The Grip and Grip Pressure

By Jim Irvin, Director of Instruction Belfair Country Club

The Grip and Grip PressureEditor's Note: The following is the first in a continuing series of bi-weekly instruction articles and is a collaboration between Mr. Irvin and Golfer's Guide's Online Editor, Brandon Underwood.

How you apply your hands to the golf club has the greatest influence in your ability to consistently strike the ball solidly with maximum speed and control. A poor grip along with poor grip pressure will unfortunately set you up for failure in the swing you are about to make. Fortunately, it doesn't guarantee failure as you still have the ability to manipulate the golf club to save the shot. Given this scenario, the word consistency is no longer attainable.

As we begin with how to grip the club, I will be referencing a right-handed golfer. So, if you are a lefty, please reverse the information. 

Let's start off by having you stand up nice and tall with your arms hanging freely at your sides. Notice how each hand is hanging. The thumbs should be inverted, slightly representing exactly how they should look when applied to the grip of the golf club. Considering we are all built differently, how your hands hang to your side will look different than most others. I often hear the reference of seeing two or three knuckles of the left hand as you grip the club. The problem I have with that reference is that it's hard to interpret and is highly subjective; it depends where your eyes are referencing the knuckles. Most people crane their necks to the left in order to assess how many knuckles they can see. 

 Stand up nice and tall with your arms hanging freely at your side

The club must be attached diagonally across the fingers of both hands due to the diagonal plane the club is set up and swung on. Most grip the club straight across the finger line which is how we would apply the hands if we were swinging the club on a horizontal plane, like you would with a tennis racket or a baseball bat.

Incorrect GripCorrect Grip












The Grip on the left is incorrect and is how we would apply our hands when swinging on a horizontal plane. The grip on the right is the one we want for swinging a golf club on a diagonal plane. 

I have a trick to help you get your hands on the club correctly every time. Grab two tees. Place them in between the thumb and forefinger of both hands and pinch them so they don't fall. First place the left hand on the club so that the tee is lined up straight down the top of the grip. Next, place your right hand on the club so that the tee is lined up with the tee in the left hand. When looking down, the tees should be lined up with the leading edge of the club in your hands. If you're trying to promote "drawing" your golf ball then rotate your hands on the club so they are positioned toward the right side of the grip. Remember that the point end of the tee shouldn't be poking through the space between the thumb and the forefinger. It shouldn't be touching the golf club when you make your grip.

Place the tee between the thumb and forefingertee trick












tee trickHere's how it looks from the front












What should the grip pressure be as you hold onto the golf club throughout the entire golf swing? Most have heard "Hold it like your holding a baby bird or a tube of toothpaste without a lid and you don't want to squeeze any out." Your body will interpret those visuals as hold it very loose in the fingers throughout the swing. The effect of loose fingers is separation of the left hand from the club (at the top) during the transition of the backswing to the downswing which causes an early release and a change in the clubface.

This shows the loss of contact with the clubNo gap between hand and club











The image on the left shows the incorrect grip. On the right, as evidence by the tee placed between the club and hand, there should be no gap. A good way to test yourself is to put a tee between the two objects and if it falls out during your swing, something is wrong.

Do you wear out the heel pad and thumb areas of your glove? If so, that is evidence of the movement which cause the friction that produced the hole. Understanding the physics of the golf swing would lead a person to promote secure (effort on firm) fingers around the club throughout the entire swing! This will promote a much improved release and a clubface that remains square throughout the swing.

About Jim Irvin: Mr. Irvin is in his first year as Director of Instruction at Belfair Country Club. He has been a PGA member since 1993 and studied under renowned instructor Jim Flick for a number of years. Flick coached notables such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Lehman. Irvin was named "Teacher of the Year" for the Southern Ohio Section of the PGA in 2000 and 2005. He has been a participant on the NIKE and Tours. Irvin is a 4-time winner of the Northern Ohio PGA Match Play tournament ('89, '91-'93) and has won 15 PGA Section events. At Ohio Wesleyan University, he was a two-time All-American and was named NCAC Conference Player of the Year in 1987. He was also selected to the conference's All-Decade Team (1984-1993).

If you're interested in receiving a lesson or instruction from Mr. Irvin, he may be reached by telephone at (843) 757-0726 or by e-mail at

About Belfair Country Club: Along with the magnificent half-mile oak-lined drive, Belfair is home to both prehistoric and historic sites, dramatic marsh and river views, secluded wetlands and Hidden Lake, a 42-acre freshwater chain of lakes. Approximately 1100 acres in size, Belfair is located on the mainland in Bluffton, SC five (5) miles from Hilton Head Island, SC on Highway 278. Its waterfront side faces the marshes of the Colleton River. Belfair is 25 miles north of Savannah, GA, 32 miles south of Beaufort, SC, and 110 miles south of Charleston, SC.

Editor's Analysis

Why start with the grip? Well your grip is one of the fundamental building blocks of the game along with posture and aim (what Mr. Irvin calls GPA). It's the basic aspect that connects the player with the golf club. It's almost impossible to work with a poor grip.

If you've never taken the time to learn the proper way to grip the club, it's amazing what it can do as far as immediate results. I used the above grip two weeks ago and hit some of the cleanest, well-struck iron shots of my life. While you immediately notice some great contact and the feedback you get from watching the ball is positive, you'll feel some discomfort. This is to be expected.

"We're not concerned with comfort," Mr. Irvin told me. "That's just the body yelling at you. Your body is swinging the golf club and the body wants to be comfortable. Comfort is coming."

The key to that battle is focusing on what your brain tells you or at least what you can teach it and that's to be correct in every time even if it feels "weird" or "horrible".

One of the benefits of understanding the proper grip will be your improved ability to assess your results. Symptoms can be things like poor contact, striking the ball on the toe, a hook or a slice and the problem could be your grip. If you don't make solid contact or hit the ball off to one side, check your grip and grip pressure and things might improve.

There are different variations of what to do with your hands after they're in the correct position. Most touring professionals choose to overlap but Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus interlock. There is also a variation called eight fingers on the club. Remember, "There isn't a perfect way to connect your hands."

Mr. Irvin likes to point out that security is the key theme to remember: "Get your hands on the club to feel secure; we don't want anything to move or slip. Get everything in the correct position and then do what feels most secure."

Grip, like everything else concerning the game of golf takes work to get it right. Mr. Irvin wants you to remember, "Practice makes permanent."

"A lot of people will fidget and start heading back to comfortable," he said. "We're working toward correct and initially that is not comfortable. Expect it to feel weird or horrible. Entertain what the body says but don't deviate from correct.

Grip Pressure

The overall goal for grip pressure is for your hands to remain in constant contact with the club; if there is movement of the club, it's a huge problem. Recovering from a moving club is almost impossible to recover from on a consistent basis.

As long as the club remains still, it's ok to change finger pressure. You wouldn't want to be squeezing the daylights out of a wedge when you're pitching from just off the green.

Taking it from the range to the course

As students of the game, which we all are, it's important to understand that our golf games are a work in progress. Keeping that in mind, never take new improvements that we're working on and place them on the back burner.

If what you were doing before was wrong, you wouldn't want to go back to that and reinforce incorrect technique.

"If it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it works, then I'm committed," Mr. Irvin said of the attitude we should have when it comes to taking what we've learned and trying it during a round. "We're a work in progress and we're not working toward failure; we're moving toward success.

So stay with the plan and understand that developing an understanding of what to do in any aspect of golf doesn't necessarily translate into execution right away. Stay patient. There is no elevator.




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