Wrist Action in the Golf Swing

In plenty of our previous guides, we’ve mentioned the importance of wrist action and proper wrist angles. Then we thought, why not create a dedicated guide for the wrist action itself? So, this is it. Your ultimate guide to wrist action in golf.

Why is Wrist Action Necessary?

The wrist is one of the fundamental parts of our body that is directly involved in a swing. Your upper body is connected to the golf club through your wrists. So, as you change the angle of the wrist, the angle of the club face changes.

Ideally, we recommend new players to focus on a flat wrist and a square club face at impact. As players gather more experience, it becomes a choice. For example, uncontrolled slices are a problem. But controlled fades are deemed very highly on the skill spectrum of a golf player.

You can only master shots such as fades and draws when you master the wrist action.

Resource: Step by Step Golf Practice Routines + Training System

How to Properly Use Your Wrists in Golf

In golf, almost all body part has a leading side and a trailing side. For wrists, the left wrist of a right-handed player would be the leading wrist. The opposite is true for a left-handed player.

There are three basic ways you can hinge your wrists during a swing. They are cupping, bowed position, and the hinging position. Each of these wrist actions serves a purpose for the player. The key is knowing which does what and when to use them.

In the next section, we’re going to explore how these three wrist actions influence a swing. We’re taking a right-handed player as default. If you’re a left-handed player and reading this, the principles would simply be the opposite for you.

Cupping of the Wrists

Cupping is done on the leading wrist. So, if you’re a right-handed player, it’s going to be your left wrist. In this position, the wrist is cupped at the top of your backswing. It helps greatly to shallow the attack angle and make good contact with the ball from inside to outside.

Among new players, cupping happens involuntarily. That’s not what we’re after. Involuntary cupping will create problems for the swing because your downswing will not reflect the principle.

Moreover, cupping is one of the hardest wrist actions to master. Usually, players with amazing hand-eye coordination get the best of wrist cupping.

Bowed Front Wrist

This is very similar to the previous wrist position we’ve talked about. Instead of cupping, your lead wrist would be bowing on the top of the backswing. Professionals such as the PGA tour pros use this technique to get a little more distance from their swing.

In general, getting to the bowed wrist position is easier than achieving the perfect cup. But it’s still a long way for new players to master this wrist position.

Flat Wrist Position

Keeping your wrists flat at the top of the backswing is the safest approach. In this position, your lead wrist would be in a neutral position instead of cupping or bowing. When you see the average players score good points, chances are they’ve mastered this move.

Among the three, this is the easiest to learn and master. All you need to do is keep your wrists straight. When achieved, you shouldn’t feel any tension on your wrist other than the weight of the club pulling it down.

In our opinion, this is the wrist position you need to learn first. Once you know how to control your wrists in a neutral position, you can move forward to learning the more complex variations.

Releasing the Wrists

So, you’ve created an angle at the top of your backswing. Now, it’s time to initiate the downswing. What do you do? Do you keep the wrist angle or release it immediately?

The latter is usually the instinct for most rookie players. In reality, you need to do the opposite. The longer you can keep the wrist angle, the snappier of a contact you’ll make with the ball. The sooner you release, the more power you lose.

To mitigate such issues, you need to make a conscious effort to keep your wrists in whatever angle you’ve chosen for the backswing. If it’s cupped, it should be cupped until impact. The same is true for flat wrist angles and bowed wrists.

After you hit the ball, this is the time you need to unwind. And don’t do it immediately. Because remember, you’re still in follow through. If you release the angle immediately, it’ll cause the club face angle to change. As a result, the final trajectory of your ball flight will also change.

The unwinding of the wrists should finish when your hands are on the opposite side of your body. And the wrist action should switch as well. What we mean is at the end of your swing, your trailing wrist will be cupping, bowing, or remain flat instead of your lead wrist.

Resource: How to Score in the 70’s Golf Training Plan

Troubleshooting Wrist Action in Golf

When players complain about not getting the shots right, in the majority of the cases, the wrists are at fault. When you’re not aware of what your wrists can do to your swing, you won’t be able to fix the issue.

The first step of fixing wrist angle issues is to analyze your swing and see what’s up. For this part, you can use your phone to record yourself at the course or at the driving range. It’s best if you can bring one of your buddies to the course with you.

Here are the things you need to check for in the video you record. If not, ask your friend to keep an eye out for these issues.

Early Wrist Extension

Undoubtedly the most common wrist action issue. When players just start out, they don’t realize when they’re releasing the wrist angle. If you’re a sufferer of this issue, you need to look for how the club face angle changes as you come down.

The key to maintaining wrist angles throughout your swing is to gradually build yourself up for it. You don’t need to be at the correct wrist angle when the club is just getting past your waist. All that matters is you’re ready for the downswing with the correct wrist action at the top of your backswing.

This concept gives you enough room to gradually get your wrist where you want it to be. When you’re not putting extra stress on the wrists during the backswing, you can retain the angle for longer on your downswing.

Late Wrist Extension

This is the exact opposite of what we’ve just discussed. When you release the wrist angle too late in the swing, it can impact your follow through. If you keep the angle the same for longer, you may introduce a side spin to the ball. As a result, the shot might end up slicing.

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Drills to Practice for Wrist Extension

Just like any other skill in golf, you can’t expect to master wrist actions overnight. You need to set aside time for the practice. Do you know what’s the best way to practice golf? Through drills!

That’s we’re going to list a few wrists action drills for you.

Impact Bag Drill

You may have seen the impact bag drill in some of our previous guides. It’s such a versatile drill that can help you fix a plethora of problems with your swing. In this drill, we’re going to focus on the wrist angles alone. If you don’t have access to an impact bag, you can use a pillow as the substitute. However, for best practices, we recommend using proper impact bags.

  1. Set down the bag where the ball would be and swing your club as usual.
  2. After you hit the bag, the divot can say a lot about your swing. If you’re releasing too early or too late, the club face angle won’t be square to the target.
  3. If you release early, you may hit the bag with the bottom of your club. On the contrary, if you’re releasing too late, you’ll notice more lag in your swing than usual.

The Ruler Drill

The ruler drill can help you significantly to keep your wrists flat. All you do is wrap a ruler with your lead wrist using rope or rubber bands. The principle is that if your wrist or hinging or bowing involuntarily, you will be able to feel it because that part will not be in contact with the ruler anymore.

  1. Wrap a ruler on the backside of your lead wrist. We recommend using rubber bands because they’re easy to put on and off.
  2. Don’t hit full swings immediately. Do a few practice swings to feel the ruler on your hand.
  3. Now, go on with full swings to notice how your wrists react to the ruler. If you want your wrist to be flat on top of the backswing, make sure every part of your wrist is touching the ruler.

Final Words

Wrist action in golf has the ability to make it or break it. While proper wrist action can lower your score significantly, improper wrist hinging will take you in the opposite direction. Use our guide to figure out what is it that you might be struggling with and practice the drills to fix them.

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Thanks for reading today’s article!

Nick Foy – Golf Instructor

nick foy golf academy
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