A LITTLE SQUEEZE: I used to firm up my grip before starting back, then maintain that pressure.
WHAT I WROTE IN 1973
My hands perform one almost imperceptible but very vital movement, even before they play any role in the swing. This is a pressing-together action on the grip just before I start back. It serves three purposes: (1) It establishes my correct grip pressure; (2) it tells all the muscles in my body that it's time for work; and (3) it serves as a motion from which I can fluently but deliberately swing the club back in a coordinated, one-piece motion of the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.
WHAT I THINK NOW
When I was really playing well, my grip was loose as I addressed the ball. But just before I started back, I'd firm it up. I call that "pressuring the club." From there, I'd focus on maintaining a constant grip pressure. The last thing you want is to increase the pressure during the swing, especially starting back or coming down. That causes you to snatch the club back or jerk it from the top. Also, gripping too tightly can keep you from releasing the club properly, which can affect distance and direction.
I don't care if you grip it fairly tight, like Tom Watson, or really soft, like Fred Couples. But firm up your grip pressure a bit before you start the club back and keep it constant. You'll have a better chance of staying smooth and hitting the ball longer and straighter.
JACK NICKLAUS writes only for Golf Digest. In this series he looks back at his classic lessons published in the magazine.