Could you analyze a golf swing and tell whether or not the wrist action was correct?
If you answered no, you are not alone.
In fact, many professionals are not even entirely sure about how their wrists should be positioned and how angles will impact their ball flight.
I get it; wrist action in the golf swing is confusing. However, with the right tools, the correct knowledge, and a bit of time working out the details, you can improve the way you swing a golf club and become a more consistent player.
Ever heard the term, “It’s all in the wrists”? Whether that was referring to golf or not remains to be seen, but if you want to improve your wrist action, you are in the right place.
Wrist Action in Golf Swing (Key Takeaways)
This is a comprehensive and complete guide detailing everything about how the wrists work in the golf swing. If you need to come back when you have more time to read it all, here are a few of the most essential facts to take with you right now:
- The wrists move in three ways: extension/flexion, radial deviation/ulnar deviation, and pronation/supination.
- Flexion and extension in the wrists are most critical for learning to control the clubface and hit straighter shots.
- The wrist position changes throughout the swing, so it must be correct at setup and at the top of the backswing to have the best chance for a square and solid impact.
- The best way to measure and analyze wrist action in golf is to use the HackMotion wrist sensor and record data at setup, top of the backswing, and impact.
- A quick way to fix slices, hooks, pushes and pulls is to get the proper wrist action in your golf game.
- What Should the Wrists Do in The Golf Swing?
- Wrist Positions in Golf (How do the Wrists Move)
- Lead Wrist vs Trail Wrist Position in the Golf Swing
- How do the Wrists Work Throughout the Golf Swing?
- Example of Proper Wrist Position
- How to Troubleshoot Bad Wrist Action in the Golf Swing?
- How do You Measure Wrist Movement?
- How do I Know if My Wrist Angle is Correct?
- Can Improving Wrist Angles Make You a Better Golfer?
- Drills to Improve Wrist Movement in Golf Swing
- Final Thoughts
Improve your game in two weeks, even if 'wrist motion' sounds like rocket science.
What Should the Wrists Do in The Golf Swing?
Before we dive into the role of wrist action in the golf swing fully, let’s start with a basic understanding of what the wrists do in the golf swing.
Your wrists control the clubface.
The wrist that really holds the power in the swing is the lead wrists. For a right handed golfer, it’s the left wrist. Lead wrists should be very close to flat at the top of the swing and close to flat again at the impact position.
There are variations to this based on the type of player, physical characteristics, swing dynamics, etc. However, regardless of the kind of player you are and how long you have been playing the game, your wrists are going to control the angle of the clubface.
Why does that matter?
The angle of the clubface controls where the golf ball goes!
That should be some motivation to stick around and fully understand how you can improve your wrist action in your golf game.
Wrist Positions in Golf (How do the Wrists Move)
Wrist action in golf is best understood when you know how the wrist can move.
Extension and flexion are more commonly referred to as bowing and cupping or arching and bending the wrist.
This is the wrist action that will open and close the clubface. Extension will open the face of your golf club; flexion will close it.
As you swing the golf club, if you can control the extension and flexion in your wrist, you will have more control over the direction of your golf shot.
The easiest way to describe the flexion and extension in the wrist is by holding your arm out in front of you, pulling your hand up so you see your fingers, and then pushing your hand down so they are no longer visible.
Common Issues Seen in Golf
The average golfer tends to hit golf shots with the clubface slightly open. The open clubface causes a slice or an unwanted fade.
Too much wrist extension in the lead wrist (left wrist for right-handed players) leaves the clubface too far open.
From this open position at the top of the swing, it becomes challenging to recover and hit a straight shot. In addition, golfers have to slow down to square the clubface instead of speeding up through impact.
Although bowing or arching your wrist may sound like an issue, your chance of hitting a straighter shot is increased if you can have a little bit of a bow or arch at the top of the swing.
Radial Deviation/Ulnar Deviation
The next wrist movements you should understand are radial deviation and ulnar deviation. To me, it’s easier to think about radial and ulnar deviation as cocking or uncocking of the wrist.
The movement here is more side to side. When you cock your wrist, the thumb gets closer to your forearm; when you uncock, the pinky finger moves closer to your forearm.
