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Early wrist hinge vs. width in golf — can you have both?

I was working with a student the other day (cold weather golf!!!!), and found myself having a very familiar discussion with him.  Most amateur golfers have heard of the concept of “early wrist hinge” or “early wrist set,” but struggle with the execution.  Too often, I see golfers hinge right out of the address position, then hoist the club directly up in the air leaving them with a steep and narrow (and usually over the top) approach into the ball.

Result?  Deep divots, imperfect contact, no power, followed by…  frustration.

Although professional golfers like Ian Poulter have practiced the early wrist hinge to perfection, for the amateur golfer, there is no “one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “when should I begin to hinge my wrists?” 

My experience is that most golfers with a double-digit handicap err on the side of hinging too early and would do better to focus on creating more width on the backswing before hinging.  To me, the far more important part of the discussion is what to do once your wrists are set.

But, I digress.

First, on the topic of timing your wrist hinge.  I like to see space between a player’s hands and back thigh before a lot of hinge takes place.

So, for right-handed golfer, I want to see the whole letter “y” (created by your arms and the shaft of your club) initiate the backswing, and then I like to see space between the hands and the right thigh before any hinging action.  Then, I want the club set quickly to 90 degrees and finally, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the rest of the backswing is torso rotation, NOT hand action.

The real problem with a mis-interpretation of “early wrist hinge” is that it feels to the average golfer as though the golf swing is initiated with, then dominated by, the hands when, in fact, once the wrists are set, the hands should be quiet and the big muscles of the torso should be in charge.  What naturally follows is a more shallow approach into the ball.

Most people would do better to swing more with their body, less with their hands.

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