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The Science of Square: Understanding the relationship between the wrist and club face



One of the biggest problems I see in today’s weekend golfer is an out-of-position clubface at the top of the swing. Understanding the articulations of the lead wrist at the address position versus at the top is crucial for you to get the face into a square position. In this article, I want you to truly understand how the grip and the top position work in conjunction with one another.

NOTE: In an upcoming article, we’ll discover why many teachers are now advocating a shut face at the top, and why they focus on getting their more serious golfers into this position. It does have several advantages for the better player, but as usual, it has limitations.

First, in this article, let’s show you the two basic left hand grips you will find in use today.

Strong grip, cupped wrist

The most popular grip today is one where the lead hand is rotated away from the target at address, showing several knuckles, which produces a big cup in the lead wrist at address as shown above. This is termed a stronger grip, and the cup you see in the photos above is referred to as “extension.”

Weaker grip, flatter wrist

The second grip is one where the lead hand is rotated slightly away from the target at address, showing 1-to-1.5 knuckles, which produces only a slight cup in the lead wrist at address as shown above. This is termed a weaker grip.

Now that you understand the two most common grips, you also need to understand how these grips control the face at the top.

Using Hack Motion Wrist Sensor, I am now going to measure how the lead wrist works to the top. Please only focus on the first number on the screen showing extension (cupping) of the lead wrist.

With a left hand grip that is less “cuppy” at address (or “weaker”), you will see that there is little extension if any at address, only 8 degrees. Therefore, if the club is square at address and you keep that same amount of flexion to the top, your clubface will stay in a square condition.

Address (weak grip)

Top of Backswing (weak grip)

So as you can see, if I keep the lead wrist in the same condition that it started at address, then I will have the face in a square condition at the top!

Ok, so what about today’s stronger grip, or players with a more flexed lead wrist?

Address (strong grip)

Here you see the stronger grip position with more knuckles showing in the lead hand producing 40 degrees of extension at address. Will the face be square if we keep that same amount to the top?

Top of Backswing (strong grip)

Of course! As you might have expected, the face above is square at the top, but only because the lead wrist is cupped the exact same amount at address it is at the top.

Therefore, in order to have a clubface that is square at the top, you must keep the lead wrist condition (extension) constant from the address position all the way to the top. If you interchange them, then you will have a clubface that is out of position, and you’ll have a hard time getting the ball to go where you want.

So, there’s my introduction to the wrist-clubface relationship. Look out for my next article where I analyze why bowed wrist players (think Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka) are finding success.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email:



  1. Rusty Trombeauner

    Sep 12, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Tom, i’m Lovin’ this wrist action discussion, good stuff. Seriously, keep it coming. Same to you awesome guys in the comments section, woohoo!

  2. Ray Bennett

    Sep 7, 2018 at 5:02 am

    My understanding of square,open, closed clubface at the top of the backswing is the relationship of the leading edge of the clubface to the lead forearm (ulnar bone) just before transition to the downswing. Closed is still open to the swing plane line just less open than square and open. In the modern tour swing closed is the new square because there is less supination of the target wrist to square the clubface before impact with minimum rotation of the face through impact.

  3. Jeremy

    Sep 5, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    I thought DJ’s wrist position at the top of his backswing should normally result in a draw but he in fact hits a fade. It’s the wrist position at the top of the backswing in relationship to where it is at address that causes the fade (in conjunction with his swing path?)

  4. stevet

    Sep 5, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Tom has provided us with irrefutable scientific data that explains how the hand position and wrist release functions in the backswing to the top of the swing. Personal opinions are scientifically worthless. Let’s wait for the next article on the downswing.

  5. Linwood

    Sep 4, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    this was confusing. As a really crummy, inexperienced player, it confused me as to how the heck I should position my wrist.

    • Jake

      Sep 5, 2018 at 3:05 am

      Ignore this advice according to the writer the number one player in the world has an out of position wrist.
      Go figure.

    • stevet

      Sep 5, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      A little bit of knowledge is dangerous in the mindlets of incompetent golfers. Tom is sharing knowledge that is significant to other instructors, not crummy golfers like you who are confused continually. Get lessons.

  6. Jake

    Sep 4, 2018 at 2:38 am

    No such thing as an out of position at the top.If you are coming into impact clubface facing target then your position is good.Its advice such as this which keeps golfers on a backfoot and no improvement in their golf.

    • stevet

      Sep 5, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      So what straightens out the clubface to the target at impact? A super game improvement club design… or how you hold and release your wrists?

  7. Brad

    Sep 3, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Has the Hack Motion Wrist Sensor been useful in your golf lessons for recreational golfers?

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Sep 3, 2018 at 11:47 pm

      Certainly…the auditory biofeedback is a game changer.

      • stevet

        Sep 4, 2018 at 1:25 am

        Auditory biofeedback must be more effective than verbal instruction. The golfer has something other than their ‘feel’ to confirm their actions.

  8. Shifty

    Sep 2, 2018 at 6:35 am

    If only someone could shed light on this. I’m forever going between strong and weak. Strong ends up in hooks and weak is straight but looses a lot of distance compared.

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Sep 3, 2018 at 9:09 am

      It’s because of your path being too far left at impact

    • geohogan

      Sep 3, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      What George Knudson said about the lead wrist and the golf swing:

      “I noticed every player who struck the ball well maintained the same firmness in the left wrist at the completion of the swing as was established in the Starting Position. The wrists don’t break down, as Tommy Bolt called flippy-wristed kids stuff.

      “I had no idea that to maintain firm wrists was to properly use my legs. I ignored footwork also because I was stuck on golf’s number one misconception … keep the head still. I later learned that the head has to go where the body carries it. The head has nothing to do with the golf swing, the head has no purpose in the swing”

      • stevet

        Sep 3, 2018 at 10:39 pm

        Hogan had a cupped lead wrist at the top of the swing and used pronation to flatten the wrist into impact.

        • stevet

          Sep 4, 2018 at 1:20 am

          Your head is a counter-balance weight that stabilizes your shoulder rotation velocity vector axis.

        • Ray Bennett

          Sep 7, 2018 at 4:49 am

          Hogan supinated his left forearm early in the downswing and bowed (flexed) his wrist with ulna deviation (thumb down) prior to impact. His left forearm then pronated past impact to the finish.

  9. stevet

    Sep 1, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    If your wrist is cupped at the top it must go flat in final release and impact for full swings. I hope Tom, in his next article, will explain the function of the trail hand in the backswing for flat and cupped lead hand. Thanks.

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Sep 2, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Certainly sir. Thx.

      • Brad

        Sep 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        Looking forward to your next informative article to tie everything together. You got the back swing, now the down swing through impact. Eager for your next installment.

  10. PG

    Sep 1, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    How are there so many “shank” votes? This is pretty good.

    • TomTaylor

      Sep 3, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      Agreed; definitely good stuff.
      As for your first question; it has to do with gossipy pointless articles written on this site that started popping up about 2 years ago. I won’t name authors but these articles are nothing more than click-bait and have drawn tons of kooks onto what used to be a site for serious golfers.

      • unoho

        Sep 4, 2018 at 1:18 am

        I came to this forum about a year ago and posted valid critical comments about golf club designs. I was hounded off by forum moderator(s) protecting gear heads and their fantasy WITB delusions.

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