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Proper use of the hands is no doubt one of the most misunderstood aspects of modern golf instruction.  I have come to believe that sufficient hand strength is one of the more vital components of a stable and powerful golf swing and becomes a prerequisite for more sophisticated techniques involving plane shifting and forearm rotation through the zone.  Without getting too technical, I wanted to have a look at the hand strength of two of the greatest golfers of the persimmon age alongside…well…myself.  Before we get to that, let’s hear what Dr. Cary Middlecoff (perhaps my favorite golfer of the mid 20th century) had to say on the matter:

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“In my view, all the other phases of the golf swing are secondary to the function of the hands.  The body movements on the backswing are made for the purpose of getting the hands into the proper position and working in the proper tempo.  The movements of the downswing can be said to be for the purpose of getting the body out of the way so that the hands can follow the proper course.  If a certain hip movement, for instance, causes a slice, it is because that movement makes the hands bring the clubhead into the ball on a wrong line. 

The happy part about this is that, given the opportunity, the hands will nearly always do just about as they should.  We do so many things with the hands in the natural course of living that they are exceedingly well trained…

…I believe that, basically, this grip will be a good one for nearly all golfers.  But there is a point to remember: I play and/or practice golf about three hundred days in the year, and the days I do not play or practice I exercise my hands for a few minutes with a gripping device.  Thus I keep my left hand pretty strong, almost certainly somewhat stronger than that of the average golfer…”

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So there you go – the hands aren’t just dummy clamps to sling the club around all loose and oily.  They have strength which can be activated to impose your will on the golf club and, in turn, the golf ball.

And how strong were the all time greats?  Let’s have a look at Hogan’s hands first:

From an old Sevam1 blog post:

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” ‘I just shook a hand that felt like five bands of steel” (Ted Williams upon meeting Ben Hogan in 1951)’
If Williams said that I can’t imagine how strong Hogan’s hands must have been. It is interesting to me that both Williams and Hogan (the best hitter in baseball and the best ballstriker in golf) exercised their hands in the same manner by incessantly squeezing balls and that they both used the same basic stance. Back foot square forward foot flared. In Follow The Sun the first thing Hogan works on after the accident is hand strength, basically because it was the only thing he could work on while in bed recovering from the rest of his injuries, but nonetheless he did it. Ken Venturi described Hogan as a ‘hands and hips player’ and I think that in many ways that is accurate…”

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Looking at the pictures – those things were like gorilla paws!  And the Life Magazine pictures where he supposedly reveals The Secret, we can see that it’s not just his hands that are strong – he’s got wrists that look like lead pipes.

Since my wife doesn’t play golf, I asked her to hold the camera while I tried to mimic the Life images above.  Compare my hands to Hogan’s…who do you think would win an arm-wrestling match?

Hand Strength Challenge Winner: Mr. Hogan!

2nd Place: Riley

OK so I can’t beat Hogan but he was a 5’8” ball of muscle.  Maybe I’ll have better luck against the Black Knight?  Here he is in his prime:

Two drivers!?  That’s not fair Gary…  But back then he was notorious for working out constantly.  He never ate fat or sugar and could do about a million situps in a row.  Maybe a more fair challenge would be me vs. Player in his senior years.

OK there we go!  Two mid irons is impressive but I’m a grown man in good health.  Surely I can match the old man.  Let me just start with one for a quick warmup…

FAIL! FAIL!

Hand Strength Challenge Winner: Mr. Player!

2nd Place: Riley

Ok I admit defeat.  These dudes were strong and there is no doubt that they put their strength to use.  Don’t treat those hands as wimpy little hinges – compress and control your golf ball!

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