Should you have a long thumb grip? Neutral thumb grip? Or, a short thumb grip?
These are good questions to ask because the proper golf grip can make a massive difference in your golf game. Think about it, the grip is the only connection you have with the club so your lead hand plays a big role in the golf swing.
Your whole grip will impact ball flight, distance, accuracy, and more. From beginner golfers all the way to the best players in the world, grip is a foundation to how you play golf.
Long Left Thumb Grip vs. Short Left Thumb Grip
I think most instructors would argue that the golf grip is arguably the most important fundamental in the game. Your grip directly impacts your ability to play different golf shots.
First, you have to decide if you want an overlap grip like most golfers or an interlock grip like Tiger Woods. Then you have to decide on a weak, strong, or neutral grip as each one has their own pros and cons.
There is no proper grip as it’s more of a personal preference.
If you look at some of the best golfers ever they all have different golf grips and wrist position (cupped wrist, bowed wrist, etc.) But the left thumb can impact how well you hit the golf ball more than any other finger.
As Adam Kololoff (one of Golf Digest Best Young Teachers) said, “Your grip has a substantial influence on the club face angle at the top of the swing. Especially where you position the left thumb. That’s because when you hinge correctly the left thumb supports the club underneath the grip.”
- How you grip the golf club plays a big role in your ball striking and total distance.
- One of the main aspects to the grip is the left thumb position (for a right-handed golfer).
- The lead hang thumb can either be a short left thumb grip or a long left thumb grip. Each position has its pros/cons including how much wrist cock you can achieve.
- Paired with a weak, strong, or neutral grip this position can impact ball flight, distance, alignment, and accuraccy.
Keep reading to learn how each position can impact your performance. Plus, we’ll go through other grip best practices that will help you improve one of the most important fundamentals in golf.
Long Left Thumb Grip
A long left thumb is when your finger extends further down the grip than normal. When this happens a few things occur.
First, as your left thumb extends down the grip, the rest of your fingers will extend as well. Additionally, the knuckles of your fingers are flatter on the golf club which might feel different if you’ve used a “short thumb” position.
When you grip the club with a long left thumb this will help get the grip more in your fingers, not your palm.
The biggest change this makes in your full swing is the amount of wrist hinge that you can achieve. Which, for a lot of golfers, is a big problem in their swing.
Too many golfers hinge their wrists late in the swing which can lead to a lot of thin shots (trust me, I’ve been there myself). While you don’t want to hinge your wrists automatically from the address position, sooner is generally better.
A long left thumb will help you hinge properly which should lead to more speed as you’re in a more powerful position at the top of your swing. More power means more speed which means more distance.
So if you’re the type of golfer who wants to gain more speed (without endless hours of golf workouts), this can help.
But not all golf coaches agree with the benefits of a long thumb…
Long Thumb Grip Downsides
While there are some advantages, some golf coaches don’t teach this type of position.
A good example is Mr. Short Game Golf on YouTube who has amassed a huge following of golfers. As he said in this video, “A long thumb grip is no good, here’s why… once you go long thumb you automatically start squeezing tighter with your hand. “
This excess tension in the left hand can lead to a loss of distance and/or losing more shots to the right side of the golf course. He also notes that poor shoulder alignment is a cause from a long thumb golf grip.
So if you do intend to havea. long thumb golf grip, make sure it’s not causing excess tension. Plus, make sure your alignment is still square to the target.
Short Left Thumb Grip
A short left thumb position is the exact opposite of a long thumb grip.
Instead of extending your thumb down the shaft short thumb grips when your finger is in a more crunched, compact position.
The thumb is barely past the rest of your fingers on the grip and looks/feels quite different from a long left thumb. The knuckles won’t lay flat but instead will be more diagonal and cross the grip.
Greg Norman had this say about a shorter thumb position on his website. “Take your usual grip on the club, with your left thumb extended straight down the shaft.
Now, slide the thumb upward, about a centimeter. Notice the effect this has on the tightness of the hold in the last two fingers of your hand. This is exactly where you want a firm, secure grip.”
A short left thumb will lead to a different position for the rest of the fingers on your left hand as well.
Since the thumb is in a shortened position, your other fingers will need to have a similar position. Consequently, this leads to having the grip more in your palm and fingers – instead of just your fingers.
