Vary Your Grip to Master Specialty Golf Shots 1

When hitting a shot that curves gently, such as a fade (left-to-right) or draw (right-to-left), it's best to take your normal grip and adjust the alignment of the body and clubface to produce the desired result.

But if you need to really bend the ball to get around trees or other obstacles – think of Bubba Watson's playoff-clinching shot at the 2012 Masters -- consider altering your grip just a touch.

Vary Your Grip to Master Specialty Golf Shots 2

To hit a hard, right-to-left hook, rotate your hands to the right on the grip until you can see at least three knuckles on the back of your left hand. This “strong” grip position will promote a free release or rolling of the hands and forearms through the ball, closing the clubface and imparting lots of sidespin.

To hit an intentional slice, rotate the hands to the left so that only one knuckle is visible on your left hand. This “weak” grip will inhibit your release, keeping the clubface open for the left-to-right spin you're after.

The variety of golf is what makes it so much fun.

Each time you head out for a round, you will be almost certain to see something you've never seen before. Also, you'll likely be required to hit a shot that you've never attempted before. Even if you have played a given course hundreds of times, this is a game that always seems to find a way to throw something new your way.

This endless diversity is one of the things which makes golf so much fun, but it is also part of the reason golf is such a tremendous challenge. You can't just prepare yourself to play a few different kinds of shots and expect to make it around the course without any trouble. Most of your strokes during any given round will be played using one of your 'standard' shots, but there are also exceptions. And it is those exceptions that largely determine how your score will look when all is said and done.

In this article, we are going to discuss specialty shots. Specifically, we are going to talk about how you can alter your grip to produce shots which fall outside of your typical patterns. Playing specialty shots is never easy, and most amateur golfers think of this as a skill only possessed by the professionals. That does not have to be the case, however. Even if you are a relatively average golfer, you can still work to add variety to your game. As an added bonus, while you are working on learning new shots, you might find that your ability to produce consistent 'stock' shots improves, as well.

Before we get started, a word of warning – it's never easy to learn new shots in golf. You are almost certain to struggle at the beginning, and you'll likely send a lot of ugly shots down the range. That's okay. Don't give up on yourself just because you have trouble at first. It's supposed to be hard, and there are supposed to be struggles along the way. It takes patience to improve at golf, and that is certainly true when it comes to developing new shots.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

What Kind of Shots Can You Hit?

What Kind of Shots Can You Hit?

When you first get started in golf, your only goal is to keep the ball somewhere on the course. You want to hit your shots relatively straight, and you just want to keep moving toward the hole. As you gain experience, you will likely begin to demand more of yourself. Rather than just keeping the ball on the grass, you'll strive to hit certain parts of the fairway or the green, in order to position yourself for success. As your expectations grow, it will be necessary to have more and more shots at your disposal. No longer just hoping to hit the ball straight, you will begin to work on shaping your shots on demand in order to match the circumstances you face. In both the long game and the short game, the ability to customize your shots becomes greatly important as you attempt to keep lowering your scores.

The list below highlights a few of the shots you may wish to hit. As you will see later in the article, the task of hitting these shots can be made easier if you know how to adjust your grip properly.

  • Curve the ball to the left and right. One of the first advanced skills you should work on in golf – once you have a basic swing in place – is curving the ball to the left and right on command. Most golfers have a natural ball flight which is going to occur when they make a standard swing. For instance, let's say that your typical ball flight pattern sees your shots turn slightly to the right as they fly. This is known as a 'fade' for a right-handed player, and it is a very useful shot. Plenty of professional golfers use a fade as their standard flight, so this type of shot certainly isn't going to hold you back. However, it is not the right shot for every situation. Sometimes, you will want to hit a draw, which is a shot that turns slightly to the left. Adding the ability to hit a shot which goes opposite of your standard pattern is more difficult than it may sound at first. If you can successfully develop this important skill, you will have a big leg up on most of your competition at the local club.
  • Bring the ball down. For most of your full swing shots, you are just going to hit the ball at standard height. That means, you are going to swing through impact freely, and the ball is going to fly however high it wants to fly naturally. That's fine most of the time, but not always. What do you do when the wind comes up, or when you have a poor lie? There are times when you will want to hit the ball lower on command, and having the ability to do so is important. One of the biggest differences between professional and amateur golfers is that the pros have the ability to flight the ball down when needed. Once you learn how to hit lower shots on command, you will wonder how you ever managed to make it around the course without such a shot in your arsenal.
  • High short game shots. There isn't much need to hit extra-high full swing shots. Sure, it might come in handy on a rare occasion, but your standard trajectory should serve you just fine nearly all of the time. Learning how to hit an extra-high iron shot, for example, isn't worth the trouble. On the other hand, high short game shots are extremely valuable. Learning to hit high shots around the greens will let you stop the ball quicker, meaning you can access more hole locations and get up and down from a wider variety of situations. Building diversity in your short game may be even more important than doing so in your long game, and it all starts with the ability to hit high and soft shots.

