August 31, 2007
There’s a highly competent senior golfer at Shawnee Country Club, whose unusual nickname is actually a sign of respect for his skills.
“Nice Shot Bob” Byrd is what he’s often called, especially when playing a round with him. After all, it’s what you find yourself saying again and again, especially after one of his long high drives or soft-landing approach shots to the greens.
The fact that the retired Air Force sergeant is also a genuinely nice guy is just an added bonus.
Nice Shot Bob came to my rescue recently, and I thought I should let other folks know about it.
For several years, I’ve had occasional trouble with my left wrist while playing golf. It’s a bit like tendonitis. On certain swings, where I take a larger divot than usual, a sharp pain just past the base of my left thumb makes an immediate appearance. The chance of having it happen is one reason I prefer to sweep my iron shots.
I’m usually able to shake it off when it happens, but when a similar twinge began to show up at the base of my left index finger, it was much harder to play through.
As my golf swing would bottom out, I would feel a needle-like stabbing. It would be so painful that it would make me release my grip on the club immediately. It would occur with a tee shot, or an approach swing, without any divots.
The physical pain was often matched by the poor swing results on the same shot.
While in a round with Bob, it happened again a few times, and I told him about it.
“Try a ten-finger grip,” he said. “I’ve been using it for years, and it should help your finger compared to your overlapping grip.”
My Vardon grip, named in memory of the British Open winner who invented it, put my right hand’s pinky finger over and above the finger that was giving me all the trouble. The downswing pressure pushed the right hand onto the left. This one connection was where the greatest pressure was applied.
The new grip is sometimes called the Baseball Grip, for obvious reasons. It felt really weird initially, after years of using the Vardon style, but as a way to avoid pain it worked like a charm. There were no stabbing sensations, and there were no worries that it might show up when I least expected it. No part of my right hand was pushing down on my left.
Nonetheless, it took a while to acclimate myself to the new grip. Making a good swing with the driver or fairway woods came pretty quickly, but my iron shots with all ten fingers holding on were far more erratic for a few weeks.
I began going to the driving range to practice the new grip, focusing on one or two irons per session until the swing results began to repeat themselves. That helped a lot.
A quick check of golf sites on the Web confirmed Bob’s advice. Here’s what Michael Lamanna of The Phoenician says about it:
The Ten Finger … is the least preferred grip among teachers. It does, however, have its advantages. Hall of Fame Member Beth Daniel [and] PGA Tour members Bob Estes and Dave Barr … have all used the Ten Finger grip…. People who experience joint pain, have arthritis or small, weak hands often benefit by using the Ten Finger grip.
For some reason, using the ten-finger grip also makes it easier to lighten my grip pressure on the clubs. I’ve been trying to keep my hold at about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being as light as possible and 10 as a death grip.
The combination is paying off. With a ten-finger grip, an easier swing, and lighter grip pressure, my good tee shots are nice little draws that run out to 230-245 yards, about 15 to 20 yards longer than before.
Nice tip, Bob. Thanks!