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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Phil

    Jan 13, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Bowing my risk is really helping me strike the ball more consistently and the ball is flying straighter. Bowing my risk has had the most dramatic improvement on my game.
    I was typically a cupper. “Not Good” Leads to very inconsistent strikes.

  2. 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

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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…

  7. 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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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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