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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Bobby Jones on the Grip

I wrote yesterday about how important Henry Cotton felt the hands were to playing good golf. Bobby Jones also felt this way. I was just reading Golf is my Game, where Bobby talks about the grip and provides some interesting insight. He wrote:

    "I like to think of a golf club as a mass attached to my hands by a weightless but rigid connector, and I like to feel that I am throwing the clubhead at the ball with much the same motion I should use in cracking a whip. By this simile I mean to convey the idea of a supple, lightning-quick action of the hands.
     Stiff or wooden wrists shorten the backswing and otherwise destroy the feel of the clubhead. Without the supple connection of relaxed and active wrist joints and a delicate, sensitive grip, the golf club, which has been so carefully weighted and balanced, might just as well be a broom handle with nothing on the end. The clubhead cannot be swung unless it can be felt on the end of the shaft.
     I have seen numbers of players who take hold of the club as though it was a venomous snake and they were in imminent peril of being bitten. A tight grip necessarily tenses all the muscles and tendons of the wrists and forearm so that any degree of flexibility is impossible.
     The only way I know of achieving a relaxed grip which will at the same time retain adequate control of the club is to actuate the club and hold it mainly by the three smaller fingers of the left hand. If the control is at this point, the club can be restrained against considerable force, and yet the wrist joints retain complete flexibility.
     The great fault in the average golfer's conception of his stroke is that he considers the shaft of the club as a means of transmitting actual physical force to the ball, whereas it is in reality merely the means of imparting velocity to the clubhead. We would all do better if we could only realize that the length of the drive depends not upon brute force applied, but upon the speed of the clubhead. It is a matter of well-timed acceleration rather than physical effort of the kind that bends crow-bars and lifts heavy weights.
     My prescription is, therefore, only that the club be held mainly in the three smaller fingers of the left hand, and that the shaft should be laid across the middle joint of the index finger of this hand. The remainder of the gripping should be done as lightly as possible, exerting pressure upon the shaft only as this becomes necessary in order to move or restrain the club.
     Let it be known right here that many acceptable golf shots and drives of good length can be produced by players who have nothing more than active hands and a good sense of timing. These players will never achieve the consistency nor the extremes in length attainable by the expert with good form, but they will, nevertheless, be able to get a lot of fun out playing golf."

There are some really valuable ideas presented here by Bobby Jones. The idea of gripping the club in such a way as to be able to feel the clubhead is something so many of us miss as we put a deathgrip on the club. This, followed by the importance of understanding that the shaft of the club is the means by which we provide speed to the clubhead, rather than the means to transmit force to the ball, can't help but improve our ballstriking. How many times haven't I been guilty as charged of trying to use the shaft of the club to apply force to the ball. It's really the caveman approach to golf. Swinging the club as Lee Trevino once said, "like a caveman killing his lunch."

I remember playing with Bob on the seventeenth hole and asking him whether he could feel the clubhead when he was swinging. His answer was an emphatic "Nope." Watch a good player hold the club. Notice how relaxed his hands are, and how loose and supple his hands and wrists are. A grip like that allows them to swing that clubhead and really crack the whip. We have well-designed and weighted golf clubs. But weighting and design mean very little if we don't make use of the clubhead; if we continue to swing the shaft at the ball instead of the clubhead.

I know, as I search for ways to overcome the difficulties imposed by my back issues, that I am going to be more conscious of my hands. With nothing more than good use of my hands, I think I might just be able to still play a respectable enough game to enjoy it. And that's all most of us want to do. We want to play a reasonably good game for us, commensurate with our experience and our abilities. Most of us aren't playing for our supper. And that is probably a very good thing.