Tom’s Featured Tip:
Basic Wrist Movements and Positions
For the sake of simplicity, all advice on swings and drills is provided from a right handed perspective; lefties …. well, you know what to do!
I decided to write about wrist movements and positions this week, and to set up a page to show the positions I refer to in this article. This article is a bit long, but it’s absolutely one of the most important technical aspects of the swing, so read it carefully.
Before you read this article, please look over the images and terminology here: http://www.tomtuckergolf.com/drillwristpositions.html so that you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
In the swing, there are numerous variations of swing styles involving different methods for the takeaway, backswing, downswing, etc. but there’s only absolute fundamentgal in golf, that’s the moment of truth – impact.
IMPACT WRIST POSITIONS
At impact, the wrists need to be positioned specifically – you’ll see that there is a little room for some variation, but there are some positions that should absolutely be avoided.
The correct wrist positions at impact are as follows:
Your left (leading) wrist should be flat or in palmar flexion to a very small degree. Palmar flexion is a bending of the palm towards the forearm or inside of the wrist.
I’m going to call your left hand wrist position either flat or bent. A flat left wrist can be observed by extending your left arm out in front of your chest, palm at a 90 degree angle to the ground, fingers pointing straight ahead. You probably think that your wrist is now flat, but you probably need to palmar flex it a bit so that the back of your hand is now flat your forearm. That’s a flat wrist
Your right (trailing) wrist should be in dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is the bending of the back of the hand towards the forearm away from the inside of the wrist.
I’m going to call your right hand wrist position either cupped, or in the “flying wedge” position, as Homer Kelly refers to this position in his book “The Golfing Machine”
Your arms should transport the wrists in this position through impact, and when that happens correctly you will have some forward shaft lean at impact. This presents a stressed shaft to the ball, which is a source of accumulated power for the strike.
The mistake poor ball strikers make is that at and through through impact, the left wrist gets dorsi-flexed, the right wrist gets palmar-flexed, and either a fat hit or a very high weak strike results. This is called “flipping” the club or “scooping” your shot, and these positions are the ones that need to be absolutely avoided.
Impact Wrist Position Summary: at impact, present a forward leaning shaft to the ball with a flat or very slightly bent left wrist and a cupped right wrist. I developed a drill to feel this position, the Inverted Praying Hands Drill: http://www.tomtuckergolf.com/drillprayhands.html
WRIST POSITIONS DURING LOADING, LAGGING, AND UNLOADING
In your backswing, you should be gradually loading the shaft, then in your downswing you should be lagging that load down to the ball in order to maximize your speed and power.
Loading The Shaft
A loaded shaft has a 90 degree or less angle between the shaft and your straight left arm at the top of the swing. The best laggers not only transport that angle deep into the downswing before centrifugal force releases it naturally, but they also increase lag even more in the initial phase of the downswing (decreasing the angle between the shaft and the left arm) before the lagged shaft starts to release.
There’s one point of confusion often arises in the minds of players that study the swing, and it’s in the area of nomenclature – namely the word “hinging”.
Homer Kelly’s “The Golfing Machine” identifies wrist hinging as certain movements that apply to some of the rotational movement that occurs when you try to influence the trajectory of your ball flight: horizontal, angled, and vertical hinging.
I encourage all of my students to utilize an angled hinge, which stays pretty square to your swingpath all the way through your swing. It’s easy to learn once you understand it, and it helps in consistency and in self-diagnosing problems. The other hinges require leading wrist supination (horizontal hinge) or pronation (vertical hinge) which brings more variables into play and makes self- analyzing mistakes a little more difficult. Supination and Pronation http://www.tomtuckergolf.com/drillwristpositions.html#ANCHOR5
Other books and articles tell you to hinge your wrists in a certain way to load the club in your backswing. They refer to an altogether different hinging motion than “The Golfing Machine” hinging motions for trajectory influence. Instances like these different meanings and intentions for the same word are a source of confusion, and I can definitely emphathize with the confused masses.
Here’s how the wrists move while the club gets loaded, lagged, and released.
To load the shaft on your takeaway and backswing, radial deviation occurs. Think of radial deviation in your swing as wrist cocking. http://www.tomtuckergolf.com/drillwristpositions.html#ANCHOR3
Your left and right wrist each move the shaft into the cocked position with radial deviation, and with no elbow breakdown of your left arm – it stays straight.
At the top of your swing, your right wrist may also go into more dorsiflexion as the left wrist moves to get flat for the downward swing towards impact. At that point, it feels like the right wrist is getting more cocked as your left wrist flattens or palmar flexes.
To feel wrist cocking, grip your driver, hold it chest high with straight arms and point it at an object on the horizon. Your arms and clubshaft should both be pretty straight at this point. Now, with your arms still locked straight, bend your wrists so that the shaft now forms a 90 degree angle with your arms. That’s the angle that should occur at the top of your backswing, and the smaller that you can get that angle (the more that you can bend your wrists) the higher your swing speed will be, provided that you transport the accumulated power deep into your downswing before releasing it.
The timing for when you start to load your wrists in your backswing depends on your swing style/method/pattern. Sergio Garcia is a late loader, Ernie Els is an early loader, but they both transport (lag) their loaded shafts deep into their downswing before they unload.
On the other hand, there’s a correlation between a premature unloading of the shaft in the downswing, and the shortest hitters and poorest ball strikers.
During the downswing, at some point ulnar deviation takes place as the loaded shaft is released through impact. Think of ulnar deviation in your swing as uncocking your wrists.
The challenge is in training your wrists to stay in their impact angle positions during this ulnar deviation through impact. Practice will help you get there.
Your arms need to be transporting your hands and wrists past the ball with some degree of forward shaft lean, which automatically places your wrists in good position for impact. If you can train yourself to do that, your wrist positions will be fine through impact and you’ll execute a solid strike.
Some players like to set up with a strong grip to feel their wrists cocking more on their backswing. I prefer a more neutral grip at setup, with my wrists set at address just about where I want them to be at impact. This is another swing style choice, but if you employ a strong grip – it’s imperitive that you have an understanding of the adjustments that need to happen in your transition and downswing in order to have a flat left wrist position at impact.
The flat (or very slightly palmar flexed) left wrist position at impact is not discretionary, it’s an absolute fundamental position. When your left wrist is in this position at impact, your right wrist will also be in the correct (dorsiflexed or cupped) position.
Practice these positions with very slow motion swings, then speed things up as you perfect the movements.
Love your practice, enjoy your golf,