As senior golfers advance in years, one of the biggest fears they harbour is the loss of distance.
It is inevitable that as age increases, distance will do the opposite, but there are ways to help fend off the trend. One reason senior golfers begin to lose distance is a lack of wrist hinge or incorrect wrist hinge during the backswing. The hinge of the left wrist (for right handed golfers) creates a lever between the club and left arm. This lever increases the amount of potential speed a golfer can generate through impact. Swinging through the ball, the wrist unhinges (uncocks), releasing all the power stored up during the backswing.
The Wrist Hinge - Broken Down
There are some key positions during the backswing which will ensure the golfer can achieve a full and correct wrist hinge.
1. At address, the left arm and club should form a reasonably straight line when viewed face on in a mirror.
2. As the player takes the club away, the hands begin to rotate slightly.
3. When the club has reached waist high and the shaft is parallel to the ground, the toe of the club should point straight up at the sky. This position is important to achieve a proper wrist hinge.
4. From this position, the club can begin to rise until the club shaft points up at the sky. If this position is correct, the angle created between the left wrist and club shaft should be 90 degrees.
5. Once the wrist is fully cocked, all the golfer needs to do is rotate the shoulders away from the target.
This five step breakdown of the wrist hinge may sound complicated but can be achieved in a single connected movement with a little practice.
To get the feeling of how the wrist hinge should feel, a senior golfer could practice this drill which can be completed without a club.
1. Take your posture and let the left arm hang down. Put your right arm behind your back out of the way.
2. Make your left hand into a blade with the back of the hand facing an imaginary target down the ball-to-target line.
3. Swing your left arm back to the top of the swing and stop.
4. Once at the top of the swing, clench your fist. This should give you the feeling of a hinged wrist.
By following these tips, you can improve your wrist hinge to maintain your distance.
How Best to Hinge Your Wrist
At some point during the golf swing, you are going to need to hinge your wrists. Without wrist hinge, it will be virtually impossible to develop speed in your swing, and your shots will always fall far short of their potential. It is wrist hinge which allows you to make a full and aggressive release through impact – that that release is what will provide you with most of your club head speed. The best golfers in the world all trust a consistent wrist hinge to set the club, and you should be doing the same.
But how do you perform that wrist hinge, and when should it take place? Well – that's where it gets tricky. This is a part of the swing that does not come naturally to most golfers. It is common to see amateur golfers swinging the club with a poor wrist hinge or even no wrist hinge at all. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles standing between the typical golfer and longer, straighter shots is the improvement of their wrist hinge. You should be excited to work on this part of your technique if only because it has the potential to lead to great development in the quality of your ball striking.
In this article, we are going to dive into the top of wrist hinge. Regardless of the status of your current wrist hinge – whether you have one or not – the discussion below should help you to better understand this important topic. Very few parts of your swing are going to be as important as your wrist hinge, so be sure to get to work on this element of your game as soon as possible. By addressing your wrist hinge during upcoming practice sessions you will be that much better prepared to play well out on the course.
Wrist hinge certainly does have a lot to do with the power you create through impact, but that is far from its only contribution to your game. Additionally, hinging your wrists properly is going to help you strike the ball cleanly. Power is great, and it can help you play better golf, but only when that power comes along with consistency and accuracy. The great thing about wrist hinge is that it will help you play better all the way around. Your swings will contain more speed, they will deliver a more accurate blow, and you will start the ball on line more frequently. When you add it all up, you will be a significantly better golfer if you commit yourself to working on your wrist hinge.
Learning how to hinge your wrists in the full swing will also have some carryover effect when you get closer to the greens. Hinging your wrists is also necessary when chipping and pitching the ball. Once you know how to hinge your wrist properly while making a full swing, it will be easy to then use that skill within your short game to hit more accurate chip and pitch shots.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Importance of Lag
Even if you are relatively new to the game of golf, you have probably heard of the term 'lag'. The lag you use in your golf swing is extremely important, as it is the main source of power you have available to use in the downswing. Rather than trying to use sheer force or muscle to accelerate the club into impact, you really should be focused on maximizing lag. Great lag is what allows professional golfers – even those who lack impressive size or strength – to hit the ball such incredible distances. With lag on your side, the game simply becomes much easier all the way around.
So, what is lag? This powerful force is the difference between your left arm and the shaft of the club in the downswing. The 'lag' that you are said to have in your swing is essentially the difference between the location of your left arm and the location of the club shaft. If there is a 90* angle between your arm and the shaft on the way down, you are doing a good job of creating lag. On the other hand, if your left arm and the club shaft are basically forming a straight line, you have no lag to speak of. Even if you never quite manage to lag your club as well as the top pros, even making small leg improvements can go a long way toward adding power to your shots.