How does this impact the rest of your golf swing?
Two things tend to happen…
First, it’s harder to make a full wrist cock like a long left thumb. Second, the lack of hinge also makes it harder to take a full backswing where the club reaches parallel.
A shorter backswing can lead to timing issues and/or less overall clubhead speed. But if you generate plenty of speed already, this might help produce a more controlled golf swing.
However, Greg Norman also said it was one of the keys he checked out when he experienced “looseness” in his swing.
Making Grip Changes
Depending on your current swing and game, you might need to switch to a short or a long left thumb.
Regardless of which style you adopt, it’s always important to note that grip changes are awkward at first. Since your hands are the only thing touching the club, even the slightest changes can feel very uncomfortable.
I bring this up because a lot of golfers try to take a grip change straight to the course. But instead you should spend plenty of time on the driving range (or even at home gripping a club) until it feels comfortable. Once you can make this grip change automatic in practice, then take it to the golf course.
However, if you have an upcoming competitive event like a member-guest or club championship, don’t make any changes yet. Grip changes can take weeks (or more) to feel comfortable so don’t attempt this change before a tournament. Otherwise, you’ll likely go back to old habits and focus on your golf swing vs. playing golf.
This type of change is great to make during the golf off season if possible.
Do you have more questions about the golf grip? If so, check out our most common questions and answers below.
What is a short thumb in the golf grip?
A short thumb in golf is when your left thumb (or right thumb if you’re a left-handed golfer) is closer together with the rest of your fingers. Instead of extending down the shaft it’s closer to your fingers which can result in a more palm and finger grip.
What is a long thumb in golf?
A long thumb refers to a long left thumb. This means the left thumb (for right-handed golfers) extends more down the grip and past the rest of the fingers. It can help add more full wrist hinge and speed, which is great for a lot of average golfers.
Where do you put your left thumb in a golf grip?
Your left thumb can be in a myriad of positions depending on if you have a weak, strong, or neutral grip.
A weaker grip will have the left thumb more to the left of the grip while a neutral grip will have it resting more on top of the grip. While a strong grip will have the thumb more on the right side of the grip.
Then you can have a long left thumb or a short left thumb from any of those three positions. Your left hand and specifically left thumb will set up a lot of your takeaway and backswing.
What is a prayer grip in golf?
A prayer grip is a unique putting grip style that is quite different from a standard or cross-handed grip (aka left-hand low). With a prayer grip the hands are on both sides of the grip facing each other in a “prayer” position.
If you aren’t sure about the different types of putting grips, click here.
Why is a shorter backswing better in golf?
A shorter backswing might be better but it depends on the golfer as there are a lot of ways to swing the club.
A good example is Jon Rahm who has a very short backswing but produces a ton of power. While John Daly has a very long backswing that is well past parallel at the top of the backswing. But each has found a lot of success in professional golf.
A shorter backswing can help with accuracy while a longer backswing can help with more distance.
The sooner you can develop a consistent and repeatable grip, the sooner your game will improve. It’s hard to put into words how important it is to grip the club properly.
Even the best players in the world – including Scottie Schefler – are seen on the driving range using grip trainers. Even the best players in the world are working on the fundamentals every day in practice.
Most everyday golfers would benefit significantly from having a stronger grip. Having a weak grip makes it too easy to hit a slice, lose out on tons of distance, and suffer from poor ball striking. Work with a coach or buy a grip trainer to make a neutral or strong grip second nature.
Make this something to look at regularly in practice, especially if your ball striking is off. Paired with the right stance, posture, and alignment, you will set yourself up for success.
Read our full article on the strong vs weak golf grip debate.
Final Thoughts on Long Thumb Grip vs. Short Thumb Grip
Don’t underestimate the importance of a fundamentally sound golf grip.
Most everyday players have a weak grip, short or long thumb, and/or wrong “heel pad position” which can hurt your ball striking. This leads to a lot of banana slices with longer clubs and poor contact with irons.
But don’t forget that how you grip the golf club is a personal preference more than anything else. Before changing your thumb grip, check your current position on the driving range and then make a switch if needed.
To learn more about the golf grip (including middle finger, right ring finger, right hand, grip pressure, and more positions) check out golf grip guide. And don’t forget to check out the golf grip pressure points too.