One of the most overlooked components of the golf swing is how firm or soft you should hold the club in your hands. Most instructors agree that golfers ought to hold the club firm enough so it doesn't slip out of your hands during your swing, but not so firm that you restrict the release and roll of the hands through impact. As for me, I don't disagree with that. A good grip is neither too loose nor too firm.
What you may not know is, as you make a golf swing, your grip pressure actually changes. Many amateurs start with moderate grip pressure. But by the time they get to the top of their swing, their grip pressure becomes too firm. This causes a series of negative reactions, such as releasing the clubhead too soon, coming over the top and/or not releasing the clubhead at all—all things that, let's just say, are not desirable.
Better players on the other hand, tend to follow different grip pressure patterns than do high-handicappers and slicers. They know that the hands and wrists need to remain as supple as possible for as long as possible. To see what I mean, let's use a tube of toothpaste with no cap on. As you can see, I've made a full backswing already, with no toothpaste leaking out. As I make a downswing, notice the point where the toothpaste starts coming out. This is the moment when my grip pressure increases, which coincidentally is the point in my swing when centrifugal force is trying to pull the tube (or club) from my hands. In the photos, you can see that as my grip pressure increases, out goes the toothpaste!
Many amateurs clench their grip too firmly at the top of their swing, instead of midway through the downswing as I'm demonstrating here. Why? In some cases, it's because their initial grip pressure is too loose. Or perhaps they swing too quickly from the top of the swing instead of swinging quickly at the bottom of the downswing. Either way, I recommend you pay attention to your own grip pressure. See how long you can go into your downswing without clenching the handle in your hands. You may find that the longer you keep your hands supple (but not too supple that the club slips), the better you'll release the club for more power and accuracy.
And by the way, if you have an extra tube of toothpaste, give this quick drill a try. See how long you can go through the downswing without squeezing out the toothpaste. With some practice, you'll quickly get a sense of good grip pressure from the start of the swing and into the finish. Just be sure to clean up the mess when you're done!
Randy Chang, PGA, teaches at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente, Calif. He's also the recipient of the 2010 Section Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Southern California Professional Golf Association. Visit randychangpga.com.