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Hands On! Great swings match grip and hinge. Does yours?

By Joe Thiel

 

Like all sports, golf requires a high degree of hand-eye coordination, as well as advanced hand motor skills to strike the ball correctly and send it toward the intended target. If you don’t employ your hands correctly, you’ll find it difficult to hit quality golf shots consistently. As a golfer who’s serious about improving, it’s imperative that you learn what roles the hands play in the golf swing. Once you do, you’ll have all the tools to take your shotmaking to a much higher level.

A Key Relationship

I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of instruction articles on how to grip, (hold) the golf club correctly, and that you’ve been able to develop a fundamentally solid hold on the club. What you may not be aware of is how your grip affects your cocking/hinging mechanism. This relationship is an important one, and if you fail to recognize its dynamics, you’ll struggle, having to perfect all kinds of compensations even if your grip is perfect.

A weak hold, one which features the back of the left hand (for right-handed golfers) that points to target and the “V” formed by the thumb and forefinger pointing toward the right ear, must incorporate a cocking/hinging mechanism that produces a fairly flat left wrist at the top. Keeping the left wrist from cupping is essential to keeping the clubface on-line during the swing. If, from a weak hold, you hinge your wrists so that the left wrist “cups,” you’ll rotate the clubface too far open on the backswing. Only the player blessed with ultra-fast hand speed will be able to square up the face at impact from this position and even they will have difficulity being consistant. The “face must rotate” scenario is a prime destroyer of path and compression angles and will produce weak, off-line shots since the only way to square the face is to instinctively come over the top.

From a stronger grip, one in which the back of the left hand points more toward the sky than the target and the “V” formed by the thumb and forefinger points toward the right shoulder, is better able to accommodate a left wrist cup at the top, if that is indeed your preference. The key is to refrain from trying to keep the left wrist too flat as you hinge the club to the top. A strong grip plus flat left wrist at the top usually results in laying the club off at the top with a very closed club face.. Only a serious combination of compensations can get the face and club back on plane and on the correct delivery path. Otherwise, you can expect power leaks, poor contact, and an assortment of disappointing shots.

 

There have been as many good players with weak grips as there have been good players with strong grips. The common denominator is that the good player knows how to match grip type with the correct wrist hinging mechanism that makes it instinctively easier to return the face to square at the point of impact. The grip is a personal entity¾you should adopt a hold that feels the most comfortable. However, several of my more talented students claim that it’s easier to maintain the relationship between the weak grip and the hinging mechanism that produces a flat left wrist at the top than the converse.

Flat hinge Practice

With a 7-iron in hand and a weaker grip, as shown, hinge your wrists upward and downward in front of you. As you do, check the back of the left wrist to make sure you aren’t cupping, but rather keeping it flat, so flat that you could place a ruler across the back of your left wrist and the left forearm without there being a gap. The clubface should point toe up if the hinge is correct.

Next, hinge the club upward 90 degrees in front of you, again keeping your left wrist flat, and rotate your body so that the shaft points perpendicularly to your toe line just outside your right foot (see photo). Take that hinge to the top without allowing any additional concavity in your left wrist. At this position, check the wrinkles in your left wrist. If you’ve kept your left wrist flat, there should only be between the left thumb and the side of the left wrist. If you’ve allowed your left wrist to cup, you’ll find wrinkles across the back of the left wrist.

A More-Desired Hold

Despite the fact that some say that the weak-grip-flat-left-wrist relationship is easier to control, I prefer that my students adopt a stronger left-hand hold. For one, a flat left wrist at the top limits how much you can hinge your wrists. You can hinge your wrists more if you allow the left wrist to cup slightly. This allows you to create additional lag in the transition from backswing to downswing and can generate greater clubhead speed. Also since our desire is to maintain that transition angle deeper into the forward swing, we will find that our more forward hands position at impact will require a stronger or closed grip to assist the squaring of the clubface instinctively.

If you’re looking for more power in your swing, grip the club so that the “V” created by the left thumb and forefinger points toward the right shoulder with the golf club more in the fingers. The right hand should be positioned so that the palm faces the target and in the fingers as well and not the palm. (Many recreational golfers overdo the right hand position, rotating it too far clockwise so that the knuckles, not the palm, face the target.) As expected, a stronger hold requires a completely different hinging mechanism. The hinge itself will have a much more concave type of look to it and make it a lot easier to set additional angles during both sides of the swing.

Concave Practice

To feel the correct hinging procedure based on the stronger hold, hinge the club right in front of you as before. At the top of the hinge, your left wrist should be slightly concaved with the toe up and in perfect relationship to the hinge. If you took that stronger hold and hinged into the flat wrist position, you’ll discover that the face closes. This is the key mistake not to commit; otherwise, you’ll have to find a way to open the face on the downswing so that it’s square at impact.

To understand the big picture, change to a weak grip and hinge the club so that the left wrist cups. Now, the face has opened and, suddenly, compensations are needed to bring the clubface to a squared position at impact. See how the hinge and hold must match?

Next, with your stronger hold, hinge the club up, build in the desired concavity in your left wrist, and rotate your body to the right, like I asked earlier. Take that hinge to the top of the swing without adjustments of any kind. This is your top position that puts everything in ready delivery for the forward motion.

A stronger hold allows for greater hinge, which produces greater power. Furthermore, a stronger hold returns the arms, hands and shaft to a much more forward position at the point of contact than what they established at address, delofting the clubface. This translates into distance and a more penetrating ballflight. With these truths in mind, I believe it’s a whole lot easier to play with that stronger hold than it is with the weaker one. Nevertheless, this article is not intended to convince you to adopt a stronger grip. Its purpose is to make you aware that different degrees of strong and weak require different types of hinges. My ultimate recommendation is to use a grip that allows you to employ your natural hinge and still maintain the proper clubface angle from address to impact. And that requires just a small amount of experimentation; just a bit of trial-and-error that’ll pay huge dividends as it relates to your ability to hit consistently solid golf shots.

Joe Thiel

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About Joe

Joe Thiel has spent 40 years helping others learn and enjoy the game of golf.He is one of only a few golf professionals in the U.S. who has earned the prestigious PGA Master Professional designation. The local PGA region has honored him as the PGA Teacher of the Year three times - in 1993, 1995, and 1997. He was also inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the 'Millennium Who's Who in America.' Golf Magazine has also honored Joe with the title of Top 100 Teachers in America for many years and Golf Driving Range Magazine has also honored him as one of the top 50 Teachers in America. More About Joe.