The correct place to begin hinging your wrist during your backswing is during your takeaway.
If you begin hinging your wrist immediately as you swing the club away from the ball, you will create a very upright or steep swing path that will reduce your shoulder turn and result in a loss of power. The club head will descend very steeply on your downswing and it will produce shots where you frequently strike the top of the golf ball.
Hinging your wrist too late on your backswing will result in you finding it very difficult to keep your left arm straight (for right handed golfers) at the end of your backswing. Hinging your wrist towards the end of the backswing will create a flopping action at the top of the backswing, and you will experience a collapse at the top of the backswing with your left elbow being forced to buckle due to the momentum in the club. This will result in you either making a casting action on your downswing, where you try to recover into a straight left arm position, but you will be unable to keep your wrist angle and this will result in you releasing all of your power and speed before you get to the ball. If you do not recover the left arm position and it remains bent through impact, you will strike the top of the golf ball and by bending your left elbow you are effectively pulling the club head up away from the floor and making it very difficult to strike downwards, resulting in a lot of topped shots.
The correct position to hinge your wrists is during your takeaway. Initially, begin from a set up position that allows you to create a straight line from your left shoulder, down to your left hand and then down to the club head. Move this straight line away from the ball, maintaining the relationship between the left shoulder, hand and club head and allowing the club head to travel along the target line to the right of the ball. Do this until your hands move from being in front of your right thigh to right of your right thigh. Now is the correct time to hinge your wrist so that the club head moves upwards from the target line to hand height.
If you look at yourself in a mirror head on, your left arm will look straight and the shaft of the club will look horizontal. Looking at yourself sideways so that the mirror is to your right, your left arm will be pointing at the mirror and the club head will appear at the bottom of your arm.
Work on achieving the correct wrist hinge during your backswing and you will find that you strike the ball more consistently, accurately and will improve length.
Best Position to Start Wrist Hinge During Backswing
At some point during the backswing, your wrists need to hinge up into position in order to prepare for the downswing. When you arrive at the top of the swing, your wrists should be 'set', meaning your right wrist has folded back on itself and your left wrist is mostly flat (for a right handed golfer). The action of the wrist hinge is relatively simple and easy to complete, but when should you do it? Is there is a right time and a wrong time to hinge your wrists in the backswing? Timing up this element of your backswing correctly will be a key ingredient to creating consistency in your golf swing.
It is important to have your wrists hinged at the top of the swing because you want to make your downswing as simple as possible. Setting your wrists early will put the club in a position to lag behind the rest of your body as you swing into the ball - which is crucial for building speed and power in the swing. The club head should be the very last thing to move through the hitting area after your body, arms, and even hands have already moved through the zone. Most amateur golfers get this point wrong, which is why so many average golfers struggle to hit the ball good distances. Lagging the club head behind your body is the best way to develop speed, and it all starts with a properly timed wrist hinge during the backswing.
One of the things that makes this point so tricky to teach is that not everyone is going to hinge their wrists at the same point in the backswing - and that's okay. There are actually a couple of different points during the backswing when it is perfectly acceptable to hinge your wrists, so you will have to decide for yourself which option works best for your game. Some players will prefer to set the club early in the backswing, while others will wait until the backswing is nearly completed. Each of these options comes along with a unique set of pros and cons, and most players will find that one option works significantly better in their swing than the other. As a golfer, it is your job to pick and choose the right mix of mechanics for your personal swing in order to maximize your results. No two golf swings are exactly alike, so you shouldn't be searching to copy the technique of another player - you should be seeking to build something that you can use effectively time and time again.
As you are reading through the content below, be sure to keep in mind the importance of rhythm and tempo in the golf swing. When thinking about where to hinge your wrists in the backswing, it is easy to allow your swing to get too mechanical and technical. While there is a time and place for technical thoughts (on the driving range during your practice sessions), you don't want to move too far in that direction. No matter what kind of mechanics you are working on, maintaining your rhythm in the swing should always be in the back of your mind. If your swing becomes too technical, it won't matter how good your mechanics are because you will never be able to consistently produce quality shots out on the course.
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.
Two Common Mistakes
Before we get into the right way to hinge your wrists in the backswing, it will be helpful to take a look at the wrong way to do it. By knowing what you should be avoiding, you will have an easier time making the right move at just the right moment. There is some room for personality and creativity when it comes to how your hinge your wrists in the backswing, but the two common mistakes below need to be avoided. If you try to hinge your wrists during either of these two phases of the swing, you will likely be disappointed in the results.