Of course, there are many other kinds of shots available in this game beyond the three mentioned above. These are a great place to start, however. Even if you just add these three kinds of shots to your game, you will be well on your way to lower scores. The key is to master these shots to a point where you feel comfortable – and confident – putting them to use during actual rounds of golf. You don't want to feel scared or afraid to turn to these specialty shots in an important spot. Rather, you should be excited to show them off, knowing that your practice sessions have prepared you for the moment.

Making Subtle Changes

Making Subtle Changes

No matter what kind of shot you are trying to hit, you never want to make dramatic changes to your golf grip during the middle of a round. Moving your grip too far from its standard position is simply asking for trouble, as you'll lose all of your normal feel for the club. So, instead of making major changes, you are going to adjust your hands slightly, only moving their position by a small amount before making your swing. What many golfers are surprised to find is this – it only takes a subtle change to impact your ball flight in a meaningful way.

The three points listed below are going to match up with the three points in the previous section. In this section, we are going to explain the grip changes that can help you to achieve the shots we discussed previously.

  • Rotate your grip to create the desired shape. We mentioned in the previous section that having the ability to curve the ball to the right or left on demand is a powerful skill. One of the easiest ways to develop that ability is simply to turn your hands on the grip prior to making a swing. For the purposes of this example, let's say that you normally hit a fade, and you want to learn how to hit a draw for certain occasions. To promote a draw, you should turn both of your hands slightly to the right on the grip. In other words, you are going to rotate your hands away from the target. A good way to judge the position of your hands is to see how many of the knuckles on the back of your left hand are in view from address. If you can see one more knuckle after you have rotated your hands, you have made a good adjustment. With your hands now in a 'stronger' position, you should be able to easily release the club head through the hitting area. That means the club head is going to close more freely, and you should have an easier time producing the right to left spin needed for a draw.
  • Choke down to flatten out your flight. This is one of the easiest adjustments to make with regard to your grip. When you want to hit a low shot – or a punch shot, as it is often called – you should move your hands down the grip slightly before starting the swing. If you usually hold the grip all the way up at the top, try moving your hands down one or two inches. This will shorten your swing, give you more control, and reduce the amount of spin produced at impact. This adjustment, along with moving the ball back in your stance slightly, should make it easy to produce a low flight. As you practice, you'll likely start to notice a correlation between how much you choke down and how low the ball flies. Choke down just a little for a minor impact on your shot, or choke down further for an even flatter ball.
  • Use a weak grip to flip the ball up. There is some room for debate on this last point, as some golfers like to use a strong grip when playing high short game shots. However, we feel that going with a weak grip is the preferred option here. At address, turn your hands to the left from their normal position. Then, set the club face in an open position, to use as much of the loft of the club as possible. By using a weak grip, you are going to effectively reduce the ability of your hands to close down the face of the club through the hitting area. That means more loft is going to be present at impact, and the ball should pop up high in the air. These kinds of shots aren't easy, even for experienced golfers, but they are much more manageable with the right kind of grip.

It does need to be said that simply adjusting your grip might not be enough to get all the way to the desired outcome on some of these shots. For instance, simply playing with a stronger grip might not turn your fade into a draw. If you find that you still need more 'help' to create a draw, you may need to close your stance slightly, or move the ball back in your stance a bit. Adjusting your grip is a great starting point for all of these shots, but it's probably not the end of the story. To get all the way to the finish line on this process, you are going to need to figure out the rest in practice.