Welcome to the gentleman’s game of golf, where the breeze often carries a distant murmur of swear words, and expensive clubs suffer routine abuse. Since its inception sometime in the Middle Ages, golf has inspired obsession. Some players are lured by the refined aura of the sport, the sweeping links and velvety greens. Others are obsessed with golfing gear — the latest drivers, spiked shoes and fancy putters. Still others simply enjoy driving around in the golf cart.
There’s no denying that golf sings a siren’s song. Too often, however, that song is soured by a wicked slice or a ball that plummets to its final resting place at the bottom of a water trap. “They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken,” said championship golfer and course designer Ray Floyd.
Before you throw down your clubs in frustration or unleash a string of profanity that would make your mother blush, we offer 10 tips, from the most basic fundamentals to the golden rule of golf, that will help you save your sanity and improve your swing.
10. Neutral Hands: How to Hold a Golf Club, Part One
Any ham-fisted gorilla can grab a club and start whacking away at the ball. However, if your goal is to improve your swing, the first step is to pay attention to the way you hold your club.
Stand up, let your arms hang loosely at your sides and look at your hands. Notice how they are angled naturally — you can easily see the knuckle on your index finger and part of the knuckle on your middle finger. By duplicating this “neutral hand position” when you grip your club, you’ll more consistently and naturally square the clubface when you swing, increasing your chances of impacting the ball where you should, at the center of the club head.
Gently bring your top or lead hand (left for right-handers, right for left-handers) to the club and hold it lightly in place with your thumb pointing down. You should still be able to easily see the knuckles of your index and middle fingers. The “V” between your thumb and index finger should be pointing toward your rear shoulder — not your chin. Now, place your bottom or trailing hand below your top hand, taking care to maintain its neutral position.
9. Get a Grip: How to Hold a Golf Club, Part Two
Now that you’re holding your club with neutral hands, it’s time to strengthen your grip by locking your hands together in one of three basic ways:
- Vardon grip: Probably the most popular and common golf grip, the Vardon or “overlapping” grip is achieved by fitting the pinkie finger of the trailing hand between the index and middle finger of the lead hand.
- Interlocking grip: The next most common grip works better for people with less powerful forearms, weak wrists or smaller hands. With this grip, the hands are literally locked together by curling the pinkie finger of the trailing hand around the index finger of the lead hand. The downside of this grip is that, with less finger pressure controlling the club, the handle can sometimes drift against the palms.
- Ten finger (baseball) grip: Beginners, players with joint pain and those with small hands sometimes find the ten finger grip the most comfortable. To achieve it, simply lock the pinkie finger of the trailing hand close against the index finger of the lead hand.
Golf has a reputation for being something of an elite sport, played by just a stuffy few in exclusive clubs by men wearing silly clothes. While that is still the case in some places, golf is certainly becoming more accessible and increasingly popular. The experience can be daunting — with the eyes of other players on you as you set off on a round, but we have come up with the following golfing tips, that will make your play and your golf experience that much better.
1. Take golf lessons
People can be stubborn and refuse to accept help or instruction, preferring to try and make it their own way — the simple advice is don’t. Teaching yourself, even with a good instructional book, can lead you to get into bad (and sometimes irreversible) habits. A good golf pro may well have to take you back to the basics, but in the long-term, there will be lasting benefits to your game.
2. Don’t neglect your putting
Many people become obsessive about practicing at the driving range, constantly hitting hundreds of long range shots. While this can help, provided that you are using the correct technique; many golfers (both experienced and beginners) neglect their putting. Putts account for about 50 per cent of your strokes in a round, yet far less than 50 per cent of golfers’ time is spent practicing putting.
3. Work on your golf grip
Since the hands are the only part of the body that come in contact with the club, it is vital to get the grip right. Take instruction from an expert regarding the grip
There are three main grips: the interlocking, the Vardon and the baseball — decide with your coach which is best for you. A proper grip can take months to learn, so it is best to get used to it, even without hitting balls. For practice, try gripping a club while watching television.