Educate Your Hands

Better Iron Play Is Within Your Grasp

In the following pages, you'll learn that even though both hands have a different job, it's critical that they_Ê work together as a unit. In the photo, I've already made impact with the ball, yet my hands are both_Ê still working like two cogs in a gear box. What about your hands? Do your hands slip and slide during the swing? Or, do you finish holding the club with one hand? If so, your hands aren't schooled correctly. Turn the page to get them educated._Ê_Ê_Ê

Most of the time when you read golf instruction pertaining to the hands, it has to do with how you grip the club.

Strong, weak, Vardon or overlap, how you grip the club is undoubtedly a critical component of the golf swing.

However, the hands need to do a lot more than simply hold the club during the golf swing.

One hand, in particular, is responsible for controlling the clubface. The other manipulates shaft angle and the release over the ball. Curious to see how it works? Read on and you'll see, once and for all, how the hands are supposed to function in the golf swing.

If you hook or slice the ball, it's probably because the wrong hand is trying to control the clubface. Your left hand (for a right- hander) should be responsible for the rotational control of the clubface, meaning if you hook or slice, you're not letting your left hand do its job. Practicing this drill will help, but you have to commit to get results._Ê

Control The Clubface The left hand (the right for southpaws), is responsible for the rotational movement of the golf club, which, in turn, controls the direction of the clubface. To really get a feel for this, grab a club with your left hand and practice rotating your hand so the clubface opens and closes. Why the left hand? Simply put, the left hand rotates more naturally from closed to open than it does from open to closed (which is what the right hand has to do). Putting the left hand in charge of this motion makes it easier and also takes a lot of stress off the right hand in the process._Ê When it comes to actually playing golf, if you have trouble with slicing or hooking the ball, don't try to muscle your swing with your right hand. Instead, remember the left is in charge of clubface rotation.

If you're hitting shots fat or thin, you're not managing the shaft angle properly. To make matters easier, let your right hand control the hinge of the club while your left controls the rotation. At impact, the shaft ought to lean slightly toward the target. Any less, you might hit it fat. Any more, you're likely to hit the ball a bit thin.

Control The Shaft Angle With the left hand controlling the rotation of the clubface, the right hand is responsible for the hinging effect of the hands, which then affects the shaft angle. With the club in your right hand only, practice hinging the club as I'm doing here. You'll see it's both easy and natural to manipulate the shaft angle with this hand vs. your left (go ahead and try it with the wrong hand to see what I mean). At impact, the shaft ought to lean slightly toward the target. This means the right hand should always remain below the left hand through impact. Check in a mirror to see if your right hand is on top of your left. If so, you're trying to do too much with that stronger, more powerful hand.

Turn Your Body... Now that you have both a physical feeling and a mental picture of how the hands ought to work, don't forget your body. After all, the true source of power and consistency comes from the body and not the hands. (The hands have enough to do already, don't you think?) To effectively make contact, remember two things: First, as you initiate your downswing, make sure you shift your weight to your forward foot (your left one). If you swing without shifting your weight, your hands will go into overdrive and try to correct your mistake, and even though you may get away with it once in a while, relying on the hands for consistency isn't going to help you in the long run. Second, as you shift your weight forward, keep those hips rotating. This opens up the torso to allow the hands as much room as they need to get their respective jobs done. If you look at the photo to the right, you'll see my weight, left arm, both hands and the club are stacked over my left leg at impact, while my hips have cleared to make room for all this to happen. This is what you want, folks. By shifting my weight and rotating my hips, my hands have time and space to rotate and also to manage the shaft angle. (My hands were just a tad bit in front of the ball at impact.)

Support Your Hands With Your Body Just because you've already made impact with the ball, that's not an excuse to stop rotating. In other words rotate your hips doesn't mean you should rotate your hips until they're open and then stop. Instead, rotating your hips means you don't stop rotating them until well into the finish position. Keep rotating, and your hands and lower back will thank you._Ê

NO! What happens when you stop shifting and rotating? The hands get flippy and kick it into overdrive to correct the lack of energy coming from the body. This makes hitting solid and straight iron shots a lot more difficult since the left and right hands have to retime their movements in a faster, more hurried fashion. Timing your hands with an inactive lower body is a really tough task to do repeatedly—practice turning your body so your arms remain in front of you throughout the golf swing.

Drills To Synchronize Hands And Body Drill #1 Impact Bag To practice both clubface rotation and shaft angle, try using an impact bag like the one I have here. With the club hinged hip-high on the backswing, swing into the bag—only this time, try to clip the bag at the very base and slip the club slightly under it with a square-face angle.

Want to see this drill come alive? Log on to and watch John Stahlschmidt explain, in detail, the importance of having educated hands, and how using a practice aid like this one can help._Ê

This will help you practice clubface rotation and also help you groove in the right shaft angle (again, with a slight lean toward the target) at impact.

As far as placement of the impact bag, position it just in front of your desired ball position and make adjustments as you practice this drill with different irons. With just a few short sessions, you'll quickly feel what it's like to synchronize the hands for better accuracy, distance and control.

Drill #2 Push Board With the hands synchronized, the body needs to do its part to let the hands perform. I like to use a push board to ingrain a good weight shift and proper hip rotation. To do this, grab a 2x4(or something long and heavy that can be slid in a straight line) and position it directly in front of your normal iron ball position. Now, simulate your impact position and then push the 2x4 toward the target without using your arms.

For a live demonstration of this drill, as well as a host of other informative tips, log on to and explore our growing library of helpful video swing tips.

Use your weight and hips instead and continue pushing the board as far as possible with the clubface square and the arms extended. What you're doing is training your body to rotate, and to keep rotating, well into the finish of the golf swing. If you educate your hands and rotate your body, better scores are within your grasp.

John Stahlschmidt, PGA, is the Head Instructor at the TOUR Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more, visit

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