Understanding Wrist Hinge in the Golf Swing

Hinging or cocking the wrists is a key component of a powerful golf swing.

When taking the club back, the wrists must naturally begin to hinge by the time the hands and club reach waist level. If the wrists remain rigid to the top of the swing, you’ll fail to generate power or to get the club on the right plane.

On the other hand, too much wrist cock can drain power as well, because the golfer will be forced to unhinge them at the top of the backswing, rather than letting them unhinge in reaction to the lower body leading the shoulders and arms on the downswing.

The wrist hinge shouldn’t be forced or manipulated. Instead, it will happen naturally if your grip is sound, your arms free of tension and your shoulders, torso and hips working together to control the club.

Check the position of your clubhead at waist height, with the shaft parallel to the ground. If the toe points straight up to the sky, your wrists are hinging properly. Otherwise, something is amiss with your grip or takeaway.

Rather than consciously hinging the wrists, work on making a one-piece takeaway with the arms, shoulders, hips and torso working in unison.

In the golf swing we have two very important parts to using your wrists correctly in the swing – the set during the back swing, and the release prior to impact. Get those two parts right, and your ball flight is sure to improve dramatically.

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Unlocking the Keys to Proper Golf Wrist Hinge

The wrist hinge within your golf swing is one of the mysteries that many amateur golfers never quite figure out. It seems like some golf instruction that you read will tell you to use your wrists in the swing, while other tips mention that you should keep them stable and use your shoulders and legs to power the motion. So which is it? Well, in reality, both are right depending on the type of shot you are trying to hit, and the point in the swing you are talking about. Using proper golf wrist hinge is an important element of the swing, but you need to be sure that you understand when is the right time to engage your wrists, and when they should be left out of the equation.

It would be a shame to not use your wrists at all in the golf swing because they hold the potential to unleash so much power right at the moment of impact. A swing that doesn’t use any golf wrist hinge is going to look stiff and weak, dragging the club through the hitting zone and generating very little in the way of club head speed. By contrast, doing some basic golf wrist hinge drills to learn the correct feeling of engaging your wrists in the swing can lead to extra ‘zip’ through the ball – and added yardage when all is said and done.

When it comes to using your wrists correctly or incorrectly in the swing, it all comes down to timing. Hinging your wrists at the wrong time can lead to a disaster within your swing – but getting it just right is one of the most powerful moves in golf. Mastering the golf takeaway wrist hinge is something of an art form, and it will likely take some practice time to really become comfortable with this maneuver. It is worth your time and effort, however, because you can come out on the other side as a much improved player.

Before we get too far into the instruction on your golf wrist hinge, it should be noted that both wrists do not play the same role in the swing. For a right handed golfer, it is important that the left wrist remain stable through the swing as it is strongly correlated to the position of your club face. Using proper golf left wrist positions from start to finish in your swing is something that you will want to pay attention to. For your right wrist, it is all about storing – and then unleashing – the power potential that your swing holds. By using a golf early wrist set to move the club into position, and then letting your right wrist release at impact, you can make power in your swing that you probably didn’t even know was possible.

Note that all of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, the directions will simply need to be reversed.

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Early or Late Wrist Hinge?

One of the many confusions regarding wrist hinge in the golf swing is whether it should be done early in the swing, or later on. Some golfers swear by an early golf takeaway wrist hinge that sees their hands getting involved in the swing right from the start. Others prefer to complete the takeaway with no hand action at all and wait until later in the backswing – or even in the transition of the swing – to engage their wrists in the shot.

So which one is better? Sadly, it isn’t that simple. Both can work quite nicely, so you will have to figure out which option is better for your swing. However, there is one thing you can look at within your swing that will quickly tell you if an early or late wrist hinge is likely to be your best bet. Most golfers can be lumped into one of two general categories – one plane swings, and two plane swings. Here is a little more information about each –

  • A one plane swing is a golf swing in which the plane of the club shaft changes very little from start to finish. Mostly the golfer swings the club along the same plane that has been established at address. This usually leads to a rather flat golf swing that goes mostly ‘around’ the body instead of up and down. Players with this type of swing are often shorter in height, and will usually play a draw.
  • The two plane golf swing is just the opposite. The backswing is made on a rather steep plane, and then the club is re-routed during the transition to find a flatter plane for the downswing. While this might seem a little more complex, and it is, it can still be highly effective and some of the best golfers in the world use beautiful two plane swings. Generally speakers, taller golfers, or those who like to hit a fade, are going to be using a two plane swing.