When you hinge your wrists properly – something we will get into later in the article – you will successfully create lag. However, your job is not done at that point. It is one thing to create lag in your swing, and it is another thing entirely to use that lag to hit a powerful shot. Players who are able to turn their lag into quality shots are those who hold onto the lag for as long as possible. It is common for amateur golfers to waste their lag early in the downswing by releasing the club shortly after the transition. This, obviously, is a major mistake. There is no point in setting your wrists to begin with if you are only going to unset them moments later. Once your wrists are hinged and your lag is set, you need to carry that lag as far as possible down toward impact before releasing the club and launching the ball into the distance.
It is easy to understand the importance of lag when talking about a club like the driver, where you are going to be trying to hit the ball as far as possible. However, you need to understand that lagging the club with your short irons and wedges is just as crucial to your success. It is easier to clip the ball cleanly using a swing which has plenty of lag, and you will create more spin this way as well. No matter what club happens to be in your hands, you should be holding your lag well into the downswing to produce an efficient and highly effective swinging action.
If you have previously struggled to create any lag in your swing, you will be shocked to see the results when you begin to lag the club more effectively. Without buying new clubs or going through any rigorous workout routines you can begin to hit longer shots simply by lagging the club properly. Extra distance often seems like an impossible dream for the average amateur golfer, but it is well within reach as long as you are willing to work on your lag. Move this point to the top of your golf priority list and some exciting improvements should arrive in your game in short order.
A List of Errors
One of the best ways to better your golf game is simply to eliminate mistakes. Instead of trying to follow directions on what you should be doing, it can actually be easier to focus on what you need to avoid in order to keep your game on track. This might sound like a negative way of thinking, but many players have succeeded in this manner. Take the mistakes out of your game one by one and your overall performance can benefit greatly in the long run.
In this section, we are going to offer a list of errors which you will want to avoid with regard to the wrist hinge. By steering clear of these mistakes, there will be a good chance that your wrist hinge will be in good condition.
- Hinging the wrists too early. There is no specific point during the swing when you have to hinge your wrists. Some professional golfers hinge their wrists on the early side during the swing, while others wait until they are almost finished with the backswing before the wrists are engaged. There is no right answer to the timing of this part of your mechanics, so you are free to do whatever feels right to you. However, with that said, there is one timing mistake to avoid – you don't want to hinge your wrists too early in the backswing. If you begin to hinge your wrists shortly after the swing begins, you will be at risk of moving the club up and over the proper swing plane. Ideally, you will allow the club head to swing back at least a foot or so before you begin the hinging action. Allow the rotation of your shoulders to move the club while your hands just go along for the ride. Once the club head begins to come up away from the ground and your back is turning toward the target, you can start to think about the wrist hinge. Letting the swing develop before you hinge your wrists will make it far easier to keep the club on plane all the way through impact and into the finish.
- Hinging the right wrist back. When you do set your wrists, you should feel as though you are hinging them 'up' as opposed to 'back'. In other words, you don't want to allow your right wrist to fold back on itself during the hinge. When this happens, the club will be forced to the inside, and a number of swing problems could result from that action. In some cases, this kind of hinge will result in a wild hook – while other cases will see a big slice result from this poor hinge. Either way, you are not going to be happy with the result. To make sure your wrist hinge leads you in the right direction, work on hinging your wrists vertically during the backswing to set the club up into the air nicely.
- Failing to hinge at all. Of course, it would be a serious mistake to fail to hinge your wrists at all before the backswing is completed. Without any wrist hinge, there won't be anywhere for your power to come from during the downswing. The club will be mostly in a straight line with your left arm, and you will be forced to drag the club through the hitting area at slow speed. It is hard to imagine any golfer playing at a high level without using a wrist hinge – certainly, no players are able to reach the PGA Tour or similar heights without a proper wrist hinge action. Take a look at the current status of your swing on video and determine how you are doing on this point right now. If there is little to no wrist hinge to speak of in your game, get down to work on this point as soon as possible.
Making any of the three mistakes above is going to lead to serious trouble in your game. A wrist hinge which happens too early, moves back instead of up, or doesn't happen at all, is going to make it difficult to strike the ball with authority. Fortunately, the only thing standing between you and an improved wrist hinge is hard work. If you are willing to spend some time on the practice range working on this specific part of your technique, you should be able to take a step forward with your performance.
