The Advanced Grip
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The teaching of how you should grip the club has not changed ... perhaps forever! It's the same old stuff, two knuckles show on the left hand, palms face each other, light grip pressure, finger hold and the "V's" point between the chin and shoulder. The goal is to achieve both power and consistency for both long shots and closer range shots. It is important to point out the terms weak and strong operate in a bassackwards manner relative traditional thought. Strong is weak and weak is strong concerning how your hands release through the impact area when using the hands free "sling" motion advocated by this site.
This page addresses two new concepts for the grip. First, how you grip the club for the full, free-flowing, whole body, hands free "sling" motion needs some serious, new consideration. Second, we will take a look at how the grip might be slightly varied for shorter distance, yet still full swing shots as well as short game play by asking and attempting to answer the question ... "is one grip OK for every shot".
Traditional Grip Concepts ... Further Thinking
Traditional concepts: two knuckles ... palms parallel ... finger grip ... unified, connected grip ... V's
Two Knuckles ... the advanced grip is characterized by a weaker top hand grip which shows only one knuckle
Palms Face Each Other ... the role/function of the hands in the sling swing model is very different from a traditional grip. The top hand may be in one position (weaker) while the bottom hand may be in another position (stronger) ... the palms may not be facing. The top hand gets the club to the ball while the bottom hand strongly influences the type of release
Finger Hold ... the grip is still in the fingers, but less so to firm up any handsyness
V's Point Between Chin and Shoulder ... the top hand V will point at the right ear and the bottom hand V will point at your chin. The hands still function as a team, but each hand makes a different contribution.
Light Grip Pressure ... the traditional teaching of holding the club softly allows for too much hand action through impact. In this advanced grip concept, each hand has a different function. The amount of pressure is more firm overall to cause the wrists to generally function as a semi-rigid hinge. For shot making, grip pressure can be increased in either hand to promote a slower or faster release action
Grip Strength ... when weak is strong and strong is weak
The top and bottom hands have different functions. Traditional instruction requires the hands to work together as a team. To accomplish this, two things are taught ... the palms face each other and the palm of the bottom hand fits into the pocket of the top hand. This all works with a neutral grip and when the moving parts are in sync. But, what happens when things are not quite right? What do you do on those days when you can't hit a bull in the butt with a base fiddle? Most golfers are not capable of fixing "timing" problems during the course of a round of play. The sling motion style takes the hands out of the equation. You turn physics into your friend. It's a matter of cooperate and graduate the natural things your body and arms want to do to the club. But, to get the benefits of a physics friendly swing, there are things you need to know.
The first point of knowledge is the left hand is more about the big movements needed for a consistent swing plane going up and swing path coming down. The right hand is far more influential in timing the squareness of your contact at impact. If you can remember TV before remote controls, the the top hand is the channel changer and the bottom hand is the fine tuning knob.
With traditional golf swing instruction, the hands play a more important role than in the sling style swing motion. You must "time" the position of the hands at impact then deliberately work the hands into either a roll or hold release. The key word is "try". Trying is the opposite of natural. Natural means you don't have to try and the learning task is limited to allowing more than doing. To time a swing requires several things to go right at the same time. First, your swing speed must be relatively consistent. Swinging faster or slow while trying to get the hands to correctly square up at impact is a fool's errand. Second, learning to control your timing requires a lot of work. Maintaining what you have learned requires even more practice. Most recreational golfer have neither the time or the discipline to master the timed swing. There has to be a better way!
In the sling swing motion, the role of the hands is to be passive connectors rather than active "doers". The right hand illustration shows Hogan's famous bowed wrist used to prevent his hook. With a sling swing style, how the hands release the club is determined by static, controllable pre-swing considerations. You might have a vivid, shoulder high "target" image which subconsciously guides the movement. Your hands and the handle are allowed to go where your body structure, posture, ball position and alignment take them. Pre-swing fundamentals require zero athletic ability and you have 100% control over getting them done correctly. The bad news is, once you know what to do, there is also zero excuse for goofing them up. The most difficult thing to do is get used to a beautiful, baby draw shot shape. Most pros fear this type shot. They have good reason if they use their hands in the shot. There is little reason to fear a draw when you are using a sling motion.
The key features of a free-flowing release are the extension of the right arm thru impact and onto the target AND the natural folding of the left elbow on the target side of the swing. As we see in Zack Johnson's swing motion, freely releasing the club through the ball is not the only way to swing the club. In both Zach's and Zinger's case, their strong top hand grip forces them to employ a hold release motion. They cannot roll their hands through impact. They have generally eliminated a right to left, draw shot shape. This is a protective swing style just like Hogan's. Both methods have limitations as a price for the safety of a fade shot shape. With his strong grip, Zack cannot fold the left elbow ... which he does not want to do. Should the elbow fold by accident, the ball will hook violently to the left. A strong top hand grip is death on a free-flowing release. A weak top hand grip allows the lead elbow to naturally fold during the followthru.
For recreational players, the sling motion offers a better way to more consistent performance without any significant loss of power. Ask yourself a logical question ... how can a free-flowing movement cause any loss of power?