Radial deviation increases the wrist cock, whereas ulnar deviation decreases it. This is where the power comes from.
Amateur golfers want to increase the amount of lag they have in their golf swing, and improving wrist cock can do this for you.
Common Issues Seen in Golfers
Radial deviation becomes tricky because the more you add, the more the wrist extends. These two motions happen at the same time in the swing.
Try this now, even without a club in your hand. Move your lead wrist back as though you are taking a backswing, and add radial deviation (or move the thumb towards your forearm). As you do this, the top of your hand is going to move up a bit, therefore increasing extension.
We know that extension (especially too much of it) will open the clubface.
Have you ever really tried to go after a ball and add some more distance with a bit of extra wrist cock? Sometimes this shot goes right, and the wrist action in golf can tell us how and why this happened. As you increase the wrist cock, you also add too much extension.
The third of the key wrist movements in the game of golf is wrist rotation.
If the flexion and extension move the wrist up and down, and radial and ulnar deviation is more side to side, the pronation and supination mean more of a turning of the entire wrist.
In fact, the rotation almost feels like it is more in the forearm than it is in the wrists.
Take your hand and hold it out before you so that your thumb points up to the sky. Now, turn your hand so that your thumb is facing the ground; that is wrist rotation. With this movement, you will feel more like your entire forearm rotates, not just the wrist.
Pronating happens when the rotation of your wrist allows you to see more of the top of your hand; supinating is when you see more of your palm.
Rotation will close the clubface as you approach the impact position, making it very important for consistent long-term golf.
Common Issues Seen in Golfers
The average golfer leaves the clubface too far open at impact. The proper rotation of the clubface would close it and create a straighter golf shot. However, too much rotation in the wrist can cause you to pull the ball.
We have learned about wrist rotation in the golf swing (by studying more than 1,000,000 swings from the best golfers in the game) and that the amount of wrist rotation in professionals stays consistent from one swing to the next.
Chances are you have heard that having a perfect swing is only sometimes as important as having a repeatable swing.
Lead Wrist vs Trail Wrist Position in the Golf Swing
The trail wrist position in golf is essential; however, this experiment lets you quickly realize why the lead wrist is most frequently discussed.
Take a golf club and swing to the top of your swing, focusing on maintaining the extension in your lead wrist. Now, take a swing and focus on keeping the same wrist position in the non-lead wrist.
It’s tough to feel and doesn’t impact the clubface in the same way that the lead wrist does.
This is why the HackMotion wrist sensor is worn on the left wrist, to ensure that the proper measurements are taken from the wrist that has more of an impact on the golf swing.
How do the Wrists Work Throughout the Golf Swing?
Wrist action in golf will change as you move from setup to backswing to impact. Understanding these motions will make it a little easier for you to repeat them.
One of the most important things to focus on at setup is the grip.
If the hands are not on the club properly from the start, the chance of getting your wrists into the right position is significantly reduced.
Keep the club in the fingers of your hand. If the club is too much in the palms, wrist action is challenging to feel and keeps you from getting the wrist angles that could generate the most power.
The tricky part about the top of the backswing is that more than one position can work. Obviously neutral will give you the easiest route back to the ball, but many great players are flexed with their wrists at the top.
With backswing positions in the golf swing, you will notice more of a range of what is acceptable instead of one specific number or angle you should be attempting to reach.
Great ball strikers have consistency in their swing, and to do this, the extension, radial deviation, and rotation in the backswing are done the same way each time.
The closer you can be to neutral at the top, the easier it is to get to neutral at impact.
Your wrists also rotate in the backswing. If they rotate correctly, this can also set the club on the proper plane. We often see less wrist rotation for golfers that get steep in the backswing. The lead arm (left for right-handed players) will pronate, allowing you to swing more around instead of up and down.
Downswing and Impact with the Ball
The downswing and the area just behind the ball before impact are where most amateur golfers need help with their golf club position.
As you may have already guessed, wrist position will be a big factor here. With the proper wrist mechanics in the downswing and at impact, you will see a better swing path, more consistent strike, higher clubhead speeds, and the desired ball flight that you are looking for.
