Should You Hinge Your Wrists? Golf Power Vs Accuracy

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.

tips for senior golfers

Steve Stricker Vs Fred Couples Wrist Hinge

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.

senior golf adjustments for golf power

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.

One of the best examples of this type of swing is Steve Strickers’ golf swing:
should senior golfers hinge wrists

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!

wrist hinge golfers over 50

Don Trahans’ 6 Iron Swing. Notice wrist hinge.

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!

Thank you!

+Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist

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16 Responses to Should You Hinge Your Wrists? Golf Power Vs Accuracy

  1. alan bronstein March 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    body parts are evolved to move a certain way that is fairly non-negotiable. in a properly functioning body the arms will rotate and the wrists will hinge in a golf swing naturally unless the golfer purposely interfers with it. i think trahan means you should not purposely hinge early in the swing and i think he is correct in stating that it could lead to other problems. i followed joe dante’s “four moves” method, where the first move is a wrist hinge, to correct my slice. when i did it correctly it was great. but sometimes i would rotate my writs as well which led to an open club face for me and the same old slice.i now use a dead hands takeaway and let the weight of the club head hinge my wrists at the top and it works better for me.

  2. Greg Wood March 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Interesting article. I have recently tried to initiate the wrist cock early and therefore set the wrists for the rest of the swing. My results have given me, what I can only describe on true hits, as the purest feeling of club on ball that I have ever experienced (playing 25 years). (Driver through 8 Iron)

    It does take practice, but once you commit it really gives results.

    I also use the Dave Pelz ‘finesse’ wedge grip and little wrist cock for Pitching Wedge to Lob wedge. Result as you say is very accurate, but you do lose distance. On a standard PW for me, I would say as much as 20 yards. For me this pretty much backs up the argument, yes, you will be lore accurate with less wrist cock, but you will sacrifice distance depending on the club.

    You only have to try this out with a standard chip shot. Try one with no wrist cock / hinge, then one with a small amount – You can see the difference in distance even over 10-15 yards

  3. AJ Brown March 29, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    In golf I find that what we think and feel is happening is generally not at all the reality of the situation. My best ball striking occurs when I feel as though I am only taking club back far enough to make it straight out behind me (half a backswing) with absolutely no wrist hinge or cock. Put me on video and it quickly becomes obvious this is not at all what is happening.

    • AJ Brown March 29, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

      Oh yeah and I find that trying to see the blade actually come into contact with the ball seems to really help matters a considerable amount.

  4. Scott Forbes May 2, 2015 at 5:12 am #

    I’ve experimented quite a bit lately with both. Basically – no hinge = more accuracy for me but less distance and “bite” on greens. More hinge = usually more distance and higher shot, but more variability on direction. One other thing … that was for irons. I ALWAYS have to hinge to hit my woods. Thanks … Scott Forbes – Pacifica.

  5. Tim V May 23, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    Trahan is absolutely correct! If your hinge your wrists you will hit the ball nowhere near as far as when you don’t hinge your wrists. The reason being the minute you hinge your wrists you stop turning your body,flip at the ball with your hands through impact as you now have to unhinge the wrists to hit the ball and leave your weight on your right side instead of swinging through the ball with your body and arms. It is the secret to golf!!
    Nobody is going to tell you this as it is contrary to what everybody says. I was a wrist hinger for 30 years, I could always hit the ball straight as I had good hand eye
    co-ordination but I always gave up 30 yards to the long hitters and hit my irons short of the green. Now I hit them long, very long and straight!!

  6. shawn August 26, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    I recently turned 60 and I’m expecting a loss of distance, though it hasn’t come yet. On driver tee shots, I’ve always used a complicated, closed stance, a strong grip and a very closed club face to compensate for coming over the top. Without these adjustments a slice is inevitable for me. At the range, I noticed that a slow 60% effort swing allows me to follow a proper swing path and avoid the open face at impact. Unfortunately, it costs 30-35 yards of distance. Until now, I’ve never paid attention to wrist action. Recently, however, while trying to work out a solution to my coming-over-the-top swing, I decided to experiment. I expected a loss of accuracy but here’s the rub; by cocking and consciously controlling the wrist release at impact, I’m able to slow down the swing and reduce effort, making it easier to remain accurate. The bottom line is that I’ve lost no distance, I’m much, much more accurate and I’m not tiring myself out with crazy adrenaline bursts on every drive. 260 yards represents a very good drive for me but I’m satisfied with 240-245 with almost straight flight path and being in the fairway. So for me, the wrist cocking trick has added up to a net gain in accuracy, better, more consistent scoring and a lot more fun.

