Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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How to Grip a Putter: 9 Ways the Pros Use

The claw. The two thumbs. The alternative reverse overlap. Every golfer at this week’s Masters Tournament has a preferred way to putt and a reason for doing it.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Accurate putting is widely considered the most pivotal golf skill, and the most intractable. While golfers generally hold their clubs the same way for a full swing, when it comes to rolling a little white ball into a hole roughly four inches wide, even the best players in the world contort their hands and arms into exotic grips to calm their nerves and foster consistency.

Here are nine ways that top golfers at this week’s Masters Tournament try to solve the eternal puzzle of putting:

Lee Westwood

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Lee Westwood: The Claw

Popularized about 25 years ago, the claw grip, in right-handed golfers, features a right hand that does not merge with a stabilizing left hand at the top of the putter, as was done in conventional grips for decades. The right hand branches out on its own, with the putter pinched claw-like between the thumb and forefinger, which can purposely make the right hand more passive in the stroke.

Bryson DeChambeau

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Bryson DeChambeau: The Arm Lock

A college physics major whose early nickname on the PGA Tour was “the mad scientist,” DeChambeau was ranked 145th in putting on the PGA Tour until he converted to the arm-lock method and improved his putting ranking to 28th. It’s all about keeping the proper angles: DeChambeau turns his elbows outward in opposite directions and his wrists inward. Simple.

Jordan Spieth

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Jordan Spieth: The Left-Hand Low

The left-hand low grip is likely the most widely used nontraditional way to grip the putter for right-handed golfers. It puts the left hand below the right hand and in an authoritative position to control the path of the putter head instead of a golfer’s dominant right hand. Interestingly, in Spieth’s case, he is naturally left-handed even though he plays golf right-handed.

Matt Wallace

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Matt Wallace: Two Thumbs

Wallace has his palms facing each other with both thumbs on the top of the putter shaft and the index fingers placed along opposing sides of the putter. In theory, this creates symmetry and permits the hands to hang straight down, rather than one above the other in a conventional grip. The shoulders remain level, which makes it easier to develop a (sometimes) preferred pendulum putting motion. Also known as the prayer grip.

Phil Mickelson

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Phil Mickelson: Lefty Claw

Mickelson is right-handed in most things he does other than golf, and his right hand, with a pointed index finger (sometimes called a pencil grip), becomes the top part of his version of the claw grip. The left hand is in the guiding position. Mickelson values the claw because it makes it easier to have “a longer, smoother stroke” on the fast greens of the Masters and tour events.

Tiger Woods

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Tiger Woods: The Reverse Overlap

Although Woods is not at this year’s Masters, a photo from the 2020 tournament shows Woods using what is perhaps the most common putting grip in golf. He has rarely strayed from the revered reverse overlap. His left forefinger lies across the right hand, settling between the third and fourth fingers. Woods says the best part of the grip is the unity it brings to both hands.

Brooks Koepka

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Brooks Koepka: Alternative Reverse Overlap

Koepka, a four-time major champion, has adapted the reverse overlap by extending his right forefinger rather than curling it around the shaft. One intended advantage of this style is that the angle of the right wrist can remain the same through the stroke so that the putter face does not waver open or closed and cause an inconsistent ball path.

Adam Scott

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Adam Scott: Long Putter Claw

Scott is the only Masters champion to have used the older version of a long putter, which could be anchored against the chest. Revised rules forbid the top of the putter touching the body frame, but Scott has adjusted with a right-hand low claw grip. He also tends to leave the flagstick in the hole while putting, which is not common.

Justin Rose

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Justin Rose: Modified Claw

Rose likes to think of his left arm as the driving force of his stroke, and he frequently practices putting with his left hand only. His version of the claw has his two right fingers over the top of the shaft instead of resting on the side. Asked why he prefers this grip, Rose had the most basic, succinct answer of all: “It feels simpler.”

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