Can you identify your swing within one of those two categories? If not, try taking a quick video of your swing so you can watch it for yourself (or just have a friend watch for you). Most likely, it will be rather easy to tell if you are a one plane or two plane golfer after taking only a few looks at the replay of your swing on camera.

This is important information to have because the wrist hinge is going to be different for players with one plane swings than it is for those using a two plane swing. To start, let’s say that you have a one plane swing. If that is the case, you are going to want to delay your wrist hinge until late in the backswing, or until after the transition into the downswing has started. Your takeaway and backswing should be controlled by your big muscles (shoulders, back), and your hands should be quiet and passive throughout. Only when you are all the way up to the top of your swing should you allow your wrists to hinge and put the club into the proper hitting position.

Why the delayed hinge? It all comes down to the position of the club when you do reach the top of the swing. If you were to allow your wrists to hinge early in a one plane swing, you would be forcing the club to the ‘inside’ of the correct plane that you are trying to achieve. That means that when you get to your transition, the club is out of position and will be attacking the ball from too far under the right plane. Typically, this mistake leads to a pushed shot, or a hook. Either way, it will not be the outcome you are hoping for. By holding off and not allowing yourself a golf early wrist set, you will keep the club shaft on plane and in position for a great shot.

As you might have guessed by reading the previous paragraphs, a two plane golfer is going to want to use more golf takeaway wrist hinge within the first foot or so of the swing. If you are using a two plane swing in your own game, you probably already have some degree of wrist hinge occurring early in your swing – it is hard to swing the club high enough up into the air without it. Using a golf early wrist set does promote a two plane swing, but it can also lead to trouble if you aren’t careful.

The problem that you might face with this style of swing is feeling like your backswing is finished before it really is, tricking you into cutting your turn short and robbing yourself of power potential. Once you have hinged your wrists early in the backswing, you will still need to make a good shoulder turn to ‘load up’ behind the ball and give your swing the length it needs to generate speed at the bottom. As you work on your swing on the practice range, pay careful attention to your turn and be sure that you aren’t cutting it short in any way.

While a short backswing is a pitfall that you need to watch out for, there is also an advantage to using the golf early wrist set and a two plane swing. That comes in the simplified motion that you will be able to use during the transition. Where a one plane golfer will need to hinge their wrists almost simultaneously to starting their downswing, you will have already done that job so you can focus solely on getting the club in the right position as it starts down toward the ball. Where a two plane swing might seem more complicated than a one plane swing at first, the early wrist set available in a two plane swing actually can make it easier for some golfers.

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Holding On for Power

Regardless of which swing you are using, and when you are hinging your wrists, they should be properly hinged by the time you are bringing the club down into impact. At this point, a good golf left wrist position will be flat and strong, while the right wrist will be bent back on itself. This is the perfect wrist orientation to be leading the club down into impact. While it is important that the left wrist be mostly flat, it is really the right wrist that we are going to be worried about just prior to impact.

Think of the power that you have stored up in your wrists during the swing as your last chance to add speed to the club before it hits the ball. Much of the speed in your swing is generated from the rotational power of your lower body and torso during the downswing – but that is all finished by the time you are getting close to impact. Those rotational forces, get the club starting down and accelerating, but you can’t keep turning forever. With your rotational power used, unleashing your wrists at just the right time is the only source of extra speed that you have left.

As the club is moving down toward the ball, you want to delay the release of your right wrist as late as possible. The longer you can ‘hold on’ to the position of your wrists in the swing, the more power potential you will build. Of course, if you hold on too long, you could miss-hit the shot completely and all of your previous work would be wasted. It is this timing that is one of the more challenging aspects of golf, and one part of the swing that many amateur players never quite seem to master.

To get a better feel for delaying the hit in your swing until just the right moment, try hitting some shorter pitch shots with your feet close together. Grab a wedge and head to the practice tee with a handful of golf balls. The idea is to pitch them as far as you can without really engaging your lower body in the swing. This will require you to use your hands to generate most of the power, so you need to hinge and unhinge your wrists at just the right time. Since you are making shorter swings at this point, it should be easier to slow the process down and feel the perfect timing on your release. As you gain confidence, start to make longer and longer swings until you build up to your normal, full swing. When done correctly, the perfect timing on your release can lead to power that you have never experienced before in your swing. This might be one of the simpler golf wrist hinge drills you will find, but it can be highly effective.

