The Purpose of Wrists in a Golf Swing

The Purpose of Wrists in a Golf Swing
By Ken Martin, PGA Professional Certified in Instruction and General Management
Golf Program Instructor
Keiser University College of Golf

How should your wrists work in the golf swing and what are the consequences of improper wrist action?

A golfer’s wrists act as a hinge between the arms and the golf club. Such a hinge can provide an advantage for moving the golf club faster, necessary for longer distance golf shots. How the wrists work in a golf swing is varied, dependent on the golfer’s grip style, joint mobility, and strength. The wrist joint has a wide range of motion characterized by the following four terms; flexion (unhinging) (Fig. 1), extension (hinging) (Fig. 2), radial deviation (cocking) (Fig. 3), and ulnar deviation (uncocking) (Fig. 4).

Because the club is held with both hands, wrist action is harmonized, with the lead wrist cocking during the backswing while the trail wrist hinges. As the body turns forward in the downswing, the wrists should reach their maximum load, i.e., fully cocked and hinged (Figure 5). Because the body motion is generally circular, the wrist will begin to unload through the impact zone. Ideally, at ball impact, the lead wrist will be fully uncocked while the trail wrist will be in the process of unhinging (Figure 6), although it will not be fully unhinged until just after impact (Figure 7).

This timing will deliver optimal force from the angular momentum created between the arms and club.

wrist function image 2

Improper wrist action can be categorized by faulty timing and rotation. Faulty timing is allowing or creating the unloading of the wrists too early or too late relative to ball impact. Too early will cause loss of power, increased loft, and typically fat or thin ball strikes. Too late will cause loss of power, increased loft, and typically thin ball strikes. Rotation of the wrists occurs from the forearms. For right-handers, forearms rotated in a clockwise direction will create an open clubface orientation; forearms rotated in a counter-clockwise direction will create a closed clubface orientation. If either of these rotations occurs during the impact zone, the direction of the clubface can be altered from the intended target. An open clubface at impact will produce a slice to the right, and a closed clubface at impact will produce a hook to the left. Ideally, the forearms will remain passive through the impact zone while the wrists unload, producing generally straight golf shots.

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