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Free Drills to Unlock Tour Level Wrist Action
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Bowed Wrist in Golf (Could It Be the Swing Secret You Needed?)

Britt Olizarowicz
Last updated on February 8, 2024

Have you ever noticed that the picture of professionals at the top of their backswing has a lot of variation?

Most of that has to do with wrist angles. Some players have bowed wrists, others cupped, and others flat.

Which one is best?

Most experts (myself included) would argue that somewhere between the flat and bowed wrist in golf is your best bet. I will show you what a bowed wrist is, why it matters, and how you can practice it a bit to become a better player.

Bowed Wrist in Golf (Key Takeaways)

If you have to bookmark this article and come back for more later, here are the key takeaways that you can walk away with right now.

  • A bowed wrist at the top of the golf swing occurs when the wrist is in more of a flexed position as opposed to an extended position. The logo on a golf glove would face up towards the sky instead of down to the ground.
  • The bowed wrist will lead to a clubface that is closed.
  • Bowing the wrist creates more of a hook or a draw on your golf shots.
  • A bowed wrist position at the top is better than a cupped wrist and can often be fixed or tweaked relatively easily.
  • Changing your grip can improve the overall position of the wrists throughout the swing.
  • To properly assess the wrist position and how it is progressing or changing, HackMotion is the best tool to use.
HackMotion golf training aid wrist sensor
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Wrists in the Golf Swing Explained

To understand the bowed wrist position and how it impacts your game, you must first know how the wrists work in the golf swing. You need to know three movements: extension/flexion, radial deviation/ulnar deviation, and rotation.

wrist positions in golf

Extension/Flexion

An issue with flexion causes the bowed wrist. When the wrists extend and flex, it’s often referred to as bowing or flexing. You may feel it as an arch or a bend of your left wrist (right-handed golfers). When you extend the wrist, the clubface opens; when you flex it, the clubface closes.

The extension and flexion in your wrist are where control of the clubface is created.

Radial Deviation/Ulnar Deviation

If you have ever had a golf instructor tell you that you are cocking your wrists too soon or too late, it could be an issue with radial or ulnar deviation. This, more simply explained, is the cocking and uncocking of the wrists.

Radial and ulnar deviation deal with the side-to-side movement of your wrists. Power is created with these angles in your swing, so if you feel like you are lacking some power, especially on the iron shots, this would be an important place to look.

Rotation

Finally, the wrist can rotate. The rotation of the wrists in the golf swing is considered pronation or supination. However, I’ll admit on this one when I think of lead wrist rotation; it makes me think more of forearm rotation.

Of course, the wrist is rotating, but it is felt more in the forearm. The better you get at rotation in the left wrist, the easier it is to be consistent in golf. Your timing and tempo may improve, and you will feel more control of your shots.

What’s the Proper Wrist Position?

The million-dollar question that all golfers want the answer to is what the exact wrist position is.

There is no perfect wrist position.

Here’s what you really need to know. The flat left wrist is the easiest and most consistent position to hit from. Moving to the bowed wrist, your clubface could get a little closed at the top.

However, when studying professional golfers, we find that a slightly bowed left wrist at impact is a positive thing.

Players that can reduce the amount of extension in their downswing and end up with a flat or slightly bowed wrist at impact hit straighter shots. In addition, a slightly closed clubface at impact will likely lead to a draw, but it is something that is entirely playable.

Even though there are no exact numbers of the perfect wrist angle in the swing, the better players lean towards flat and bowed instead of extended.

cupped and flat wrist at the top of the backswing

How is a Bowed Wrist Different from a Cupped or Flat Wrist in Golf?

One of the ways I like to think about the wrist position is I think about the label on the glove. When you put your golf glove on and velcro it, there is typically a label right on the top of the velcro.

For a golfer with a bowed wrist, that label will point toward the sky at the top; for a cupped wrist, the label will have a slight angle down, and the flat wrist is in the middle. This also becomes an excellent way to think about the wrists as you practice your positions.

The main difference between the cupped, flat, and bowed wrist is how the clubface angle is impacted. Bowed wrists tend to close the clubface, whereas cupped wrists tend to open it up.

flexed vs flat vs extended wrist positions in golf at the top of the backswing

Should You Bow Your Left Wrist in The Golf Swing?

As I’ve said, most golfers find the bowed or flat wrist position to be the best overall spot to hit from.

The reason is that if you can get to a bowed or flat position at the top, the chance of getting to impact with a square clubface is considerably better. If, instead, your wrist is cupped, you have a lot of work to do to square things up.

The bowed wrist has been made largely popular by Dustin Johnson. His wrist is incredibly bowed at the top, and on the way down, he does not have to do much to deliver the club at a square position; in fact, there are likely times he has to extend a bit to square things up.

Tiger Woods has always played with a flat left wrist. As you probably already know, Tiger Woods has some excellent swing mechanics, and his swing is a great one to compare to if you are looking to improve your wrist position.

Ben Hogan played with a more cupped wrist at times during his career, but he was able to add enough flex into the grip on the downswing that he was able to hit the ball with a square clubface.

If your wrist is slightly bowed in your swing, and you hit the ball straight with good power, don’t change it. If you have severe bowing, you are probably hitting big hooks and need to make some adjustments to get back on track.

Tips and Drills to Fix Bowed Wrist in Backswing

Severe bowing in your left wrist requires a swing correction. Chances are your shots are ending up left of left. Even though they may be traveling a long distance, when you have no control, distance is of no help.

