The left wrist (right for lefties) is perhaps the most fragile and vulnerable of all of our bones. Though delicate, much is required of it–sometimes too much, and it breaks or sprains rather easily putting most of us out of commission for a good long period of recuperation. We golfers often take the left wrist for granted, not giving it its proper due and pay a huge price for its neglect. Unlike other joints, it can do so much. Go ahead. Give it a workout. Up, down, back, forward, around clockwise, around counterclockwise, and just about anything in between. And because of its versatility, in golf it can create problems if we leave it to behave like a child lost in the woods, flailing about this way and that . It’s important then to know what our wrist is doing during different stages of the swing, along with what effect each position has on each shot.
So, in golf, there are essentially three positions of the left wrist, most importantly, at the top of the backswing. It is either cupped, flat, or bowed. Cupped is the default of most amateurs. Why? Because it’s the most comfortable, and as Freud’s Pleasure Principle states, we gravitate away from pain or discomfort to one of comfort and pleasure. The only problem–and it’s a big one–is that produces a clubface that is open at the top and often open at impact, causing a slice, the most common fault among high handicappers and the bane of many, many players. Over time it becomes habitual, a bad habit that needs breaking.
So the fix is a flat wrist which starts at address. In the most-used two plane swing, let the arms hang straight down naturally and check that the left wrist is hanging as it would if standing at ease. It should be fairly flat. Then in the takeaway, it simply stays flat up to the top, breaking so that creases appear at the base of the left thumb. This will take some getting used to for it’s not the most comfortable position, and your backswing may be shorter than you’re used to. But it’s actually a very powerful position, ready for an explosive move into impact, producing more clubhead speed for the driver and more down and through compression for irons. It minimizes the movement of that wrist, creating the possibility of a more solid strike. Think Steve Stricker. That translates to more consistency, something we all crave. As for distance, that depends on how much you can torque your upper body on the backswing. The more your back faces the target, the farther your shot will go provided you’ve stayed on plane and returned the clubface square to the target at impact.
I’m building my flexibility through stretching exercises, but in the meantime am experiencing solid contact most of the time through the bag. Like I said to Bill, the guy next to me on the range who survived cancer and who now has Parkinson’s, and who turned towards me hearing my solid shots, “It’s why I play this game!” I explained. “Me too,” he answered. Most of the top LPGA players have a flat wrist at the top, as do Tiger and Charlie Woods, Justin Thomas, and many other PGA players.
Some pros even bow their left wrist at the top, creating a closed club face. Depending on their downswing path this usually imparts a right to left spin creating a draw. But I would suggest leaving this to top pros like Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, and Collin Morikawa. The bowed wrist requires a lot of athleticism and I’m not sure it’s worth the payoff. But go ahead and try it if you have the flexibility and strength. My main point with this piece is to alert you to the disadvantages of the cupped wrist and the advantages of a flat wrist.
So…a flat left wrist: Be there and be square!
Great to see the guys back in action in Hawaii. If the pandemic doesn’t intercede, I expect this will be an exciting year on the Pro tours. BTW, speaking of the pandemic, older guys like Bill and I, along with gals like my wife, Ruth, need everyone to be fully vaccinated which means getting all your shots plus the booster. Please.
My new book, Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Considering the Game, is full of relevant instruction and course management, guaranteed (Yeah, right!) to lower your scores and increase your enjoyment of the game. Check it out at Amazon. Thanks.