Having played golf for nearly 40 years, Stephen Moskal, former French National Circuit pro and the current head coach for Marymount University’s golf team, has successfully transitioned one of his favorite pastimes into a full-time career.
Since moving to Northern Virginia in 2000, Moskal has served as the director of instruction at Fair Oaks Golf Park and Alexandria’s TopGolf, co-founded the U.S. College Camp’s Asia program, worked with the online coaching program GolfSwing Exchange and served as a golf contributor for United Press International.
“Thinking back on all that I have learned, there is no question that in order to have a good swing, you have to have a good grip,” Moskal says.
Moskal points out that having a poor grip can lead to numerous other issues, including the second-most common issue among golfers: using the body to increase power behind the ball. In most cases, players position the club on the ground behind the ball first and then adjust their hands on the club.
“What this does is force the golfer to present their hands to the club open to the sky, invariably leading to a grip where the club is too much in the palms of the hands,” Moskal says. “Once in this position, one can try to shift the club in the hand to make it correct, but it will never feel comfortable.”
That initial poor grip can determine the outcome of the game.
“To understand why this is important, we must understand the functionality of the wrists during the swing,” Moskal says.
While the wrists perform many functions in golf, there are two specific movements that every golfer should pay particular attention to: hinging and rolling.
“The hinging of the wrists refers to a movement which creates leverage in the wrists and arms, best identified by an angle between the club shaft and the left arm,” Moskal says.
According to Moskal, if players don’t create this angle, they won’t be able to hit the ball more than 100 yards.
“The second movement, rolling, is commonly called the release,” Moskal says. “This refers to how a golfer releases energy they have stored in the wrists, and it involves a turning over of the hands as the club comes swooshing through the ball.”
Golfers can determine whether their release was successful depending on the placement of their gloved hand after hitting the ball.
“If the glove hand is still visible on top, the player has not rolled the hands over and not released the club,” Moskal says. “The end result of a swing that lacks leverage and has a poor release is the typical weak slice.”
Fortunately, Moskal offers a quick fix for those who find themselves making this common mistake.
“Hold the club in front of you with your right hand placed just at the end of the grip with the head of the club pointed up to the sky,” Moskal says. “Make sure the club runs along the life line of your left hand but not high in the palm and not too much in the fingers. Once you close your left hand around the club, you can now pay attention to the placement of the thumb of the hand, making sure that it is slightly to the right on the club,” Moskal continues. “Place your right hand so the club is mostly in the fingers and then cover the thumb of the left hand with the palm of your right hand.”
To perfect this technique, Moskal offers another tip: Keep a club next to the home sofa so you can practice in a stress-free environment, like when you’re watching TV.
“Once you have followed these steps, you will see that you have an air-tight grip that will allow your wrists and hands to perform their two main functions: hinging on the backswing and releasing through impact,” Moskal says.
Though grip modifications typically lessen golfers’ tendency to overuse their bodies to compensate for a lack of power, an L-to-L drill can help golfers make sure they address this specific scenario. To perform this drill, place your feet together, and you will have to focus on using your wrists and arms to generate power rather than compensating with the rest of your body.
“When swinging the club back, make sure to form an L [shape] with the shaft of your club and your left arm by the time the arm has swung half to three-quarters of the way back,” Moskal says. “As you swing through the ball into the follow through, create another L with the club shaft and your right arm. This second L position ensures that you have rolled the forearms over and released the club through the ball.”
If golfers correctly complete this movement, their gloved hand will now be on the bottom.
“You will reap the benefits of this drill when you can relax your hands and arms to the point where you feel the weight of the club making the hands release and re-hinge after impact,” Moskal says. “This will mean that you have naturally swooshed the club through impact and you haven’t forced the release to occur.”
Perfecting this drill will lead to an increase in power despite a decrease in physical effort.
“Virtually every single muscle in the body plays a role, and the key is to have each muscle doing its own role and not someone else’s,” Moskal says. “When this is achieved, [you get] the feeling of hitting a great shot with no effort.”