How to Grip a Putter
Want to become a better putter? Here's a review of some of the most popular putter grip styles and underlying fundamentals.
There are obviously many different ways to grip the putter. If you spend a little time watching a professional golf event on TV, you’ll be exposed to all these various grip styles. You’ll see conventional grips, cross-handed grips, several variations of the claw grip, and other even more “creative” ones. But what you’ll also come to realize is that golfers can be effective putters using any one of these grip styles. This is clearly an area of the game that allows the golfer some individuality and personal preference.
Besides the actual style of grip that they use, however, there are a couple vital underlying basics about their grip that you may not be able to see on TV. There are two underlying fundamentals that all great putters employ, regardless of which grip style they use, and you should immediately incorporate them into your putting grip as well.
In this article, we’re going to review some the most popular putter grip styles, but before we do that, let’s make sure that you understand these mandatory, underlying fundamentals that you simply must adopt if you want to become a better putter.
Fundamental #1: The Putter Grip is Different
Than the Full Swing Grip
Many amateurs make the mistake of gripping the putter in the same way that they grip their full-swing clubs. It’s important to realize that the two are, and need to be, different.
In the full swing grip, when done properly, the shaft is held in the fingers of your hands - not up in the palms - and it rests underneath the fleshy heel pad at the base of your lead hand (see photo to the right). Gripping the club this way allows you to maximize the amount of hinge (and unhinge) that your wrists can create, which is what produces power and speed in the swing. It also allows for a lot of face rotation, which is necessary to square and release the club.
However, the results that come from gripping the shaft in that manner for the full swing are exactly the things that you want to avoid when putting. In putting, you don’t need power, you don’t need speed, you don’t need face rotation. What you do need is control, and that comes from orienting the shaft a little differently in your hands.
To minimize face rotation in the putting stroke, it’s important that you grip the club more in the palms of the hands, not in your fingers. The shaft should run through the lifeline of the palm, and rest underneath the other fleshy pad on your hand, the one which is at the base of your thumb. By gripping the club in this way, the face is far less likely to rotate open and shut through the stroke and will be squarer to your target line at impact.
Fundamental #2: One “Lever” Putting is the Key to Consistency
Another problem that results from gripping the putter too much in the fingers is that this often tends to push your hands too low at address so that it creates a two-lever structure. The first lever is your arms from your elbows to your hands. The second lever is from your hands to the putter head. With the hands positioned too low at address, it creates an angle between these upper and lower levers which can introduce inconsistency. How?
With the hands too low, it tends to lift the toe of the putter up at address. When the toe is raised in this fashion, the putter face is aimed to the left of your target, necessitating a compensating swing path to start the putt on line. This two-lever structure also allows unwanted putter face rotation.
The key to avoiding this two-lever issue is to grip the putter higher in the hands (in the palms as described above), which helps to simultaneously create one single lever by raising the hands, so that there is a straight line all the way from your putter head through your forearms. If you look at all the best putters in the world, you will see that almost all of them exhibit this hands-high, single lever setup position, in which the angle of the shaft matches the angle of the forearms.
There Are Several Different Grip Styles
As long as you always follow the two fundamental rules described above, the grip style that you ultimately decide upon is totally up to you. With some experimentation, you’ll determine which method is the most comfortable one for you, gives you the most confidence as you stand over putts and, most importantly, performs the best.
Of the various putting grip styles that are used by golfers, the following four are the most common:
- The Conventional, Reverse Overlap Grip
- The Lead Hand Low Grip
- The Claw Grip
- The Arm Lock Grip
Let’s take a look at each of them.
The Conventional, Reverse Overlap Grip
For many years the Conventional grip style has been the most prevalent one used by golfers. Essentially, the Conventional grip places the right hand below the left hand (for right-handed putters), with the two thumbs aligned one over the other down the shaft. It’s described as “reverse overlap” because the index finger of the left hand is placed over the bottom fingers of the right hand. This is the exact opposite of how the fingers are positioned in your full swing grip (hence the name Reverse Overlap). In the full swing overlapping grip, the right pinky finger is placed over the left index finger.
Although many golfers will find this grip to be the most natural and comfortable one, it does tend to work better with golfers who have a little natural arc to their putting stroke. Accordingly, a putter head that tends to open and close during the stroke (i.e., one with a little “toe hang”) would be the perfect complement to this grip style.
As the most common of the grip styles, there are obviously dozens of pros who employ it. Some of the bigger-name current Tour pros who use the Conventional grip are Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm.
Lead Hand Low (sometimes called Cross-Handed)
As its name clearly suggests, this grip style reverses the position of the hands on the club, with the left hand placed below the right hand. As with the Conventional grip, both thumbs should be oriented on the top of the shaft.
The reason many golfers opt for the Lead Hand Low style is because this positioning of the hands tends to force the shoulders to be more level. This contrasts to the Conventional grip, where some may feel that the lower right hand produces a corresponding lower right shoulder.
This grip style often favors those who have a straight-back-straight-through stroke, in which the amount of face rotation is minimized. Consequently, those who have this type of stroke path, and who opt for the Lead Hand Low style, may do better if they select a “face balanced” putter. Face balanced putters tend to limit natural face rotation, so they would match well to this type of grip and swing path.
Some popular players who use the Lead Hand Low grip: Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson.
The Claw Grip
One of the most common putting stroke flaws is an over-active right hand. A right hand that becomes too dominant in the stroke can result in a lot of inconsistency in direction, the most frequent result being a putt that is pulled to the left. It seems that golfers have always been plagued with this issue and have sought ways to limit the control that the right hand seemingly wants to assert.
It was for this exact reason that the Claw Grip was invented. Because of the way that the right hand is placed on the club in this grip style, its influence in the stroke is lessened, and the putter face can therefore remain squarer to the intended line.
There are many variations to the Claw Grip, as golfers have experimented with numerous ways to position the right hand. But regardless of the variation, all of them have a single purpose: minimizing the effect that the right hand has in the stroke.
Some of the PGA pros who use a version of the Claw Grip: Colin Morikawa, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood.
The Arm Lock
In the Arm Lock grip, the putter shaft is placed along the left forearm, in effect stabilizing it so that the golfer can maintain better control of the clubface. Because the shaft is intended to be in close contact with the lead forearm, users of this grip style often add length to their putter, allowing them to run the shaft up to their forearm without having to bend over uncomfortably to accommodate a standard length putter. The Arm Lock style ensures that the bigger muscles are controlling the stroke, rather than the potentially more “twitchy” smaller muscles.
Some of the PGA pros that are using the Arm Lock method: Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley.
Whichever of the various grip styles you decide to use, you should opt for the one that feels the best to you and is the one that allows you to sink more putts. As you can see from the pros that use the various grip styles, you can be an effective putter with any of them.
But, regardless of the style that you choose, you won’t be as effective as you could be unless you adopt the putting grip fundamentals that we discussed earlier. Gripping the putter higher up in the palm of the hands, while simultaneously creating a single lever by aligning the putter shaft with your forearms, is essential to gaining consistency.
So, whether you use a conventional grip, a cross-handed grip, the claw grip, or the arm lock, getting the putter initially placed properly in your hands will be the secret to better performance on the greens.