Understanding Wrist Action In The Golf Swing
Your wrists control the clubface and play a major role in the golf swing.
If you want to improve your accuracy and overall ball striking, it might be time to start looking at your wrist action. While a lot of golfers think about setup, takeaway, and transition, the wrists are the X factor. This is why there are so many wrist trainer golf aids – these training aids help you control the club more consistently.
Keep reading to understand how the wrists work in your swing so you can add more distance, improve accuracy, and hit it better than ever.
Wrists in the Golf Swing
So, how do the wrists move and what role do they play in the golf swing?
According to Greg Norman, the wrists play a major role in your ability to swing the golf club. Saying on his website, “In the ideal position, the back of your left wrist should be on a straight line with your arm, and the club should point parallel to your target line. Your clubface will be in a square position, pointing roughly on a 45-degree angle toward the sky.”
The ideal position for your hands is directly above your right shoulder (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer). If your wrists are between your shoulder and neck, this means you typically have a swing that is too upright. If your wrists are to the left of your shoulder it means you have a swing that is too flat.
But as you know, there are many ways to swing the golf club. Different grips, takeaways, tempo, and more but they all have one thing in common.
If you think about the best golfers in the world, they always make ball first contact with their irons. The proper wrist movement compresses the golf ball and allows them to hit the ball with amazing consistency.
While less skilled players turn their arms and wrists in the swing. This leads to a cupping motion (which adds loft to the golf club) instead of decreasing loft like compression.
The result is typically a poorly struck shot with irons and wedges. While it leads to a weak slice that goes a fraction of the distance and is offline with a driver.
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Defining Wrist Positions
According to Golf.com, “Wrists play a vital role in the aforementioned and have the largest influence in clubface control and presentation. Basically, they are capable of three sets of distinct movements: flexion and extension, supination and pronation, and ulnar and radial deviation.”
When it comes to wrist position, there are some common terms that get thrown around in the golf instruction world. Let’s define them to make it easier to understand the ideal wrist position in the golf swing.
- Supination and pronation: These terms refer to forearm rotation which as you’ll learn, are key to making a solid golf swing. These motions affect the clubface and swing path as well.
- Flexion and extension: These moves are how your wrists move up and down. If you stuck your arm out straight and bent your fingers toward the sky or the ground, this is flexion and extension. These motions play a big role in controlling the club face in the swing.
- Radial and ulnar deviation: These movements are known as cocking your wrists or hinging your wrists. These motions impact your total speed in the swing.
What’s crazy is that so many players have different swings that all get them into the correct impact position. Even though some golfers have a bowed wrist at the top, while others are cupped, and some are neutral.
Ultimately, the wrists work in conjunction with your unique grip, takeaway, and first move on the downswing.
Wrists in the Backswing
Let’s start with how the wrists work in the backswing.
In a traditional, classic golf swing the lead arm should pronate while the trail arm should supinate on your takeaway. The wrists would hinge as the club gets about halfway back and there isn’t much extension in the lead wrist.
As Ben Hogan said in his book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, “Every good golfer has his left wrist in this supinating position at impact. Every poor golfer does the exact reverse. As his club comes into the ball, he starts to pronate the left wrist – to turn it so that the palm will be facing down.”
If the left wrist pronates too early, it can change the arc and get too steep at impact. But to get into the correct impact position – not in a pronating position – you need the right move on the backswing.
Pronation happens in your backswing, not your downswing.
Cupped vs. Bowed Wrist Position
Another important component to the wrist movement in the backswing is a cupped wrist vs. bowed wrist or even flat wrist position. Golf instructors and TV announcers like to discuss the wrist position at the top of the backswing as it dictates where the club is pointing at the top of the swing.
If you have a cupped wrist, you likely have a much stronger grip with your left hand; a good example of this is Nick Faldo. While the exact opposite is a bowed wrist. A perfect example of this motion is Dustin Johnson who has a noticeably different position at the top of his backswing.
While Tiger Woods had a very classic golf swing with a flat wrist that wasn’t as noticeable at the top of his swing. Tiger has famously said he’s altered his grip over the years as his swing evolved but tended to have a neutral grip in his prime.
Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former swing coach elaborated the left wrist position in a Golf.com interview. As Butch recounts: “He [referring to his father] used to talk about the back of the left hand, in a right-handed golfer, the bow in the left wrist, keeping the clubface square through impact. His line was, ‘You see boys, when I hit it, I have Bethlehem steel in the left wrist, you’ve got linguine in there flopping all over the place.”
Also Read: Top of The Backswing – What You Need To Know
Wrists in the Downswing
Now that we’ve covered how the wrists move in the backswing, what about the downswing?
