Only ‘really terrible golfers’ do this, says Top 100 Teacher

The best players grip the club firm as they swing.

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Golf has been a difficult, confusing game for a long time, which means bad advice, once it starts floating around, can linger for a frustratingly long time.

But in recent years, as the technology in golf has gotten increasingly better — and coaches have found innovative new ways to incorporate it into their teaching — they’ve been exploding these myths as quickly as they arise. The idea of “keeping your head down” for instance.

Or, as GOLF Top 100 Teacher and GOLFTEC VP of Instruction Nick Clearwater shared at the recent GOLF Top 100 Teachers Summit, the notion that golfers should “hold the club like a baby bird.”

“If the idea or teaching system involves trying to hold the club like a baby bird, I don’t think that holds up to any kind of scrutiny,” he says.

In his presentation, Clearwater highlighted a recent study he conducted on GOLFTEC students: He attached a grip pressure tracker to the grip of students’ clubs, which could track the amount how firm or soft the club feels in their hand.

And what did he find? That lower handicaps and pros are gripping the club really firm.

“That’s almost universal: Everybody who’s good at golf, or hits the ball far, that is where they had the most pressure applied to the grip,” he said. “You may feel like you’re holding the club very loosely and that helps you hit the ball far, but that isn’t truly what’s happening.”

Why gripping the club light as you swing is a myth

You can see, the graph above, that during the swing grip pressure peaks midway through the downswing, as the club is parallel to the ground.

And as speed increases, so does grip pressure.

As for the golfers who maintain a light grip pressure, like they’re holding a baby bird?

“Nobody really holds it constantly light, unless you’re really terrible at golf,” Clearwater says.

Clearwater finished with a few words of advice:

  1. “You want to have the ability to squeeze the club really tight.”
  2. But, he adds, you always want to “hinge your wrists” along the way.
  3. Gripping the club loose in your hands as you swing isn’t what happens when good players swing, so don’t try to do it yourself.

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Luke Kerr-Dineen Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.