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The important relationship between your lead wrist and the club face

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The most important part of any golf swing is the club face. You can do everything right in your golf swing, but get the club-face positioning wrong and you have a flawed swing. After all, the definition of a good swing is simply one that can control the club face, period. So the question we need to ask is simply this: What controls the club face?

Any discussion of the club face has to begin with the grip. A good grip is one that controls the face by being compatible with your swing. Does it match “your action?” Any teaching pro should begin there. I’ve helped a lot of golfers simply by having them hold the club a little differently. We could discuss grips all day and still not say enough about them, but for purposes of this article, I’ll leave it at this: see your pro and be sure your grip is functional for you.

Flat/Neutral Left Wrist Position

Dennis_Clark_Flat

The thing I’d like to explain this time is keeping your grip throughout your swing. For example, if you start with what I’ll call a neutral grip, your lead wrist (left for right-handed golfers) will be fairly flat, or perhaps slightly cupped if your grip is strong. If it stays that way throughout the swing, you’ll maintain the face angle. But if it cups, or dorsiflexes, you have just opened the face relative to its starting position. The same can be said of bowing your wrist, which closes the club face.

The lead wrist IS the club face in golf. I have seen more problems caused by cupping the wrist than almost any other swing flaw. As soon as the the wrist cups, you have opened the face, steepened your swing and added loft to the shot.

Cupped Left Wrist Position

Dennis_Clark_Cupped_Feat

Try this as soon as you can: get in front of a full length mirror with a golf club, move to the top of your swing, and observe the club face. Now simply cup (bend back, dorsiflex) the left wrist. Look at the club face now; it’s considerably more open than it was. Now start your downswing, and check the incline of the club. If the wrist is cupped, the club is pointing straight at the ground, and it is considerably more open than it was it address.

Bowing, or flexing the wrist has just the opposite effect. It is much more uncommon and, in my opinion, not as destructive because it slightly flattens plane and even de-lofts the face a bit — not a bad idea for most to initiate the downswing.

Bowed Left Wrist Position

Dennis_Clark_Bowed

The other position you’ll notice is this: when you cup the wrist, you have effectively moved the handle of the club well behind the face (lofted it). Do the same exercise you did a minute ago: stand up at address and simply cup your lead wrist. Where did the handle go in relation to the head? BEHIND IT! If this position does not change in the downswing, and for many it does NOT, you have little to no ability to hit DOWN on a golf ball. It would be a perfectly good position for a greenside bunker shot, but not a shot off the grass.

As many of you have heard me say so often on GolfWRX, if you want to make a change, you have to go practice something 180-degrees differently than you’re doing it now. Exaggeration is the key to change, rarely modification. So if you discover that you’re cupped at the top, or worst of all, coming down, and you want to square that face, you’ll need to practice serious flexion, or bowing of the lead wrist.  

Beacuse golf is such an individual game, some will actually cup the wrist or bow it to open or close the club face in their backswing. So when we discuss grip as a fundamental in the golf swing, it is just that. But if and only if you can maintain that position throughout your swing.

If you’re interested in my online swing analysis program, click here for more info, or contact me on Facebook.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Greg

    Aug 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve never believed in a flat wrist at the top is best. slightly cupped is IMHO is the best position. It’s a more powerful position. Just like hammering a nail.If i grab a hammer and begin nailing, my wrist is cupped,not flat. Its due to the natural hinging of the wrist. Just my 3 cents. There is no right or wrong way to do this. There are a thousand different ways to swing a golf club. We as a golfer must understand our own swing and learn from it.