First, let’s remember the proper sequencing of the swing. The lower body leads the way on the downswing.
Ben Hogan elaborated in his book saying, “To begin the downswing, turn your hips back to the left, there must be me enough lateral motion forward to transfer the weight to the left foot. The surest way to wreck this remarkable machinery is to start the downswing with the hands instead of the hips.”
The hips, not the hands start the downswing. If you let your arms move first, you will miss out on a ton of clubhead speed which equates to less distance.
The hands and wrists don’t do anything until the arms have moved on the downswing. Essentially, the arms and hands get a free ride on the downswing thanks to the proper sequence of events.
According to Mr. Hogan, if you want a better downswing, focus on rotating the hips early and fast to get the rest of your body moving properly.
Wrist Trainers for Golf
The best way to learn about your wrist position is to video your swing. It’s easy to feel one thing but sometimes seeing your wrist position can make a big difference. Once you identify the issue, check out some of the most popular training aids to help fix your wrist positions.
The Hanger Golf Training Aid
The Hanger is one of the most popular new training aids that is taking over in the golf world. The device has a truly unique design that is unlike anything else I’ve seen. It will help improve club face control, improve swing plane, and ultimately get you into a better impact position.
So, how does it work?
The Hanger attaches to any wedge or iron in your bag. The small clubface on the device should match your golf club face and gives you immediate feedback with hand and wrist position. It guides your lead wrist to ensure ball first contact.
What’s great is that it eliminates the flipping motion that happens with a lot of amateur golfers. It also promotes a flat lead wrist and dynamic shaft lean through impact which helps compress the ball and add more distance than ever.
Not to mention it’s small enough to keep in your bag, affordable, and available for right and left-handed golfers.
Click here to learn more on Amazon.
One of the oldest and most trusted wrist trainers is the Swingyde.
If you’ve been playing golf for a while, chances are you’ve seen this device or similar knockoffs at the driving range. It’s a small piece of plastic that can do wonders for your game in terms of both distance and accuracy.
It teaches you to cock your wrist properly in the swing and can also improve your swing plane, clubface alignment, and follow through position. Simply attach it to your grip and follow the instructions to start seeing results.
Plus, it’s so small you can keep it in your bag for consistent practice. And unlike other training aids, you can hit balls while using it. It works for both right and left-handed golfers.
Click here to learn more on Amazon.
The final training aid to help you wrist position is the Impact Snap which was awarded as one of the best training aids in 2019. This small training aid teaches your wrist to learn the proper movements in the swing without hitting golf balls. You can practice anywhere or anytime to create strong muscle memory pattern to properly release the golf club at impact.
Click here to learn more on Amazon.
FAQs About Wrist Movement in Golf
Do you have more questions about wrist movement in the golf swing? If so, keep scrolling to learn one of the most important fundamentals in golf.
Should you use wrists in the golf swing?
Yes, your wrists play a pivotal role in the golf swing.
As discussed above, both the left and right wrist need to move correctly to hit the ball cleanly. If you struggle with consistent ball striking, your wrist position might be a contributing factor.
Use one of the training aids mentioned in this article to train your swing for more consistency. Getting your wrist in the correct position can lead to more distance, accuracy, and should make it much easier to score lower.
What should your wrist be doing in the golf swing?
Your lead wrist should supinate in the golf swing. Ben Hogan talked about this concept significantly in his book and said it’s an absolute must.
What happens if you don’t hinge your wrists in the golf swing?
If you don’t hinge your wrist in the golf swing you are losing out on a ton of distance from a lack of clubhead speed. Don’t forget, distance comes from speed above all else. If you don’t hinge your wrists correctly you will minimize your speed and ball striking will likely suffer as well.
Wrapping Up Wrist Position
Your wrists play a big role in getting into a consistent impact position. As Ben Hogan said, “Every good golfer supinate his left wrist. It is a must.”
While it’s hard to disagree with one of the best ball strikers of all time, it’s important to swing your swing as well. Remember, Dustin Johnson has very different wrist mechanics than Matthew Wolfe or Tony Finau but all are elite ball strikers. The point is that the wrist works in conjunction with your grip (strong vs. weak), takeaway, and first move on the downswing.
But all great ball strikers find a way to move their wrists so their hands are ahead of the ball at impact. This forward shaft lean creates lag and compresses the shot for amazing contact. Just remember, there are a lot of ways to get there.
Working on your lead wrist position in the swing with the training aids above and watch your ball striking 10X.
Do you regularly check your wrist position in your swing? Have you tested out any of the training aids mentioned above?
Let us know in the comments below.