by Dave Van Meter
Almost every golf instructor and golf instruction book starts their lecture with the grip, so I will put on my sheep suit and follow the herd. I think we should use the word “connection” instead of “grip”. Grip sounds a little violent and harsh, like our teeth should be clenched and we should squeeze and say “Grrrr”. This is of course the exact opposite of what we should be doing. We’ve all been told repeatedly not to grip the club so tight yet it is very hard to let go.
The Facts About “Golf Grip”
Let’s look at the facts about our “connection”. We are trying to hold on to a piece of expensive hardware and maneuver it at high speed toward a small target, consistently. The club doesn’t weigh much but when we swing it, the centrifugal force makes it want to pull from our hands. How hard we swing and how we achieve clubhead speed changes the pulling force of the club but we will discuss that in a later post.
A standard grip has about 22.5 square inches of “connection” area. Ok, I did a lot of very complex calculations to determine how many pounds of pressure per square inch it takes to hold on to the club while swinging it. I used my children as test subjects and tried to explain my calculations to them. Let’s just say it didn’t go well so I will spare you the details.
One note, there is not much information out there as to the average total weight of a club. I looked for my fishing scale to weigh a club but that was a futile effort. Additionally, if you walk into your local supermarket with a 7 iron and ask the lady at the deli to weigh it, you will get funny looks and they may call the police. Whatever your club weighs multiplied by the g-forces you create by swinging it, the surface area of the contact patch between your hands and the grip is more than enough to keep the club from flying away and knocking baby squirrels out of their nests. *** UPDATE*** 02/18/2012 I found the fishing scale. A Mizuno MP-37 and a Titleist 690.MB 7 iron both weigh 1 pound. The people at the deli counter were very pleased.
The bottom line is that we don’t need to grip the club tightly to hang on to it. But why is this such a big deal? Why is it that we hear this all the time? I usually need a good reason to do something. I am not good at doing what I’m told just because the person happens to be a famous world-class professional golfer who’s made millions of dollars and had a supermodel for a wife. In thinking this through I finally got over the supermodel part and found a real reason to loosen up our grip.
Hold out your hand as if to shake hands with someone. Ok, move your hand right and left then up and down. Pretty easy, right? Now, make a fist, squeeze hard and then move your hand in the same motions as before. Feel the tension in your wrist? Your hand is a complex instrument, many of the muscles, tendons and ligaments that control your fingers pass through your wrist and up your forearm to your elbow. When we squeeze our fingers tight our wrist becomes tense and limits our motion. The key to clubhead speed is in the movement of our wrists and a tighter grip slows down or limits that motion.
Holding the club with a lighter grip will reduce tension, speed up the transition of our wrists and therefore increase clubhead speed. I hold my club lightly because I’ve been told to by many pro’s and instructors. I make better shots with a lighter grip and have less fatigue. Now at least I have a logical reason why. It may not be the only reason but the supermodel thing really hampered my thinking process.
The Grips…Sorry “Connections”
The three main grips are of course the baseball grip, the interlocking grip and the overlapping grip. These are nothing new but I think if we analyze the reason why and how they work we may have a better understanding of them.
Regardless of which one you choose the basic premise is the same, getting the maximum force from the pivot point of the wrist. I played Hockey for 12 years and had a pretty tame slapshot. (My Canadian friends in college let me play with them because they liked the fact that I was a former linebacker and would pretty much just run people over… sometimes two or three at a time.) I was always intrigued by the power they generated with their slapshots. Happy Gilmore references aside the golf swing and the slapshot are both trying to accomplish the same task. It’s the pivot point which separates the two “swings”.
The lower hand on the hockey stick pushes towards the target while the upper hand pulls back to increase the speed of the blade. A flick of the wrist in a timely fashion increases the blade speed even further. Our grip on the golf club is much the same except it needs to be more compact. The wider grip on the hockey stick creates the maximum leverage to achieve speed. We need leverage on the golf club but we must maximize that leverage while creating a compact pivot point.
All three common grips mentioned above give us these features. The baseball grip creates more leverage but also creates a wider pivot point slowing down the transition. The interlocking and overlapping grips create a more compact pivot point by tying the hands together. The interlocking grip always makes me feel like I am gripping the club too tightly because it pulls my hand down further into the grip. I like to teach the overlapping grip because it creates the most compact pivot point without encouraging a tight grip. It really doesn’t matter which you choose as long as it is compact and you relax you fingers to achieve the smoothest and fastest transition for your wrist.
Another common problem is getting too much of the hand involved in the grip. Don’t think about gripping the club with your hands, think of holding the club by wrapping your fingers around it (Your knuckles are part of your fingers). Try to use just the fingers and not the palm of your hand below the knuckles. See how little of your fingers you can use and still hold on to the club. Don’t take full swings while you are trying this (baby squirrels) just hold the club and try different levels of “connection” between your fingers and the club.
I have a saying when it comes to fishing that “The fish know how much money you’ve spent”. Fish won’t bite anything unless you have made the commitment to go out and spend some serious money on fishing gear. They just know. It’s the same with golf. Your subconscious mind knows you haven’t changed your grips. Those crusty, slippery old things are holding you back. Get some new ones and make sure they are of good quality. Your grip will be much lighter and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
No one told me this as a kid so I used the same old 1960′s blades for years with the most hideous grips you’ve ever seen. My 2 iron grip had a crack resembling the Grand Canyon that followed the entire length of the grip. I used those clubs from age 13 to 27 and never knew the difference. That was before I developed my “The fish know how much money you’ve spent” theory. My Wife is still not convinced.