How to Improve Your Golf Game Part 3: Getting a Grip on Your Grip
by Christine Lynn Harvey

A correct golf grip is the foundation of a proper golf swing. Making contact with the handle is how the brain "senses" the club head. Even the term 'grip' is misleading. "Golfers take it literally and relate it to other activities, like grabbing the handle of a hammer, or baseball bat, but it's much more intricate than that," says Matthew Rosman, director of the Training Zone's 'Play Golf' golf instruction facility in East Northport, NY.

We don't want to grip it, rather, we want to make a connection with the club with very specific contact points," says Rosman. "A trumpet player has very dexterous, sensitive fingers. He is not thinking of 'holding' the trumpet when he plays, rather, he makes a connection with it. Ultimately, we want sense perception or feel feedback, to connect the brain to the club head. We want to sense the lag and weight of the club head."

For a right-handed golfer, a correct grip involves the two middle fingers of the right hand forming a kind of "cradle" around the shaft of the club while the last three fingers of the left hand and associated heel pad create support without unnecessary tension. "People who use the interlocking grip or baseball grip often clench down too much. The best grip for most golfers is the Vardon or overlapping grip, "says Rosman.

"The goal is to have the leading wrist flat, facing toward the target supporting the forward lean of the shaft at impact. The way the fingers lay on the handle of the club allows the golfer to also sense when the club is fully loaded for maximum power to be released at impact. Golf is all about sensing and transferring energy in the most efficient manner possible," he says.

You can also judge a golfer's grip by the friction marks on the handle's grip and the golfer's glove. In my own case, I was wearing down my grip at the 12 o'clock spot on my handle and burned a hole on the heel pad of my glove. Rosman determined the wear was coming from my right thumb which was moving too much. "You definitely want the club to rotate through your hand, but, a golfer wrongly assumes she/he must grip the club even tighter when that happens." Gripping tightly also causes the muscles in the forearm to tense up which is something that is not desirable.

Often, when the trailing hand is gripped too tightly, that elbow will go off plane and you'll tend to come over the top, causing a slice. "The elbows naturally separate and do not want to work together when you grip too tightly," says Rosman. Trying to play proper golf without the proper relationship of our hands to the golf club is not possible.

"We also want to recognize that the grip is the apex of the triangle that connects the shoulders, arms and hands to the club. That triangle gets moved as a unit." Gripping too tightly can also eventually cause a condition known as golfer's elbow and usually is the cause of tight shoulder muscles. Tightness in the shoulder muscles produces tension in the triangle which can cause all kinds of swing faults.

It's also very important to clean your grips after every round. Oils and dirt can build up when you perspire making the grip slick causing a natural reflex of wanting to grip tighter. Also, you should change your grips at the end of the season if you golf a lot. There are all sorts of grips to choose from based on your hand size and sense of feel including specially designed grips for arthritis. If you bought a set of used clubs, replace the grips.

The designs we think are just cool patterns are really meant to do different things - wick moisture away, stabilize motion and so on. "You should feel a sense of fluidity and connection when holding the grip material and sense how it melds your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders into a unified triangle of fluidity, grace and power," says Rosman.

Exercise: (Photo Above) With your golf glove on, place sticker dots on the knuckles of the last three fingers of your left hand and the middle two fingers of your right hand. Line up the knuckles over each other as you grip the club. Look in a mirror. Are all the dots lined up in a straight line?

To schedule a golf lesson or for more information, please contact Matthew Rosman Play Golf, The Training Zone, 1937 Jericho Turnpike, East Northport, NY 11731, (631) 462-5566.