- Takeaway. You definitely don't want to start hinging your wrists while you are still in the takeaway portion of the swing. The takeaway can be defined as the first foot or so of the backswing, when the club head is still traveling low along the ground. This portion of the swing is when you should be getting your shoulders started on their rotation, and your hands should be almost completely quiet. Why can't you hinge your wrists this early? Most likely, if you try to set your wrists during the takeaway, you will move the club way too far to the inside. With the club stuck inside, you will run the strong risk of making an over the top move during the transition - setting the stage for a slice. Many golfers who fight the slice actually struggle with an early set of the club, whether they know it or not. Resist the temptation to set the club during your takeaway and allow your shoulders to do their job during this crucial phase.
- During the transition. Technically, it is possible to set your wrists during the transition of the swing, but it is very difficult. For example, Sergio Garcia is a professional golfer who waits incredibly long to set the club in the backswing. In fact, Garcia doesn't really set the club until he has started to transition into the downswing. While this method obviously has worked great for him, it isn't likely to pay off for the average golfer. Setting the club this late in the golf swing requires tremendous talent and eye-hand coordination, in addition to plenty of practice. Even if you have time to practice your swing day in and day out, it is unlikely you will ever reach a satisfactory level of consistency while trying to set the club during the transition. You will be best served to work on completing your set earlier in the backswing, so leave this challenging swing technique to the pros.
If you wish to complete a successful wrist set during your backswing, you would be wise to avoid trying to make the move during these two phases of the swing. Setting your wrists either too early or too late will lead to problems with the rest of your swing. The golf swing is complicated enough as it is - don't make it more complicated by trying to force a wrist set where it doesn't belong.
Two Good Options
So, if the two phases above are poor times to set your wrists, there must be other points in the backswing which are better for this purpose. There are actually two portions of the golf backswing that are nicely suited for wrist setting, depending on what kind of swing you wish to make. There is nothing wrong with using either of these two phases of the backswing for your wrist set, so feel free to experiment with both until you settle on the option that gives you the best results.
- Left arm parallel to the ground. This is probably the most-frequently used point in the backswing at which to set the wrists. When your left arm reaches a position where it is parallel to the ground, you can go ahead and load the club by hinging your wrists. When you hinge your wrists at this point, the club will move up into the air and the shaft of the club should match the angle of your left arm nicely. If you were to pause your swing with your left arm just past parallel to the ground, you would see that the club and your arm form a 90* angle – which is perfect. From there, you will simply need to carry that angle all the way up to the top of the swing, and then hold on to it for as long as possible in the downswing. For most golfers, hinging the wrists at this point in the backswing is going to be the most successful strategy.
- Just short of the transition. The content above discussed the danger of trying to set the club while you are in the process of transitioning from backswing to downswing. However, it can be a successful strategy to load the club just short of making that transition. With this method, you will hold off the wrist set throughout most of the backswing, only to allow it to happen just a split second before you change directions. Generally speaking, this method will require a good deal of eye-hand coordination and plenty of rhythm in your swing to execute consistently. This is a dynamic move, so you may be able to add distance to your shots by setting the club at this late stage. However, waiting this long to set your wrists will open you up to the possibility of dropping the club to the inside during the transition – which is a recipe for a hook. Only use this method if you have great control over your swing plane and balance, as you will need both of those things in order to hit solid shots while using a late set.
The most cases, the average golfer is going to be best served by trying to set the wrists when the left arm is parallel to the ground. Therefore, it would be smart for you to start by trying that method first. If you are successful, you don't even need to bother with the other method. However, if you are struggling to feel comfortable setting the wrists that early in your swing, you may want to try pushing the hinge back to later in your motion. Obviously, all of this work should be done on the practice range, and you shouldn't take your new swing action to the course until you are completely comfortable and confidence in the work you have done.
How to Practice the Wrist Hinge
Like so many other elements in the golf swing, the wrist hinge is best practiced in the short game area of your local golf course. By starting small with short game shots, you can learn the proper feelings that will need to be translated into your full swing. Gradually working your way up from small swings to big ones is the best way to learn this fundamental quickly. Most golfers want to rush over and hit as many drivers as possible when trying a new swing method, but be patient and you will be much happier with the results.
If you are willing to work on your wrist hinge by first hitting some short shots, find a space in the short game practice area at your local course. To get started, take your most-lofted wedge out of the bag and set a few golf balls down on the ground. You should be standing about 20 or 30 yards away from the green, but you don't need to bother picking out a specific target at this point. The goal of these practice shots is just to feel the correct mechanics – so don't worry about trying to hit the ball close to a hole or anything like that. After you make some progress and learn how to hinge your wrists properly, you can start picking targets to dial in your control.
