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Great Golf: Essential Tips from History's Top Golfers

Great Golf: Essential Tips from History's Top Golfers

by Danny Peary (Editor), Allen F. Richardson (Editor), Gary Player (Foreword by)

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Providing a complete library of golf instruction in one volume, this compilation features a variety of valuable lessons drawn from the most famous, popular, and trailblazing golf books as well as classic and contemporary magazines. Going beyond the standard instructional manual, this is the only golfing reference that presents its information in the original words


Providing a complete library of golf instruction in one volume, this compilation features a variety of valuable lessons drawn from the most famous, popular, and trailblazing golf books as well as classic and contemporary magazines. Going beyond the standard instructional manual, this is the only golfing reference that presents its information in the original words of the great champions, instructors, and authors—both male and female—while also covering every aspect of the game, integrating its history and the parallel development of its multibillion-dollar instruction industry. Featured instructors and players include Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Joyce Wethered, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Jack Nicklaus, Harvey Pennick, Chi Chi Rodriquez, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Nancy Lopez, Dave Pelz, and Vivien Saunders. Showcasing each lesson with feature boxes that condense essential instruction into handy bullet points, this volume’s photographs clearly illustrate the best techniques while countless sidebars, quotes, and tips ensure it is destined to become a classic guide for a timeless sport.

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Great Golf

Game Changing Tips from History's Top Golfers

By Danny Peary, Allen F. Richardson

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2012 Danny Peary and Allen F. Richardson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61749-644-8


The Grip: Art Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The Grip of the Club: Two Hands Like One

1905 • Harry Vardon

Great Britain's "Great Triumvirate" of Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor, and James Braid dominated golf from the early 1890s to World War I. That Vardon surpassed the fame of his two rivals is due equally to his links legacy — "The Stylist" won six British Open titles and was a tremendous success touring America — and his popularization of the overlapping grip that had been pioneered by Scots Johnny Laidlay and F.A. Fairlie and was being used by Taylor and other golfers to make their hands work together. Vardon's seminal The Complete Golfer is still widely read because he explained his influential swing and other reasons he was his era's best all-around player, but the starting point continues to be the "Vardon grip." Although its early detractors feared it might break players' thumbs, it became the foundation for "modern golf" and remains, over 100 years later, the grip of choice.

My grip is one of my own invention. It differs materially from most others, and if I am asked to offer any excuse for it, I shall say that I adopted it only after a careful trial of all the other grips of which I had ever heard. ... In my opinion it has contributed materially to the attainment of such skill as I possess. The favor which I accord to my method might be viewed with suspicion if it had been my natural or original grip, which came naturally or accidentally to me when I first began to play as a boy, so many habits that are bad being contracted at this stage and clinging to the player for the rest of his life. But this was not the case, for when I first began to play golf I grasped my club in what is generally regarded as the orthodox manner, that is to say, across the palms of both hands separately, with both thumbs right round the shaft (on the left one, at all events), and with the joins between the thumbs and first fingers showing like two Vs over the top of the shaft. This is usually described as the two-V grip, and it is the one which is taught by the majority of professionals to whom the beginner appeals for first instruction in the game. Of course it is beyond question that some players achieve very fine results with this grip, but I abandoned it many years ago in favor of one that I consider to be better. My contention is that [my] grip ... is sounder in theory and easier in practice, tends to make a better stroke and to secure a straighter ball, and that players who adopt it from the beginning will stand a much better chance of driving well at an early stage than if they went in for the old-fashioned two-V. My grip is an overlapping, but not an interlocking one. Modifications of it are used by many fine players, and it is coming into more general practice as its merits are understood and appreciated. I use it for all my strokes, and it is only when putting that I vary it in the least, and then the change is so slight as to be scarcely noticeable....

Harry Vardon's Strokesavers:

• Hold the club more in the fingers than the palms.

• Start by laying the club across the knuckle joint of the left forefinger.

•Place the left thumb just to the right of center on the club.

• Fold the right hand over the left thumb.

• Let the little finger of the right hand ride on the first finger of the left.

I do not grasp the club across the palm of either hand. The club being taken in the left hand first, the shaft passes from the knuckle joint of the first finger across the ball of the second. The left thumb lies straight down the shaft — that is to say, it is just to the right of the center of the shaft. But the following are the significant features of the grip. The right hand is brought up so high that the palm of it covers over the left thumb, leaving very little of the latter to be seen. The first and second fingers of the right hand just reach round to the thumb of the left, and the third finger completes the overlapping process, so that the club is held in the grip as if it were in a vice. The little finger of the right hand rides on the first finger of the left. The great advantage of this grip is that both hands feel and act like one, and if, even while sitting in his chair, a player who has never tried it before will take a stick in his hands in the manner I have described, he must at once be convinced that there is a great deal in what I say for it, although, of course, if he has been accustomed to the two V's, the success of my grip cannot be guaranteed at the first trial. It needs some time to become thoroughly happy with it....

