‘Whatever the putter head does – the ball will do’
It sounds obvious doesn’t it, but less obvious is what can affect the putter head – so let’s just remind ourselves of what we are trying to achieve in the putting stroke… We need to strike the ball at precisely 90 degrees to the target line. Not 89.9 or 90.1 but exactly 90 and at the correct pace for the ball to fall into the hole.
In this article I am focusing on the first part of this to ensure you can hit the ball along your intended target line. If that target line happens to be the wrong target line then you still have no chance of holing the putt – but we will look at that in another article a little later!
There are many parts of your putting stroke that can prevent you from striking the ball at exactly 90 degrees to your target line including how your body is aligned, how you swing the putter and how still you keep your head during the stroke. However – the biggest factor in delivering the club square to the target is your putting grip.
Without a correct putting grip you have little chance of doing this.
NOTE that I said without ‘a’ correct putting grip instead of ‘the’ correct putting grip. This is because there are a number of different putting grips that enable you to hit the ball square to the target, but they all have some things in common – so let’s look at them now.
There are many different ways to hold a putter and I am not going to describe all of them in this article. The best putters such as Brad Faxon and Padraig Harrington use a variation of what is called the ‘conventional’ putting grip. This is where both hands are on the putter grip (as opposed to such grips as the ‘claw’ or ‘Langer’ grip named after Bernhard Langer). Even with the conventional grip there are a number of variations which I describe in this article.
For the vast majority of amateur golfers and certainly for beginners a conventional grip is the one to use. It is the easiest to teach and the most reliable at getting consistent results.
What is your putting grip trying to achieve?
Your ‘normal’ golf grip for irons and woods encourages the wrists to hinge as you swing back and through to generate club head speed. For this reason the golf club lays very much in your fingers. Also your hands are at a slight angle (so you can see at least one knuckle of the top hand).
A putting grip is quite different since it is trying to DIS-courage wrist action. This is because there should be no wrist movement in the putting stroke at all. The putter should lay in the palms of your hands and not the fingers.
When you are using a grip where the hands are holding the putter (for some putting grips such as ‘the claw’ this is not the case) your hands should be exactly parallel to the putter face. The easiest way to ensure you’ve got this right is to take your putter and place your hands either side of the grip as if you are praying (with the fingers pointing down the putter of course). Then simply slide one hand up and the other down without twisting them and wrap your fingers around the grip (which can also be done in many ways). This will ensure your hands are in the correct position to deliver the putter head to the ball at exactly 90 degrees to the target line.
It is worth practicing this motion of getting your hands in the correct position so it becomes automatic…
Where do the thumbs go?
In all variations of the conventional grip the thumbs should point straight down the front of the putter on the flat part of your putter grip. If your putter grip does not have a flat part at the front then please get it changed – without this you are only making putting harder for yourself, plus it’s actually against the rules.
What about the fingers? How should I place them onto the putter?
This is where we start to see some variations within the conventional putter grip…
The first variation is called the interlocking grip. This is slightly tricky to explain in words so I simply suggest you search Google for images using the search term ‘interlocking putting grip’.
The second variation is called the over-lapping or ‘Vardon’ grip (so named after the famous golfer who popularised this grip). Again I suggest you search for images on the web to see how this looks.
The final variation is called the ten finger grip. This is not one that I recommend for reasons I explain shortly, but do by all means have a look for some images so you understand it.
Which finger grip should I use – interlocking, overlapping or ten finger grip?
One of the main aims of the conventional putting grip is to make both of your hands feel ‘as one’ when you are gripping the putter. For this reason I do not recommend the ten finger grip since the hands are actually separated.
Of the remaining two grips (interlocking or overlapping) it really depends on your personal preference and how comfortable you feel. Many golfers with small fingers prefer the interlocking grip, whereas golfers with larger fingers often find this uncomfortable.
Which hand should be on top of the putter and which one should be on the bottom?
Most conventionally your hands should be in the same position as for your normal golf swing – that is to say for a right-handed golfer the left hand should be at the top, and the right hand at the bottom. However – many golfers have been known to switch the hands around when putting – myself included. This can bring a number of advantages including:
- It can help you align your shoulders more easily. The shoulders are the most important part of your body alignment.
- It further discourages wrist movement.
For amateur golfers it can be a little tricky to switch over to this grip since you’re probably not playing anywhere near as much golf as a professional, and it can take a long time to get comfortable with the hands swapped around.
The final part of the grip – grip PRESSURE
Not only is the actual grip important, but also how tightly you hold the putter is very important. Too tight and you will be too tense thus bringing muscles into play that you don’t want. Too loose and the putter may twist slightly in your hands or your wrists could start to ‘break down’ – remember there is no wrist movement in putting.
So – how tight should you hold your putter?
Go grab your putter and grip it as you normally would. Now squeeze is as tight as you can and let’s call this a 10 out of 10 on your grip scale. Now loosen your grip until it’s about to fall out of your hands and we’ll call that zero grip pressure. You should be holding the putter with around a 5 out of 10 on your grip pressure scale – certainly no more…
What is VERY important about grip pressure is that you don’t change it during the stroke.