Flat Left Wrist Golf Impact Position Like Camilo Villegas

Camilo Villegas won with a flat left wrist golf impact position. Do you have it? If you hit shots too high, can’t take a divot or lack distance, then odds are you’re missing out.

If you saw Camilo’s win last weekend, you saw a classic ball striking and shot-making exhibition. He consistently hit punch shots, stingers, and partial knockdowns en route to a great victory in Florida at the Honda Classic. These shots are mandatory on a course like the Honda with tight golf holes, water lined fairways, island greens and windy conditions. Now what’s his secret you ask?

Camilo’s secret to super crisp shots is getting a flat left wrist in the backswing and keeping a flat left wrist golf impact position to “trap” the ball against the turf. It’s especially important in the wind. It actually looks and feels like smothering the ball. But this is not simply hitting down either. It’s all in the forearms and wrists.

You might be thinking, “Herman we already talked about this in your December newsletter with the YouTube Videos on neutral grip and flat left wrist.” And you’re right, but I mostly talked about your position at the very top of the backswing. We need to tell you more about how to get there and then how to deliver the club back to the ball. So let’s dig a little deeper.

First, if you aren’t sure about your grip, click on  golf grip first. A weaker grip works better than a strong grip for this technique. Johnny Miller even commented on TV about how Camilo has a slightly weak left hand grip. It allows for aggressive swinging and a powerful golf release if you can keep the back of the hand and forearm flat.

Steps to Getting a Flat Left Wrist Golf Impact Position

(assuming a right-handed golfer)
1) The takeaway starts with a straight back motion of the hands. As the arms and club move back from the ball, the back of the left hand is facing down – don’t roll the arms early. Conversely the back of the right hand moves back facing the sky. Go to about waist-high with this first move. This is known as a one piece takeaway. Note the toe of the club does not point straight up at this position. Contrary to popular belief, the clubface is actually facing down slightly and looks closed. If you are wearing a wrist watch on your left wrist, the watch face is tilted slightly facing the ground. If you can see what time it is at this stage of the backswing, you have rolled your forearms and opened the clubface too soon.

2) Once you pass this waist-high position going back, the left arm starts to rotate like twisting a screwdriver clockwise to tighten a screw with the left hand. The thumbs will start to point behind you. But make sure you wait until the club is at least waist high before you start this arm rotation – this rotation is the move that puts the shaft on plane. As the club begins planing, the butt of club points at ball or more correctly an extension of the target line on the ground behind the ball. See Photo 1: 3/4 backswing position below. Stop the armswing when the left hand is about the height of your right ear or lower if you lack flexibility. The left arm is still straight and pushed well away from the right side of your head. Now your wrist watch will be facing slightly skyward.  Left wrist is flat and hinged 90 degrees. See the second photo for a “top of backswing” position.

Golf Swing Plane - 3/4 Backswing Flat Wrist

Photo 1: 3/4 Backswing, flat wrist on plane

Golf Backswing Position - Flat Wrist On Plane

Photo 2: Top of Backswing - Flat Wrist, On Plane

3) Now for the downswing. Keep your back to the target as the arms start down close to your chest while the hips make a slight lateral shift. As the arms are falling, rotate the back of the left arm down. Remember you are trying to hit with the back of your left hand not the edge of your hand – your watchface is starting to face the ground again. Your right hand must keep up by maintaining the feeling of pressing the handle into the left palm. At impact the knuckles of the left hand should be bowed down slightly toward the ground.

The best way to start training the impact position is to hit little chip, punch shots with a wedge keeping the left hand flat the whole time. The ball should fly lower than average. These training swings should not get above your waist. Just go straight back keeping the clubface facing the ball, then strike with the back of left hand ahead of the ball at impact. Finish with left wrist flat, clubhead low below the waist and the toe of club pointed at target. This finish is key – if you look good 4 feet past impact, you know your impact position is good too.

Another good golf swing training technique is to strike an impact bag stuffed with old shirts and sweaters. The shaft should be leaning forward with the hands past the clubhead when you contact the bag. A second  impact bag training technique I like is to put the bag about 2 or 3 feet in front of the impact position down the fairway toward the target. As you swing, you should still be able to strike the bag, but since the bag is down the fairway a bit, the toe of the club should be pointing straight into the side of the bag instead of the flat edge of clubface. This teaches you to release the clubhead, extend the arms to reach the bag and keep the left wrist flat past impact. Remember, because the bag is down the fairway the clubface should have turned so the toe of the club is poking straight into the side of the impact bag.

