High Hands Golf Swing

High Hands in the Backswing: Is a Vertical Swing Better?

Your hand position has a big role in your golf swing.

Do you have a high hands golf swing or one with lower hands?

Each position has its own pros and cons so let’s dive in to see which position can benefit you the most. This type of swing is very different from a one plane golf swing.

If you’re like a lot of golfers I’m sure you’ve asked, “Will a high hands golf swing improve your ball striking and improve consistency?”

Let’s find out… 

High Hands Golf Swing

Some of the best ball strikers to ever play professional golf have high hands (or upright hands) at the top of their swing. These include Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, Ernie Els, 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus, Justin Thomas, and Dustin Johnson. 

All of these golfers also have some of the best rhythm and timing too. Ernie “the Big Easy” is arguably the best example as he created tons of power with a slower tempo but perfect rhythm in the swing. 

Brandel Chamblee, a Golf Channel analyst, said this in 2017 about an upright swing. “Justin Thomas hits it high, long and is great out of the rough… and has an upright swing, like Dustin Johnson, Spieth,- and Woods at his best, yet player after player after player comes on tour with a flat swings. Why? The next coach to make a player more upright is a genius.”

But getting into this hand position is easier said than done. Let’s review the benefits, the downsides, and drills to help you get into a better position at the top of your swing

Key Takeaways  

  • This swing differs from a one plane swing
  • High hands might help your ball striking, especially with irons.
  • Having higher hands makes it easier to hit shots from the rough and bad lies.
  • High hands at the top of your backswing can create better spine angle and swing rhythm. 

Keep reading to learn more about a high hands golf swing and see if you need to make any adjustments to your swing. 

Benefits to High Hands 

Like any part of the swing, there are pros and cons to different hand positions throughout the swing. Let’s review some of the biggest benefits first… 

Better Swing rhythm 

Two of the “poster boys” for high hands in the golf swing are Davis Love III and Justin Thomas who both hit the ball magnificently. These two players also have some of the most rhythmic swings ever on the PGA Tour.

They have a way to generate huge amounts of power with minimal effort. This is one of the biggest benefits to having high hands. 

High Hands Golf Swing

Since you create more space and freedom in your swing, it’s easier to accelerate effortlessly on the downswing. If you’re like a lot of golfers you might wonder, what is the difference between rhythm and tempo? 

Golf Digest article described the difference between the two perfectly. Tempo is how fast you swing the golf club while rhythm is how well you sequence your golf swing. 

In the article, Jim Flick (a top golf instructor) broke rhythm down even further. “Good rhythm sets up the transition, or the way the club is set at the top before moving into the downswing. Those with good sequencing–virtually all tour players start down with the feet. The hands and arms react to the movement of the feet, knees and hips.” 

Accelerate Properly 

High handicap golfers tend to accelerate in transition while elite players accelerate on the downswing. Having higher hands makes it easier to accelerate at the right time and sequence the swing thanks to having better rhythm.

Remember, you can only accelerate once in your golf swing. It better happen on the downswing, just before impact or you’ll lose out on a ton of distance in the process. 

Improve Iron Play 

Finally, having higher hands in your backswing can lead to better ball striking, specifically with your irons. Justin Thomas is a great example of this; he compresses his irons beautifully with a descending blow. His hand position at the top of his backswing is also why he can shape shots effortlessly in both directions.

Why? His proper spine tilt forward and trail shoulder allows him to get into a great position.

Read our article on shoulder tilt in the golf swing.

Players with higher hands tend to be better with irons, including hitting from the rough. Since these players are steeper it’s easier to attack the golf ball when it’s sitting down in the rough. 

Shoulder Tilt in Golf Swing

Cons to High Hands 

There are no doubt plenty of pros when it comes to having a more upright golf swing. But it’s not 100% perfect either… Let’s review some of the downsides now.

Not Get a Full Shoulder Turn

It’s easier to “fake” the right amount of shoulder turn with a more upright swing as you can pick the hands up sooner. This move will minimize power and lose tons of distance.

Can Get Too Steep 

Another downside is that you can get too steep (especially the everyday amateur golfer) from this position. Since most golfers already struggle with over the top downswing, high hands can further complicate the issue. A flatter swing can make it easier to create an in to out golf swing (but it’s not as good with shorter clubs). 

Less Control 

A flatter swing can lead to more control but also less distance. Since higher hands make it easier to add clubhead speed, a flatter swing can help improve accuracy.

Upright Swing Drills

Overall, I think there are tons of advantages to having higher hands in your golf swing. Here are a few drills on YouTube that can help you out.

Simple Alignment Stick Drill 

An alignment stick might be the only tool you need to train your hands into a better position at the top of your swing. As the instructor said in this YouTube video, “We want our body to rotate and our arms to elevate.” 

Click here to learn the alignment rod drill from More Pars Golf on YouTube

Den Caddy Drill 

Another simple drill to help you get higher hands is with a den caddy golf bag (aka a small golf bag that holds balls on the driving range). As seen in this YouTube video, a lot of everyday players suck the club back too far on an inside path. This leads to low hands, an over the top downswing and a lot of slices.

Higher hands can help; sit on a den caddy and feel the club going more up than around your body. You might accidentally even hit your trail knee if you take the club too far back on an inside path. 

Sit on the small golf bag (or bench or stool) and feel the club going up more than 10-20X. Then, hit normal golf shots at 75% swing speed to feel the changes. Go back and forth until you start to feel your hands in a more upright position. 

Soccer Ball Drill

Lastly, make sure to check out this Golf Channel drill using a soccer ball to make a free swing too. This Golf Magazine article summed it up perfectly, “A great way to feel this is to grab a play-ball or soccer ball and throw it over your trail shoulder as you make your backswing.  Imagine an elephant throwing water over its back with its trunk.  The elephant’s body remains stable and down and the trunk swings freely over its shoulder.”

FAQs About Hands in the Golf Swing

Do you have more questions about the hands and wrists in the golf swing to improve your swing arc? If so, keep reading to learn the most frequently asked and answers below.

Are high hands good in the golf swing? 

In general, yes, high hands can help you improve your speed, ball striking, and stay more centered over the golf ball. But it’s not a natural move for some golfers and better for taller players in a lot of cases. 

One Plane vs Two Plane Golf Swing

Should you keep your hands low in the golf swing? 

If you’re a shorter player, lower hands can make the golf swing more consistent. It’s easier to get an inside to out swing, improve control, and create more width in the swing. But like an upright swing, there are downsides to a flatter swing as well. 

Final Thoughts on Golf Tips for a more Upright Swing

Having a more upright swing can help your ball striking, distance, and trajectory… which should lead to more consistent results. After reviewing some of the best swings in the world it’s pretty easy to argue that higher hands are a better position than low hands. While it might not come as effortlessly for you as it did for some guys, it’s worth trying out the Justin Thomas inspired drill (s) from above.

A pretty upright lead arm with the correct forward spine tilt can help you shoot decent scores more often than not. Remember, having higher hands can improve rhythm, improve acceleration, and ultimately hit your irons significantly better. Plus, don’t forget to check your lie angles with a club fitter to ensure your clubs are matching your swing too.

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