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Get A Grip: A Gripping Tale of Properly Holding On

  • Last Updated: July 27, 2021
  • 6 min. read

Whether it be the 420 boys and girls golfers in the U.S. Junior Amateurs in North Carolina and Maryland in mid-July, the combatants at the Open Championship in southeastern England or friends and foes up for a summer weekend match at a local muni, you can bet the root of their success is based simply on how they hold the club.

The Grip Determines Everything

The golf grip has long been the starting and sustaining fundamental for a better chance of being a good golfer. The hands are the soul of a golfer’s craft, connecting the body, the backswing and downswing with their torque and precision to the club in a rush of power that determines the direction and distance of the assailed ball. Grasp the club incorrectly and golfers have to overcome even more to complete a very difficult task.

Worldwide, without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the biggest fault in golf. If I could give people just one tip, it would be get the grip correct.

David Leadbetter
2017 PGA Teacher of the Year

Golf’s Greatest Started With Their Grip

This axiom has echoed through the ages among the game’s best. 

A century ago, Bobby Jones was among the most celebrated athletes in the world as he took the golf world by storm as an amateur. Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930 (then the U.S. Open and Amateur and British Open and Amateur) and went on to found Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.

“Many things, of course, can be said about the placing of the hands on the club,” Jones wrote. “But just now I am thinking only about the overall conception of swinging, and to that end I am only concerned that the club be held so that the action of the hands and wrists may be free …”

Carry that thought process forward a couple decades to when Ben Hogan, in tandem with noted author Herbert Warren Wind, wrote one of golf’s all-time best sellers, “Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” The 1957 printing continues to be popular among golf enthusiasts.

Hogan started the game as a left-hander, changed to righty, used cross-handed and interlocking grips before eventually settling on the overlapping grip as a teenager. Maybe that’s why he shouted out on in all CAPS in his book:

“PUT IN 30 MINUTES OF DAILY PRACTICE ON THE GRIP. LEARNING THESE NEXT FUNDAMENTALS WILL THEN BE TWICE AS EASY AND TWICE AS VALUABLE.”

At a similar time to Hogan’s development, a golf savant of another variety came to the fore. Harvey Penick was a Texan like Hogan, but he focused on helping golfers become better with a folksy teaching method that accentuated non-technical aspects of the game.

“If you keep fooling with your grip, you will find yourself making a mistake on your backswing to correct for your new grip and then making another mistake on your downswing to correct the mistake you made on your backswing.

“As for your grip pressure, keep it light.

Arnold Palmer likes to grip the club tightly, but you are not Arnold Palmer,” Penick wrote in his 1992 best seller, “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.”

When Kathy Whitworth, the holder of the most professional wins by anyone, male or female, was learning under Penick they spent the first three days just working on the grip.

More from the game’s greats on how vital the grip was to their success comes from Arnold Palmer. He was age 3 when his father first placed Arnie’s hands on a golf club, a cut-down women’s club. That was the essential lesson that drove Palmer, the possessor of large hands, to woo the masses to golf in the late 1950s.

“Even though by this time (his father) was regularly giving lessons to members, that was pretty much all the swing instruction he gave me for many years,” Palmer wrote in his book, “A Golfer’s Life.” “Get the grip right. Hit the ball hard. Go find the ball, boy, and hit it hard again …”

Jack Nicklaus, the winningest major champion, used an interlocking grip.

“At one time or another I must have given the impression that I adopted the interlocking grip because I had small hands, because I’ve read that about myself frequently over the years,” Nicklaus wrote in his book, “Nicklaus, My Story.” “Although interlocking instead of overlapping does sometimes work better for people with small or weak hands, the truth is that I used the interlock from the time I first discovered  golf because it was the way my dad held the club. About a year after I got started at the game, (instructor) Jack Grout had me trying the overlapping or Vardon grip for a couple days, but it did nothing for me and he quickly dropped the idea of me changing and it never resurfaced.”

Tiger Woods emulated his hero, Nicklaus, when gripping the club. Tiger’s father, Earl, first placed a club in Tiger’s hands when the tyke was but 10 months old.

“As a boy I was taught the interlocking grip, the little finger of my right hand laced between the forefinger and middle finger of my left hand,” Woods told the Chicago Tribune in 2002. “That’s how Jack Nicklaus, my idol, did it, and I copied him. It gives me the feeling that my hands can’t separate during the swing.” 

It All Starts By Getting A Grip

There are so many different swings in the world of golf, varying from disabled veterans learning the sport with a prosthesis for a missing arm or diverse newcomers who have little knowledge of golf but eager to get involved. All can get an appropriate start simply by shaking hands with their new instrument.  

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