Most amateur golfers do themselves a huge disservice by not establishing a sound, fundamental grip prior to learning and practicing their swing.
Part of the problem is not realizing the importance. The answer begins with simple physics.
To begin to learn to control your golf ball, certain principles must apply. The first is cause and effect. Whatever direction the clubface is pointing at impact is where the ball will start. The path it follows to that point will then determine how much it spins. With a poor grip, your ability to return the clubface square to the target on the correct path is minimized.
This is the reason almost every teaching pro will start a beginning student with the grip. And there are many reasons why a student will struggle to establish and repeat that correct grip.
The most common issue is how it feels, which generally is very uncomfortable. But physics doesn’t care about comfort, only position. If you repeat the correct grip, no matter how bad it feels, it will work. If you return the face straight, the ball will go straight. And eventually the feel will improve.
The second reason is a lack of patience. It is very common to want to fast-forward our practice and expect quicker progress. It simply takes time and repetition to get to the point of control and comfort combined. Students lose patience, move the grip to a less desirable but more comfortable position, and their swing will develop with flaws.
Most swing flaws develop from incorrect preshot fundamentals. If your grip is bad, it may lead to a poor ball position or a bad posture. At that point your swing must compensate in an effort to return the face squarely, and that causes the most frustrating flaw of all — inconsistency.
The longer you play without fixing the root cause of your inconsistency, the harder it gets to change. You are fooled because you hit a lot of balls and have some successful rounds, but all you’ve done is limit your progress. Imagine how good you could be with proper fundamentals and sound instruction. Just hitting a lot of balls isn’t good enough.
I have been lucky to have some success as a player and a teacher. As a player, my teachers and mentors kept things simple for me. The game felt complicated, but they kept me focusing on the same basic fundamentals.
This allowed my game to develop, hold up under pressure and ultimately win the state of Florida junior title when I was 17. Over the years, I have stuck to this philosophy and passed it on to my students with the knowledge that it will serve them best.
In closing, I don’t want students to misunderstand the message. Going back to fundamentals — changing a grip after 10, 15 or even 20 years — isn’t starting over. It is actually starting the correct way from this point forward. It is no different than a person who has been overweight his or her whole life, starting a new diet and lifestyle change in an effort to finally lose weight and keep it off.
It is never too late in golf to work on your game and improve. Students of every age can lower their scores with the help of a good instructor, sound fundamentals, a good work ethic and desire. And remember: Keep it simple.
Tom Fischer is a longtime player, former Florida state junior champion and a 24-year member of the PGA of America. He came to Las Vegas in 2006 and was director of instruction at Red Rock Country Club. He is currently the head golf professional at the Las Vegas Paiute Resort. He still plays competitively and was the 2008 and 2009 Southern Nevada PGA Chapter Senior Player of the Year and the low-stroke average winner in 2010. He can be reached for instruction at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 395-1701.