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Golf: THE GRIP

First of a series of tips from longtime professional Tommy Bolt, who is a resident of Citrus County.

THE PROBLEM: A weak grip. This happens when a right-handed golfer has his or her hands rolled too far to the left, toward the target. If the grip is off, it's hard to have the club square at the point of impact.

THE RESULTS: Most Slicing comes from a weak grip. To strike a ball solid and maintain control, the right hand must be able to glide through the ball. When the grip is weak, it can't. A weak grip opens the shoulders at address, which can cause an outside-in swing. The clubface likely is to open on the backswing, which makes it difficult to square it at impact. The clubhead cuts across the ball, and the ball slices to the right.

"You're out of place," Bolt said. "You can't generate any power with your right hand because it's out of position."

Bolt says the weak grip is easy to spot, and just as easy to correct. But, he added, "You've got to practice."

THE FIX: Rotate your hands away from the target, or slightly to the right. The thumb and index finger on your right hand should form a "V' that points to your right shoulder. The right hand no longer is on top of or over the left. This gives you more flexibility, which in turn allows you to move better with your hands through the ball. The change should be slight. Overcompensation can have the opposite effect, and you could begin to hook the ball.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Sometimes a player has the correct swing but lacks the results. Too often, they tinker with the swing or the ball position when the problem actually is the grip.

"You have to use your hands," Bolt said. "They're part of the swing. If you don't use them, you're not going to be able to maximize your power."

Bolt, 87, knows how important it is to have the correct grip. During his era, he was considered one of the game's premier ball strikers. But it wasn't until Bolt received a tip from legendary player Ben Hogan that his professional career took off. Hogan didn't like the way Bolt, who had the tendency to hook the ball, held the club and changed Bolt's grip. He hit the driving range until the new grip felt comfortable. A month after getting Hogan's help, Bolt won the 1952 Los Angeles Open at famed Riviera Country Club.

"The grip is the most important thing in golf," Bolt said. "You can't have a good swing without a good grip."

_ KEITH NIEBUHR

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