One of the keys to playing great golf is understanding exactly how the ball is going to behave in the air.

What is the Best Way to Improve Your Control Over the Golf Ball?

Is it going to turn to the right or the left as it flies? How high will the ball climb into the air before falling back to the earth? Of course, no golfer is able to accurately predict the path of his or her shots 100% of the time, but some players are better than others. Professional golfers are not often surprised by their ball flight, which is one of the main reasons they are able to shoot under par so frequently.

To help you improve your control over the golf ball, we are going to talk in this article about how your hand placement affects the flight of your shots. Golf is a game which is all about the small details, so even something as seemingly minor as hand placement can have a major impact on your performance. Put your hands in just the right spot on the club and you will give yourself a vastly improved chance at success. Grab the club in the wrong way, however, and you will have taken an already difficult game and made it even harder.

We realize that working on your hand placement is probably not going to be the most exciting part of your visit to the golf course. In fact, it might be the least exciting part of your day at the course. With that said, golfers who are dedicated to playing at a higher level need to be willing to spend some time working on the basics of the game, no matter how boring those basics may be. The time you spend working on hand placement might not be particularly memorable, but the shots you are able to hit as a result of this work certainly will be.

All of the content 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.

Two Types of Hand Placement

Two Types of Hand Placement

When we talk about hand placement on the golf club, we are really talking about two different things. There is hand placement in terms of the type of grip you use, and there is hand placement in terms of where on the grip you decide to grab the club. We are going to address both of these halves on the equation in this article, since each has the ability to impact your ball flight. The type of grip you use will probably have a more profound impact on your ball flight than whether or not you choke down on the grip, but you’ll want to consider this topic from all angles in order to have success.

First, let’s work through some points that have to do with the type of grip you decide to use, and what that means for your ball flight.

  • Interlock or overlap? For the vast majority of golfers, one of these two grip options – the interlock or the overlap – is going to be the right choice. An interlocking grip has the right-hand pinky finger laced between the pointer and middle fingers of the left hand. Alternatively, the overlapping grip rests the pinky finger from the right hand on top of the left hand, in the crease between the second and third finger. Both of these options can work nicely, and with regard to ball flight, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. You can hit all sorts of shots using either one of these two grips. Your decision should come down to which one gives you the most confidence, and which one makes you feel the most comfortable.
  • How strong? The strength of your grip has nothing to do with how tightly you are holding onto the club. Rather, this point is talking about the positioning of your hands on the grip at address. A strong grip is one where the hands are turned significantly to the right on the handle, as you look down while in your stance. The common way of evaluating the strength or weakness of a grip is to count the knuckles on the back of your left hand. If you can see at least three knuckles while addressing the ball, you have what would be considered a strong grip. If you were to turn your hand to the left, you would be able to see fewer knuckles, and you would be moving into weaker territory. So, is a strong or weak grip best? Again here, there is no right or wrong option. It all comes down to what works best for you. Those with strong grips do tend to have an easier time hitting draws, while players with weak grips can usually hit fades more successfully. With that said, those are far from hard-and-fast rules. Some players use a strong grip to play a fade-based game, and vice versa. Later in the article, we will discuss how the relative strength or weakness of your grip impacts the release of the club, and the ball flight that eventually is produced.

The two points above are going to tell most of the story with regard to the type of grip you are using for your standard swings. But what about the idea of choking down on the grip for some of your shots, or even all of your shots? Why would you make that choice? Let’s take a look.

  • Improve control over the club. One of the main motivations to choke down on the grip is to gain added control over the club during the swing. The club will be effectively shorter when you choke down, allowing you to control it more precisely during the swinging action. This benefit is going to come at the cost of some swing speed, but that is a trade which is worth making in most cases. Thanks to the improved control you have during the swing, you should be able to make better contact on most of your shots, and as a result, you should hit the ball close to the target more frequently. Choking down on the grip doesn’t automatically fix problems that may be present in your swing, but it can help you get better results from your current technique.
  • Bring the ball down. We are going to get into this topic in more detail later in the article, but we can note here that choking down on the grip should help you to bring your ball flight down onto a lower trajectory. Using a lower trajectory is desirable in many instances, such as when the wind is blowing and you want to limit the impact that the breeze has on your shots. Or, if you want to take a little bit of distance off of a given club in order to reach your target, you may choke down and hit a flatter ball.

Your hands have a lot to do with how the ball is going to perform once it leaves the club and heads off into the distance. Of course, that maybe shouldn’t be too surprising, since your hands are the only point of connection between your body and the club during the swing. Learn to use your hands properly and you will be a big step closer toward reaching your goals on the links.

Understanding the Release

Understanding the Release

It is nearly impossible to talk about ball flight without talking about the release. Specifically, when discussing how your hands are placed on the club, you need to mention the role that the release plays in determining where the ball is going to go, and how it is going to get there. In this section we are going to briefly explain the release, and also how you can adjust your grip to modify your release as desired.

First, what is the release? No, this is not about you physically releasing the golf club and letting it fly off into the distance. Instead, the term ‘release’ refers to the way the club face is going to rotate through the hitting area. As you swing down, the club face is going to be open in relationship to the target line. As you approach impact, the face is going to be closing, and it will hopefully arrive at a (roughly) square position when you make contact. After the ball has left, it will continue to close down as you swing on through to the finish.

It is necessary to have a proper release because the golf swing is a rotational action, and you are standing next to the ball. If you could run up alongside the ball and hit it as you went by, you could theoretically just hold the face square to the target line the whole time. This would probably permit you to be quite accurate with your shots, since the release would be eliminated, but it obviously wouldn’t work for a long list of other reasons. The swing is a rotational action, so the release is here to stay. Learning how to use it properly, and use it to your advantage, is one of the best ways to improve your performance.

