In the golf swing, the movement in the wrists is incredibly important for both the distance and direction of a shot.
Without the proper wrist action, a player will struggle to do what the game requires; get the ball in the hole.
The wrist hinge though, is not something we often think much about. For much of the golf swing, we can’t see our wrists and, therefore, have little awareness of where they are and what they are doing.
That being said, it’s an important part of the swing that, if done properly, can really transform the way you hit the golf ball.
So, throughout this article, we’re going to dig a little bit deeper into wrist essentials.
Proper Use of the Wrists
To begin, we have to acknowledge that there are two wrists we’ll be talking about.
- The Front Wrist is the left wrist for the right-handed player.
- The Back Wrist will refer to the right wrist for the right-handed player.
You’ll notice that there are three different hinge positions that I’ll talk about in this article.
- The first, cupping, means that the wrist creates a cup-like shape with the back of the hand and forearm, with the bottom of the “cup” being the crease of the wrist.
- The other wrist position is a bowed position. A bowed wrist means that palm of the hand folds in towards the forearm, making the wrist into a bump, or bow.
- The final hinging position would be side to side, where the back of the wrist stays fairly flat, but the hand moves from side to side.
When beginning a swing, both wrists stay fairly flat. This means that, if you look at the back (or top) of both wrists, you’ll see very little hinge. Keeping this part of the wrist flat at the address position will put you in a good spot to begin the swing correctly.
As the swing begins, the back wrist starts to hinge slightly at first. This hinge is in a cupping motion, rather than a bowed.
At this moment, the front wrist stays fairly flat until the hands get above waist-high. Up until the waist-high moment, most of the wrist hinge is in the back wrists only.
From the moment when the hands get waist-high, the front wrist begins to hinge in a side motion (wrist cock) towards the target.
It’s about this time when we get to the top of the back swing, where there are three different types of positions that involve the wrist hinge. We’ll discuss those three, flat, bowed, and cupped, next.
1. Flat Left Wrist
The flat wrist position at the top of the swing refers to the front wrist. This is the most popular and widely accepted position. Basically, it means that the back of the front wrist stays flat at the top of the swing. You will notice that there is a sideways movement towards the target, but a player will maintain the flat back of the wrist.
2. Bowed Left Wrist
The bowed position at the top of the swing is where a player bows their front wrist at the top of the back swing. You’ll see some PGA Tour pros, like Dustin Johnson, employ this method. It can be a fairly difficult position to get to, but if done properly, it can add a little distance to your shots.
3. Cupped Left Wrist
The cupped front wrist at the top of the backswing is the other position that some players will find themselves in at the top of the golf swing. This position is less than ideal as well unless you’ve got really great hand-eye coordination. The difficulty with this is that it adds another significant moving part to the golf swing. If done properly, it can also add a little distance to your golf shots.
The Ideal Wrist Position
All this said, my recommendation is to try the flat position first. If you want to move on to a more difficult swing, try the others after you’ve mastered the first.
Regardless of which position you choose, it’s important to make sure that the back of the front wrist and the angle of the club face stay relatively parallel. This will allow you to hit shots straight while still maintaining plenty of distance.
To check this position, shoot a video of your swing in a down-the-line angle. When you pause the video at the top of the swing, draw a line across the back of your front hand and across the club face. Those two lines ought to be running in the same direction.
Releasing of the Wrists
Once you’ve completed your backswing, it’s time to start your down swing and hit the golf ball. In order to make solid contact and hit the ball the farthest possible, you’ll want to maintain the angle in your wrists as long as possible.
The angle created between your forearm and the shaft of your golf club is one of the ways you create club head speed, which translates to distance. The longer you can keep that angle, the more snap or whip you’ll get from the club head at impact.
So, the first motion, from the top of your swing is dropping your hands directly at the ball. The club head ought to lag behind your hands, creating speed. You’ll then snap through, or straighten out, your wrists when they get back to about waist-high.
