My golf game has gone to hell in a handbasket over the past month. I can’t hit two good shots in a row.
To make matters worse, my missed hits are all over the place. I’m pushing it right, pulling it left, and hitting it high in the sky. I haven’t hit any grounders as yet, but give me time. It’s difficult to correct a defect that has no pattern.
All this said, I am not a quitter. Never was, never will be. With that in mind, I’ve done the intelligent thing. I’ve determined to go back to the basics, right to square one. And, the best way to do that is to revisit the best book ever written on the subject of golf’s basics — Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.”
Over the next five Sundays together, I’ll cover each of the five chapters as we attempt to rediscover the essence of the fundamental swing through Hogan’s written word. Hogan believed that everyone who acquired his golfing ground rules would score in the 70s. So, let’s get started with Lesson One: The Grip.
Hogan tells us that the grip is “the heartbeat of the action of the golf swing.” The power of the swing is initially generated by the turning action of the body. From that, the power transfers into the arms, and finally into the hands.
Admit it. You take your grip for granted. I do too, at least until my swing goes south, then I am questioning everything about my game. The grip is the only connection that we have to our golf club. Without it, we don’t hit the ball. Here’s what Hogan teaches us.
“The grip must be loose. If your grip is too tight, it will lock up your wrists and diminish power. Your grip pressure should be very light. On a scale of one to 10, 10 being a firm grip, your grip should measure a three.”
Next, I was reminded that the thumb and forefinger of the right hand (for righthanders) are destroyers of a good swing path. Hogan refers to these two fingers as “pinchers” because these are the two fingers that we would use to pinch someone or to feel a fabric.
When we hold the club too tightly in these two fingers, they want to take over, to take charge of our downswing. Usually, tension in these fingers force our hands to the outside on the advent of the downswing. This over-the-top action causes all sorts of issues, not the least of which is an outside-to-inside swing path that produces a slice.
I will ask you here to practice shots at the local range keeping these two fingers off your club. I’ll guarantee that you’ll feel your swing take shape on an inside path and you’ll make better contact with your ball than you have in some time.
Hogan makes one other statement that I have encouraged for years. There are certain things about the golf swing that must be precise. If you settle for “close enough,” you’ll be settling for mediocrity. The grip is one of the elements of a good swing that cannot be compromised.
I’ve been to the range since my lesson one review and I can already notice a difference. I employed the “right thumb and forefinger off the grip” tip and I have focused on reducing my grip pressure. The results were encouraging. I hope that you’ll come along with me on this five-week journey through the Hogan paperback and that, on the other side, we’ll all benefit from having done so.
Next week we’ll look at our stance and posture. Until then, keep it in the fairway.
Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for 21 seasons.