Sam Snead won a record 82 PGA Tour events using a grip he described as “the same you'd use to hold a live bird,” a nod to his preference for gripping the club lightly, or just tight enough to keep it from flying away. Easy for Sam to say. The story goes that the Slammer’s mitts were stronger than a shop vise—soft to him meant a miner’s handshake to everyone else. But he’s spot on: soft hands are fast hands. The trick is to sufficiently secure the club in your paws without having to tense your wrists and forearms. A boost in finger and overall hand strength can make it happen. Here are four ways to pump up your digits and take the preferred soft—yet solid—hold.
1. Roll Your Rocks
Cradle two balls in your right hand. Using your fingers, roll them clockwise in your palm, as if they’re Chinese Baoding balls. Rotate the balls as fast as possible without having them pop out of your hand. Seems simple, but you’re rapidly boosting finger flexibility and dexterity. After a minute or so, switch directions. Not as easy, right? That’s fine—improving your focus and coordination can only lead to better swings. Make sure to work your left hand, too.
2. Press to Impress
Bring your fingers and thumbs together, as if you’re holding a tiny hamburger in front of your mouth. Pressure each digit hard against its opposite then slowly allow your fingers to splay outward. Do it slowly, feeling the muscles and tendons in your hands, wrists and forearms tense and flex. Bring your palms to a close then work backward into the splayed position and ultimately your starting point, maintaining pressure the whole way. Do 20 reps before your pre–round warm–up, at your desk, while you’re on the couch watching tube—whenever. I do about 100 a day. Your fingers can’t ever be strong enough in this game.
3. Splay to Win
Make a fist with both hands. Squeeze, until your knuckles turn white (five seconds should do). At that point, rapidly “flick” your fingers, splaying them upward and outward. Hold for a few counts, using the muscles in the back of your hand to pull your digits as far back as they can go. Do 10 reps—you’ll feel the burn from your fingertips to your elbows.
4. Go Bold with Your Hold
This is both an exercise and your new go-to method for gripping the club on every swing. Using your right hand, hold the club out in front of you at a 45–degree angle, making sure that the leading edge on the clubface runs straight up and down. Next, press your left hand against handle, palm open. Because the shaft is angled at 45 easy, you’ll find it easy to run the grip across the base of each knuckle with your wrist soft and relaxed. Close your fingers, and remove your right hand. "Bounce" the club up and down a few times, feeling the weight of the clubhead in your left hand. Add your right hand to the handle, make one final check that the leading edge is still pointing straight up and down, and then sole the club on the ground. The club is in your left-hand fingers—that alone can boost swing speed. And these workouts have made them stronger, so you can grip the club "softer" while exerting more control. Now go slam one down the center of the fairway.