There are quite a number of different grips that may be advantageously used for playing golf-by different people. I have very little doubt that of the grips commonly used that which is generally called "The Vardon grip" is the best.
The Vardon grip was not introduced by Harry Vardon. It was known and used before Vardon took it up, but he undoubtedly set the fashion for it and it is the best of the known overlapping or interlocking grips.
I may say at once that I do not believe in any of the interlocking grips although we have one or two cases of golfers who have made history by the use of some form of interlocking grip. I cannot see any possible advantage in an interlocking grip that cannot be obtained better by an overlapping hold.
The outstanding features of the Vardon grip are that the thumb of the left hand is buried between the palm of the right hand and the shaft of the club and the little finger of the right hand rides on the forefinger of the left. This grip, with slight differences in the positions of the hands on the shaft, is used by Braid, Taylor, Vardon, Duncan and many of the leading golfers. The great claim made for it is that it brings the wrists more closely together and so leads to a more harmonious action.
There is very little doubt that this claim is well founded. It is not, however, so certain that the advantages of the grip are so great as is commonly supposed in England. In America the grip is not nearly so popular as it is in England where golfers are extremely prone to follow the lead of success. Some very fine English golfers have not adopted the overlapping grip and in America a great number of the leading players still use the old two handed grip.
In speaking against the Vardon overlapping grip one is confronted by a fairly stiff argument in the shape of at least sixteen open championships won with it. It sounds almost revolutionary to say it but I am inclined to think that this does not necessarily prove that the Vardon grip is the best for golf or even for the majority of golfers. On the contrary, I am inclined to think that for the majority of golfers it is a dangerous grip and one that is calculated to induce the player to ease his grip with his right hand during the swing, and this is a particularly objectionable habit to cultivate.
If one must use an overlapping grip I am inclined to think that the reverse overlap to that used by Vardon is safer and for at least ninety per cent. of golfers more efficacious than that in general use. In this case the forefinger of the left hand over-rides the little finger of the right, the left thumb as in the Vardon grip lying at the base of the right thumb between the shaft and the palm of the right hand.
The Vardon grip, in my opinion, tends unduly to weaken the grip of the right hand while the suggested overlap gives the right hand its proper position on the club, does away with the great tendency to open up the right hand, and exerts a most beneficial influence in checking one of the most prolific causes of inaccuracy in golf, namely, the deep-rooted tendency to overswing that seems to be inherent in most golfers-or would-be golfers. This shortening of the swing is of much greater importance that is realized, and I shall have occasion later to deal with it fully.
It is however impossible to dogmatize about the matter of grip. There is probably one grip that is best for most players. I think that the new grip suggested by me will, in the course of a few years, perhaps sooner, come into general use, but even then, it will not suit every one. So it resolves itself into this for the individual. He must try the various grips and choose the one that suits him best, if he is going on his own judgment, assisted by the book, or he must (in reason, of course) follow the advice of his professional, but always I should advise a beginner, and indeed any player who is off his game, to try the new overlap, as I am convinced that it has advantages that the Vardon overlapping grip does not possess.
I do not want to enter into any wearisome argument in favor of the new overlap. I may however direct the attention of my readers to the remarkable records of Messrs. John Ball and H. H. Hilton. The Vardon overlapping grip played no part in making their fame, therefore it is at least certain that the overlapping grip is not a necessity. Argumentative people may point to the records of Braid, Taylor and Vardon. The answer is that probably these men would have won with any of the grips used in golf. We may even go further and say that we cannot possibly say how much better they might play if they were to adopt the proposed method of overlapping instead of that used by them.
Now there will be few to deny that the golf of Messrs. Ball and Hilton is right-handed golf.
Allowing this to be the case what argument can we find in changing grips for making so sudden and radical a change as to deprive the right hand of its place of honor on the shaft and for giving that to the left, for that is what we do in the Vardon overlap. We take away the full grip with the right and give that to the left. In the proposed overlap I proceed by the more natural stage and allow the right hand to take its proper place on the shaft without being interfered with in any way, for the insertion of one thumb at the base of the ball of the other thumb cannot be regarded as an interference; indeed it is probably very useful in tending to prevent one getting too much of a palm hold.
Gripping the club correctly is unquestionably of very great importance and it behooves the beginner to try most carefully and earnestly to get the grip that suits his hands and build best. It is, as I have at various times indicated, almost impossible to dogmatize on this subject, but there is another matter of fundamental importance which should be taught just as soon as one knows how to hold a club, yet is most consistently neglected in nearly every book on golf and by at least nineteen of twenty professionals. I refer to the soling of the club.
Many quite good players handicap themselves by their faulty method of soling the club. It is not unusual to see golfers addressing the ball with the toe of the driver cocked up in the air and the heel resting on the ground. This is a mistake. At the address one should strive to place the club as nearly as may be in relation to the ball in the same position as one intends it to be when it returns to the ball in the downward swing.
It must be remembered that the sole of the club is meant for the club to rest on. It is not necessary in addressing a ball that the club shall rest on its sole, but in ninety per cent. of golf strokes it is advisable that the sole should be allowed to perform its office. The loft of a club bears a definite relation to the sole. This has been settled by the club-maker. Therefore in addressing your ball let your club rest on its sole. This is a good general rule though it is not without many exceptions to prove it. For instance, my most prized mashie has practically no sole, for it starts curving upwards and backwards directly it leaves the lower edge of the face of the club.
A player should not require the sole of his club by which to sole his club, but it is undeniably expedient in most cases, when addressing the ball, to lay the club so that it rests easily and naturally with the whole of the sole in contact with the turf.
As one gains experience it is probable that one will have a club or two, especially in the future, that does not give the fullest indication of how to sole it by the shape and breadth of its sole; also, of course, the soles of many clubs are now curved. The player will however be well advised, wherever possible, to sole his club in the manner indicated by the make of the club. I cannot make this too clear, for it is a matter of the greatest importance. Let me therefore give a very simple yet forcible illustration.
One is addressing one's ball for a drive with an ordinary driver or brassy. Imagine that the shaft is sawn off at the socket. Take the club head and put it down on the turf behind the ball so that it rests fairly and flatly behind the ball, and so that a line taken from the face of the club through the ball to the hole would form with the front edge of the face of the club two right angles.
The idea in one 's mind must be that the face of the club runs at right angles to the line to the hole at the moment of address and particularly at the moment of impact. This is always of vital importance especially in putting.
Remember that there must be no cocking up of the club in any way. It must rest truly and fairly on the sole. There are four ways in which people offend. They address with the club cocked up at the toe, which is very bad. Others address with the club down at the toe. This is a rarer and a worse fault.
A by no means uncommon fault is to address with the front of the sole a little off the ground while others again are inclined to lift the back of the club and press down in front. All of these eccentricities should be avoided and the club allowed to rest firmly and lightly on the grass.
Most professionals now sole the club in front of the ball when addressing for the put. It is astonishing how these fashions spring up and take hold. The idea is that one is able to get a better line from the face of the putter to the hole if one's view is unobstructed than one can if the ball comes between one's putter and the hole. Great putting was done, before this method was introduced, by people who have not used it, much very bad putting has been done by champions who have used it, and much really good work has been done by players who habitually use it.
This is a fair summing up of the case so far as regards this method of address. Most of the great players in England do it, but unless one can put better this way than in the old style it is inadvisable to worry about altering one's method. There are many details in connection with soling the club and putting that are of infinitely greater importance than this matter.