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Your Fingers Influence Your Wrists

Now that you understand just how powerful your wrists can be in the golf swing, it is important that you don’t do anything to ‘get in their way’. Specifically, you don’t want to make your grip on the club so tight that your wrists are unable to move as freely as they could otherwise. When your fingers grip onto the club too tightly, it will inhibit the motion in your wrists and slow down the swing speed that you are able to generate.

A relaxed and comfortable grip pressure is good for a lot of things in golf. Not only does it help you use your wrists properly throughout the swing, but it also gives you a better feel and control over the club head. When you watch professional golfers on TV and you see how easy they make the swing look, part of that ease comes along with a light grip pressure. They are letting the club swing naturally while only holding on tight enough to maintain control through impact. That is the same goal that you should have when taking your grip. Tight enough to maintain control, but not any more.

So how do you know if you are holding on to the club too tightly? Taking a close look at your hands is a good place to start. If you have played a few rounds of golf recently, or even just hit a few buckets of balls at the driving range, your hands might be starting to show some wear and tear. While a few small blister or callouses are normal, too much damage is a sure sign of tight grip pressure. The grip of the club is bound to move around slightly in your hands while you hit the ball, and a tight grip pressure creates higher levels of friction on your skin – leading to damage. If you have noticed that you tend to develop large blisters or other painful spots on your hands when you play golf, look to your grip pressure as the likely cause of the problem.

Your short game is the area likely to benefit the most from relaxing your grip pressure, so start there are work up into your long shots. Hit some practice putts and chips keeping your grip as light as you can while still maintaining control over the club. Gradually work your way into some full swings with your short irons, and eventually your driver. You obviously need to be holding on tight enough so that the club doesn’t fly from your hands, but work on striking a nice balance between control and freedom in your grip.

Obviously, the muscles in your fingers are directly related to those in your wrists, and tension in one area will lead to tension in the other. If you are going to unlock some hidden power in your swing through the improvement of your wrist hinge and action, then you need to be sure that your hands are as relaxed and possible and that they are allowing your wrists to do their job successfully.

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Making it Natural

Many amateur golfers who learn about the importance of wrist hinge and release in their swing end up taking it too far and force the issue. That leads to a swing that looks awkward, and certainly doesn’t produce the type of results that they are looking for. You want to reach a point with your swing where the wrist hinge happens naturally. That is easier said than done, of course, but you can do it if you put in the practice time and be sure to understand the mechanics that are behind it.

There is no substitute for repetition when it comes to making something natural and repeatable. No matter how many times you read through the directions above regarding the golf wrist hinge in your swing, you aren’t going to get comfortable with it until you do it for yourself – over and over again. This is where a regular routine of visiting the practice range can be so valuable. While everyone loves to get out on the course and play a round of golf, not all golfers understand the value of quality practice time and swing repetitions. On the driving range, you don’t have the same distractions – or nerves – that you might have on the course. This allows you to focus on your technique, and simply do it over and over again until it is natural to you. Repetition is crucial for many parts of your swing, but perhaps none more than the wrist hinge and release.

Proper wrist hinge and timing on the release is one of the biggest elements that separates amateur golfers from accomplished professionals. Many amateurs think that they could never hit the ball with anywhere near the power or consistency that the pros do, while never realizing that something as small as a hinge of their wrists could be making all the difference. The seemingly effortless power that the pros create is due in large part to the wrist hinge they use, and the perfect timing they achieve on the release swing after swing. You would be wise to invest your practice time in working on the details of your wrist hinge simply because it has the potential to make such a dramatic change in your game.

The first thing you want to do in regard to working on your wrist hinge is determine if you are a one plane or two plane golfer. From there, you will know if you should be using golf takeaway wrist hinge, or if you should save that for later in your swing. One plane golfers will want to use a later wrist hinge, while two plane players are going to be better off setting their wrists early on in the takeaway. With your wrists hinged at the right time, working on the perfect release through impact should be your main focus.

These are the two crucial parts to using your wrists correctly in the swing – the set during the backswing, and the release prior to impact. Get those two parts right, and your ball flight is sure to improve dramatically.