If you are a golfer over 50, should you hinge your wrists in the backswing? That is the question that is gathering some interest in golf instruction circles these days and is an important question that could make a big difference in your golf game.
The question comes down to your priorities. If you want to increase your accuracy than decreasing the hinge in your wrists may make a big impact on your game. But if currently need more power and distance (like most golfers over 50), actually increasing the hinge in your wrists can help keep you in the game when competing against younger golfers.
Argument 1: Golfers Should Not Cock Their Wrists
The most vocal proponent of a “no wrist hinge” golf swing, is the very opinionated Don Trahan. Father of tour player DJ Trahan, Don Trahan crafted the Peak Performance Golf Swing. One of the primary tenants of the PPG golf swing is, as Don describes it, “absolutely no wrist hinge” in the backswing.
He writes that the primary problem with adding wrist hinge to the golf swing is that it adds another moving part to the swing. Adding another moving part increases the possibility of variation and inconsistency in the golf swing, similar to how moving your head around increases variation and inconsistency. This appears to be a valid point and worth exploring.
Negatives of Wrist Cocking as Explained by Don Trahan
1. Adds inconsistency by adding an additional variable to the golf swing
2. Increases tendency for you to cup your wrist (and slice) or bow your wrist (and hook).
A lot of golf instruction is centered around eliminating unnecessary moving parts in the golf swing to maximize efficiency and consistency. However, you do have to move something to swing the club. So the question is, do the benefits outweigh the negatives of eliminating extra wrist hinge from your golf swing? We will explore this further at the end of the post.
The other point that Trahan makes is that the wrist does not have a lot of natural motion in the cocking and un-cocking plane of motion. This is true. As a result, Trahan claims that trying to cock your wrists in this motion in the backswing, causes golfers to “cup” or “bow” their wrists and this motion will affect your accuracy.
I am not sold on this idea but, in general, golfers with cupped wrists at the top may have a greater tendency to slice the ball and golfers with bowed wrists may have more of a tendency to hook it (although though there are examples of accomplished pro’s with cupped wrists, ei Fred Couples, and bowed wrists, ei Dustin Johnson).
It is important to point out that Trahan is not saying the wrists should not be cocked at all in the golf swing. He is saying that you should not cock your wrists any further than where they are cocked in the address position..no additional wrist cocking.
You will notice in this golf swing that, although Stricker has much less wrist hinge that the majority of golfers, there is some wrist hinge that occurs. More on this later.
Argument 2: Golfers Over 50 Should Cock the Wrists More
Here is where the differences in ideology come into play. If you need accuracy more than distance, theoretically, you should cock your wrists less. However, if you are like many “senior” golfers, you would likely benefit more from distance… as long as accuracy is not affected too much. After all, a loss of a little accuracy with a 9 iron is more beneficial than having to hit into the same green with a long iron, even if you hit the long iron straighter. (This is because the longer the golf shot, the more amplified your miss becomes).
A while back I wrote an article about a golf tip proposed by Michael Breed from the Golf Fix. In short, he suggested a slight grip alteration that would allow greater range of motion in the wrists to ADD additional wrist cock to the golf swing. Rational being that the more you cock your wrists = the longer your backswing = the faster your downswing = more distance.
At the time, I was skeptical of the theory. However, I received a flood of feedback from golfers that actually used this technique and loved it! Lesson learned!
Here is Michael Breed:
Beware of the “NO Wrist Hinge” Argument
I am writing this additional section for your information, so you can make a rational decision on whether you should add or subtract wrist hinge. This is NOT an attack on Trahan or the PPG swing.
However, Trahan is promoting and sticking to his strict belief that there is “absolutely no” additional wrist cocking in the swing. I have extensively read and listened to his reasoning and find it to be….odd. As a professional that has spent a lot of time on understanding how the human body moves, I really struggle to follow his rational. I took screen shots of his golf swing and I think they speak for themselves.
As seen in the picture with Stricker, there is additional wrist hinge in the swing, albeit much less than the classic golf swing. Trahan explains that it only appears there is more wrist hinge because of the change in angle (verticality) and change in shoulder position. I just don’t buy it!
This should be simple physics: you have 2 lever arms (your forearms and the shaft of the club) and one moving joint, the wrist. The only thing that can change the angle is to move the lever arms in comparison to each other: which is wrist cocking and un-cocking. It does not matter what angle you look at, what the shoulder or elbow does, or what Russia is doing in the Ukraine. Only cocking the wrist can change that angle. Simple.
So if you are considering the PPG swing or wanting to simplify your swing, then reduce the hinge in your wrists. Do not try to eliminate all wrist hinge, it is not natural and there isn’t a pro on tour that does that. I think Don Trahan is a good instructor and the PPG swing can work for some people. I just think it should be explained correctly.
In summary, if you want to play better golf by adjusting your wrist hinge, you need to decide if distance or accuracy is more important to your golf game as it now stands. And of course, try both techniques for yourself. This week, I am going to play around with less wrist hinge to see if I can improve accuracy. I will let you know how it goes.
QUESTION: HAVE YOU TRIED EITHER OF THESE TECHNIQUES? WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE? PLEASE COMMENT BELOW TO HELP YOUR FELLOW GOLFER!
+Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist