Thursday, June 5, 2008

Watch your Grip

Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament was this past weekend in Dublin, Ohio. One of the highlights of the event is a golf clinic put on by Mr. Nicklaus and some of the week’s participants. Last year’s winner K.J. Choi from Korea was one of the featured players at this year’s event. When asked about the weaknesses in the amateur games he observes each week in the pro-am. He was very quick to say that most amateurs do not understand the grip. As an instructor who watches golf swings everyday, I was thrilled to hear a player of his caliber focus on what is easily the most overlooked fundamental in golf. My former employer Arnold Palmer tells the story of his first lesson from his father Deke. Deke showed his 9 year old son how to hold the club, told him to never let go and swing hard. It might have been the best first lesson in history.
Almost any instruction book you read will start with, Chapter 1. The Grip. It will be a summary of how you should place your hands on the club, how each finger should fit and where. This is all great stuff except for the simple fact that everyone’s hands are shaped little different, wide, narrow, long or short. Of course, this is why we have different size gloves. So in the space of this short column, how can I help you work on your grip and find a hand position that will improve your game? The real truth is that without seeing you in person, I probably can’t, but I can give you hints to help.
1. Go to a PGA professional instructor and ask him how much he would charge for a lesson just about the grip. In 30 years I have never had a student say, “This is a basic fundamental, and I want to fully understand how the hands go on the club before I work on anything else.” If I ever have someone ask I would gladly do it for $1.00. I promise it would be the best golf dollar you ever spent.
2. One of the goals of a good grip is to have two hands work as one. To do this your hands should be as close together as they can. At least once a day I ask someone to move their bottom hand closer to the top.
3. Grip the club with your fingers. Imagine trying to throw a ball with the ball braced against your palm. It is hard to do. The same is true with a golf club. It is hard to create any speed unless you use your fingers.
4. If you haven’t changed the grips on your clubs in the past two years, it is time to do so. For the price of a lesson you basically have a new set of clubs. The harder it is to hold the club, the harder you have to work to strike the ball solidly.

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