PGA Professional Josh Nichols knows golf on all levels. As a competitive player, as a dedicated teacher and as the Head Professional at one of Georgia's most high-profile faclities, TPC Sugarloaf, just north of Atlanta.
And in all of his golf roles, Nichols understands the importance of making the game easier and how to give golfers the greatest chance of success and enjoyment each time they swing the club. The easiest and most basic adjustment almost all golfers should make is to change their grips, he says, because proper grips can make a huge improvement in every golfer's game.
PGA.com: Josh, how long have you been playing golf?
Nichols: I've been playing golf 19 years, been working in the business 16 years.
PGA.com: We know you're a great advocate for golf, for playing and for the industry, but be blunt with us. We're here to talk about golf grips. Now, it makes good copy, a good promotional, to say "check your grips." But do you really check your grips when you play or practice -- or even teach?
Nichols: I check my golf grips every time I pull out my clubs. Maybe not a conscious inspection of every grip, but I pay attention to how they handle and feel in my swing. I can't hit the shots I need to hit, can't control the clubface the way I need to control it, unless I have 100 percent confidence that my grips allow for me to handle the club the way I intend. So even if it's not an active thought every time, but I definitely notice when it doesn't feel right.
PGA.com: And how often do you actively think about changing out your grips?
Nichols: I will have new grips at least once per year, usually before golf season really ramps up. I want time to get a feel for how the new grips feel in my hands. If I played more, it would be more, but once a year works for me and would probably work for most players.
PGA.com: As a teacher, what role does a good set of golf grips play for your students?
Nichols: They are as important as your actual golf swing. One of the first things we teach is grip pressure in the swing. If barely holding the club is a 1 and a death grip is a 10, I like to encourage students to hold the club with a "3" at address. The grip pressure will automatically increase in the swing as you simply need to hold on to the club, but the light grip at the start helps every other part of the swing. But if your grips are worn, if you have to grip a little tighter or your club twists any as you make contact with the ground or ball, your chances for success are greatly reduced.
PGA.com: So from your perspective, what percentage of golfers need to change their grips?
Nichols: Honestly, I'd say about 70 percent.
PGA.com: That's a high number.
Nichols: But it's true. You know there's an old adage in golf and golf instruction: "You can't buy a golf game." And that is right. It's always going to take good mechanics and practice, brought on by good instruction and hours on the range. But changing your golf grips might be the closest thing you can do to actually spending a relatively inexpensive amount of money and immediately playing better golf. Seriously, golfers would be shocked at the difference it would make for them.
PGA.com: You're not just saying this to get more regripping business?
Nichols: (laughter) No, not at all. Heck, I'd prefer if every player bought a new set of irons every year. But in all seriousness, golf can be a tough game. Every golfer deserves to give himself -- or herself -- the best chance to hit a good shot on every shot. And too many start at a disadvantage before they even hit their first tee ball. Get those grips fresh and tacky. You'll thank me later.