During the golf swing, your hands have a lot of work to do.

What is the Correct Hand Rotation Technique in the Backswing?

Sure, it is true that they shouldn’t do as much work during the swing as what the average amateur golfer seems to believe, but they are still involved. After all, your hands are the only connection between your body and the golf club itself, so you’ll naturally need to use them properly. In this article, we are going to discuss hand rotation during the backswing. If you’ve never before thought about this important point, we hope our discussion will help you make a significant step forward with your technique.

Let’s get one important point out of the way right off the top – you don’t want to be intentionally rotating your hands during the backswing. If you are actively thinking about the action of rotating your hands as you turn away from the target, you are making a mistake. The goal here is actually to use your body in such a way that your hand rotation happens naturally. Golfers who are able to strike the ball consistently swing after swing don’t usually think about hand rotation. Instead, it just happens automatically as a result of doing everything else right. As we move along in this article, we’ll aim to help you understand how you can build a swing that is going to promote proper hand rotation.

Also, later in the article we will talk about the short game and what your hand action should look like on those shots. Short game play is incredibly important in golf, yet many golfers largely ignore it as they work instead on the full swing. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your short game as you head to the range time after time to hit shots. It’s important to work on your full swing, of course, but only if you are also spending time working on putting and chipping.

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.

Why the Hands Need to Rotate

Why the Hands Need to Rotate

At its core, the golf swing is a rotational action. While many players try to play a side-to-side game, and they get into trouble as a result, you’ll be best served to focus on your rotation. If you do a good job of both turning right in the backswing and left in the downswing (for a right-handed golfer), you’ll be in good shape. There is more to a solid golf swing than just rotation, but you’ll have trouble reaching your goals if this piece isn’t in place.

So, if you are going to rotate back and through to make your swing, it will be essential to let your hands rotate, as well. The rotation of your hands is going to allow the club face to turn open on the way back, and then close down again on the way forward. While it might seem like the rotation of the club face would be an added complication, it actually makes the swing simpler. In essence, you are keeping the face square to your path by letting it rotate naturally as you swing. Were you to attempt to keep the face square to the target line, you’d have to manipulate the club awkwardly, and you would probably struggle to develop any kind of speed as a result. The rotation of your hands, along with your body, is the most natural and powerful way to swing the club. That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy to learn this kind of swing, of course, but it is the right way to go.

At the bottom of your golf swing, you are going to need to complete something called the ‘release’ in order to send the ball toward the target with authority. The release doesn’t have anything to do with letting the club fly out of your hands, of course – rather, it just means that you are going to let the club face aggressively rotate through the hitting area in order to square up the face at the perfect moment. The release is the subject of much debate and confusion in the game of golf, but we don’t think it should be that complicated.

The best way to think about your release is to consider it as a byproduct of everything else you have done in your swing to that point. Rather than making it an intentional action, try to make your release something that flows automatically as a result of your excellent turn and other fundamentals. We are going to talk as this article goes on about how you can build a technique that naturally promotes a good release through the hitting area.

In the end, your hands need to rotate during the golf swing because the swing itself is a rotational action. If you rotated your body without letting your hands rotate as well, things would get pretty awkward in a hurry. The combination of body rotation and hand rotation can lead to impressive results, even though some hard work will be required in order to put everything into place.

An Automated Process

An Automated Process

At this point, we are going to get down to business on the key fundamentals that you need to have in place in order to encourage proper hand rotation. You may be surprised to find that many of these tips don’t really seem to have much to do with your hands. That’s because everything in the golf swing is connected. If you move one part of your body, it impacts what you can do with another part of your body. This is part of the reason that the golf swing is so confusing to so many people. The best way to approach it is to get as many of the basic fundamentals right as you possibly can. When that is accomplished, everything else tends to fall nicely into place – and if it doesn’t, your remaining mistakes shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

The list below highlights a few of the important keys to work on in order to make hand rotation in your swing a natural, nearly automatic process.

