I was talking by phone with a former NGCI from whom I have taken a couple of lessons. (Scheduling another one.) He said he was going to be checking to see if I was cupping my lead wrist at the top. And suggested I check before the lesson and start trying to feel the proper flat wrist right now, if I was cupping. I said yes, it's been a problem for me the whole time I've used NG/SA swings.
Then he said something that was an AHA! moment for me. If you don't hold the club firmly with the lead hand, the hand will open up a little at the top and allow the wrist to cup. Which of course puts the clubface in the wrong orientation, and requires a regripping during the downswing of all places.
Up till now, I've never heard a reason why the lead hand hold was supposed to be so firm; firm enough to draw blood as Moe said. So I never adopted it. I'm not a compliant student, I guess. I was always one of those kids who said "why why why...."
Anyway, yes, AHA!, my hand was opening up. When I put a firm hold on it, the wrist feels natural in the flat position. When I use my Sam Snead "light" hold, when I manage to keep the wrist flat, it feels bowed and awkward, which my brain rebels against.
A further complication I have found: Over the years of fighting an open clubface, I used a stronger (rotation-wise) grip. (Turned my hands to the rear. The two possible uses of "strong" might be causing problems for any beginning golfers reading this.) I had just watched the most recent free webinar from Graves, presented by Scott Graves. He mentioned how because the club is shafted at the heel, not the center, of the head, that you can feel when the club is properly positioned at the top. And your golf brain will do things to make it feel good. Well, my golf brain wants my lead thumb to be under the shaft at the top, supporting the club. I'm pretty sure that's what he was saying also. SO, when using a strong grip (rotation-wise), in order to support the club comfortably at the top, the wrist has to cup. The stronger the position of the hands, the more cupping needed. A vicious circle.
I'm sure a person can learn to keep a flat wrist with a strongly-turned grip. But it is a fight against the innate golf lizard brain in my case. I think this is going to be huge for my swing. This is the last/biggest hurdle that I've never understood and never overcome in my SA swing. There will be more, but this is a biggie. (Why oh why have I not taken more lessons....)
I bet this was all discussed at length ten years ago in the archives. But maybe worth bringing up again. Keep the lead hand firm, as Moe and many SA instructors have said.
With a strong grip cupping the lead wrist at the top can put the clubface in the proper square to the plane position. keeping the wrist flat will put the clubface in a square to the path position or shut by normal teaching criteria.
There is nothing wrong with cupping the lead wrist at the top and a lot of great players have done it. The wrist can also be cupped at impact and still achieve the y position that is critical for good ball striking.
IMHO if you want to use a swing that demands a flat wrist at the top with clubface in a square to the plane position then you don't want to use a strong grip. I believe that is exactly what you have figured out? I know that Scott Hazledine and Todd Graves both recommend against a too strong lead hand grip.
As for gripping it really tight I am experimenting with that idea. So far it seems to be helping me in that I am able to overcome my tendency under pressure to tighten up on the downswing. I guess that for me a really firm grip mitigates against the hit impulse...
"IMHO if you want to use a swing that demands a flat wrist at the top with clubface in a square to the plane position then you don't want to use a strong grip. I believe that is exactly what you have figured out? I know that Scott Hazledine and Todd Graves both recommend against a too strong lead hand grip."
Yes, that is what I figured out. Only after I saw, as the instructor said, cupping and a gentle hold often occur together. That is my flaw, and the strong grip was the compensation for it. But it didn't really do the job.
I don't really see the strong grip as a flaw. It is more a different set of mechanics. I think that there are many sound ways to swing a golf club. It is a matter of what works for you! LOL it may well be that some ways are easier then others though.
I do think that once something is grooved in it is better not to radically change it. If you change from a strong grip to a more neutral grip certain things are bound to happen when you play that might cause you to want to revert. At least that is what happens in my experience. It is sometimes hard to stick with the program. Taking lessons like you are is a good way to stay the path until the swing that you want gets grooved in!
In my case, it started with a light hold on the club.
Light grip ->
Wrist cups ->
Opens clubface ->
Ball goes right ->
Requires stronger grip ->
Requires more cup for proper support at top ->
Cancels out the stronger grip ->
But a firm grip in the correct position short circuits all that.
Not to mention, it all affects the downswing path as well. When the wrist falls over to that cupped position, in order to support the club my golf lizard brain was moving the clubshaft off the proper plane. Not to mention all the setup experiments to try to get the ball to go straight. Open stance, closed stance, ball back, ball forward.... So there was a whole lot of struggle going on because of a light hold on the club.
So far, getting my wrist flat has gotten my divots on line and in pretty good position. But I was trying to get the wrist flat while using the limp hold. It was pretty hard and didn't feel good. Now with the firm grip it feels quite natural. We shall see, but I'm very encouraged. And it's nice to understand why the firm hold is specified.
A firm lead hand grip is good for a number of reasons with a SA swing and may help you to keep your wrist flat but you can still develop a 'cup' at top of swing even with a firm lead hand grip. I found the key to be the suddenness of transition to the downswing. If you make a too quick transition the inertial loading of the club will cause your lead wrist to cup (its natural reaction to that kind of loading) even with a firm grip. If you have a smooth transition or, better yet, a Bertholy transition where you can count to 3, the inertial loading will be minimal and it's much easier to keep your lead wrist 'flat'.