December 10

The Ben Hogan Grip and How it Helps You Hit Better Shots

Golf Lessons

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In this little lesson, we're going to talk about the Ben Hogan grip.

But first, there's a thing I like to use, as a type of "baseline" for golfers: the PGA Method.

It's an acronym, where:

  • stands for "posture",
  • G stands for "grip", and
  • A stands for "address"

While the "P" and the "A" are just as important to a fundamentally-sound swing, in this post we're going to focus on the "G" part.  To that end, we'll use Ben Hogan and his golf grip as the model.

Personally, I think Hogan was a genius.  I love his book, Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf (I have the Kindle version), and would recommend it to anyone.  The only other two books I think are easier, or as easy, to digest are listed along with this one in another post, "7 Golf Books That Can Fix Your Golf Game".

Seriously... I don't shill for much, but I will for these.  Yes, the Hogan link above, as well as the links in the "7 Books" post are affiliate links... but as I've said before, I only do this for the things I truly believe in.

So, how did Ben Hogan grip his clubs?

It was a process.  Honestly, it takes longer to describe than it does to do, but here goes...

The "Top" Hand

the Ben Hogan grip; top hand 1
the Ben Hogan Grip top hand, with "pressure points"

This is literally how he started the grip with his "top" hand.  By "top", I mean the right hand for us lefties, and left hand for you (durn) righties.

The club runs almost along the "lifeline"; it goes over the first knuckle of the index finger, and under the heel pad.  If you're doing it right, you should be able to hold the club just fine with only the index finger and heel pad, like I'm doing in the picture with the circles.

Ben Hogan Grip, top hand fully closed

From there, all you need to do is clamp the thumb pad and remaining fingers down on the grip.  Hogan recommends clamping the fingers down first, then the thumb.  Speaking of the thumb...

NOTE: the thumb should be considered here.

Some prefer a golf grip with a "long" thumb, where it's fully extended down the grip.  Others, like Hogan, preferred a "short" thumb, where it was held tighter to the rest of the hand.  Don't be afraid to experiment here.

This is where I believe there's a big difference, so pay attention!

Long Thumb: promotes a fade

Short Thumb: promotes a draw

The length of thumb can also affect the timing of the swing.  Hogan said in his book (p. 32):

Right after I came out of the service, I changed from what is called the "long thumb"... to a modified "short thumb", contracting my left thumb and pulling it up a half inch.  The "long thumb" let the club drop down too far at the top of the backswing, and it was really tough to get my timing right.

You want control over the club at all times; getting the right thumb length for your swing will help you do that.

This is what a "short" thumb looks like:

top view of the hogan grip

The back of the hand and the face of the club should be facing the same direction.  Like this:

the back of the hand and club face aim in the same direction

On a side note, this is where those drills with watches come into play.  A watch faces the same direction as the back of your hand (unless you're like me and like a loose-fitting watch), so pairing it with the club face makes sense.  Do you need the watch?  Not really, but it does help for visualization.

See now how the Ben Hogan grip starts to help you?  You don't have to watch the club face to know if the club's face is square to the target line.  Your top hand does it, which is closer (and easier) to see!  

The Bottom Hand

the bottom hand in the Ben Hogan Grip

Both hands should fit together.  Hogan described it as a "single unit", two hands working in unison.

front view of the bottom hand
side view of the bottom hand
alternate side view of the bottom hand

See that?  One "unit".

Now comes the tricky part... what to do with the pinky finger of the "off" hand.

This is what Hogan, myself, and many others do:

The Ben Hogan Grip utilizes the Vardon style... but it isn't a requirement

The pinky rests between the index and middle fingers of the dominant hand, in what's called an "overlapping" or "Vardon" grip.  

If you're more comfortable interlocking the pinky and index finger, or setting them next to each other (the so-called "10-finger" or "baseball" grip) do that; it has no bearing on anything, generally speaking, other than comfort and allowing the hands to work together.

One word of advice: when you take your golf grip, don't pinch the index finger and thumb of the dominant hand.  Hogan was against it.  It makes sense, as it adds tension to the hands, which will only slow down the swing.

You want to be relaxed, which will allow you to move through the ball fast- and fast means distance!

don't pinch!  we don't want tension here!

One word of advice: when you take your golf grip, don't pinch the index finger and thumb of your dominant hand.  

Hogan was against it.  It makes sense, as it adds tension to the hands, which will only slow down the swing.

See how the hands face each other?  I don't get into that whole "strong", "weak" stuff; I want my hands to be comfortable when working together.  Hogan liked to have the "V" (the line created by the thumb and index finger pressing together) of his "top" hand to point at his right eye... or left eye, if you're a lefty.

It's a good place to start.  As Hogan calls it, a "check point".  If you like it, keep doing it.  If it doesn't work for you, work to find a position that does.  For me, I was better off going to what's considered a more "neutral" position.

The Ben Hogan Grip: Putting it Together 

As Hogan says:

(B)eing painstaking about learning to grip (the golf club) rewards you a thousand times over.  Once you have mastered a correct grip- and assuming your stance and posture are also correct- you can practically forget about what the hands will be doing, or what they have to do, during the swing.  They will take care of themselves.

It sounds cliche, but the Ben Hogan Grip really is set and forget.  It'll allow you to do more important things, like managing your way around the golf course.  That's why they're called "fundamentals", after all!


About the author 

Justin Blair

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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