A Student’s “A-Ha” Moment

    December 16, 2013 Stan Utley 341 No Comments

    When I first start working with a student, there are times when I see an immediate, fundamental issue that needs to be addressed. In a recent session, I noticed that a 60-ish, 7-handicap student had a very unusual grip related to a budding arthritic condition in his right hand. As a result, probably without even realizing it, he had significantly altered the position of his right hand on the grip.

    It was very obvious that his right thumb and index finger were not gripping the club at all. Instead of a tight “v” on the grip, these two fingers were spread apart and basically off the club entirely. Physically, he was unconsciously looking for a comfortable grip and didn’t realize that he was basically gripping the club with his left hand and perhaps only one or two fingers of his right hand. The club was not anchored firmly in both hands, and his swing speed and the inertia of the clubhead through impact allowed the club to torque leading to a lot of offline shots, with his misses almost always to the right. In addition, he was losing distance because of his modified grip.

    Many of my students will take a basic observation like this to the practice area and work to correct the issue. Some will have that magical “a-ha” moment at some point. This student reversed engineered the tight “v” to figure out what he had been doing. He discovered that his default set up is an interlocking grip, but while he had his pinkie interlocked, the ring finger on his right hand was sitting on top of the knuckles of his left hand…not holding onto the club at all. And his thumb and index finger of the right hand were almost always off the club entirely.
    In his practice drills, he really focused on getting all the fingers of his right hand on the grip, with the grip resting in his fingers, not in the palm of his right hand. He reported that he started hitting his irons and metal woods cleaner, far longer and with more pronounced draw. That’s because the right hand was once again an integral part of his grip, and while he reported that he over-compensated occasionally and used too much right hand causing outright hooks, he started to get the hang of it after a few hours and made excellent progress. In this picture at the right, taken on the student’s downswing, you can see his right hand grip now shows good alignment, with the “v” in both his left and right hand synched pretty well.

    While this student can’t do anything about arthritis, he can continue to work hard to ensure that he doesn’t slip back into a bad habit. He can also change to an over-sized, softer grip on his clubs to mitigate some of the “shock” the hands will feel from ball-striking. All the manufacturers of replacement grips make these, so that will probably help. But, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of making sure your fundamentals are good: posture, alignment and how you grip the club. I’m delighted I was able to help this student regain his form. He’s now having more fun on the golf course, and has lowered his scores! I always enjoy hearing that.

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