To get to impact with a square or closed clubface, you need to get your lead wrist to a flexed position before you get to the ball.
You should play around with how much you flex or extend your wrists as you approach the ball and see what it can do to your ball flight. My favorite way to do this is with half-swing shots.
When looking at the wrist rotation during the downswing, we notice that path is the impact that this rotational wrist action has.
If you are experiencing more wrist supination, expect a more out-to-in path. The opposite of this would create the in-to-out swing path. However, flexion and extension are still needed to impact the angle of the clubface.
Radial and ulnar deviation through impact is a complicated topic. However, more radial deviation through impact is ideal for golfers who need to generate a bit of extra club head speed.
Remember, when it comes to wrist action, it’s hard to change one thing and not another. If you try to reach any of the extremes in these movements, it could put you in a bad position.
The golf swing has too many moving parts for us to find an exact number for flexion/extension or rotation through the ball. Instead, maintaining consistency and learning what that square clubface feels like will get your game to the next level.
Example of Proper Wrist Position
Proper wrist position in golf is hard to narrow down.
Proper position really depends on the ball flight you are looking for, your setup and grip, and even the way your arms and body work together through impact.
Here’s an interesting concept to think about. Let’s say your backswing is always steep, and you struggle to square the clubface coming into the ball. You may work for years on shallowing out your swing, only to find out that you still slice the ball.
How could this happen?
Your wrist position is incorrect, causing you to have an open clubface at impact. Could you have figured this out years ago and just learned to square the face? Possibly. The golf ball reacts to the angle of the clubface at impact.
How to Troubleshoot Bad Wrist Action in the Golf Swing?
The best way to troubleshoot bad wrist action in the golf swing is to look at your struggle and then decide if you have an extension/flexion, radial/ulnar deviation, or a rotation problem.
Slices and Hooks (From Slightly to Severely Offline)
Issues with flexion and extension cause most slices and hooks.
The significant issues that golfers face with swing path and club face issues are determined by the flexion and extension in the wrist.
Most amateur golfers increase extension in their backswing and therefore can’t get the club to square or a point of flexion on the downswing. As they get closer to the ball, there is insufficient flexion to close the clubface.
If you are a player who hits a slice off the first tee, no matter what you try, start focusing on maintaining the proper extension to the top of your swing and, from there, flexing the wrist through impact.
One of the best drills to accomplish this is the motorcyle drill. You will feel your hands on the grip in the same way you feel them on a motorcycle handle.
Pulling and Pushing Shots
A pull or a push can be a lot easier to fix than a hook or a slice when you have the right drills and feel down.
Many golfers who struggle with pulling or pushing their golf shots have trouble with forearm rotation. The handshake drill used by Athletic Motion Golf gives you a much better understanding of what it takes to ensure your golf shot does not end up left or right of the target.
Start at the address and look at the takeaway in your swing. Are you rotating the wrists into a position almost immediately after setup that gets you into a bad place? Are you rotating your entire arm and not just the forearm?
The proper rotation has you rotate your lead arm back as if you were shaking hands with someone standing to the right of you. Then, you rotate your arm through impact so you can shake hands with someone standing on the left of you.
Loss of Power and Proper Golf Ball Compression
Do you ever feel like you are not getting the power that you need?
This is where you will want to look at the models of the professionals that HackMotion has collected in recent years. The most powerful discovery is that professional golfers do an excellent job of maintaining wrist extension on the backswing.
The amount of extension at the start is not as necessary as it is to maintain that throughout the swing.
From the top of the swing and towards the ball, professional golfers move from extension to the point of flexion in their wrists to close the clubface. In the example of this professional golfer, a starting wrist extension of around 25 almost wholly disappears at impact so that the wrist is flat.
Inconsistent Impact Position
This video from Craig Hansen gives you some practical drills to learn the proper impact position in golf. The impact will change slightly depending on what club you have in your hand, but there are some basics that all professionals and amateurs need to have in place.
How do You Measure Wrist Movement?
Before the release of the HackMotion wrist sensor, measuring wrist movement was very difficult.
What wrist angle looks and how it feels can be different. That’s where HackMotion comes into play.
