Many theories abound over the use of the wrists in the golf swing. One should bear in mind that the only contact with the golf club is with the hands and a good golf grip will set the wrists in the correct position to hinge and unhinge, creating a powerful strike on the ball. It all starts with the hands and wrists, and get this right and watch the effortless power develop through impact.
The importance of the grip can never be underestimated, and once this is established, we are all set to hit the ball far and consistently. Make sure your grip is in a position for the hands and wrists to work in unison. A simple tip: The Vs created by the thumb and the first finger of the left hand should match the Vs on the right hand when holding a club.
Both point to an area between the head and right shoulder. Another tip: place the palms of the hands together facing each other. Now move the hands and wrists in all directions. This is how free the wrists should be in a swing, to work together.
The Wrists and Power
Cocking or hinging the wrists during the backswing and then releasing them through the downswing is a power source for hitting the ball further. If the hinging is not free and easy, the tendency is to use the arms and shoulders to muscle the ball through impact. So developing this power source is a must!
Left-Hand Wrist Hinge Position at the Top of the Swing
With the left arm in an extended position, place it down on a table with the fingers extended and resting on the little finger and the thumb pointing to the sky. Now lift or cock the wrist upwards off the table while keeping the arm in the original position. Notice the crease or wrinkles between the wrist and the thumb? This is the exact same position the left hand should be at the top of the swing. Fully hinged or cocked!
The Flat or Bowed Left Wrist
The left wrist should remain flat in line with the left forearm. The common error is to open or cup the wrist on the backswing. If you open it or move it to the left, there is no tension on the wrist and the power source is lost. This also opens the face of the club on the backswing. More of this later. Cocking the wrist to the right or inwards, forms a bow in the wrist and it is a move guys like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia do. This is OK.
The Right Wrist Position at the Top of the Swing
Think of carrying a tray of drinks like a waiter, with the right hand at shoulder height. The right palm faces upwards and the right elbow points down to the ground at 90-degrees. The club rests in the right-hand palm in the same fashion at the top of the swing. In fact, this is a perfect position for the right hand and arm! Check the wrinkles between the wrist and hand.
A Drill to Perfect Hinging
Stand in the address position with a driver or iron. Place the club on the ground in preparation to hit a ball. Now lift the arms and clubhead off the ground in front of you to shoulder height keeping the left arm straight and cocking the left wrist. The shaft should be pointing straight up at the sky and the wrinkles between the thumb and wrist are evident.
Now turn the shoulders away to complete a backswing, keeping the left arm straight. This is a perfect position at the top of any swing and both wrists are in a great position to deliver power!
Bowing the Left Wrist at the Top of the Back Swing
Sergio Garcia has been one of the best strikers of a golf ball for many years and is acknowledged by his fellow pros for this feat. Most of the current top pros make this move and there are two basic reasons.
Bowing the left wrist on the backswing, will shallow out the downswing or change the swing plane coming into the ball. Very few top players today keep the same swing plane from the backswing through the downswing. It closes the clubface and will enhance a draw spin bias on the ball.
It also brings the clubhead through from an inside position, which improves contact. As a contra to this, Jon Rahm bows his wrist, but can still hit a fade! Bowing the left wrists also tends to de-loft the club, which is the reason the top players hit their irons so far.
Cupping or Opening the Left Wrist at the top of the Back Swing
When standing at address the clubhead should be set square to the intended target. To hit the ball straight consistently, the clubface must be delivered in the same position through impact.
By opening or cupping the left wrist, it changes the clubface to an open position and unless manipulated by the the hands just before contact, will deliver a glancing, weak blow or slice sidespin to the ball. Probably one of the most common errors for players who cut the ball. Another telltale feeling is the lack of tension in the wrist.
When Should the Wrists Hinge?
Once the feeling of swinging the golf club to a position at the top, and then the transition to the downswing becomes a natural movement, players will find that the wrists will hinge and unhinge naturally. There should be no preconceived special movement. Do half-swings to get the feeling of the correct position, and spend time on the range and in front of a mirror.
No Wrist Cock—Steve Stricker
Not many top players swing without cocking the wrists but watch a guy like Steve Stricker. He may not be the longest on the Tour, but he has won his fair share of tournaments during his career. His ball-striking is phenomenal, but I would suggest to players to stay with the wrist cock in the swing.
Nick Faldo—Early Wrist Cock Set
Nick Faldo tried many different things in his golfing career and is a multiple Major Tournament winner. He worked on setting his wrist at the beginning of the swing, before starting the backswing. Basically, he moved the club shaft into a parallel position in front of him and set his wrists. Then he just turned the hips and shoulders like a normal swing. He eventually went back to a normal swing but was successful with his new method.
If you have played other ball sports, you will have accomplished the hinging and unhinging of the wrists as a natural movement. Hitting a baseball, playing tennis or squash, or even just throwing a ball, requires wrist cock, to deliver any power.
Concentrate on avoiding the opening of the left wrist on the backswing, and you are well on your way to developing the power you never believed you had!
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.