After impact, you’ll continue releasing the wrists until they almost do the exact opposite on the other side of your body.
Your back wrist will start to bow and your front wrist will cup until they slow down and rest on your shoulder; the finish position.
Troubleshooting Bad Wrist Action in the Golf Swing
With all of these moving parts, lagging, hinging, and angles, it’s easy to make some mistakes in the wrist action. Don’t get discouraged though. Once you get the right feeling, you’ll never forget it.
1. Setting wrists too early:
The first mistake that golfers make with the wrist action is setting the wrists too early in the golf swing. This means that they get their wrists bent and in place too soon after the beginning of the golf swing.
There’s no rush to getting the wrists to the top-of-the-swing positon. They don’t need to be locked and loaded until that point. Too often, I see golfers with fully cocked wrists at their waist-high position.
The trouble with this is that it often leads to going too far at the top of the golf swing. Going too far often means balance issues and difficulty with timing impact. Both of those things will cause shots to fly off-line frequently.
2. Releasing wrists too early:
The next mistake that is common in amateur golfers is releasing the wrists too early.
So, after the top of the back swing, you want to maintain your wrist angle as long as possible to get the most club head speed. The mistake is that some amateurs straighten out their wrists really early and that results in a slower swing speed. Make sure you’re keeping the lag in your swing so that you can hit the ball as far as possible.
3. Releasing wrists too late:
The final error is releasing the wrists too late. Like I said above, it’s important to lag the club head behind the hands in order to create club head speed.
That being said, you don’t want to hold the wrists in the hinged positon too long or it’ll create side spin on the ball and lead to a slice that travels away from your target. Make sure you have released the club head by straightening out the wrists by impact or you’ll hit the ball off-line.
Drills to Improve your Wrist Action
Like I said in the beginning, the proper wrist position can be really difficult to get correct because you can’t see your wrists for most of the golf swing.
I’m going to tell you about three drills you can use though that will tell you if your wrists are in the right position and, if they aren’t, these will help you get there quickly.
Impact Bag Drill:
- You set the bag down where the ball normally would be and hit the bag with your club.
- Hitting an impact back simulates the proper impact position and can show you if you’re releasing the club too early or late.
- If you are releasing too early, the bottom of the club will hit the bag.
- If you’re releasing too late, you’ll notice that your hands are significantly in front of the bag at impact.
- You want the clubface to smack flat against the back and your hands to be lined up with where the golf ball would be, or slightly ahead.
Swing Club Upside-Down Drill (listen for whip noise):
The next drill is super simple.
- All you have to do is turn your club upside down, so that you are gripping near the head rather than the grip.
- Then, swing the club like normal.
- You’ll hear a “whooshing” noise as you swing the club down.
- You should be able to hear the general area where the noise is coming from.
This whooshing noise is where you are releasing your wrists and the club head. If the whoosh is way behind you, then you’re releasing your wrists too early. If it’s in front of you, then you’re releasing too late. You want to get the whoosh to come from right around where the ball would be.
Ruler on Back of Front Wrist to Keep Flat Drill:
Finally, the last drill involves a short ruler and a rubber band.
- Wrap the rubber band around your wrist and put the ruler underneath it on the back of your front wrist.
- Then, don’t hit full shots, but take some slow practice swings.
- Feel how the back of your wrist stays fairly flat in the backswing.
This will help you keep the wrist flat and lined up with the club face at the top of the swing.
Like I said earlier, you can also have someone shoot a video of your swing in a down-the-line angle, to see if you are keeping that face angle and wrist angle the same.
So, the wrist action in the golf swing can really help you hit the ball farther, more solid, and on-line if you follow these simple tips above.
Without the proper wrist action in the golf swing, you’ll struggle to get the ball flying high and towards the target; two things that every golfer needs to be able to do.
I’m confident that you can get your wrist hinge working well, which will see your game dramatically improve.