A Whole Body Swing
With all the talk so far about how and when to hinge your wrists, you might be led to believe that you can swing the golf club simply by using your hands from start to finish. That is not the case, however. A good golf swing is an action which is completed by the entire body. In addition to hand and wrist action, you also need great shoulder rotation in the backswing, hip rotation in the downswing, and more. Only when you blend the actions of your hands with the actions of the rest of your body will you be able to strike powerful and accurate shots.
The list below contains some of the key ingredients to a successful swing with the rest of your body. If you can include these points in your swing, while still performing a nice wrist set, you should be moving in the right direction.
- Left shoulder under your chin. One of the best ways to ensure you are getting a full shoulder turn is to check the position of your left shoulder at the top of the swing. When your backswing is completed, pause your motion and see if you have moved your left shoulder at least under your chin. If you have gotten this far (or farther), you are doing a nice job of turning your shoulders. If not, you need to work on making a better turn with your upper body going back. It is during the backswing when you can build up potential power which will be unleashed later on. Without a full turn, the lag you use in the downswing won't be able to live up to its potential. Work on getting back to a point where your shoulder is under your chin and your downswing will have plenty of speed behind it.
- Right knee stability. Sometimes, the best moves in the golf swing are the ones you don't make. As you swing back, it is important that you keep your right knee as stable as possible. Many golfers make the mistake of allowing their right knee to slide to the right (away from the target). When that happen, balance is lost and it is difficult to rotate properly in the downswing. During your next trip to the driving range, be sure to monitor the position of your right knee and make any corrections to its behavior as necessary. Ideally, that right knee will remain perfectly still from the start of the swing on through until the downswing begins. It is okay if the knee needs to straighten a little bit to allow for a larger turn, but it definitely should not be drifting to the right.
- Left hip leads the way. Once your backswing is completed, your left hip should take over as the primary driver of the golf swing. From the top, you want your left hip too quickly begin opening up to the target. Aggressive hip rotation to the left will begin the action of uncoiling your body nicely. The club will accelerate rapidly thanks to the momentum that has been created by your lower body. While you turn, make sure to keep your left heel flat on the ground. If that heel comes up – as it common with some amateur players – the rotation of your lower body will be impeded.
The three points which you need to focus on during the swing are simple yet not always easy to execute. Swings that are able to bring these fundamentals together with a nice wrist hinge will usually be able to create powerful, accurate golf shots time after time. Take some time to work on each of these three points individually before working on them altogether to round your swing into form.
Wrist Hinge is Essential in Greenside Bunkers
Playing an explosion shot from a greenside bunker is a unique challenge. The technique that you need to use in this situation is unlike anything else you will use around the rest of the course. Basically, you can throw your swing mechanics out the window when you step down into a greenside bunker, as you will pretty much be starting over from scratch. As you build your bunker play technique from the ground up, it is important to know that wrist hinge will play a crucial part of the equation.
Unlike in your full swing, you should be hinging your wrists almost immediately when playing an explosion shot. In the bunker, you do want to cut across the ball from outside-in at impact – meaning that early wrist hinge is a positive as opposed to a negative. As soon as you put the club in motion, engage your wrists to set the club promptly. Hitting greenside bunker shots requires plenty of club head speed, and setting your wrists early is a great way to achieve that speed.
Once your wrists are set, you need to continue on to complete a nice shoulder turn before you hit the shot. Even though you may be within 10 or 15 yards of the target – or even less – you still need a big shoulder turn to blast the ball out of the bunker. The club is going to be going into the sand before it hits the ball, meaning you need to carry plenty of speed if the shot is going to have enough force to come out of the trap. Many amateur golfers swing tentatively in the sand, and they wind up hitting poor, weak shots as a result. Good bunker play takes a steady nerve, as you have to be willing to make a big swing from within close range of the target.
When the backswing is complete and it is time to hit the shot, you are going to use your right hand aggressively to unhinge your wrists and hit the shot. Rather than trying to carry your lag down into the ball like you do in the fairway, you are going to willingly give up your lag early in the downswing in order to slam the club into the sand behind the ball. As mentioned above, this technique is opposite from anything you will use throughout the rest of the course. Spend some time working on your greenside bunker game to get comfortable with this unique swing.
The wrist hinge is an important part of the golf swing, although it does not tend to get as much attention as some other pieces of the puzzle. By working on your wrist hinge using the advice provided above, you should be able to gain an advantage on your competition at the local club. Good luck!