I have the strongest belief in the soundness of the grip that I have thus explained, for when it is employed both hands are acting in unison and to the utmost advantage, whereas it often happens in the two-V grip, even when practiced by the most skillful players, that in the downward swing there is a sense of the left hand doing its utmost to get through and of the right hand holding it back.

There is only one other small matter to mention in connection with the question of the grip. Some golfers imagine that if they rest the left thumb down the shaft and let the right hand press upon it there will be a considerable danger of breaking the thumb, so severe is the pressure when the stroke is being made. As a matter of fact, I have quite satisfied myself that if the thumb is kept in the same place there is not the slightest risk of anything of the kind. Also, if the thumb remains immovable, as it should, there is no possibility of the club turning in the hands as so often happens in the case of the two-V grip when the ground is hit rather hard, a pull or a slice being the usual consequence. I must be excused for treating upon these matters at such length. They are often neglected, but they are of extreme importance in laying the foundations of a good game of golf.

From The Complete Golfer, by Harry Vardon. Methuen & Company, London, England.

Club Definitions

Here are the names of now antiquated clubs with roughly their modern equivalents:

Brassy — 2 Wood or 3 Wood
Spoon — 3 Wood
Driving Cleek — 1 Iron
Cleek — 2 Iron
Mashie — 5 Iron
Mashie Niblick — 7 Iron
Niblick — 8 Iron or 9 Iron

Evolution of the Hogan Grip

1948 • Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan's Power Golf was published in 1948, soon after the driven, introverted Texan won the U.S. Open, and a few months before his career almost ended in a nearly fatal car crash. Although less detailed and sophisticated than Hogan's 1957 instructional masterwork, Ben Hogan's Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, it gave readers insight into how the period's most dominant (with Sam Snead and Byron Nelson) and obsessive player never stopped finding ways to improve. In the book's first chapter, the lefty who became a right-handed golfer as a boy revisited how he altered his grip to have more success, coming up with an overlapping grip that had a different finger placement than Harry Vardon's model, and, like Bobby Jones', differed from Vardon's in regard to pressure points. The result was that from 1946 until the accident in early 1949, he would win a remarkable 32 tournaments.

The grip I now use was arrived at by a series of trial-and-error experiments which began when I first took up the game. As recently as the fall of 1945, when I got out of the service, I made a radical change in my grip which I had been experimenting with whenever I got a chance to play golf while in the Army.

I had been aware for some time that if I wanted to make a comeback as a successful golfer after I was discharged from the Army I would have to make a change in my grip to correct a tendency I had always had to over-swing on the backswing....

Formerly I used a grip in which I had what might be best described as a long thumb when speaking of the position of the thumb of the left hand on the shaft. During the course of the backswing that thumb used to slide down on the shaft, and as a result I was always guilty of a certain looseness at the top of my swing which prevented me from getting the maximum of control.

In correcting this I pushed the left thumb back up on the shaft. The entire change couldn't have amounted to more than half an inch in the movement of the thumb, but it was enough to restrict my backswing so that it no longer is loose....

It took me some time to get accustomed to that new grip, but I had ... it in working order when I resumed tournament play in 1945. ... I've used it ever since.

The nearest publicized grip to which my grip can be compared is the overlapping grip made famous by Harry Vardon, the great English player, and adopted by so many top players in this country. Strictly speaking, however, my grip is not the same.

My grip differs from the conventional overlapping grip in the relationship between the little finger of the right hand to the index finger of the left hand and the position of my right hand on my left.

In the conventional overlapping grip the little finger of the right hand overlaps the index finger of the left hand. Whereas I have found that I am able to get a firmer grip, transmitting more power to the clubhead, by gripping the little finger of my right hand around the knob of the knuckle of the index finger of my left hand.

My grip also differs from that of other golfers in that my right hand rides higher on the outside of my left hand. This enables the two hands to act as a single unit, thus imparting considerably more hand action and consequently more clubhead speed at the moment of impact.

Getting the proper grip at the start is one of the most important steps in learning how to play golf. For that reason let us first consider the intents and purposes of the grip in relation to golf.

One reason why the grip is so important is because by means of it we telegraph our energy and our desires to the club. To do this with a maximum amount of efficiency we've got to have a grip which will permit our hands and wrists to work properly as one unit and not against each other.

Ben Hogan's Strokesavers:

• "Shorten" the left thumb, pushing it back a half inch up the club shaft.

• Grip the knuckle of the left index finger with the right little finger.

• Hold the club more in the palm of the left hand, but in the fingers of the right.

• Apply more pressure with the last three fingers of the left hand, and the two middle fingers of the right.

The idea is to have free and uniform hand action throughout the swing while still maintaining the clubface at the proper angle when it strikes the ball. The objective is to make a solid contact of the clubhead with the ball at the exact moment you are telegraphing your greatest amount of energy to the club via the grip....

As I favor my own version of the overlapping grip, naturally that's the one I'm going to talk about. ... Starting with the left hand, my grip is very definitely a palm grip. The leather or rubber grip on the shaft of your club will lie diagonally across the palm of the left hand just above the callus pad.

In folding the left hand around the club the left thumb will be slightly on the right side of the shaft. As you look down on your left hand in gripping the club you should be able to see the first three finger joints on the outside of that hand. It also should be apparent to you that your left hand is well over the shaft.

