By Grant Hepburn
We’ve all been there before – you’re at the range and your mate asks you for a little help with their swing. This series of tips helps you find the quick solutions to some of golf’s most common swing ailments. This month Grant Hepburn looks at the correct wrist position in your golf swing.
There is probably no action in golf more overlooked or less understood than the use of the wrists. Yet correct wrist action is vitally important in the golf swing as it controls the position of the clubface. In other words, it can ensure the clubface is square or it can leave it open or closed. So a golfer could have a correct grip, yet a poor wrist position will still result in an off-line shot.
The wrists also supply power and leverage to the swing by creating lag so, once again, if they are not cocked correctly then there will be a loss of power.
Finally, like the hinges on an opening or closing door, the wrists are vital for maintaining smooth movement throughout the swing.
Top of the swing
With a correct grip, as shown in the inset picture, you will see a marginal angle at the back of the left wrist. This slight cupping of the back of the left wrist should be the same at the top of the swing when the wrists have worked correctly.
If there is too much cup, then the clubface will be open and the club will not swing down on the correct path. Instead, it will swing down on a steep “outside” path, which often leads to a slice.
Added to that, an over-cupped left wrist results in almost no angle at the back of the right wrist and that means that there is no leverage from the right hand, meaning very little lag in the swing – and a severe power loss is the result.
If the left wrist is too bowed, the clubface will be closed and that often leads to some nasty hooks. You will also be able to identify this by the clubface facing the sky at the top of the swing. From here, most players will make the club approach the ball on a path that is too much from the inside, making consistent striking difficult.
As you can see in the correct delivery position, I am able to bring the club down on the correct swing path, with just the right amount of lag in the swing to generate good power. It’s my best chance of delivering a square clubface onto the ball at impact, which is what you need for straight shots.
In the second image, notice how the cupped left wrist has remained, leading to an open clubface. From this position the club will cut down sharply across the ball, leading to a high, weak slice.
Of course, Ben Hogan was a player who consciously went from a cupped left wrist position at the top of the swing to a flat position at impact – and that was in order to fight his nasty hook.
In the third image, the bowed left wrist, and therefore a very closed clubface, have remained. I’m also coming at the ball from the inside, so a low hook is a very common result. Dustin Johnson is one player who has a massively bowed left wrist at the top of his swing, but he compensates this technical flaw with raw talent and is able to manipulate the wrist and clubface back open during the downswing.
If you’re thinking that you could follow either Hogan or Johnson’s example, consider this: they are probably the two most naturally gifted athletes in the history of the sport. So I’d argue it’s better to get into the correct positions from the get go.
This drill is very useful because the correct wrist action has a combination of some upwards hinging and some backwards hinging.
The first thing to do is take your normal address position. Now lift the club straight up in front of you by cocking your wrists, as I show in the second image.
Now turn the club back behind you, into the swing position.
By hinging the wrists upwards with the clubhead at waist height, you will have the correct amount of “up cock”. If you then set the wrists back on themselves, you will have the correct amount of “back cock”. The two movements combined create the perfect blend of up- and back-hinge in the wrists.
Make sure that the angle at the back of the wrist in this halfway position is a slight cup – similar to the address position. From there, swing to the top and your wrists will still be in a good position. Hit the ball and get the feeling of power and correct clubface positions that result from a good wrist position at the top of the swing.