The Basics Part 2: Get a Grip!
By Erika Larkin on 2/20/13
Before you get into the 'meat and potatoes' of your 2013 season, Erika wants you to check your fundamentals. So over the next several weeks, she's going to run a five-part series about the fundamentals. If you missed part 1, click here. Enjoy!

The only connection we have with the golf club for all golf shots is our hands, so as we take a careful look at our basics we can't ignore the importance of how our grip influences our shots for better or worse. If you're inconsistent with your ball striking or if you hit lots of wild hooks or cuts, it's time to reevaluate your hand position. I will say this — lots of different positions and styles work for different people. If you're a new golfer I would teach you a traditional, neutral grip. However, it's hard to know with more experienced players what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did they have an unorthodox grip and learn how to manage it with their swing, or did they have an unorthodox swing and made a grip change to help them gain control as a means to an end? Either way, here are the main factors to consider about the grip (I'm going to write below with a right-handed perspective for full swing shots):
  • Placement in hand — palms or fingers: Consider where the grip lies in your hands. Without holding a club take your left pinky, curl it down to make it touch the middle of your palm, then gently relax so one finger is slightly more open than the next going from the pinky to the pointer finger. Now insert a club in your hand so that the butt-end of the grip lies just under the heel pad (bottom right portion of your palm). Hinge (cock) your wrist up and down like a hammering motion (leverage) you should feel the main pressure points are on the heel pad of your hand and the hook of the pointer finger and it should feel steady. If you're doing it properly the club will not slip and about two knuckles on your left hand should be showing on top as you look down at your own hand. For your right hand, crunch up your fingers to the second joint, then repeat this on the club and you will feel the handle in your fingers and have full range of motion with your wrists up down, left and right.

  • Grip position right or left (rotation): People talk about the grip and they say "strong" or "weak" but they aren't referring to grip pressure although it sounds that way. It actually means that if the rotation of your hands on the handle is more to the right so that you could see three or four knuckles on your left hand or if the right hand is very much under the handle, then you are predisposed to rotate your club more to the left through impact (stronger). If your hands are preset more to the left where you can see one or no knuckles on the left hand and you might see a few on the right hand you are predisposed to leave the clubface more open through impact (weaker). I don't think one is right or wrong but you have to match your position with what is happening in your swing so that you aren't double crossing yourself without realizing.

  • Connection between hands (baseball, interlock, overlap, other): As I said before, anything goes with grip style. We've seen it all in tour players and amateurs alike and it can all potentially work. I tried to teach myself to hit left-handed and the only grip that was comfortable when I reversed my grip was baseball/10-finger. Just to clarify the basic options, a baseball grip is one where all ten fingers are on the grip and besides the thumbs they are in a line down the back of the shaft. An interlock grip is when the left pointer finger and right pinky hook together. An overlap or reverse overlap is one where the left pointer finger and right pinky overlap. All are acceptable and I would recommend you try different ones to see which gives you the best feel and control.

  • Grip pressure: This is one of my favorite factors because no matter what your grip position we can all do better at managing grip pressure and most golfers do not realize what a huge impact this has on affecting tempo, fluidity, impact, ball flight and results especially under pressure. Tight grip pressure can ruin a perfect grip and swing, so my advice to you is experiment. Try holding it really tight and over the course of 10 shots lighten up until you feel you are too loose. Which shots were your best ones? See if you can memorize the feeling of your best grip pressure. If you haven’t noticed, look at a tour player's hands just after impact and see that their right hand looks loose like it could almost come off the club. Too light grip pressure and a golfer may lose control, but more often than not we are guilty of being too tight.

  • Hand dominance: Not all right handed golfers are right hand dominant, so it is important to recognize the role each hand plays in the swing for each golfer and what forces are pulling, pushing and turning. There is no right or wrong we just want a good balance between the hand and ultimately control. Like with grip pressure you need to have awareness of what is going on by paying attention to it in practice and then experimenting to see if what you are doing is good or can be improved. Thinking about the left hand leading the way in the downswing might be a good thought for one person but not for another: thinking about holding back the right wrist might be more effective. Lightening the right hand pressure vs. left may work for some people. I would suggest trying some half shots on the range with just one hand at a time and see how it feels and where you find yourself manipulating the club and this may give you some insight as to what hand is too dominant or not enough.
Next column: The Basics Part 3: Staying on Track"

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virigina. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine... and she's oobgolf's newest columnist. She will be writing on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at Enjoy!

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