Here are a few ways to work on better wrist position and make some corrections in your swing.

HackMotion golf training aid wrist sensor
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Change Your Grip

Golfers with bowed wrists often have a weak grip. The weak grip takes the left hand (for a right-handed player) and turns it even further to the left. From this position, the club can get quite shallow, and the wrist starts to bow even more.

One of the first things I would look at when dealing with a bowed wrist is ensuring that your grip is neutral. To experiment and see if the grip is your issue, it’s not a bad idea to try a few swings with an exaggerated stronger grip and see if it brings about the proper solution.

I have used this drill myself, as there have been times when I’ve struggled with a bit of a bowed wrist. I put my glove on my left hand, got into a neutral grip position, and then took the club to the top of my backswing.

Once at the top, I take a look to see where the label on the back of the hand is pointed. If it’s pointed up, I know I have bowed my wrist too much.

Sometimes, in golf, we have to find the feeling or the visual that makes the concept stick, and this one has always worked for me. I try to keep that logo on the wrist relatively stable throughout the backswing, and it should decrease the chance of a bowed wrist at the top.

HackMotion Wrist Sensor

The HackMotion wrist sensor is the perfect way to check your wrist position and ensure it is properly positioned. The HackMotion is unique because it can measure your wrist angles throughout your entire swing.

HackMotion wrist sensor used by golfer

Remember, there is no perfect wrist motion or exact angle you need to reach. However, we do know that bowing the wrist too much at the top could cause you to hook the ball. In addition, making sure you are not extending the wrist through impact is another important feature to look for.

By using the HackMotion wrist sensor, you can get real-time feedback about your golf swing wrist angle.

Troubleshooting and Measuring Bad Wrist Action

Poor wrist action is an issue that needs to be fixed on the driving range. I would not recommend trying to work on a bowed or cupped wrist while on the course. Instead, head to the range with your HackMotion and try a few of these drills.

  • First, collect data with HackMotion to see if you are starting with a bowed wrist or if you are doing something on the backswing to cause it.
  • Next, analyze that data and start using the biofeedback tool on HackMotion to help you correct the position of your wrist. Set a range that encourages you to gradually decrease the amount of bowing added on the backswing.
  • Taking some swings and stopping and checking when you are in the backswing is another good drill.
  • Finally, take this to the short game practice area to experiment with wrist angles and see how they affect your clubface. Try a half-swing chip shot with a cupped wrist, one with a bowed, and one with a flat. The short game is a miniature version of the long game, and sometimes, practicing at a smaller scale makes it easier to correct the positioning of the wrists.

Hammer Like Impact

This video from Milo Lines Golf helps demonstrate some of the concerns golfers have with a bowed wrist through impact. If you move into a pattern of too much bowing, you can leave yourself prone to injury.

Instead, this video talks about how to work the radial and ulnar deviation to get to a strong position at impact with a flat lead wrist. The hammer like motion can be good for golfers who struggle with adding too much flexion and hitting shots low and left.

FAQs

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about the bowed wrist in golf and the position that you should be in to hit more consistent golf shots.

Should you have a flat or bowed wrist at impact?

A flat to slightly bowed wrist at impact is the best position. Many professional golfers have a slight bow in their wrists, and this helps improve compression and turf interaction.

Should your wrist be flat or bowed at the top of the backswing?

At the top of the backswing, a flat wrist will create the most consistent position. However, golfers like Dustin Johnson have a bowed wrist at the top and can still strike the ball solidly.

What are Tour players with bowed wrists?

Tour players such as Gary Player and Dustin Johnson have been known to play with a bowed wrist. The wrist bowing helps golfers to get more distance, and it can increase the ability to hit a draw, and that’s why some golfers like to keep the wrist bowed.

What causes a bowed wrist?

Some golfers are set up with a grip that is too weak, and it causes a bowing of the wrist in the takeaway. Other players flex their wrists on the backswing, and it adds more of a bowed wrist position.

How do I stop bowing my wrist when golfing?

Bowing your wrist when you golf can be corrected using the HackMotion wrist sensor. HackMotion is worn on the lead wrist, and it tracks the position of the wrist throughout the swing.

How measuring wrist angles can help you improve?

For many years wrist angles have been measured simply by feel, but with the HackMotion wrist sensor, you can now measure your exact wrist angle throughout your swing. The wrist angle measurement gives us a baseline to practice and helps improve the extension and flexion throughout the swing.

Cupped or bowed left wrist?

The bowed left wrist is a better position to be in because you should get better golf ball compression and more distance. However, a flat wrist is something that the majority of golfers should be striving for. A cupped wrist position at the top of the backswing can lead to a slice if it is not corrected on the downswing.

Final Thoughts

If you have a bowed wrist in your golf swing, you are likely not far from being able to play some great golf.

The bowed wrist position at impact is a powerful one; you just have to ensure it is not exaggerated.

Get out on the range with your HackMotion, and you will have no trouble getting your scores to be more consistent.

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Brittany Olizarowicz
written by Britt Olizarowicz

Britt Olizarowicz is a golf professional who has played the game for more than 30 years. In addition to loving the game of golf, Britt has a degree in math education and loves analyzing data and using it to improve her game and the games of those around her. If you want actionable tips on how to improve your golf swing and become a better player, read her guides.