Today’s blog is inspired by the blog, All About Golf by Brian Penn. It was a post about whether or not to start the swing with an early wrist break, or go with the more traditional one piece takeaway. The post also contained a video by Nick Faldo, showing an early wrist break drill or precocking the wrists and then starting the golf swing. This set the wrists in a square position and maintained them in the square position throughout the swing. My comment at the time was that I thought the wrists were the most misunderstood part of the golf swing. I did a blog a few years back on wrist cock and came to the conclusion that they are going to do what they are going to do and not even think about them. Well, after studying 61 golf swings from all era’s I found many surprises when it comes to what the wrists do in the golf swing. I studied two places during the back swing when it came to the position of the clubhead. One was when the club shaft is parallel to the ground and the second at the top of the swing. I always believed, that whatever position the club head was in, parallel to ground, that it would be in the same position at the top of the swing, but this was simply not true. But before we get to the raw data, we must discuss how the wrists function and move. Even this has some debate about it.
The wrist is capable of the three sets of distinct movements. Flexion and extension, supination and pronation, ulnar deviation and radial deviation. Supination is described as turning the palm upward and pronation is turning the palm toward the ground. However you can not do this without turning the forearm. The debate is whether the forearm turns the wrist or does the wrist turn the forearm. It really does not matter but it makes Hogan’s term about supinating the wrists at impact incorrect. What Hogan should have written is that the wrist should be flexed at impact. Even though the wrist is capable of 6 distinct movements only 4 of them are totally independent of any other part of the arm.
Studying 61 tour players swings, men and women, here is what they did at the two positions of the swing. First when the club was parallel to ground, 21 players had the club head square, 17 slightly shut or closed, and 23 had the club face shut. Nobody had the club open parallel to the ground. At the top of the swing I judged the club to be square, open or closed. I did not try to break it down any further because it was just too difficult. There is a video of what is called “the model golfer” who is making the perfect swing. He looks like a Star Wars character, without the helmet. His position half way back and at the top of the swing is square, and I used this in my comparison of how players had the position of their club face at the top of the swing. Of the 21 players that had a square club face parallel to the ground , 12 were still square, 7 were open, and 2 were shut faced at the top. Of the 17 players who were slightly shut faced at the parallel position, 9 were square, 5 were open, and 3 were shut at the top. Of the 23 players who were shut faced at the parallel position, 10 got back to square, 3 moved to open and 10 remained shut at the top of the swing. Here is what I consider to be the big surprises.
I fully expected Ben Hogan to be open at the parallel position because he is so open at the top. In fact he is by far the most open at the top of any golfer, with that toe of the club pointing right to ground. However at the parallel to ground position he is slightly closed or shut faced. He goes from that position and gets it wide open at the top. No wonder he had to practice so much.
Tiger Woods. Tiger has had 5 different golf swings. His 97 Masters swing, the 2002 Butch Harmon swing, the 2007 Hank Haney swing, the 2013 Sean Foley swing, and his current swing and I don’t know who the hell his coach is now. I have to have a little levity, this is a long freaking blog. Despite all these coach and so called swing changes Tigers club position at parallel to the ground and at the top has always been the same, slightly shut to square. One swing I watched from 2015 he may have been square at the half way back position. Essentially, no coach really changed the position of Tiger’s club face during the course of his swing despite other swing changes.
There is no rhyme or reason as to who does what. There are hookers who are at any of the 9 positions and there are faders of the golf ball who represent any of the 9 positions.
Jack Nicklaus and Luke Donald had swings that were from instructional videos. On their instructional video they were both square and square. However on videos when they were in the heat of competition Nicklaus would be shut to open and Donald would be slightly shut to square at the top. Draw your own conclusions
I was surprised by how many shut faced golfers there were. Two of most shut faced at the top were Lexi Thompson and Dustin Johnson. These golfers have had great success on their respective tours and I am sure that their swing coaches know that they are this closed at the top. You have to wonder why they don’t try to go to a more square to square method. Would it mess them up that much and if the answer is yes, then a better question would be why.
I have a feeling that I have just scratched the surface on what the wrists really do during the golf swing, and why do the great players lets theirs wrists go all over the place. We all can’t turn like Ricky Fowler or Rory, but it seems simple enough to be able to keep the club face square throughout the swing. However, is this really important or necessary for good ball striking. At this point I am not drawing any conclusions on what I have been seeing on wrist action and the golf swing. The only conclusion I have drawn so far is that nobody truly understands what role the wrists should play in the golf swing. In future blogs I will look at some swings specifically and who falls into each grouping. One thing for sure, when you see a slow motion analysis of a swing, don’t pay attention to Peter Kostis, when he is talking about spine angle or how quiet a player’s legs are. Watch that club face at those two key postitons of the back swing. Too be continued, I am tired.