In golf a flat wrist at the top of the backswing is a very important concept to master. This online golf lesson is dedicated to explaining the backswing and particularly the concept of a flat wrist. For a right-handed golfer this will be a flat left wrist at the top of the backswing.
A solid, flat left wrist in the backswing of the golf swing assists with keeping the golf club on plane, keeps the transition from getting loose, helps stop over swinging and most importantly helps the golfer hit straight golf shots with consistent, controlled trajectory. Read on for a full explanation and don’t forget to watch the video at the end and leave your comments.
Golf Backswing: Flat Wrist at the Top
There are so many possible angles and wrist positions in a golf swing, we first need to clarify what these are and what the desired backswing position looks like. By definition the flat wrist position at the top of the backswing for a right handed player involves having the left forearm, left wrist and back of left hand all in alignment as if a ruler were strapped to the arm like a splint while the wrist is hinged or cocked approximately 90 degrees. Assuming the golfer has a neutral golf grip, the leading edge of the clubface will also be in the same plane as the back of the left hand. See “Top of Backswing” photo upper left.
The difficulty of getting into this flat wrist position in the backswing for most golfers is due to the hinging of the wrists and rotation of the forearms during the takeaway and backswing. The wrists can hinge in four directions and the forearms can rotate back and forth in two directions. In layman’s terms the wrists hinge or cock up and down and hinge back and forth while the forearms can also roll back and forth. These movements can get pretty mixed up if not trained correctly or if simply left to whatever the player deems comfortable. In fact to further complicate things, we want a flat left wrist at the top of the backswing and impact, while at the start of the golf swing the left wrist is actually slightly cupped.
Don’t get confused yet. Let’s get the layman’s terms, medical terms, and golf terms all defined so the language doesn’t sidetrack us. I’m using a yardstick in the photos instead of a golf club since the flat sided yardstick will reveal more detail about the positions. Try it; it’s good for working on the grip also.
Cupped left wrist. Medical term is dorsiflexion with knuckles bent back toward watch face. Notice flat face of yardstick faces up “adding loft.”
Generally causes an open clubface at top of backswing with toe pointed down, followed by casting and scooping at impact with high weak slices unless the player is able to manipulate the wrist back into a flat position on the downswing. Note Ben Hogan went from cupped wrist at the top to flat or bowed at impact, but it is a very difficult, advanced move for most, and he was trying not to hook.
Bowed left wrist. Medical term is palmar flexion with palm bent in toward inner forearm.
Generally creates a closed clubface facing the sky at top of backswing. Club tends to get laid off and too flat on downswing. Shots are usually low and/or hooked unless the player manipulates the wrist and clubface back open on the downswing, in which case blocked shots become prevalent.
Flat left wrist with slight palmar flexion considered good for top of backswing & impact position.
Back of hand, forearm, watch face and leading edge of yardstick are all “flat” in the same plane. With a neutral grip, this would yield a perfectly “square” clubface with the leading edge of the face in alignment with the back of the hand at top of backswing and impact.
Bent right wrist. Medical term is dorsiflexion.
Good position at mid backswing, top of backswing and pre-impact area.
Left wrist cocked or hinged. The medical term is radial deviation of the wrist with the thumb being hinged toward the radius bone along top edge of forearm.
Good wrist position for mid backswing to top of backswing as full wrist hinge is desirable while keeping a flat wrist.
Left wrist cocked down or unhinged. Medical term is ulnar deviation of the wrist.
Position is similar to wrist position at impact.
This impact wrist position is not a conscious act. Centrifugal force and the weight of the swinging club will unhinge the wrist and bring it down into impact.
Player’s view of neutral grip in setup position centered in front of body.
Notice cupping in left wrist. Right wrist is more cupped than this on an actual golf club.
Flat left wrist / Bent right wrist
Mid backswing view just above waist high of wrists – flat left wrist starting to hinge with slight palmar flexion, bent right wrist hinging with dorsiflexion.
These wrist positions will be maintained through the top of backswing and downswing to impact.
How to get the flat wrist position.
As the takeaway starts, the club and hands move back the way a quarterback hands off a football … this is the classic one-piece takeaway, nothing has happened at the wrists yet. As the hands get beyond the right thigh, the right wrist begins to bend backward or to the right known as dorsiflexion and the left wrist begins to flatten known as palmar flexion. The left wrist is virtually flat already at the half way point in the backswing.
The final motion to the top of the backswing involves a slight increase in left wrist hinge (upward wrist cock or radial deviation) while also rotating the forearms to the right. This wrist cock or radial deviation must happen without losing the previously attained flat wrist position.
This is where most golfers fail. As they add more wrist cock, or radial hinge, they tend to cup the left wrist which alters swing plane and clubface position. When done correctly, the right wrist is bent back so it feels like a tray of dishes could rest in the palm of the right hand at top of backswing. This is maximum dorsiflexion for the right wrist while keeping left wrist flat and fully cocked. Now the wrists are loaded for a powerful onplane delivery to impact with a square clubface and proper effective loft at impact.
Try this and you should see improved accuracy, a better divot and more consistent trajectory. If you are looking for private golf lessons, click here to book a golf lesson.
Article Authored by +Herman Williams