A Proper Grip

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.

Ten-finger grip

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.

Modern Interlocking grip

Modern Interlocking grip (back view)

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.

Overlapping grip

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.

Classical Interlocking grip

Classical Interlocking grip (back view)

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.


8 thoughts on “A Proper Grip

  1. In your opinion, do you think the grip really is a true “fundamental” as not every tour player or good player grips the club the same way?

    • Thanks for your query. I suppose that many experts consider the grip to be a true “fundamental” of the game because holding on to the club in a way that allows the golf swing to bring the clubface through the ball in a square position is basic, important and essential to good golf.

      In my view, there are two phases to hitting a ball. The first being the pre-swing phase. That is followed by the in-swing phase. There are three very necessary fundamentals in the pre-swing phase: grip, aim and set-up. All of which, have a tremendous effect on the action that takes place during the swing. And while, not every tour player or good player grips the club, aims the body and the swing, and sets up over the ball the same way, they all accomplish these “fundamentals” in a manner that is mechanically correct.

  2. Thanks for the reply. Due you think the grip dictates the swing style, or do you think the swing style dictates the grip strength? I have never taught a beginner, so I never had to deal with this issue. When you get beginners, do you notice they come with a Paul Azinger style swing that requires the strong grip, or do you see people come with the strong grip that requires the Paul Azinger swing?

    • Trick question – My response to #1 is both. Because the grip is your only connection with the club, the way you position your hands on the club affects every part of the swing. Also, the way a golfer swings has a significant influence on how they hold the club. #2 – Comment: Most beginners that I work with on the lesson tee aren’t familiar enough with their grip or their swing to have a usual or set method. Response: A person would have to be well coordinated and possess a lot of feel, to have any success, swinging the club like Paul Azinger. But, if a student had good ability and their natural swing resembled his, I wouldn’t try to change it. For the most part, I’d work with their pre-swing fundamentals – grip, aim and set-up. On the other hand, I would change someone’s grip from strong to neutral, long before I’d attempt to fit them with a swing like his.

      For all those, unfamiliar with Paul Azinger’s golf swing: I consider it a bit quirky. But, maybe, it’s the golf swing of the future? He advocated a very strong, four-knuckle lead-hand grip with both feet angled left of perpendicular to the target line (in order to prevent backswing hip rotation). His backswing is what would be described as three-quarter in length. Not yet, has this swing technique gained popularity among professional golfers.

  3. Its nice to hear a professional that doesnt recommend everyone to a certain swing mold. Do you know or ever work with any golf professionals from Northeast PA? Dick Farley or Art Wall?

    • Thanks. For sure, no two people are alike. Have visited the Scranton, PA area. My father worked in Dallas and West Pittston in the early 1940s. Never worked with them but, I did have the pleasure of meeting both Dick Farley and Harry Obitz in dad’s golf shop at La Gorce CC in Miami Beach in the 1970s. I like “The Swings the Thing.”

  4. reading thru old clipping of a buddy of mine I work with, John Ramsey, saw your name as well, Dade Amateur Junior Golf league, Scott Parks and Dick Grout of LaGorce posted 76s, man there was some talent in south Florida in 70s. Glad I read your article,grew up wit hbaseball grip, relieved I am not missing anything for not having interlocking grip, golf on

    • With your experience as a baseball player, the ten-finger grip ought to work fine for you especially when you maintain good balance and rhythm during your swing.

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