Holding the club properly allows the golf swing to deliver the clubface square to the target at impact. For this natural and reflexive squaring to take place, the hands must work together as a single unit. The hands will operate in this fashion when the club is held with the palms parallel to the clubface and placed close together.
Today, there are three generally accepted ways of combining or “unitizing” the hands, e.g., the ten-finger grip, the interlocking grip, and the relatively new (circa 1900) overlapping grip. Actually, there is a fourth way, too. It’s called the classical interlocking grip. It was used when hickory shafts were being swung, but more about that later.
I. The ten-finger grip, sometimes referred to as a “baseball grip,” is the least popular of the three. Most golfers avoid gripping the club this way because they find it difficult for their hands to work together. It does, however, have its advantages. Teachers often suggest this grip to beginners as it simplifies early instruction. As a matter of fact, I remember my father having second thoughts about its value during his later years. He said, “If I had it all over to do again, I’d have put the baseball grip on more people.” It was apparent to me that he thought it just might give people with small, weak hands a better feel for the club head.
To position your hands in this way, grip the club properly with the lead hand then, place the little finger of the trailing hand close against the index finger of the lead hand. Cover the thumb of the lead hand with the lifeline of the trailing hand. Pretty simple.
II. The modern interlocking grip is a tried and true method that helps keep the hands close together with less slippage. This grip has the thumb of the lead hand on the shaft, under the palm of the trailing hand in a manner comparable to the ten-finger and the overlapping grip. It involves twining the little finger of the trailing hand between the index and largest finger of the lead hand. To “unitize” the hands as much as possible, nestle the forefinger of the trailing hand close against its neighbor, and wrap it firmly around the club.
III. Among good golfers, the overlapping grip is the most popular of the three. The hands are positioned on the club in the same manner as the ten-finger and the interlocking grip except that the little finger of the trailing hand is wrapped around or lapped over the forefinger of the lead hand. Nestle the forefinger of the trailing hand close against its neighbor, and wrap it firmly around the club.
IV. The classical interlocking grip has been around for centuries but it’s seldom used and, all but forgotten. This grip included what was basically a fist with the lead hand and promoted a lot of wristiness that was necessary when hickory shafts were in vogue. It actually had the thumb of the lead hand off the shaft and positioned behind the trailing hand. Like the modern interlock, it involved twining the little finger of the trailing hand between the index finger and largest finger of the lead hand.
Gene Sarazen and Henry Picard were perhaps the last great players who used the full interlocking grip. My father gripped the club this way during his early professional career but, eventually opted for and advocated the modern overlapping grip. Note: In 1937, Henry Picard began experiencing pain in his left wrist at the top of his backswing. He had developed DeQuervains Tendonitis – inflammation in the tendons that control the thumb, resulting in pain near the base of the thumb. A doctor in Philadelphia told him, “Go to the classic interlock grip and it’ll never hurt again.” Picard took that grip and won the Masters (1938) and the PGA (1939).
In the final analysis, the size and strength of the hands plays a huge role in determining which grip is the correct one for you. Whichever grip you choose, be sure that your hands never separate during your swing. This forces you to regrip before impact and throws the clubhead off line. A light but constant nudging of the heel pad of your trailing hand against the thumb pad of your lead hand will counter any such separation.