August 14, 2003

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Last week my wife told me "Get a grip." I was rushing through a few chores she had assigned me as I was hoping to be able to get out to the golf course to play a few holes before dark. No big deal right? That's what I thought anyway until she pointed out to me that it was the fourth straight evening that I had gobbled down my supper in record time only to go out and hit a little white ball around. After playing only a handful of times all of last year I can understand how she might be a little perplexed by my newfound love of the game.

Little did she know she had nailed the issue right on the head with her rather ironic quirk about getting a grip on my golf game. Believe it or not but that's exactly what has happened. After a pair of free, five-second lessons from two of my golfing buddies I have adjusted my golf grip and the results have me truly excited about playing. Granted I'm still a few thousand years away from the PGA and unless there is a miracle cure for my putting game I may still never break par. But for the first time I'm hitting the ball relatively straight (most of the time) and gaining more and more control of where the little white ball is going. I'm not close to perfecting it by any means, but the results obviously have me excited enough to want to play more and more golf. I've always heard that it only takes one good shot to make you want to go back and play another day. That has proven true for me, two-fold - It explains why I never wanted to play very much before and why now I want to go as often as possible.

Unfortunately this is not the first time that I have tried to adjust my game. I've tried 101 other quick cures to stop my slice, lengthen my drives and improve my accuracy. These all involved lots of reading, expensive gadgets from the home shopping network or hundreds of hours of backyard practice. More often than not my swing was worse and the results, ugly. So I was out my time and money with nothing to show for it.

But then it happened. I was making my once-a-year appearance in the fundraiser tournament for the course. I made yet another ugly shot off the tee. After my cursing rant was over and he was sure I was not going to begin throwing clubs or some other tantrum that could possibly threaten injury to those around me, one of the golfers in my group asked if he could offer me a suggestion. If you golf, you've heard these words a thousand times. Everyone thinks they know what's wrong with your swing and it doesn't matter that their swing might even be worse than yours is. Shoot I do that to my wife all the time even after she blows her drive 100 yards past mine. But this offer was coming from a golfer whose swing I had been admiring all day so I quickly accepted the merciful offer. (I think he was just tired of watching me struggle so badly and wanted to help speed up the game.)

He asked to watch me grip my club. I felt like this was a plus. The last tip I got to improve my game suggested I loosen my grip enough to let the club fall to the ground. I was told then to walk away and take a week off and then to quit golfing. With that fear alleviated I listened as my new teacher told me in five seconds that I needed to adjust my V's. When you grip the club each hand creates a V where your thumb and forefinger come together. My V's were straight up and down the middle of my club. Golf experts will tell you that your V's need to be further back, aligned together and pointing at your back shoulder. So basically what I need to do was turn my hands over a bit more to the back of the club.

A note of warning here, this is a delicate balance. Move your hands to the right spot and you can quickly eliminate a slice. Move them too far back and you can quickly create a hook.

After a couple swings I was really liking my new grip. But my day wasn't over. At the lunch break I was bragging about my new technique when another friend provided the second part of the lesson, believe it or not also to do with my grip.

Instead of squeezing the life out of the handle like one would do with a ball bat, a golfer needs to keep the club rather loosely down in the folds of your fingers instead of in the palms of your hands. We've all heard to grip a club like you are holding a small bird. Well before I was reminded of this I could have been a wanted felon by the Audubon Society for bird murder as my desire to hit the long ball had me strangling my clubs.

So when I got back out to finish the last nine holes of the tourney I was a new golfer. My new relaxed grip with V's pointing to my back shoulder had changed me. Granted I still have a long way to go, but at least now I expect to hit a good shot instead of being shocked on the rare occasion that I did.

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