Do You Know Where Your Clubface Is?
Student: Have you seen my clubface?
Professional: Where did you leave it?
Does this sound familiar? This month we will cover why your grip is a very important indicator of understanding the position of your clubface during the swing. The grip needs to be fundamentally sound as it is the only connection you have between you and the club. We also explore how many golfers have been successful with unorthodox grips. Although the way they grip is different to what is taught, they have a tremendous awareness of where the clubface is at all time.
The most fundamental component of better golf is a sound grip. Surprisingly, many golfers don’t pay enough attention to how they are gripping the club. Many instructors will have you believe that comfort can result in an incorrect grip. We will learn more about that in the next section, however, using a fundamentally sound grip can result in straighter and longer shots.
The obvious purpose of the golf grip is to allow you to hold onto the club. Without gripping the club firmly, it could fly out of your hands on the backswing. Yet, a tight grip makes it difficult to swing freely and create maximum clubhead speed. Your grip also affects the path the club takes on the backswing and downswing. It affects your ability to consistently strike the ball squarely. It also affects the curve of the ball when it is in flight.
There are three main grip choices when connecting the hands. The overlapping grip, also called the Vardon Grip because of its use by British Open champion Harry Vardon, is the choice of most golfers. This grip is established by placing the right little finger snugly in the crevice between your left index finger and middle finger. Another grip popular for golfers with smaller hands is the interlocking grip. The only difference to the Vardon grip is that the left index finger and right little finger are interlocked or linked together. The last option for grip choice is traditionally used with beginners in the ten-finger or baseball grip. This grip aligns the right little finger next to the left index finger with no separation. The connection is made ensuring all your fingers are in a row. With all three grips, when you look down at your hands you see that the thumbs and index fingers of each hand form a “V” shape.
Adjusting the placement of your hands can cause the ball to curve or directed in different ways. Turning the “Vs” slightly to the right is termed a strong grip. This technique encourages a right-to-left flight. Turn the Vs to the left and you have created what is called a weak grip. The optimal position to place your V’s for a right-handed golfer would be pointing up the inside of your right forearm towards your collarbone area. This would be opposite for lefties.
2) FOCUSING ON PALMS
So, we learnt how fundamental grips are important, but isn’t comfort. In the opening statement, I spoke about how many of today’s top players use different styles of grip with their hand placement. One reason I talk about palms during lessons is that the amateur golfer is aware of the position their palms are in most of the time. If I ask you for open palms you are going to face them to the sky. Alternatively, if I ask you for a closed palm you are going to make a fist and point them to the ground:
Now when you grip the club I am going to ask for the right palm for right handed golfers to face the target. Once the right palm is facing the target I am going to ask to align the clubface to the target. If both your right palm and clubface are facing in the same direction I will ask for the left palm to face the right palm so that both palms are on the sides of the grip and then grip the hands together creating an interlock, overlap or 10-finger connection. The comfort and logic in this approach allows golfers to focus on the positions of the right palm is in during the swing and figure out whether the palm is open or closed mainly at impact. This helps self-diagnose the clubfaces position and pay more attention to other factors like the execution of plane, weight shift and rotation. I like to promote this feeling with shorter half swings as this will promote the release of the body and hands.
3) TAKING THE FACE OUT OF IT
Closed face swings have become more popular in recent times. We spoke about the palms being a factor in establishing where the clubface is during the swing. We also covered how grip fundamentals are important and can have an effect on various parts of the golf swing.
As you can see with PGA tour player Ryan Palmer (above), his grip is different than what we just spoke about. However, the awareness of what they cause during the swing is the most important factor. You can see in image 1, that he has a very strong left-hand grip but note that the back of his left hand is not perfectly parallel to the inclined plane. Image 2 shows that this allows him to flatten his wrist on the backswing to set the clubface position. Note how in image 3 his clubface is unchanged from the position it was at in image 2. By setting his wrists and clubface he knows where they are and rotates throughout the backswing and downswing. By swinging this way, the tour player can return the clubface back to the same position in image 3 as it was in during the backswing in image 2. However, it has helped maintain the plane of his swing to compliment that of the clubface.
You can see in another case where the former number 1 ranked golfer in the world and Open Champion David Duval (above), adopts an even stronger left-hand grip. Like the palm drills, the positions and placement of the hands in the grip can be focused on either the right or left palm, wrist or hand to maintain comfort and clubface awareness. As evident in all 3 images, the player’s wrist position stays consistent during the entire swing. By maintaining the same wrist position he can return the clubface squarely to the ball regardless of the positions the clubface is in at certain parts of the backswing and downswing.
When looking at improving your technique make sure you have correct fundamentals in the way you grip. If your fundamentals are different make sure your awareness of hands, wrists and clubface during the swing and especially at impact are on point. For more help on grip or to improve your technique, continue to visit my blog or seek the advice from your local PGA Professional.
For more help on your golf game please feel free to contact me anytime:
Nick Banks, PGA