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The Proper Wrist Action for a Golf Swing

by Mike Southern
    This position happens naturally with proper wrist action.

    This position happens naturally with proper wrist action.

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    Overview

    Because the hands are the only contact with the club, players are forever looking for some new wrist technique, some grip secret that will revolutionize their golf games. Ironically, the only real secret to proper wrist action is not in what you do, but in what you do not do. The proper motion is a natural one, described here as a right-handed player would perform it; left-handers should substitute “left” for “right” and vice versa.

    Forearms

    Golf Hall-of-Fame teacher Manuel de la Torre says that wrist action is an involuntary reaction to swinging the club. A classic drill to teach this involves swinging the club from waist-high to waist-high, letting the weight of the club cock the wrists on the backswing and uncock the wrists on the follow through. Think of your wrists as a door hinge—they can move back and forth, but do not move by themselves. If you keep your forearms relaxed, the weight of the club can cock the club without any interference on your part.

    Left Hand

    Even if your forearms are relaxed, there are other ways tension can creep into your arms. The left hand provides the primary connection for controlling the club. It is very common to grip too tightly with this hand. According to teacher Michael Hebron, the secret is to tighten only the last two or three fingers of your left hand—the pinky and ring fingers, and perhaps the middle finger. In doing so, you create a strong grip without locking the wrist muscles and interfering with the free movement of your wrists.

    Right Hand

    Likewise, Ben Hogan wrote about the same problem with the right hand. Just as the thumb and forefinger of the left hand can interfere with proper wrist action, the thumb and forefinger of the right hand can lock the right wrist in position. Hogan recommended practicing with those two fingers completely off the grip. He also recommended adding some pressure with the middle and ring fingers of the right hand to help grip the club, but many players trust the left hand to grip it and merely wrap the right-hand fingers loosely around the grip for support.

    Left Wrist

    With your left-hand grip focused in the last two or three fingers, your wrist will remain relaxed enough to move freely… but you still need to provide a bit of guidance to the club. According to teacher Jay Williamson, the simplest way to do this is to keep the back of the left hand flat—that is, the back of the left hand and the back of the left forearm form a straight line. Doing so limits the movement of the wrist to a single plane, improving consistency. This action will not be difficult because using only the last two or three fingers to grip the club actually encourages this movement.

    Right Wrist

    Ben Hogan famously wrote that, after his hands had passed his hips on the downswing, he tried to hit the ball as hard as he could—“I wish I had three right hands.” But for most teachers, including de la Torre, the right wrist does very little during the swing except respond to the swinging of the club. It provides support to the left wrist while the forearm remains relaxed; it cocks in response to the weight of the club at the top of the backswing, and uncocks at contact as a result of the momentum of the club and the straightening of the right arm.

    References

    About the Author

    North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.

    Photo Credits

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