The grip is golf's most profound fundamental. All of the game's contradictions — simultaneous demands for control and release, delicacy and power — are contained in the hands. Nothing is as vital, as subtle or as kingdom-unlocking. There is Zen in the grip.
There's also a good chance that there's something wrong with the way you hold the club. Harvey Penick was a gold mine on the subject. "If you don't have a good grip, you don't want to play good golf," he said. And, "I can go on talking about the grip until it's too deep for [even] me to understand."
Plainly, the simple act of holding a club is an art, and hands that do it well resemble Da Vinci drawings. But there's bad art too, even among the best players. LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin guaranteed herself a hook with a left hand so strong (that is, with the thumb to the right of center) that it was almost upside down. David Duval and Paul Azinger close the club face with similar strangleholds, while Fred Couples flips it open. Snooping on Tour revealed a few quirks. Todd Hamilton tries to engineer a fade by having his grips turned a bit to the right. J.L. Lewis insists on having his compressed exactly a quarter of an inch, so that they're 10 1/4" in length instead of 10 1/2". Some players like the thicker rubber of the .580-inch diameter grip; others prefer the .600s. (We're talking about the diameter of the hole at the end of the grip, of course, not the width on the outside, which is the same for either grip.) They play around with the tape underneath — buildups under the right hand, for example, or more wraps to remove the taper. They're sensitive as surgeons, some of them, so we asked 10 heirs of Harry Vardon for their gripping tales.
Check out this gallery of unique grips, including Jesper Parnevik's choke hold, Chris DiMarco's trademark claw and Anthony Kim's magazine-made grip.