While it may sound like a relatively straight-forward thing to do, holding your golf club as you prepare for each swing requires a little more finesse than you might think.
For beginners, the instinct is usually to grab a golf club like a baseball bat, with two hands tightly wrapped around the grip and the majority of the club in the palm of the hand.
This tight grip is good for swinging as hard as you possibly can without letting go of the club - ‘swinging for the fences’, as they say in baseball - however, gripping a golf club needs to be done in a more delicate and intentional way.
Holding your club requires a more purposeful technique than the ‘grip it and rip it’ approach, in order to provide you with more control, accuracy and an intangible ‘feel’ for each of the unique shots you’ll face on the course.
Since your grip is the only connection between you and your club, it stands to reason that it will have a large influence over how your club makes contact with the ball. That being the case, practicing the right grip deserves as much attention as the rest of the elements that comprise your swing.
Why having a proper grip is important
First, let’s take a look at how an improper grip can have detrimental effects on your game, so we underscore just how important a good grip is for each shot.
How you hold your golf club has a massive effect on how your clubface impacts the ball. If your grip is off and you roll your wrists too far forward, you’re going to have a closed clubface at impact which can lead to you hooking the ball. If your grip and wrists are rolled too far back, your clubface is going to be open at impact, which can cause you to slice the ball.
Also, you want to make sure that you’re not gripping your club too tightly when you swing. A tight grip creates tension in the forearms that can negatively affect the natural arc of your swing. It can also reduce the amount of energy that transfers from the club to the ball when you swing through, reducing your overall shot distance.
In summary, if you want to have a better chance of hitting the ball long and straight - it all starts with learning how to hold your clubs.
Note: For the sake of ease and to avoid confusion, the below info about how to hold your clubs is for a right-handed golfer. If you’re a lefty, just use the opposite hand!
Placing your lead (top) hand
Your lead hand is the hand you place the highest up at the end of your club, which in the case of a right-handed shot, is your left hand. You’ll always want to grip the club with your lead hand first.
To place your lead hand, get your feet set up in your stance, lay your club head flat on the ground in front of you and then let the grip end of the club lay softly in your open hand.
The club should cross your hand at an angle, with the end of the club touching approximately where the joint of your pinky finger meets your hand and running diagonally so that it sits just on or just above the first knuckle of your pointer finger.
Once the club’s in place, gently close your hand around the club (remember, not too tight!), turn your hand over slightly to the right, so you can see your pointer and middle finger knuckles and place your thumb straight and flat down the grip.
Placing your trailing (bottom) hand
Once you’ve settled your lead hand in a comfortable position, it’s time to place your trailing hand. The term ‘trailing’ is a bit misleading, as this hand is typically the dominant hand for many right-handed golfers and is where a lot of the power in your swing comes from.
Take your trailing hand and without closing it, cover the tip of your left thumb with the middle of the base of your right hand. Once in place, slowly wrap your fingers around the underside of the club.
Once you’re hand is closed, the club should again be running diagonally across your fingers, touching your pointer finger between your 1st and 2nd knuckle, your middle finger just below your first knuckle and your ring finger right where your finger meets your hand.
Then, position your trailing hand thumb in line with your lead thumb so they create one straight line down the top of the club.
Once you’ve placed both hands, make whatever slight adjustments you need to so that the grip feels natural, but try not to disrupt the overall positioning outlined above.
Choking up or down on the club
How to grip your club is only one-half of the equation when learning how to hold your clubs. Where to hold your club is the second half.
A good rule of thumb is that the higher you choke up on the club (i.e. towards the grip-end of the club), the more power you’ll get. The lower you choke down on the club (i.e. towards the clubhead), the more control and ‘feel’ you’ll have for your shot.
The practical example of this is holding your driver as close to the end of the grip as possible to generate the most clubhead speed when swinging, as opposed to choking down on your pitching wedge, when you have a short chip to make - the drive needs power, the chip needs “feel” and control.
Different strokes for different folks
While there are certainly ‘best practices’ when it comes to properly holding your golf clubs, everyone’s grip is going to be a little different.
Things like lingering hand injuries, arthritis, the mechanics of your swing and muscle memory from other sports you’ve played can impact what feels comfortable for you. While you should always try to improve your grip, sometimes it’s more important to go with the flow.
The bottom line is, your grip should feel natural and comfortable when you swing and should not detract from your overall focus during the back and fore swing.