This image shows a free-flowing, hands free rotational swing motion.
This image shows the vital concept of "slinging" the handle with and inside to outside radiating force generated by the rotation of your body rather than a swinging of your arms.
This image shows the very skilled, but non-tradition swing motion of Zack Johnson, a Master's winner. Zack has a shorter and flatter backswing plane coupled with a powerful body rotation. He uses a holding release style to keep the ball from going too far left.
Paul Azinger/Zach Johnson strong (traditional definition) grip ... Neutral, traditional grip technique ... Hogan's weak grip
The desired position of the club a the top is to have a flat left wrist and fully connected grip. Cupping or laying off the wrist, gets the clubface off of a square position. Some will argue these three center images are backwards. Few knowledgeable golfers or teachers will argue that a flat left wrist keeps the clubface square and that a layed-off position opens the face. If these two ideas are true, then how can a cupped wrist also be open? A fundamentally critical error is to lose your left thumb to right palm connection at the top. This is a critical cause of casting the club "over the top".
In the hands free "sling" motion, the hands revolve through a 180º, they do NOT pronate or supinate (roll over). Note the position of the right palm on the backswing side and the position of the right palm on the followthru side. The release motion is a smooth change of direction, not a violate "whipping" action. The release cannot be accomplished if you are swinging like a gorilla. As the top hand reaches the ball it slows down. The bottom hand continues moving forward adding speed and force to the release. This is NOT the same thing as "snapping" your wrists! On the followthru, the right arm extends to the target and the left elbow folds. Compare this release style to the "hold" style.
Remember the bad poem ... "Blue on blue, left arm back, right arm thru". This brings the logical question ... when does the right arm take over control. Also remember control is both swing direction and clubface direction. At the moment of impact, the left are is fully extended. This forms the direction of the swing. The direction of the swing was predetermined by your address setup, swing plane to the top and transition movements. The left arm controls the swing down to the release point. From the release point to impact centrifugal force controls the swing. From pre-impact thru finish, the right arm begins to control the swing.
At impact the right arm is still slightly folded. Compare the impact straight line relationship between the lead shoulder, the thumbs and the clubhead at impact to the slightly different relationship in the early followthru. The right arm completes it's straightening at the early followthru. This picture of Nick Faldo early followthru exhibits perfect timing. Note his nose is pointing to where the ball was, allowing the shoulders to turn, slinging the arms. BOTH arms are still fully extended indicating a free-flowing, sub-consciously controlled release. There is a straight line relationship between Sir Nick's swing center, his thumbs and the clubhead. This image is a clear picture of what is meant by the age old saying ... swing thru the ball!
If your hands lead the clubhead too much, look for the ball in the right hand trees. If the clubhead leads the hands at all, look for the ball in the left hand trees.
The Variable Grip
It is common technique for experienced players to change their full swing grip to a putting grip and sometimes to a chipping grip for short game play. Here, this website goes a step further and suggests it is possible and even advisable for better skilled players to also consider varying their grip for shorter, full swing shots. This concept relates to the top hand position only. The bottom hand should remain square to the clubface, palm facing the target. In this concept the hands are working as a team, but are also working against each other. The general idea is to advance or retard the release. Think of how a distributor works for engine timing. For longer shots, a weaker grip makes a free release is possible. For shorter, but still full swing shots, a stronger grip makes a hold release is possible.
Many skilled players who make a full, free flowing release on longer shots, also have an occasional tendency to "over cook" shorter approach shots when using a neutral or weaker top hand grip. A good technique to slow down the release is to strengthen your grip. As with the Azinger/Johnson release style, you will hold the release. This will keep the ball on the right hand side of the target, preventing any pull to the left. As the club shaft and target distance shorten, Your grip strength will change from Hogan's weak position to Zinger's strong position.
The right hand plays a very important role in the release. There are two variables ... grip strength and grip pressure. Here' the traditional definition of strong v. weak hold. The center image is a picture of the recommended grip for the sling swing style. For shot making purposes you can "work" a fade or draw through pre-swing adjustments to your alignment and ball position plus subtle changes to your grip strength and pressure points in your grip. It is critical to first gain control over your basic swing motion. When this is mastered, you can then apply some shotmaking techniques.
To draw the ball, close the alignment of your shoulders and knees, move the ball back in your stance one ball width. For your grip, strengthen the bottom hand grip position and firm up the pressure in the middle two fingers of your bottom. These adjustments are combined with the idea of an upright followthru. The handle will flow up into the "low zone" (9-10 o'clock relative to the player's perspective). Do not "try" to do this. Simply have an image of the low zone and swing normally, as you would for your basic shot shape. This is for conceptual purposes. Some practice is obviously required to make the micro adjustments needed to have the confidence to use this technique on the course.
To fade the ball, open the alignment of your shoulders and knees, move the ball forward in your stance. Adjust your grip so the bottom hand is in a weak position (bottom hand V points at chin). Hold the club softly in the bottom hand fingers and more firmly in the last three fingers of the top hand.
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Copyright © 1992 [CraftSmith Golf Enterprises]. All rights reserved. Revised: January 15, 2016