    • dennis clark

      Aug 3, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      no question the hinging (cocking) and unhinging is easier and more powerful when cupped (dorsiflex) And a slightly stronger than neutral grip has the hand in this position. But…the problem occurs with the face. its easier to cock the wrist if its cupped but it DOES have an opening effect on the face AND begin the downswing too steeply. Fine line like most things. My swing cups too much coming down and I fight right because of it. Thx

  2. Bobalu

    Aug 3, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Good article Dennis…however, I really wish that we could transition to more GolfWRX instruction videos rather than written articles. For swing instruction it is so much easier to learn motion, position, and exaggeration moves by video. Written golf magazine instruction articles are now supplementing with direct links to video using apps. GolfWRX on a computer is perfect for direct audio-video learning, and I would think that this is much more effective way to learn for most golfers. Some articles are still perfect for the written media- reviews, golf stories, image rich pieces, etc, but swing instruction is just tailor made for video. My 2 cents.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 3, 2016 at 11:51 am

      I agree. good idea Bobalu, and I think we are doing some of that. I may do that for this one…

  3. sprcoop

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Dennis, I have found that going to the top cupped, then consciously bowing in the transition flattens the club and keeps my swing/transition dynamic. I tried jut setting the wrist bowed at the top and maintaining but lost the feel in transition and was unsure of face angle at impact and became inconsistent. Bowing in transition seems easier to maintain face angle through the hitting area. I know it sounds like it would be more consistent to just bow at the top and keep it that way (that was my thinking) but it didn’t work out that way for me. Any thoughts on going from cupped to bowed in transition?

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Well i think what you’re doing is great. Bowing in transition, does “re-plane” the swing and is ideal. If that is working, definitely stay with it. The opposite of that is what causes most problems….

    • Conor

      Aug 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      I think this is similar to what Hogan preached. I try to have a bowed wrist at impact in order to press the ball a little more. For me, that was probably the most important lesson in Hogan’s book. It can lead to hooking the ball, if you get too handsy, but it’s much better than leaving club face open and shooting it right.

  4. Not Scratch

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Yes having no gap in the v’s. Instead of putting my right thumb and index finger over touching like so many do I tried to place it the other way to create a wrist angle at address. Seems to work but I hope to find a better way

  5. Bill Wood

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Dennis – I understand that. But how do we get there. What excercise can we do. Many thanks.

    • Dennis clark

      Aug 2, 2016 at 11:37 am

      SKLZ Smart glove is fairly effecive. Making backswings cross handed is another way to feel a flatter wrist. I also like a headcover tucked under right arm pit IF a flying elbow is causing the wrist to cup.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      i don’t like to recommend drills sight unseen, but if you send me a video, I’ll take a look at it…

  6. Not Scratch

    Aug 2, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Thanks you for this great stuff. How important are the v’s in the golf grip. Also I have been trying to keep v’s on both hands tight so I can hold my right wrist angle. Does this make sense. Any tips for holding the right wrist bent

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2016 at 10:55 am

      well everyone’s Vs are slightly different, stronger, weaker grips etc. Right wrist bend is significant for hitting down on the golf ball and controlling the face. You do not want to lose the angle of the right wrist too soon OR too late. By “Tight”you mean no gap between index knuckle and thumb?

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I’m sure you’ve heard by now that a good grip is one of the cornerstones of a good swing. Clichés become clichés because they’re true, and putting your hands on the club is extremely important… for reasons you know, and for some reasons you probably haven’t heard before.

Let’s start with the big, obvious one you already know. Your grip establishes the default relationship between the clubface and the golf ball. If you set your grip in a way that promotes bringing the club back to impact open or closed, you’re going to have to do something else in your swing to compensate for that. In other words, a sound grip makes the job of squaring the club easier.

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When you get the grip in this position, you’re creating an angle (and a lever) between the club and your left arm, and you’re giving the wrist freedom to move. If you turned the handle so that it crossed your palm diagonally—like a putting grip—you’d immediately feel how your wrist would be much more restricted in how it could bend or turn. That’s why it’s great for putting—because it restricts how the face turns. But on a full swing, you want to take full advantage of the range of motion that comes from rotating from open to square. (this is what the club is designed to do!)

Get a firm grip on the handle with all of the fingers of your left hand and get as much of the thumbprint pushed onto the grip as you can. Now, place your right hand on the handle so that the underside of your right thumb covers the left thumb as much as possible, and get as much of the thumbprint on your right hand onto the top of the grip as possible.

Where you place your hand on the grip is more important than if you decide to interlock, overlap or play with all 10 fingers on the handle. I prefer the overlapping grip because it keeps the index finger of your left hand on the handle, and that extra finger can make a difference for many players.

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