    -Shawn

  7. Jim February 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    Great conversation!! I am in Michigan, waiting to try the wrist cock method. I have no problem with the slice, in fact could use some, draw mostly, but happy with that and am looking for accuracy. Hope to try it in Florida soon.

  8. John E Henry March 10, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Recently I have been revisiting the Classic “Jack Nicklaus’ LESSON TEE” book. I am reverting to a lot of his instruction (while attempting suitable adjustments/allowances for my age (84))

    I quote from page 49″ i make no effort either to cock or keep from cocking my wrists on the backswing.What I do is simply try to maintain my original start-back grip pressure, thus allowing the swinging weight of the clubhead to cock my wrists naturally as my ams reach out and up.Photographs show that this cocking is a gradual process,beginning as the clubhead passes hip height and continuing smoothly in the start of the downswing.

    I have been experimenting with this approach with some success!

  9. ron evon March 16, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

    Have been reading your emails for some time and find them valuable. I am 80 years old, play golf twice a week most weeks, still enjoy the camaraderie but not the golf so much since I now have much less accuracy and distance and the swing has become unreliable and inconsistent. Do you have an article you can suggest that will help an “old duffer”? (I have bought your swing trainer and like it but I’m limited as to its use because of shoulder problems.)

  10. Victor October 13, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    Trahan acknowledges in his teaching that at the transition from backswing to the start of the forward swing the wrist will bend (it’s simple physics) I know what he is saying is to not consciously cock your wrist, I have had lessons with him. The issue about losing distance or being accurate is a no brainer to me, the game is to get the ball into a little hole not a long driving contest. I will say that at first I did lose a little distance, but it came back pretty quick when I got better with my timing, (which seems and feels funny when you first try this method). Golf is a individual sport, everyone has a different swing and not every method or technique will work for everyone’s individual physique and God given talents, but I have had success with Trahan’s method and wouldn’t hesitate telling someone to try it.

  11. Peter Brooks March 20, 2017 at 5:13 am #

    Your argument for Trahan’s wristcock with the 6 iron is the same that was used to suggest that Hogan could cock his wrists 135º. It was pure optics. The left arm and club are moving up a slanted plane. If the plane was horizontal and you viewed the golfer from in front, it would look as if the club was laying right against the left arm at the top. Hogan ‘s plane was quite flat, hence the illusion of supernatural hinging. It was even more spectacular coming down, as he dropped the arms to an even lower plane. Sadly for the myth, his wrists were perfectly normal.

  12. Alan March 29, 2017 at 3:21 am #

    Old time pros use to set the wrist by pressing downward on the butt end of the shaft with the lead palm. This actually started the lead shoulder down so it could rotate underneath the chin. Hence pressdown to make the club go up. The club is only on plane when it is hinged. Once it unhinges it starts a 180 degree rotation from the backswing to forward swing. On plane means the shaft is parallel to the rotation of the shoulder blades around the torso. The torso does not have to move for the shoulder blades to rotate around the torso about 40 to 60 degree. The wrists must hinge to allow the shaft to follow the rotation plane of the shoulder blades or else the shaft is on a differ plane,

  13. Watches August 1, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    I do consider all the ideas you have presented in your post.

    They’re very convincing and will certainly work. Still,
    the posts are too short for beginners. May just you please prolong them
    a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

    • Vincent August 23, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

      I’m 50 years old and still have a fairly good distance off the tee (a well hit drive can travel 280 yards and I average 250) but I have very important accuracy and consistency problems. I tried the no hinge technique (I agree that there is a hinge but much less) and I got spectacular results at improving my accuracy. And I did not notice any loss in distance (maybe a little on short clubs but that’s all). What I noticed is that thinking about not moving the hands and wrists forces me to use my body more. This can probably explain a lot of things. Anyway I strongly recommend to inconsistent players to give it a try.

      • Vincent August 23, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

        One important thing I forgot to mention is that in order to limit the hands and wrists action, I decided to hold my club firmer. Before I was holding it very loose.

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