Generally speaking, players who struggle with the release tend to see the ball turn to the right in the air, while those with an aggressive release see the ball turn to the left. Put another way, players with a slice are not releasing the club sufficiently, and players with a hook are releasing the club prematurely. Of course, the golf swing is much more complicated than those previous two sentences make it sound, and there are any number of reasons why the ball may be turning to the right or left. However, if you have long been trying to solve a ball flight problem, you may be able to make progress by adjusting your grip to modify your release.

Despite the complexity involved with this and other parts of the golf swing, the adjustment that you need to make here is actually quite simple. If you would like to encourage the club to release more aggressively, you will want to turn your hands into a stronger position by rotating them to the right on the grip at address. Likewise, if you wish to slow down your release a bit, you can turn your hands to the left on the grip before starting your swing. You shouldn’t expect those simple adjustments to automatically fix whatever is going wrong in your game at the moment, but they can certainly help.

Let’s go over this concept one more time, just to make sure it’s clear. If you are currently struggling with a slice, or even just a big fade, you probably need to speed up the release of the club through the hitting area. To do so, you can try turning your hands to the right on the handle of the club, forming a stronger grip and making it easier to release the club through the ball. If you are hitting a hook, you’ll do the opposite and turn your hands to the left. This weaker position is going to give your hands less control over the way the club swings, and your release should slow down as a result.

An Up and Down Game

An Up and Down Game

While talking about releasing the club through the hitting area, we are talking about controlling the curve on your shots, whether it be right to left or left to right. In this section, we are going to be talking about the height of your shots rather than the curve. With that in mind, we are going to get back to the idea of choking down on the grip of the club from time to time. By choking down, you should be able to lower the flight of your shots effectively, an adjustment which can be used in a variety of situations.

The actual act of making this adjustment is extremely simple. All you need to do is move your hands down the grip slightly before starting your swing, and then hit the shot as usual. The only other adjustment you may need to make is moving the ball back a bit in your stance in order to make it easier to achieve clean contact. You still need to practice this shot on the range in order to be confident in it out on the course, but this is one of the easier shots to learn in the entire game.

Once you learn how to place your hands lower in order to bring your ball flight down, the next step in the process is to learn when to pull this shot out of the bag. When should you opt to hit the ball low, and when should you use your normal trajectory? The points below should help you make this important decision.

  • When you need accuracy, go low. As a simple rule of thumb, your low ball flight should be the one you favor when it is necessary to hit an accurate shot. In other words, when you think that accuracy is more important than distance for a given shot, going low is the best bet. This will often be the case on tee shots when playing short par fours, as short par fours frequently feature narrow fairways. On longer holes, you will want to maximize your distance from the tee, so going for your higher ball flight is probably the way to go.
  • Reach a back hole location. When playing an approach shot to a green where the hole is cut near the back of the putting surface, consider using your low ball flight to bounce the ball back to the target successfully. This plan will let you bring your shot down near the middle of the green, which is a rather safe landing point to select. As long as you get the expected bounce, you should be able to leave the ball in a good position without taking on the risk that comes with trying to fly the ball all the way to the back of the green.
  • Control shots in the wind. If you are playing on a windy day, the low ball flight is sure to be your friend. It is important to note that you don’t need to wait for into-the-wind shots in order to use this low shot. Keeping your ball down in all wind directions will lessen the impact that the breeze has on your shots, making it easier to predict where the ball is going to come down.
  • Deal with a bad lie. This is on option you may not think of at first, but playing a lower shot when dealing with a bad lie is often a good idea. For example, imagine that you are playing an approach shot into a green, and your ball comes to rest in an old divot in the middle of the fairway. The old divot hole isn’t particularly deep, but it is deep enough to make it difficult to achieve perfectly clean contact. Rather than trying to hit your normal high ball flight, which may be difficult to predict from a distance perspective, try choking down a bit and hitting a lower shot. It’s easier to strike the ball solidly this way – especially if you move the ball back in your stance – and you should be able to guess how far the ball will fly more accurately, as well.

Learning how to bring your ball flight down lower to the ground on command is a valuable skill. There are a variety of situations which call for this kind of shot, including those listed above. As you get more and more comfortable with the technique of choking down on the grip, you will likely find even more opportunities to put this shot into action.

Hand Placement in the Short Game

Hand Placement in the Short Game

Our article would not be complete without a discussion of how hand placement impacts the short game. The short game is an extremely important part of the game of golf as a whole, and you’ll never be able to reach your potential as a player without developing your skills in this area. There are three major categories of short game shots – putts, chips, and bunker shots – and we are going to touch on each briefly below.

  • Putting. When hitting putts, you generally want to keep your hands all the way up at the top of the grip in order to feel the whole weight of the club as it swings. If you were to place your hands lower on the grip, you’d lose a bit of feel and it may be hard to control your speed successfully. Also, you should tend toward a weaker grip position in order to stabilize the putter face and hold is square to the line for as long as possible.
  • Chipping. There is a lot of room for personal preference when it comes to positioning your hands for chip shots. Many golfers like to choke down for the average chip, while some golfers keep their hands up at the top of the grip. Also, some players prefer to chip with a strong grip, yet others have more success with a weak grip. In the end, your best bet is to experiment during practice in order to determine which method works best for you.
  • Bunker shots. Most likely, you are going to have your best success when playing bunker shots with a strong grip. This will put more speed in your swing through the hitting area, which is exactly what you need when trying to cut through the sand. While it is okay to choke down a bit for control, you want to use most of the club in order to carry plenty of speed through the bottom of the swing.

Hand placement in golf is an important topic, even if it isn’t talked about as much as some of the other fundamentals of the game. We hope the discussion in this article will help you understand how you can place your hands for optimal results. Good luck!