With the HackMotion wrist sensor, you can hit golf balls as usual and have your wrist angles and positions measured throughout the swing.
The most valuable information here is the ability to see if your wrist motion compares to that of the best ball strikers in the game. In addition, you can track your progress from one practice session to the next.
HackMotion allows you to see how your golf game is progressing. In addition, audio feedback gives you real-time information about where your wrist is during the swing.
How do I Know if My Wrist Angle is Correct?
As we know, there is no perfect wrist angle; the game of golf just doesn’t work like that.
For golfers who practice hard and study the game, not having a perfect number to strive for is a bit frustrating, which is understandable.
Luckily, you can use benchmarks to help get you to the correct range.
Alistair Davies looks at flexion and extension of the lead wrist and has created some key benchmarks to help you understand when you are on the right track.
Here are his measurements with HackMotion at the key positions:
- Address: The lead wrist has a +20 degrees extension (cupping).
- Takeaway: Extension of the wrist is stable and remains at +20 degrees. During this stage, the radial deviation is added.
- At the top: Flattening of the lead wrist should happen. Extension should not be higher than in address; consider 0-20 degrees of extension.
- In transition: The lead wrist should go into flexion (bowing) at the beginning of the downswing. Alistair’s wrist flexion ranges from -6 to -12 degrees. Maintain flexed position throughout the downswing.
- At impact: His lead wrist remains flexed. The range is similar to the one in transition: -6 to -12 degrees.
- After impact: The lead wrist goes into extension.
Use HackMotion audio feedback to practice flattening the wrist at the top of the backswing. Alistair sets the feedback range from -35 degrees flexion to +4 degrees extension, practicing the position to allow the body to learn it. After a bit of practice, improvement is instantly observable.
For more information on how and why these benchmarks work (regardless of your swing style and ability), look at this video from Alistair Davies, where he explains in more detail.
Can Improving Wrist Angles Make You a Better Golfer?
Many amateur golfers shy away from learning about wrist angles in golf simply because the topic is so complicated. Improving wrist angle in the golf swing can help you return the clubface of your golf clubs to square each time you swing.
HackMotion takes all of the data and insights in this article and allows you to swing the club and learn while swinging.
A square clubface returned to impact consistently is the commonality between all great golfers. When your clubface is square, and you have control over it, expect:
- Straighter shots.
- More distance.
- Easier workability.
- Less dispersion.
- Better compression and spin.
- Lower scores.
Drills to Improve Wrist Movement in Golf Swing
In addition to the drills shown above in our troubleshooting section, you can also do these drills to help improve your wrist action.
Split Hands Impact Drill
Sometimes, giving the hands a little separation in the swing can help you feel what it takes to get the clubface square at impact.
Here is a drill that should help you finally feel that proper extension on both the backswing and downswing.
Hinge and Rehinge
When we talked about the hinging of the wrists, the main concern was ensuring that clubhead speed was maintained throughout.
In this video from Paul Wilson Golf, you can learn how to exaggerate the wrist hinge motion and get the clubface square.
Better Pitch Shot Drill
Golfers often struggle with the proper wrist action when pitching and chipping. The angles can change quite a bit depending on the ball flight you are looking for.
If you have been trying to keep the “clubface looking at the ball,” you may want to watch this video from Athletic Motion Golf. The information can help you feel that natural rotation of your arms and hands back away from the golf ball.
Working with the HackMotion wrist sensor will give you all the insight into what is working and what is not working when it comes to wrist motion.
While wearing the HackMotion, collect data on where your wrist angles are and how they compare to the professionals. Use the data in the HackMotion app to practice and work on your wrist action.
There are training challenges and drills you can use that are specific to the moves you are making with your wrists in your game.
Try to wear the HackMotion to collect data on all the clubs in your bag. See where the major issues are in your swing, and pick a plan to start working on improving your wrist movements. Tag each practice session so you can see the progress through the years.
There is a lot of information here about the proper wrist action in the golf swing.
When you look at concepts in golf, wrist action is, without a doubt, one of the most complex.
Now that you understand better, it’s time to get out there with your HackMotion and see what kind of progress you can make.
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