Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all used “the claw” putting grip at the Ryder Cup, further de-stigmatising the awkward-looking, though effective style.

When watching the professional golf tours on television, it is very easy to get seduced by the wonderful lifestyles the lucky few enjoy. Never was this more amply demonstrated than at the Ryder Cup in France, when the best from Europe took on the best from the USA.

Full of pomp and pageantry, the commercially successful Ryder Cup for the players is in reality, little more than a battle for bragging rights, as well as an opportunity to
robustly scrutinise their skills in one of the most excruciating team pressure cauldrons of all of sport.

Top of the list of skills for any professional golfer with any aspirations towards a long career is putting. As Lee Trevino once said: “Bad putters are like dogs chasing cars. They don’t last long.”

No-one knows this better at the moment than Rory McIlroy. Poor putting is confidence-shatterering, but stubbornness — always believing it is going to turn around — may even be worse. How long more before consistently underwhelming results and failing confidence force him to try something new?

For his part, Rory can take confidence from the fact that much like golfing technology, putting too has also begun to evolve dramatically in recent years, so much so that we are now seeing non-conventional putters, such as Pádraig Harrington, Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia regularly winning major championships.

In fact, such has been the impact of these changes that in 2011, putting guru Dave Pelz did a number of putting study tests on the various putting techniques being used by professionals and found that the now outlawed belly-putting (anchored) was the most effective way to putt, followed by cross-handed and then the “claw” method.

The worst way to putt? The conventional-style stroke!

It was Mark O’Meara who first made the claw putting grip famous when winning in Dubai in 2003 against a stellar field, which included Tiger Woods. His method was later adapted and dubbed the “psycho grip” by Chris DiMarco. Back then, the claw method was a borderline unspeakable subject, eliciting giggles and ridicule, but once proven it didn’t take long for it to become more and more popular on Tour, with the likes of
Garcia, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood each using a variation of it in during
their successful Ryder Cup campaign this year.

The claw method is particularly good for players who struggle to control the face of the putter. By taking the lower hand right out of the stroke, it produces a “softer hit” that more regularly starts online and is especially effective for the short putts when under pressure.

Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood putts using the ‘claw’ method on the first green during last month’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Paris. Above: The ‘claw’ grip for a right-handed golfer, such as Fleetwood.
Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood putts using the ‘claw’ method on the first green during last month’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Paris. Above: The ‘claw’ grip for a right-handed golfer, such as Fleetwood.

Is it something you should try? For someone like Tommy Fleetwood, the goal of the claw grip is to effectively neutralise his right (lower) hand by taking it almost completely off the club. By allowing his left hand to remain in a neutral position at the top of the club (down the middle of his left palm) he positions his right hand almost perpendicular to the side, with his right palm facing towards his body.

His thumb on his right hand is wrapped around the club and the only other fingers left on the club are his index and middle fingers. His right-hand grip pressure is usually
extremely light.

The left-hand (for right-handed putters) acts as the main anchor for the stroke, creating momentum and controlling the path, with the right hand is there just to provide added stability.

In most cases, the shoulders dominate the stroke, rocking back and through, helping to keep his hands very quiet, enabling the putter face to remain square to the path throughout the stroke.

He keeps his head still, with his eyes focused on the point where the ball had been long after impact.

This really improves the stability and consistency of his stroke.

More on this topic

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