  • A balanced stance. To improve nearly any part of your golf swing, one of the first things you are going to need to do is focus on your balance. You just can’t escape the fact that balance plays a huge role in your performance on the golf course. If you start in a balanced position and remain balanced throughout the rest of the swing, you’ll stand a good chance to hit a quality shot. Struggle with balance, on the other hand, and everything else becomes so much harder. The topic of building a balanced stance could take up an entire article of its own, but there are a few points we can mention here. First, you’ll want to set your feet wide enough apart to provide a stable base. Roughly shoulder width is a good starting point, but it may be necessary to go even further. Also, make sure to flex your knees at least slightly at address, and stick your backside out behind you while settling in to your stance. In the end, you should feel firmly planted on the ground, and you shouldn’t feel like you are leaning in any one direction.
  • Starting with your shoulders. Believe it or not, one of the biggest keys to shoulder rotation actually has to do with using your shoulders to start the swing, rather than your hands. By turning your shoulders away from the target as your first action to begin the swing, you will be setting in motion a great rotational process that will hopefully continue until the swing is finished. Too many golfers start their swing by hinging their wrists and using their hands to pick the club up off the ground. That’s a mistake, and it is going to impair your ability to turn fully. Even if you do manage to make a full turn after this kind of takeaway, you will still struggle to keep the club on a good path. If you find that you are having trouble with this point as you practice, work on making very small pitch swings while focusing exclusively on your takeaway. As you get more and more comfortable with keeping your hands quiet at the start of the swing, you can gradually work back up to full shots.
  • Staying down all the way through. One of the biggest culprits in terms of lost rotation is a failure to stay down throughout the entire golf swing. What does it mean to ‘stay down’? It all starts with the lower body. As your swing develops, you want to do what you can to maintain knee flex, as this is going to help with your balance, and your rotation as a result. Also, avoid letting your upper body straighten up as the backswing moves along. That is going to take your head farther up away from the ball, and it will again cause trouble with your rotation. Some golfers allow themselves to stand up straighter in the backswing because they feel like it is going to make for a longer backswing motion, but that really isn’t important. What’s more important is that you stay in your stance and get the most you can out of your turn without sacrificing your position. Don’t worry if you can’t quite turn back as far as some of the other players in your group – you can still play good golf, as long as you are getting the most from the flexibility you have available.
  • A matter of tempo. Another point that may surprise you is that you’ll want to make sure to focus on tempo as you practice in order to optimize rotation. You may think that the golf swing is simply about finding the right positions over and over again, but that isn’t going to be enough. In addition to putting your body in the right positions, you also need to have a smooth rhythm to your swing which makes it possible for everything to come together just right. Amateur golfers tend to ignore the importance of tempo, despite the fact that it is one of the most important parts of the swing. The typical mistake here is to rush at the top of the swing, hurrying to start the downswing before the backswing has even finished. This is going to lead to your turn being cut short, and the overall quality of your swing will be diminished. Work extensively on mastering your tempo during practice so it doesn’t desert you when on the course.

The combination of quiet hands in the takeaway, good balance, staying down, and maintaining your tempo should all add up to great rotation and a reliable swing. As long as you are rotating well with your body, and you aren’t letting your hands take over the early stages of the swing, you should have no trouble allowing your hands to rotate properly to put the club in position. With that said, there are some issues that can come up along the way, and we will address those in the next section.

Where It Can Go Wrong

Where It Can Go Wrong

As a golfer, you already know that things can go wrong in your swing. In fact, it’s a certainty that things will go wrong at some point, given the fact that this is such a difficult game for beginners and experienced players alike. So, what kinds of things can you expect to go wrong from time to time with regard to your rotation? Let’s take a closer look –