OK – you’ve now been Hermanized with the grip, flat left wrist and golf impact position tricks Camilo Villegas used in his recent win. This article has been updated to include video on how to get a flat wrist at impact.

Herman Williams, PGA
Raleigh, NC

P.S. Post your comments below. Your questions and input will help others in our golf community and will guide me as I help you improve your game.

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  1. Herman
    I can get away with the driver but just cannot hit crisp iron and fairway wood shots. Trouble getting the divot past the ball. Many fat and bladed shots. Is it just a weight transfer problem or a breaking down of the left hand?

    Thanks, Bob

    • Hey Bob, normally guys that hit the driver well but suffer with crisp shots on the turf have a casting/scooping problem at impact. You can lift it off the tee because the club can bottom out early with no consequences. But obviously when it bottoms out early with an iron you will hit the tuef behind the ball or start upward before striking the ball and top it. Weight shift may be part of it, but it is rarely enough the fix the issue. Look at some of my info on “lag” and maybe go practice by drawing a line in a fairway sand bunker at the middle of your stance and work on hitting the ground on the target side of the line. Once you can do that try some live shots and see if you can hit the ball first and then the ground past it.

  2. Herman: have just found your website . In “experimenting” in the back yard, I can definitely feel a difference in maintaining lag and am looking forward to getting to the range tomorrow. Thanks!

  3. Herman, this is a follow-up to my observation. Im sorry I really didnt ask a question. My question is “What are the arms supposed to look like just beyond impact?”

    • Kendall, this exit position will vary. A player like Camilo comes into pre-impact with the face somewhat closed already due to the bowing on the left wrist. He basically has the face square well prior to impact and does not need to unhinge or crossover aggressively through the ball to square it up. Dustin Johnson is the most obvious case of this style as he bows the wrist in backswing and then returns it to flat at impact. However if you look at players like Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Tiger, etc. they typically arrive at pre-impact with a significant amount of lag and “openish” clubfaces. When you look at their post-impact positions you will see a healthy amount of both arm extension and crossover. My audience tends to respond better to the latter style of release as it tends to provide more speed through impact and more slice-fighting features. But your mileage may vary, and there is certainly a successful group of players who hold off the release based on strong grip and/or clubface manipulation elsewhere in the swing. The key is understanding your style and making sure all the elements cooperate. Good luck in your pursuit.

  4. Herman, I took a look at Camilla Viilegas’ golf swing. I noticed that past impact, where his arms are extended, his right palm is facing the sky. I notice this in alot of good players. Some of them hold the position until their arms are almost waist high on the follow through. I realize that these still pictures are just moments in time, however, in your teaching on the right wrist, you teach right palm down through impact. The picture of Camilla Villegas shows his left wrist to still be somewhat facing the target, while the right palm facing the sky

  5. Hi Herman,

    Thanks for another great explanation on the golf swing. I watched it a couple of hours ago and it has stretched my thinking a bit, especially your description on the left arm rotation after the one piece take-away. Whilst I have tried left arm rotation (without working on flat wrist though) as you describe before and it left the club face open, resulting in pushes or slices, so I ceased with that sort of rotation. So my question is on how the club face remains square to the swing path given that clockwise rotation occurs. Is my assumption that any rotation will open the club face valid and therefore the flat left wrist action is the key is achieving the square to path aspect given a rotation has occurred?

    I’d appreciate you guidance.

    Again, thanks for you videos.

    • Hi Garry, good questions … this stuff takes close scrutiny to get it right. I still focus more on the actual plane of the shaft and the match-up of the clubface at top of swing using film, but obviously these body positions and joint alignments affect all that stuff. I’m assuming you are a right handed golfer.

      I think the first point of confusion is determining what it means to keep the “face square to the path.” I think most people picture keeping the leading edge of the face perpendicular to the path of the club arc through the entire swing, and this simply does not happen. In fact at mid backswing and mid finish, the leading edge actually matches (parallel) the swing plane itself for players with “neutral” grips and normal face rotation. It’s worth noting it is possible to rotate the forearms too much in either direction, and it is also possible to have the left wrist buckle into a cupped position which will also opens the face. So over rotation and cupping can be real backswing dangers. However, with no forearm rotation in the backswing the swing will be too short, face too closed and possibly, the swing plane will be too steep. This is all a function of having a 2-armed connection to the club with no natural, single point for the club to swing from.

      A player with a really strong left-hand grip and a short armswing could conceivably make a backswing with no forearm rotation, but the face would be technically closed at top of backswing. This player would then need to hit the shot with no face rotation through impact also. This is essentially a swing that takes the club back “closed” and swings through impact “blocking” the face open and holding it from rotating. It’s doable but not popular.