For these initial shots of 20 or 30 yards, you actually aren't going to be hinging your wrists at all. That's right – even though you are working on wrist hinge, you are going to start out by pitching the ball without any movement at all in your wrists. What is the point of that? You need to feel how to make a takeaway without using your wrists before you can integrate the wrist hinge into a later stage of your swing. Take your stance as usual over the ball and make a takeaway without using your wrists to move the club. All of the motion in this swing should be initiated by a rotation of your shoulders. Turn your shoulders back until the club head is a few inches off of the ground, and then turn through toward the target. In both the backswing and forward swing, your hands should be completely quiet.
This type of swing is almost certainly going to feel awkward at first. You are used to using your hands and wrists in every shot that you hit, so taking them out of the swing will be difficult. Stick with it however, until you can clip a few clean pitch shots without needing wrist action. A solid takeaway is crucial to the success of your swing, so don't take this step of the process for granted. Once you are confident in your takeaway fundamentals, go ahead and move on to the next step.
Now, you are going to be hitting wedge shots with a wrist hinge included in the equation. You may be able to continue working on this in the short game practice area if it is big enough, but you might have to move to the driving range otherwise. The shots you hit in this next phase will likely travel anywhere from 80-100 yards, so you need plenty of space. Using the same takeaway motion, continue the swing up to a point where your left arm is parallel with the ground. As you are swinging back, go ahead and use your wrists to set the club. The setting of the club should take place after the takeaway has been completed, but before your left arm completely arrives at a parallel to the ground position. Timing the hinge is crucial, so practice this motion over and over again before even hitting any shots. For the purposes of this drill, the backswing should stop completely when your left arm is level with the ground and the wrists are fully hinged. From there, you will be swinging forward and striking the ball.
Hit as many of these partial shots as you would like before starting to swing the wedge all the way back to the top of the swing. Of course, even when you start to make a full swing, you should still continue to work on getting the club set at that halfway back position. This will help simplify the overall swing, and it will also help you to keep the club on the right plane. Continue to hit full wedge shots with your new wrist hinge until you feel comfortable enough to move up through the bag, hitting longer and longer shots until you reach the driver. Regardless of which club you are swinging, the mechanics for getting your wrists set should remain the same. In addition to focusing on those mechanics, make sure you are keeping your swing in a good rhythm in order to produce consistent results swing after swing.
The Mental Side
Although the act of setting your wrist hinge is certainly a physical task, there is a large mental component to this part of the swing as well. Specifically, you have to work hard to avoid allowing your mind to get too technical while you are working on your wrist hinge. It is easy to slip too far into the mode of thinking only about technique while ignoring the natural feel and rhythm in your swing. Mechanical thoughts are okay on the driving range, but they will ruin your game if you take them with you out onto the course.
The main danger that you need to avoid is thinking about your swing as a step-by-step process. Golf is not played one piece at a time – rather, the swing should be a fluid action, one that builds on itself from the start all the way through to the finish. If your mind is approach the swing as a collection of techniques that need to be put together in a specific order, you will never swing with the rhythm needed to be a good player. Since the golf swing happens so quickly, it is simply impossible to think through the steps of the swing one by one as it is happening. For example, if you try to think consciously about your wrist hinge while you are on the course, you will be bound to make mistakes in other parts of your swing either before or after the hinge. Instead, your swing should be on 'auto-pilot', allowing you to focus on the target that you have selected for each shot.
It is common for amateur golfers to get caught up in mechanical thoughts when they are on the course. This is one of the areas where professionals are dramatically better than their amateur counterparts. A pro golfer will be able to work on mechanics on the range, but then leave those thoughts behind once they arrive at the first tee. That is not necessarily an easy skill to acquire, but it is one that is necessary to play good golf on a regular basis.
Pressure is a near constant on the golf course, and pressure is one thing that will break down a mechanical swing quicker than anything else. You might be able to get by making a mechanical swing on the range when there are no nerves, but that same swing will come unraveled as you start to tighten up. Only the players who can leave the technical thoughts behind will be able to succeed on the course under pressure.
Setting your wrists is an important part of the golf swing, but you have to know when to do it, and you have to be able to do it without consciously thinking about it. Spend practice time mastering this element of your swing so that it becomes built in to your overall technique. With enough practice, you should be able to set the club correctly each and every time without even having to think about this element of your overall technique.