While many players are familiar with different ways to grip a golf club, such as the overlap (or Vardon) grip, the interlock grip or the 10-finger (or baseball) grip, they often ignore the often debated subject of grip strength. This can be even more important to their game.
Defining Grip Strength
Grip strength is usually defined using a right-handed player’s left hand or a left-handed player’s right hand. A neutral grip centers the thumb on top of the club’s grip; the V formed by the thumb and forefinger point toward the player’s chin. In a weak grip, the hand is rotated so that the thumb is turned toward the target. In a strong grip, the hand is rotated so that the thumb is turned away from the target. Some teachers use the number of knuckles you can see, but this can be less clear than the V.
Deciding Just How Strong
Different teachers recommend different degrees of strength in a grip, often using the V as a reference. For a right-handed player, typical recommendations have the golfer position the V so that it points toward the right ear or right shoulder. Many players instinctively turn their hand so the back of their left hand faces the sky, and this grip has been used by many famous golfers such as Paul Azinger and Rosie Jones. The U.S. Golf Teachers Federation considers this “yesterday’s swing” (think early 20th Century), but many modern players are returning to strong grips.
Benefits of a Strong Grip
The legendary Harvey Penick believed a strong grip with the V pointing toward a right-handed player’s right shoulder was the best for the average player. A strong grip makes the club feel lighter and easier to handle on the backswing, while also making it easier to square the club face at impact. In fact, famous golf instructor Peter Kostis makes his determination of how strong a player’s grip should be based on the position of the club face at the top of the backswing.
How a Strong Grip Affects Your Swing
The players who have been most successful using very strong grips have generally had very flat swing planes and used a lot of rotary motion. Instructor Denis Pugh recommends a strong grip for players who use a lot of body motion in their swings and a more neutral grip for those who use their arms and hands more (an upright swing). According to golf teacher Chuck Evans, the belief that a strong grip will eliminate a slice is just a myth; no matter what grip you use, you must learn to control the club face to do that.
Strong Grips and the Short Game
One place where strong grips can be counterproductive is in the short game. In general, most of the best putters and chippers have used neutral grips. Short game guru Dave Pelz echoes this, recommending that players who use a strong grip for their normal swing switch to a neutral grip (what he calls a “square” grip) to improve accuracy and feel in their putting and short game shots.