      So at the end of the day unless you want to switch to a 1-armed swing or make the shut to blocked style of swing, get accustomed to allowing for some forearm rotation in the swing and master a reasonable amount of that “flat wrist” concept to keep the leading edge of the face matched up to your left forearm at top of swing. I’m more interested in seeing the leading edge match the forearm angle versus having a perfectly flat wrist.

      One caveat … I do see plenty of men with moderate flexibility that severely over rotate the left arm in the backswing in order to make what they consider a full swing. This leads to a position at the top where their watch face on the left wrist is facing the sky and the left wrist is severely cupped. Women seem to have less of this problem likely due to being less muscular and generally more flexible in the arms and shoulders. If you think this is your problem, your watch face should not rotate that far … the watch face should be parallel to swing plane roughly on a line back to the ball.

  6. Herman:

    Excellent instruction. Thanks for the opportunity to learn. Can any conclusions be drawn from this lesson with regards to Villagas using a 13 degree driver (which seems high for tour players)?

  7. Herman
    Thanks for your excellent article regarding the importance of a flat left wrist for right handed golfers where you indicate a cupped left wrist will promote a slice while a bowed left wrist can lead to a hook.
    Is that also true for left handed golfers or is it the reverse? Will a cupped right wrist for lefties promote a slice? If a lefty cups the right wrist at address it will tend to shut the face while still in the address position.

    • Correct, Jim. If you are a left-handed golfer and use a “strong” right hand grip in which the wrist looks cupped at the start, it will tend to close the face elsewhere in the swing. A flat right wrist at the top of the swing is not advisable if this is your grip style. A slightly more neutral grip with the right hand would work great with a flat right wrist at the top of the backswing. That same neutral gripped lefty will tend to slice if his right wrist is cupped at the top and hook if he gets it bowed. Good question and thanks for commenting. – Herman

  8. Hi Herman,

    Great blog! i have just being reading about how most ‘interlocking grip’ golfers have the right pinkys too deep. That sounds just like my problem!
    im happy with my ball flight ( slight draw) but suffer from consistently issues. i can go from scoring 80 to shooting 108. My bad days tend to be fades/slices & shanks.. especially with halfshots. Do you think part of the problem could be my deep interlocking grip?

  9. I use both interlock and overlap grips. I prefer the feel of the interlock, however, I hit more fades with it. I find it easier to draw the ball with the overlap.

    Do you have some suggestions why I have difficulty hitting a draw with the interlock?


    • Thanks for commenting. I would try to figure out if there is a difference in your grip pressure levels or actual hand positions between the 2 styles. Squeezing tighter, especially in left hand for a right-handed golfer, may cause more tendency to fade. Then look at hand positions – most interlock players set the left hand too far under the club to the left in a “weak position” and often have the handle up more in the palm vs the fingers. Meanwhile they will set the right pinky finger as far into the interlock position as it will go which sets the right hand under the club on the other side in a “strong” position. Now the wrists can’t hinge well together or release very well together. I am known for not recommending the interlock grip, but it is simply because most golfers fail to set their hands in the correct positions to use it effectively. A good interlock grip will still have the heel pad of left hand well up on top of the handle and the right pinky will barely interlace with left forefinger so the right hand still sits up on top of left hand and covers left thumb. These are the same things good overlap grips should have. Unfortunately, the interlock crowd tends to get those hand positions wrong. Ultimately everyone has different hand sizes, finger lengths, inward/outward rotation of forearms, etc. so there is room to customize how you hold it for each individual. But what I laid out above and in my how to grip a golf club article and video are what works most often for a large cross-section of players. Good luck in your quest.


  10. I have a a 9 handicap but have a problem with hitting the ball ( esp the tee ball) too low. I believe it is because the wrist are slightly cupping instead of flat and rotating. Would that be an accurate assessment? I play in the mountains of Va/WV and sometimes there is a hill right in front of the tee and I have a tendency to hit low and right into the hill.

    • Cupping will usually hit a higher tee shot unless you are catching the ball right off the bottom of the face. Low drives are more often due to a closed clubface with a strong grip and tendency to come over-the-top across the ball.

  11. Thank you for your response Herman! I will definately put this to work! I have been watching your videos and I really enjoy the way you teach. Thank you again for the knowledge! 🙂 Mark.

