Tighten Up!

Contrary to popular opinion, loose swings produce loose shots

Tighten Up! How many times have you been told to relax your grip, your arms or your entire body to better your golf shots?Everyone has, most often by a well-meaning playing partner hoping to pull you from the depths of a horrible round. However, such misguided advice can wreak havoc on your swing. Most golfers would be better served by tightening up their swings rather than making them looser or, to coin a phrase, “more fluid.” The next time a tournament airs on TV, check out Ernie Els or my old college teammate David Toms. When golfers of this caliber swing the club, their motion is undeniably fluid. However, professional swings are anything but loose, indicated by these three common swing traits:

  • The hands never come off the club

  • The left arm doesn’t fold and the elbows never split apart in the backswing

  • The upper body turns significantly more than the lower body in the backswing

Grip solidity, arm structure and backswing coil are difficult to create in a swing that’s overly loose or relaxed. These are elements of a tight-knit, yet well-oiled motion. Here’s how to achieve such a swing.

Grip Pressure
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words “grip pressure”? For most, the words conjure up phrases such as “hold the club like you’re holding a small bird” or “grab the handle like a tube of toothpaste” or any number of sayings handed down from generation to generation to relay the idea that you can’t hold the club too tightly.

While it’s true that you should never put a death grip on the handle, it’s important to grip the club strongly enough to pass what I like to call the Hogan Test. Ben Hogan could hit shot after shot after shot without ever taking his hands off the club or changing his grip. Most recreational players have at least one grip change during every swing, let alone between swings. This is hardly the recipe for solid and consistent shotmaking.

The in-swing regrip phenomenon occurs because the lesser-skilled player’s hands are too loose, and they fail to achieve adequate pressure in three key areas of the grip: in the last three fingers of the left hand, the lifeline of the right hand and the right forefinger. If you can maintain adequate pressure here, you’ll be able to pass the Hogan Test. The Shoelace Drill should help you develop constant grip pressure in the three key areas.

Shoelace DrillShoelace Drill
Run a shoelace in between the butt of the grip and the last three fingers of your left hand. Continue it up and over your left thumb and then to the right side of the shaft where your right forefinger rests. You should feel a constant pressure that will hold the shoestring in between the last three fingers of your left hand and the club, between the lifeline of your right hand and your left thumb, and between your right forefinger and the shaft. Maintain that pressure throughout the swing.

Arm Pressure
Arm pressure is perhaps one of the most misunderstood—or at least, worst applied—concepts in golf. Many of my students complain that they hit the ball too much with their arms and don’t use enough legs and hips. While this may well be the correct diagnosis, the common solution—relaxing the arms—causes more harm than good. When recreational golfers choose to relax their arms, more often than not their arms turn into limp noodles and their elbows execute undue folding and unfolding. Obviously, this is too loose, too slack. And too much slack leads to too much slap and robs your swing of power.

To keep your arms from going limp and, more importantly, your elbows from folding too much on the backswing and straightening too early in the downswing, use the Tac-Tic and Ball drills. Note: If you choose to tighten up your backswing structure, make sure to work on this from address to the top. A straight left arm at the top isn’t something that simply happens. A straight left arm begins at address and is maintained throughout the backswing.


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