Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were both asked a very similar question independently. If you could have changed one aspect of your game during your career, what would it have been? Their answer? I would have moved my left-hand low in my putting, their lead hand. Two of the greatest champions golf has ever seen, and they both gave the same answer.
Why would two players who have enjoyed so much success in their respective careers change their putting grip? As any PGA Coach will tell you, ALL golfers think they can make more putts. In the past decade, we have witnessed any number of manipulations to the conventional grip on television and by those we play with regularly. Before you go down that never-ending road, consider switching to left hand low in your stroke (if you’re right-handed).
Before you decide to make a change let’s first diagnose if we need to change. Altering your putting grip is an adjustment. We can always experiment, but we don’t ever want to change just because we miss a few. Consider this putting self-assessment.
• Do you miss the hole from under 3 feet?
• Do you have a significant problem with distance control under 10 feet?
• Does your stroke feel loose and “wristy?”
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you’re a perfect candidate for a lead hand low putting grip. How do we change our grip? Start by taking your normal grip of the putter. Your trail hand will be lower on the grip than the lead hand. Get in your putting stance. From your address position over the ball, switch your hands. Take your lead hand and place it lower on the grip reversing the two. It’s very important to make the switch while in your putting posture. The reason is, so the grip is the only thing you change.
With your new connection to the club, we will instantly reap a couple of cool benefits. First, the wrists will not break down during our stroke. Remember the question about distance control? Here’s where it applies. Keeping those wrists steady in our putting stroke makes the delivery speed of the putter clubhead much more consistent. No more waving at the ball or flicking your wrists through impact. Having that lead hand low will help you successfully solidify that stroke.
Another benefit to this approach with the lead hand low, the shaft of the putter will go up your forearm. When golfers grip the putter conventionally, they tend to create an angle at address between the arms and the shaft. This gives the appearance that the toe of the putter is up when it sets on the ground. When the putter shaft feels like an extension of the forearms, we have a better opportunity to keep the face square to the line and flat on the putting surface.
Do you miss the hole from close range? That only happens because the face is turning through our stroke. Getting that shaft and forearm aligned will help significantly. In reading this, you’re probably more than ready to run out on the practice green and give it a try. Please do, just understand if you’re putting well enough to answer no to all three of the above questions, you just need more practice. Changing your grip won’t solve that problem.
This weekend in Texas on the PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth is near the top of the leaderboard. He puts his lead hand (left) low. Always considered one of the best modern-day putters even through his swing struggles, Jordan is great at both face and speed control. Watch him this weekend, take the self-assessment and if you feel it’s necessary, follow his lead… hand.
Be sure to tune into PGA Coaching Live presented by Cadillac at www.pga.com/pga-coaching-live next week during the 103rd PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island for more great coaching tips from PGA Professionals. Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.