Zar's Guide To Better Golf -- Connecting With Your Clubs Through A Proper Grip

By Rick Zarlengo, PGA


BRISTOW, VA -- Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a monthly golf instructional series written by Rick Zarlengo, General Manager of the Broad Run Golf & Practice facility in Bristow. This month's subject is connecting with your clubs through a proper grip.  See Part I at Alignment Made Easier.




You've probably heard it over and over, but let's take a brief ride on the cliché train and say that it really does all begin with the grip.  Far too many times, people attempt or are taught the game with only a superficial description on how to connect to (or hold) the club.  They subsequently lack the knowledge to respond to, or analyze their results. 


Understand this: there is a much greater chance for the club to operate correctly if you connect to it in a way that allows it to do so.  If the club is allowed to operate correctly, then the result will not only be much more desirable, it will increase your overall consistency. 


When I teach the correct grip to my students, they often feel that their new grip deprives or robs them of "control" of the club.  What I teach isn't about controlling the club as much as allowing the club to do what it is designed to do.  The goal is to place emphasis on the consistent element -- the club -- and diminish emphasis on the inconsistent element -- the human being.  Improper grip will overly involve you (this 'control' that is so seemingly important), which can get in the way of making a proper golf swing. 


To illustrate my point, try this exercise:  Grab a pen, pencil, or ruler, and clasp it in your hand so that both ends stick out of your fisted hand equally.  Extend your hand in front of your chest at a comfortable length.  Rotate your arm and hand as quickly as possible, creating a blur, much like a propeller.  Now, as it is moving, increase the pressure of your grip until it is as tight as possible.  You will notice that it (your propeller) slowed down dramatically.


This reduced speed represents the lack of (potential) speed of the club during the swing when the grip is either improper or too tight.  Since slower equals less distance... well, you get the picture.  A relaxed, correct grip, will generally allow you to increase club head speed.  Plus, if done correctly, there will no longer be a need for tape and band-aids, because you will no longer have any blisters!


Now, lets get technical for a moment.  Caution: this paragraph could cause brain cramps.  The grip, or the way you 'connect to' or hold your club, is the first of the five preparation steps (the other four being aim, alignment, positions, and posture).  Your grip supports your ability to control the club head, specifically the face, and determine whether it returns to the ball square at impact.  In other words, the clubface needs to be pointing the correct direction (leading edge of the club perpendicular to the target line) at impact.  The grip is the "joystick" that determines the directional influence of your clubface.  A correct connection to the club (grip) also facilitates a rotational release.  The motion allowing the rotation of the forearms, wrists, and hands through the contact zone, which in turn unhinges the hand/shaft angle releasing the leverage of the shaft and allows the toe of the club to pass the heel after (square) contact with the ball. Whew, if that was confusing don't worry -- just imagine writing it!   


These outcomes are greatly determined by both the placement and positions of your hands on the club.  This placement of the club in your hands is the "strength" of your grip.  You may have heard of your grip as being either strong or weak.  To explain the difference, here's another drill for you: hold your club with just your top hand.  Grip the club with the thumb slightly to the right of center (for the right-handed player) and without moving the thumb; rotate your (left) hand to the right.  You will feel the club move down more into the fingers.  This "stronger" grip facilitates the proper cocking or hinge (on the top of the wrist directly above the thumb) and the proper rotation of your wrists and forearms.  This makes the swing stronger instead of your ability to grasp the club stronger (more firmly). 


Now, move your hand back over to the left.  You will feel the club work up into the palm of your hand.  This promotes a breaking of the wrist (on the side), producing a weaker and less consistent swinging motion.  The tendency will be to scoop shots and have a limited angle into the ball, which is not good.  So now you're thinking to yourself "sure all this information is great, but how do I practice it and just do it?"

Broad Run's 5th hole. A challenging double carry par four. Photo Courtesy of Broad Run.


Follow the steps below and enjoy your improvement!


7 Steps to a Better Grip, or *Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Grip, but were never told:


1.     Hang your left arm down at your side in a relaxed manner.  Work the club into your hand so that the butt end of the grip extends a minimum of 1/4"inch from the side opposite your thumb (there may be shots in your career that may require lowering your hands -- or "choking down" on the club)


2.     The club should now cross a) your lifeline, under the muscle pad and b) the middle crease in your forefinger.  Close your hand in as natural a manner as possible, keeping the thumb just slightly right of center.  Now lift the club out in front of you at waist height.  With the leading edge of the club straight up and down, the "V" formed by your thumb and forefinger will point at approximately the center of your right collarbone.


3.     Next, bring your right hand to the club, cradling the middle and ring fingers so that the club rests in the middle crease of those fingers.


4.     Here is the key motion: connect the crevice of the right palm over the upper knuckle of your left hand thumb.  There should be a natural fit molding the hands together.  This junction of the hands is very important in ensuring that your hands work together as a single unit.


5.     With the club touching the last crease in the pointing finger of the right hand, bring the right thumb over so that the thumb touches the middle finger, the tip of the pointing finger, and the club, all at the same time.


6.     You should now have two "V's" matching and parallel in their direction to your collarbone area.  The hands should now feel as though they are one, working in symmetry.


7.      Finally, you will need to know how tightly to hold on to the club.  While there are many variations and opinions on this subject, my most successful system has simply been to instruct the student to hold the club in a relaxed, minimally controlled fashion.  The only amount of control necessary is to keep the club from flying out of your hands.  There are basically three levels of pressure; a tight grip, a relaxed grip, and a loose grip.  Too tight, and the club is not allowed to operate freely.  Too loose, and the club will slip and move in your hands.  A demonstration of relaxed would be someone rotating the head of the club as you grip it, moving your hands, wrists, and forearms -- all without the club slipping.  Your connection (grip) should stay as consistent as possible for all clubs when making full shots.


I recommend seeing your PGA professional to make sure the grips on your clubs are the right size for you -- there are some great grips designed for all needs, and make sure that they're in good shape.  This will ensure that your hands can relax and operate correctly.


Here's hoping that your improved connection results in better direction and lower scores!!!

Broad Run's 7th hole is an aesthetically pleasing par five. Photo Courtesy of Broad Run


*All descriptions are based on playing as a right-handed golfer, unless otherwise noted.


Note: Broad Run Golf & Practice Facility is located off of Rt. 28 going south out of Manassas, and features one of the best overall practice ranges in the DC area, with target greens, practice bunkers, a short-game practice area and a large practice green.  Broad Run also has an excellent Rick Jacobson designed 9-hole golf course.


For a complete look at Broad Run, try the review of the facility.


Broad Run Golf & Practice Facility
10201 Golf Academy Drive
Bristow, VA 20136


Phone: (703) 365-2443
FAX: (703) 365-2544



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