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.
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
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.