It’s hard to believe, but the last time I wrote about the wrists in the golf swing was December of 2015 The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer. Since that time, I still feel the same, that the wrists are the most misunderstood aspect of the golf swing. I have changed my mind on what the golfer should do, in regards to the position of the club face at the top of the swing. Back in 2015, I said just let the wrists do what they are going to do, and don’t worry about. But after doing some experimenting, on what the wrists do in my own golf swing, I think I can come up with some recommendations on what to do, depending on your clubhead position at the top of the golf swing. But first lets briefly review what the wrists can do and why this is so confusing to the golfer.
Rather than to get into such terms as supination and pronation, and other wristy terms, lets just take a look at the thumb, when you grip the club. Just grip the club with one hand, either one is fine, and put your thumb straight down the shaft. Now by just moving your wrists, you can make your thumb do six things. You can move your thumb straight up and down. You can turn your thumb to the left and to the right. Finally you can roll your thumb to look at the right side of your thumb, and then the left side of your thumb. These are very distinct moves. The problem is, that the wrists can do any of these moves partially and some fully during the golf swing. This results in the clubface being in various positions at top of swing. None of these positions are wrong. First let’s look at the two extreme positions. The clubface is closed or you will hear the term shut faced at the top. It’s easy to tell this position. At the top of the swing the club face is pointed to the sky. The two best examples of this position are Dustin Johnson and Brooke Henderson. Then there is the clubface that is open at the top of the swing. This position will see the toe of the club pointed to the ground. This position you can see in the swings of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and in today’s game Webb Simpson. In modern professional golf, most players will use the shut faced or closed position. The open position is the least popular today. You will see many positions in between, with some players being square at the top of the swing. You would think this would be ideal, but certainly these players are not dominating the tour. It really doesn’t matter what they are doing, as long as you know what you are doing at the top of the swing. You should also know the basic shot pattern that your position tends to create. Then you need to decide if you should make a conscious change.
The first modern great golfer with the closed clubface at the top was Arnold Palmer. He did this because it helped him to keep from hooking, and most of the shut faced players today, are faders of the golf ball. Even though the club face is closed at the top of the swing, as the club starts down the wrists will rotate the club head in a clockwise fashion, delaying the release of the wrists, which prevents the toe of the club head turning over resulting in a hook. Despite being shut faced at the top, Palmer, because of his strength in the hands and wrists still hooked the ball. The shut faced position helped him to keep from duck hooking. Hogan had an extremely weak grip combined with being open at top, was his way of obtaining a full release of the wrists without worrying about hooking the ball. Sam Snead, also had big strong hands and wrists, but a beautiful graceful swing, had no trouble drawing the ball from the open at the top club position. So what is the recreational golfer to do? The first thing to do, is to determine what is your natural wrist action in the golf swing. Through video, or just stopping and looking at the top of your backswing, determine what is your club face position at the top. Face pointing to the sky you are closed. Toe of the clubhead pointing down to the ground, the face is opened. Somewhere in between you are getting closer to square but try and determine if you are closer to open or shut faced. It may be perfectly square. If you are closed at the top, and hitting relatively straight shots, maybe with a little fade or draw, then you need to do nothing. But if you are closed at the top and hitting a lot of shots to the right and slicing like crazy then maybe you better square up or go open at the top. This is unnatural for you, so how do you do it. At the start of your backswing, feel a distinct rolling of the wrists so that you feel that the right palm is facing the sky as your hands reach hip high. This will easily get your club face in the open position at the top of the swing. Now on the downswing the toe of the clubhead will begin to rotate in a counter clockwise direction which will help you draw the ball or hit it fairly straight, with a nice full release. As you get use to this position at top of the swing, then you may not have to rotate the wrists so early in the backswing, but whatever works is fine. If you are already an open at the top player and you are hitting everything pretty straight or with a slight draw or fade then you don’t want to change a thing. But if you are open at top and hitting a bunch of duck hooks to the left, then you might want to try to get closed at the top of the swing. In order to do this you will need to rotate your wrists in the early part of the swing so you feel your right palm is pointing to the ground at the hip high junction of the swing. Once you get the feel of your new position then you may not need to do such a distinct move at the start of the swing. If you find you are somewhere in between but having a hooking or slicing problem then follow the above instructions accordingly. Get shut faced to help a hook and get open to help a slice.
What about doing this for the type of shot you want to play or the situation you are in. This is what I am doing at the moment. If trouble is on the left or I want something straight or with a little fade, then I will go shut faced which is more my natural swing. I will go shut faced if I want to take something off an iron shot. If the trouble is on the right then I will go with an open face at the top. If I want to draw the ball and get a little more power then I will go to the open face position at the top. Since the moves of the wrists are infinite, the possibilities of what you can do with golf ball is infinite. But in order to get all this benefit to your game you must use your wrists first, and then know what your natural position is at the top of the swing, and go from there. Good luck, and here is to lower scores.