“Golf begins with a good grip.” A famous quote by Ben Hogan. This statement couldn’t be any more true. A good grip is the foundation on which a swing should be built on. Without it, you’ll simply be compounding swing faults on top of each other in attempts to combat faults driven by your grip. So let’s get down to it. What makes a perfect grip? It’s not what it used to be. The grip has fundamentally changed over the years in interesting ways. You’d likely be surprised to know that the standard “neutral” grip isn’t the grip of choice anymore… and those that are still teaching it, as setting people up for mistakes in their swing. Neutral is no longer the go-to… here’s the story as to why.
How we got here is an interesting story, which has a few key people to thank for it. When I started the game 25 years ago, there were three main types of grip – 10 finger (baseball grip), interlocking and Vardon (overlapping grip). While this is still true today, there has been a huge shift on tour and by amateurs worldwide to the interlocking grip. Why you ask? Well, there likely isn’t one specific answer, but in truth a combination of multiple causes that likely lead to this trend. The first being the top players in the world. Jack Nicklaus used interlocking. When Tiger hit the stage, he interlocked his grip, and was a huge advocate for it (and thus so did his loyal fans as they learned the game).. and nowadays Rory interlocks as well. For the past 40-50 years interlockers have dominated on tour, and inspired the millions of junior golfers taking up the game to adopt their swing strategies in hopes of following in their footsteps.
Tour role models aside, another likely cause of the interlocking grips success comes from the mechanics of how this grip works. In general, the Vardon grip is best for individuals with larger hands. Baseball grips (10 finger grips) and interlocking are best for smaller hands. For many players interlocking grip also feels more secure because the hands are literally locked together. As more and more juniors adopted the game, the Vardon grip was never really on the radar, not only because few teachers in their 20’s-30s would teach it, but mostly because their hands were too small to support it. The most secure and comfortable option for smaller hands is the interlocking grip. And since we all know how uncomfortable it is to change a grip that you’ve been working with for years, its stuck around.
The last part of the “new” normal grip that we haven’t touched on yet, is an interesting change to what is considered “right”. For years golfers have been told that a neutral grip is the right grip. But there have now been countless studies that say neutral isn’t right at all, in fact a strong grip is right. To be clear, we mean slightly strong, not strong, strong. This statement comes from some very interesting studies that have come out regarding swing mechanics on the downswing. If you were to adopt a “picture-perfect” neutral grip, and were to make a perfect swing, the clubface would actually be open at impact. Why? Because a neutral grip at address is one thing, but your address position is never the same as your impact position – despite what you may have been taught. At address your hands are in front of you, but at impact, they are much farther forward – about 5 inches in fact. This has the effect of opening the clubface at impact. You’ve all seen the strong line that a professional makes at impact with their lead are and shaft. A neutral grip is designed to have a square clubface at address, not impact. This is why the best players on tour actually adopt a slightly stronger grip – to ensure the the clubface is square at impact – where it counts. Ever wonder why 85% of the golfing population slices? This simple misconception is a major cause.
There you have it. The new “perfect” golf grip, is anything but neutral, so it may be worth taking some time to take a closer look at yours.
Picture from: http://focusgolfgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Golf-Grip-3-types.jpg