balls. You should find that not only the ball struck with the claw grip rolls much softer, but that it also rolls shorter.
Now move the ball up so it is about 10 feet from the hole. The putt should be straight downhill. For the first putt use your traditional putting grip. Take note of how long you take the putter back and through. Using the claw grip on the second putt, take the putter back and through the same length as the first putt. Once again the second putt should roll softer and shorter.
If you are a golfer that can take your game from 0 to 60 pretty easily but wrestles with bringing your game back from 60 to 0 then you aren't alone. You can get really pumped up after hitting a huge drive or a great shot to the green. You don't have a lot of time to bring yourself back down and try to finesse a putt a few feet into the hole to get the score you think you deserve. One way to calm your putting nerves to switch to a claw grip. It will smooth out your stroke and slow you down so that you can sink more birdie putts.