In gripping with the left hand there is definitely more pressure on the last three fingers of that hand than there is on the index finger and thumb. While gripping with these three fingers you should also push down on the top of the leather or rubber grip of your club with the butt of your hand. This will assure you of a firm grip. Try it and you will get the sensation of having the club locked in that hand.

As far as the right hand is concerned my grip is definitely a finger grip. By that I mean that the club lies diagonally across the fingers of the right hand below the callus pad. When you fold the right hand over the grip on the shaft you will find that if you have gripped the club correctly there is a cup formed in the palm of the hand that will allow space enough for the left thumb. The thumb of the right hand is slightly on the left side of the shaft and not on the top.

Make sure that the right hand rides high on the left hand. The purpose of this, of course, is to mold the two hands together so that they can act as one unit and not two. The greatest pressure in the right hand is in the two middle fingers. That is because the club is well down in the fingers of the right hand with a lot of hand left over.

From Ben Hogan's Power Golf, by Ben Hogan. Copyright © 1948 by A.S. Barnes and Company, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Writers House, LLC, as agent for the Ben Hogan estate.

How to Grip

1977 • Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowden

In the 1950s, then British Ryder Cup captain Dai Rees claimed the interlocking grip was almost passé. In America, Lloyd Mangrum and, for a time, Julius Boros were the only PGA golfers of note using the grip once employed by Francis Ouimet and Gene Sarazen. In the 1960s, only one notable new golfer on the Tour used it, but since it was emerging superstar Jack Nicklaus, the interlocking grip was legitimized once again as a viable alternative to the overlapping grip. Tom Kite, Tiger Woods, and 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy would later use the interlocking grip, but Nicklaus is still the golfer most associated with it. In this essay written with Golf Digest's then editorial director Ken Bowden, Nicklaus asserted he used the interlocking grip because of his small hands, but he argued convincingly that any golfer desiring a natural, firm, easy-to-learn grip that assures the hands will work in unison should give it a try.

My grip today is the one I started with — the interlocking grip, in which the little finger of the right hand and the forefinger of the left hand intertwine. I've nothing against either the overlapping grip or the 10-finger grip, but I really can't understand why the interlocking grip is not more popular. It has, in my view, three big assets. First, it is more natural than the overlapping grip, where the hooking of the small right finger over the knuckle of the left forefinger seems to me to be an artificial linkage. Second, the interlocking grip is the easiest to learn — beginners find it much easier than the overlapping grip. Third, it automatically locks the hands together — you try pulling mine apart! However, the correct grip for you is the one that works best for you. You should experiment to discover which that is, then stick to it.

The right hand grip is primarily in the fingers, for two reasons. First, a finger grip promotes maximum "feel" or "touch." Second, a finger grip allows the right hand to whip the clubhead through the ball with a powerful slinging action. Imagine the way a baseball pitcher generates speed by grasping the ball near the end of his fingers....

I grip the club firmly with all my fingers, but I feel pressure particularly in specific areas of each hand. In the left hand, these pressure points are the last two fingers and the pad or butt of the hand. In the right hand, the pressure points are my thumb and index finger....

Whatever style of grip you choose, keep it as natural as possible. I believe that for most golfers the most natural grip is one in which the back of the left hand and the palm of the right hand and the clubface are square to the target when the player takes his address position. I grip the club this way because I know that with it, if the rest of my swing is correct, the clubface will be square to the target at impact....

Don't be mislead into thinking that big hands are essential for good golf. My hands are small and not particularly strong, but I still get reasonable power into my shots. I do so much more throughleverage than hand action. I create the leverage through my arms and the club, as a result of proper body action and timing. My hands serve primarily as a connection, or hinge, between my arms and the club. As such, they transmit, rather than generate, power.

Jack Nicklaus' Strokesavers:

• Intertwine the little finger of the right hand and the forefinger of the left.

• Grip more firmly with the last two fingers and pad of the left hand.

• Grip more firmly with the thumb and index finger of the right.

• Extend the left thumb down the shaft for more feel and control.

Especially if you have small hands, your left thumb can form a valuable anchor for your grip. Push the left thumb down the shaft as far as it will go — this is what the pros call a "long left thumb." You'll find this will firm up your grip and also increase your "feel" and control.


Excerpted from Great Golf by Danny Peary, Allen F. Richardson. Copyright © 2012 Danny Peary and Allen F. Richardson. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Danny Peary is a sportswriter and a film critic. He is the coauthor of Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero and Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons. He is well known for his collaborative work with announcer and baseball player Tim McCarver. He lives in New York City. Allen F. Richardson is an award-winning journalist who has worked in the United States and overseas. He is the author of four books on golf instruction, including Golf Tips: The Complete Guide to Improving Your Game. He lives in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Gary Player is a professional golfer widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, having garnered nine major championships. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and has won more than 160 tournaments on six continents. He is a renowned golf course architect with more than 300 design projects throughout the world, and he has written several golf books. He lives in Jupiter Island, Florida.

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