The Proper Wrist Action for a Golf Swing

Rory McIlroy cocks his wrists at about a 90-degree angle at the top of his backswing.
i Andrew Redington/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Former LPGA Tour standout Patty Berg maintains that the movements of a golfer’s hands and wrists are the key actions of a golf swing. A golfer’s wrists help position the club properly throughout the swing, therefore affecting both accuracy and power. The wrists’ side-to-side motions -- the moments when they cock and uncock during a swing -- are important, but so is their vertical positioning, which controls the angle of the player’s hands relative to the forearms. Golfers should keep an eye on their wrist positioning at key points in the swing to make sure the wrists are playing their roles correctly.


    Bring the club into the proper position during the backswing by cocking your wrists a bit when your arms are about parallel with the ground. To get a good feel for the amount of wrist cock you need, the Golf Channel’s Michael Breed suggests gripping an iron at about mid-shaft, then taking it back in an otherwise normal backswing. Stop when your arms are horizontal and look at the club shaft. Cock your wrists to bring the shaft perpendicular to the ground. That’s the position your wrists should take during a normal backswing. From that point, you’ll continue raising the club while maintaining the same amount of break in your wrists.

Top of the Backswing

    To check for the correct wrist position at the top of your backswing, Berg suggests you pick up a club and assume your standard address position. Using your wrists alone, lift the clubhead off the ground in front of you as far as you can. Maintain that wrist angle as you lift your arms into their natural positions at the top of your backswing. Observe your wrists and try to duplicate the position while taking a normal backswing.

Wrist Angle

    The vertical angle created by your left wrist -- in other words, the angle between your left forearm and the back of your left hand -- should remain consistent through much of your swing, according to former PGA Tour great Tom Watson. Watson plays with his left wrist slightly cupped -- meaning the back of his left hand is slightly raised, relative to his forearm. To copy Watson’s technique, maintain your wrist angle from address through the top of your backswing, then for about 1 foot into the downswing. Afterward, let the wrist angle flatten out as you release the clubhead prior to impact.

Moment of Impact

    Your wrists should feature different angles at the moment of impact. The left wrist -- or the right, for left-handers -- should be flat because the left wrist’s position mirrors the clubface’s orientation. Your right wrist should be slightly cupped at impact. If it straightens too early you lose the power of the right arm pressing the left arm forward. To test your right wrist’s position, place a few blades of grass under your left thumb, then take some abbreviated swings, as if you were hitting a pitch shot. The grass will remain under your thumb if your right wrist is bent properly at impact.

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