  • Slide instead of turn. The lateral slide has ruined countless golf swings over the years. Basically, the slide is the complete opposite of the turn, so you aren’t going to be able to have both at the same time. If you slide, you aren’t going to turn very well, and the club isn’t going to rotate into position nicely. Usually, the slide gets going early in the backswing and it goes from there. If you can do a good job of starting with rotation, you should be able to steer clear of the slide. Should you find that you are having trouble with this error, try making some practice swings in front of a mirror without a club. You’ll be able to see if you are sliding laterally and you can make an adjustment as necessary. Taking the lateral slide out of your game is not only going to improve your hand rotation, it’s simply going to make you a better overall golfer.
  • The dreaded rush. We alluded to this mistake in the previous section when we talked about the importance of tempo. Rushing through your swing is the enemy of a good tempo, so you need to make sure you don’t fall into this trap. Most golfers who rush do so because they are nervous about the results of the upcoming shot. Maybe you feel uncomfortable with your club selection, or maybe you are playing in a competition and struggling to deal with the pressure. Whatever the case, rushing your tempo is sure to cause problems. As a simple but potentially powerful fix to this problem, try adding a deep breath to your pre-shot routine. Even just a single deep breath before you walk up to the ball can go a long way toward settling your nerves and allowing you to use the same smooth tempo that you have developed on the range.
  • Manipulation of the club. The idea behind building a quality body rotation in your swing is that you won’t need to manipulate the club with your hands as the swing develops. In other words, you can just turn back and through, letting the club move naturally as a result of your overall technique. If you attempt to manipulate how the club is moving – such as intentionally turning your hands open or holding them in a closed position – you are going to interrupt the natural flow of the swing. Your body rotation won’t be as effective as it would have been otherwise in terms of positioning the club, and the end results will be disappointing. In order to avoid this type of trouble, you’ll basically need to ‘stay out of your own way’. Manipulating the club means you are trying too hard to produce a good shot, and the extra work you are going to is going to get in the way. Take time to build solid fundamentals and you won’t need to let your hands interrupt during the course of the swing.
  • Giving up at the bottom. It can all come unraveled at the very last moment if you don’t commit to finishing your swing properly. Even if you’ve rotated nicely all the way through the shot, holding something back and impact could cause you to miss your target and wind up with a poor result. It is typically a lack of confidence that is the culprit here, and you’ll take a bit of release and speed out of the swing at the bottom as you attempt to guide the ball toward the target. It’s too late for this kind of guidance, however, so the best thing you can do is to simply trust your swing and just let it go through the hitting area. Give each shot everything you can and be ready to accept whatever result that may mean.

One of the best skills you can develop in this game is the ability to analyze your swing and determine where you are going wrong. What part of your swing is letting you down? How do you fix it quickly? Many golfers think that low-handicap amateurs and professionals make perfect swings all day long, but that is not the case. Rather, those players are simply better at making adjustments and avoiding the same mistake too many times in a row. Learn how to figure out what is going wrong and you’ll be able to get back on track much faster.

Hand Rotation in the Short Game

Hand Rotation in the Short Game

Quickly, before wrapping up this article, we’d like to touch on the concept of hand rotation in the short game. Since you aren’t going to be rotating your body in the short game the same way you do in the long game, there won’t be much natural hand rotation taking place. With the putter, that’s just fine – you don’t really want to be rotating your hands, anyway. By keeping your hands quiet and just rocking your shoulders back and through, you can produce a reliable stroke which sends the ball toward the target time after time.

Things do get a little more complicated when talking about chipping and pitching. On these kinds of shots, a little bit of rotation is your friend, as it will help you make clean contact on a consistent basis. Also, rotating your hands (and the club head, as a result) is going to make it easier to deal with poor lies. To make this happen, go ahead and use your hands a little more actively on your chip shots than you do early in your full swings. Let your right wrist set the club a bit, and then hit down using your right hand to give the club some speed at the bottom. You should be able to use this technique successfully as long as you don’t wind up cupping your left wrist through the hitting area. Keep that left wrist firm and flat and you should find great results.

It’s best not to over complicate the idea of hand rotation in the golf swing. By rotating the rest of your body nicely, and remaining well-balanced, the rotational action of your hands should take place almost automatically. Spend some time thinking about this point on the driving range so you can put it out of your head on the course and just focus on hitting your targets. Good luck!