  12. Hi Herman. I am lefthanded and have always had an out to in swing, with high weak fades, and or slices, with occasional pulls. My distance is terrible as well. could you suggest anything to me that will get me on the right track? I think my grip is pretty nuetral, but my swing path and club head angle are over the top and open. What should I focus on? Any advice would be very very appreciated. Mark H.

    • Hey Mark. 1st make sure you have the setup with your right arm up on top of and across your right chest muscle and left arm soft and slightly tucked in – see my setup and beginner lesson videos on YouTube. This prepares you for a “draw” swing. Next I would work on slow, short backswings with a little wrist hinge like preparing to drive a nail sideways into a wall – hands should barely get higher than your waist. A high backswing right now gives you too much opportunity to come over the top. Then on the forward swing try to feel the back of your right hand rotate into a square position as left hand crosses over the right. This swing is not big enough to create a full finish yet – the club should just sort of extend out into left field. You just want to give your hands a chance to feel the clubhead come from the inside and turn over. It is vital to get rid of the speed and the long backswing until your hands begin to replicate the right movements through impact. Once you can put hook spin on the ball, then you can make bigger faster swings. Put a ball on a short tee and try it with irons first, then woods.

  13. I have been struggling with a cupped wrist and lack of distance with high soft shots for some time now. I had been trying a stong grip but having little success. Your advice to keep a weaker grip and a flat wrist has done the job. I’ve gained yards and can even hit a draw now and then. I have a question though, why do you not recommend an interlock grip? I grew up using it and it feels the most comfortable for me. The overlap is out of the question for me. I’m getting used to the ten finger though. I feel like I have more power and wrist action with it. I just wonder because it is not very popular. Only a handful of pros use it and no one I know personally does.

    Thanks, Randy

    • Randy,
      Thanks for commenting. I don’t mind the interlock grip if I’m allowed to supervise it in person. Without professional supervision most people attempt the interlock and end up with each hand too far under the club … literally a weak left hand grip and strong right hand grip. It happens as the player attempts to shove the pinky finger of the right hand as deep as it will go to interlock with left forefinger. Almost all of my students that show up with the interlock have it like this and are holding the club too much in the palm of each hand. If you can interlock properly, it’s great. Most amateurs don’t do too well with it and don’t like how it feels when it is done correctly. Now the 10-finger style is pretty easy to do and generally comfortable for everyone. Knuckles won’t get pulled or twisted either … we’ve literally seen repetitive use injuries and knuckle joint problems from the interlock group and occasionally the overlappers. After trying 10-finger for awhile many people can graduate up to the overlap. But it’s no big deal if it never seems comfortable. 10-finger grip definitely allows for the most dynamic wrist action, i.e. hinge and release. Good luck.

  14. thats some amount of competitions to play in a month to go up 3 shots on your handicap,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,great tipsherman ,keep them coming.

  15. Herman since I have tried your method for the last month . I have gone from a 4 to a seven hadicap . I lost a lot of distance . and as I always hit it straight your method seems counter productive at least for me . when I was younger I hit the ball a long way and still compete with younger guys
    The nuteral grip seemed to limit my albitity to move the ball. I have a local instructer which teaches the same program as you but could never get the flat wrist at impact but he ball went long and straight . so what do you think is wrong when i lose distance both with the irons and tee shot .

    • Paul,
      Without seeing you swing, it is unlikely I can give you a perfect answer. My initial response would be to ask why you wanted to make a change if you were already hitting the ball far and straight? It is likely I would not advocate this technique if you were already getting satisfactory results. The goal behind this video was to show players, particularly players who struggle with scooped, high shots other options for developing the swing, namely following Camilo’s technique. You may be swinging slower now because you are having to think about what to do in your swing; you may have weakened your grip but not achieved the impact and release positions to get the desired result, etc. I would suggest going to what worked best unless there were some serious pitfalls to your old technique. good luck.

  16. After a couple of months of this change I find I am not flipping the club at impact. The failure mode has become shutting the face with the left hand which is really kin to flipping except I am contacting the ball with a flat right wrist (for a left-hander). My practice sessions are more than 50% doing the drill, balance hitting full shots. Play during rounds is much better (ball striking wise) with a significant increase in distance which I attribute mostly to better contact.

  17. Herman, just wanted to say thanks for the videos here and youtube. I have taken your initial lessons and trying to make time to go back for followup. Wanted to say that these videos really help me take the live lesson to the next level. Thank you again for all of your help. See you soon.

    • Glad to hear the videos are helpful. I agree they are a great way to reinforce the live training you get in a private lesson. See you at The Golf Academy soon.