Like all sports, golf requires a high degree of hand-eye coordination, as well as advanced hand motor skills. If you don't employ your hands correctly, you'll find it difficult to hit quality golf shots consistently. As a golfer who's serious about improving, it's imperative that you learn what role the hands play in the golf swing. Once you do, you'll have all the tools to take your shotmaking to a much higher level.
A Key Relationship
I'm sure you've read your fair share of instruction articles on how to grip the golf club correctly, and that you've been able to develop a fundamentally solid hold on the club. What you may not be aware of is how your grip affects your cocking/hinging mechanism and, as a result, the position of your clubface. This relationship is important, and if you fail to recognize its dynamics, you'll struggle even if your grip is perfect.
A weak hold, one which features the back of the left hand (for right-handed golfers) pointing to the target and the V formed by the thumb and forefinger pointing toward the right ear, must incorporate a cocking/hinging mechanism that produces a flat left wrist at the top. Keeping the left wrist from cupping is essential to keeping the clubface on-line during the swing. If, from a weak hold, you hinge your wrists so that the left wrist cups, you'll rotate the clubface too far open on the backswing. Only the player blessed with ultra-fast hand speed will be able to square up the face at impact from this position.
A stronger grip, one in which the back of the left hand points more toward the sky than the target and the V formed by the thumb and forefinger points toward the right shoulder, is better able to accommodate a left wrist cup at the top, if that is indeed your preference. The key is to refrain from trying to keep the left wrist too flat as you hinge the club to the top. A strong grip plus flat left wrist at the top usually results in a laying off of the club or swinging too far to the inside. Only a serious combination of compensations can get the face and club back on plane and on the correct delivery path.
There have been as many good players with weak grips as there have been good players with strong grips. The common denominator is that a good golfer knows how to match grip type with the wrist-hinging mechanism that makes it easy to return the face to square at the point of impact. The grip is a personal entity–you should adopt a hold that feels the most comfortable. However, most skilled golfers claim that it's easier to maintain the relationship between the weak grip and the hinging mechanism that produces a flat left wrist at the top than the converse.
With a 7-iron in hand and a weaker grip, hinge your wrists upward and downward in front of you (see photo at left). As you do, check the back of the left wrist to make sure you aren't cupping it, but rather keeping it flat, so flat that you could place a ruler across the back of your left wrist and the left forearm without there being a gap. The clubface should point toe up if the hinge is correct.
Next, hinge the club upward 90 degrees in front of you, again keeping your left wrist flat, and rotate your body so that the shaft points perpendicularly to your toe line just outside your right foot. Take that hinge to the top without allowing any additional concavity in your left wrist. At this position, check the wrinkles in your left wrist. If you've kept your left wrist flat, they should only be between the left thumb and the side of the left wrist. If you've allowed your left wrist to cup, you'll find wrinkles across the back of the left wrist.
Strong Concave Wrist
A More-Desired Hold
Despite the fact that the weak grip/flat left wrist relationship is easier to control, I prefer that my students adopt a stronger left-hand hold. For one, a stronger grip paired with a slight left wrist cup allows for more hinge, which helps create additional lag in the transition from backswing to downswing and can generate greater clubhead speed.
If you're looking for more power in your swing, grip the club so that the V created by the left thumb and forefinger points toward the right shoulder. The right hand should be positioned so that the palm faces the target. As expected, a stronger hold requires a completely different hinging mechanism. The hinge itself will have a much more concave type of look to it and make it a lot easier to set additional angles during both sides of the swing.
To feel the correct hinging procedure based on the stronger hold, hinge the club right in front of you as before. At the top of the hinge, your left wrist should be slightly concave with the toe up and in perfect relationship to the hinge. If you took that stronger hold and hinged into the flat wrist position, you'll discover that the face closes–now you have to find a way to open the face on the downswing so that it's square at impact.
To understand the big picture, change to a weak grip and hinge the club so that the left wrist cups. Now, the face has opened and, suddenly, compensations are needed to bring the clubface to a squared position at impact. See how the hinge and hold must match?
Return to your stronger hold, hinge the club up, build in the desired concavity in your left wrist, and rotate your body to the right, like I asked earlier. Take that hinge to the top of the swing without adjustments of any kind. This is your top position that puts everything in ready delivery for the forward motion.
I believe it's a whole lot easier to play with a stronger hold than it is with the weaker one. Nevertheless, my ultimate recommendation is to use a grip that allows you to employ your natural hinge and still maintain the proper clubface angle from address to impact. This requires a small amount of experimentation, but just a bit of trial and error will pay huge dividends.
Using a strong grip, hinge the club in front of you so that the left wrist cups slightly. Notice how the face remains square. Perform the same drill, but this time hinge so the left wrist remains flat. Presto–the face closes. If you paired a weak hold with a left wrist cup, the face would rotate open. The grip/hinge relationship is an important one to know and work to your advantage.
PGA Master Professional Joe Thiel has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years. He instructs at World Wide Golf Schools in Olympia, Wash.