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Grip Strength Correlations to Speed

As a general observation as a golf coach, a player’s grip strength has always seemed to correlate to that player’s ability to create swing speed. I have observed this phenomenon in a variety of ways including a direct relationship between players who already have extremely high swing speed and players who have deficiencies in both swing speed and grip strength. This simple observation led to all of our players incorporating some type of grip strength training into their physical routines. Seeing this correlation in countless cases has also led our team at SuperSpeed Golf to take an in-depth look into how important grip strength really is to creating club head speed. We’ve looked at comparative data from PGA Tour players, world long drive competitors, and amateur golfers and many published studies that have discussed the relationship between grip strength and various aspects of the golf swing. Our goal as always, is to find the most effective methods of training speed in the golf swing. Golf-specific grip strength training is the next frontier.

First, I’d like to take a look at some grip strength comparisons between professional players and amateur golfers. This data comes from testing static grip strength of golfers we have personally coached and tested in the time frame of 2011-present. The measurements here are in Kg gathered with a standard dynamometer set on the most narrow setting possible.

GroupLead HandTrail HandCombined Avg
Male Tour Players61.858.960.35
Male Long Drive Competitors8481.682.8
Amateurs Combined40.37539.62540
Amateur Males42.741.842.25
Amateur Females27.227.327.25

This data shows quite clearly that professional players have significantly more grip strength than amateurs. Long drive competitors have an even greater amount of grip strength than tour players. It is also important to note that amateur females tend to have extremely low grip strength compared to amateur males. In this data set, 85% of the amateur data is made up of males and 15% of females. 

Why are these differences important to golf performance and specifically swing speed?
As golf coaches, we have been taught since the time of Ben Hogan that we should use light grip pressure on the golf club. Sam Snead famously said, “Grip the club as if you were holding a baby bird.” I don’t believe that these concepts are incorrect from a feel standpoint. However, the “feel” of how much grip pressure a player is using is very closely tied to the percentage of their maximum grip strength being used during the golf swing. A study by J.P. Ramey showed that the maximum grip pressure a player will use occurs during transition of the swing. This makes sense from a physics perspective because the player has to make the club change direction. High level players are also creating some amount of downswing loading during this area of the golf swing, imparting even more force into the handle of the club. Another study by Sean Langlais showed in more detail that high level players tend to show low grip pressure during takeaway, high pressure during transition, and significantly reduced pressure at impact. These studies have been fairly consistent in showing a maximum dynamic pressure of about 32-35 Kg applied to the grip. This amount of grip pressure probably does feel “light” to a player who can produce a maximum amount above 60 Kg, since this is only a bit above 50% of their max and only stays at this level during the transition of the swing. What happens to the player who can only produce 35 Kg of grip pressure at max? If that player was to use 50% of their max, the club would go flying down the fairway, likely farther than the ball. In reality the player wouldn’t ever throw the club. They would simply slow down the swing or create early release of the club lag to reduce the amount of pressure needed to hold onto the club and attempt to accomplish their goal of hitting the golf ball. The main point here is that amateur players who have deficiencies in grip strength can’t create “light” grip pressure and maintain proficient control of the golf club.

From a performance standpoint, deficiencies in grip strength have a strong correlation to deficiencies in swing speed and therefore distance. We are currently working on additional studies to show even more links between grip strength deficiency and specific mechanical tendencies of the golf swing. Many other studies have been conducted in the past to show similar correlations. One in particular by Greg Wells of the University of Toronto showed a “Strong correlation between grip strength and driver ball speed, driver carry distance, and driver total distance”. 

Our goal at SuperSpeed Golf has and will always be to help golfers increase swing speed and distance. So how do we help players who have a significant need to increase grip strength? Many traditional training philosophies tend to overlook specific grip strength training. These methods claim that the process of many exercises involving gripping a bar, dumbbell, kettlebell, or other type of connection to a weight, inherently trains grip strength. This scenario is likely true for players who are training with free weights, especially as those weights become heavier and heavier. Another way to create even more grip strength gains in the gym is to incorporate “fat grip” training during workouts. This involves using a larger grip on barbells and other implements during standard exercises. Patrick Cummings headed a research study at Stony Brook University in partnership with Mississippi State University showing the comparative results of gym training on golf performance with and without the use of “fat grips”. The results of this study showed statistically significant improvements in ball speed, carry distance, and total distance with the test group using “fat grips”, while no significant change was observed with the control group using standard grips. Below are the increases seen in this study.

StatPercentage Change
Ball Speed4.45%
Carry Distance6.56%
Total Distance5.15%

These are great results for players involved in three plus days a week of regular training in the gym. We would definitely recommend adding “fat grip” training to these routines immediately.

What about golfers who aren’t gym rats and still want to increase grip strength? This population also is quite likely to have the largest deficiencies in grip strength and the most to gain from training. We have also reviewed neuromuscular research that shows even bigger performance improvements in many sports with the inclusion of sport-specific motions during the training process. One such study came out of Australia by William Sheehan of the University of Technology Sydney. This study showed, “Golf-specific strength and power exercises may, to a greater extent, induce larger increases in club head speed and carry distance than traditional exercises due to the swing-specific neuromuscular demands”. Essentially, this says that the golf swing is a really complicated movement. Therefore great benefits can be obtained from training specific elements during the actual motor program of the swing.

So we decided to put a lot of this research together and create a “fat grip” that could be used to train during the golf swing. We call this new product the SuperSpeed Squeeze. It is a simple device that fits over the golf grip on any standard golf club. We have also created a training protocol that involves single hand isometric holds, two-hand golf-posture holds, quick burst on and off reps, non-dominant golf swings, and dominant golf swings. Dr. Tyler Standifird of Utah Valley University has been instrumental in assisting with the development of the Squeeze protocol and the initial research on the results of the training. His initial study involved only four weeks of training three times per week and showed significant improvements in grip strength and swing speed.

StandingGolf PostureDriver Speed
Left HandRight HandLeft HandRight Hand
Increase6.30%5.40%5.14%6.70%1.5 MPH

We are excited to bring golf-specific grip strength training to the masses of golfers around the world. We feel that the science is solid on this topic. Amateurs will see improvements in speed and likely many other aspects of their game as a result of this training. We also look forward to continuing our research around this topic to bring even more specific correlations between grip strength and the golf swing to light.

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