What Is a Bowed Wrist in Golf?
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A bowed left wrist, also called a supinated wrist, in a golf swing describes the ideal position at impact, at least according to most golf instructors. The importance of a bowed left wrist stems from the teachings of Ben Hogan, perhaps the finest striker of the golf ball in the history of the sport. Hogan stressed that the left wrist must be bowed at the moment of impact in order for the club to be traveling on the target line and in order to achieve the maximum amount of accuracy and distance.
How It Looks
Top golf instructor Jim McLean writes that maintaining a hinge in your wrist at impact -- another way to describe a bowed left wrist -- is the key to hitting long and straight irons. McLean writes that you keep your left wrist bowed through impact by rotating the big muscles in your arms and shoulders through the downswing, rather than by trying to manipulate your wrists. At impact, the knuckles of your left hand should be facing the ground and the back of your left hand should be facing the target and leading your wrists through the shot.
How It Feels
Although Lee Trevino's swing looked nothing like Hogan's, many of Trevino's swing theories echoed those of Hogan. When he gave clinics, Trevino would talk about the importance of feeling "like you are hitting the ball with the back of your left hand." That's a fine description of how it feels to have a bowed left hand at impact.
Although some golf instructors consider the bowed left wrist to be an "advanced" concept in the fundamentals of golf, others see it as the product of a very natural swing that is unforced. Some golfers try to force the swing by flipping their wrists at the ball at impact in a vain attempt to generate more power and get the ball skyward. But a bowed left wrist will occur naturally if you don't try to force the swing. The natural movement of a golf swing mirrors the natural movement of a baseball bat swing. Let the big muscles do the heavy work and the wrists will naturally follow. At impact, major league baseball players will have the same bowed left wrist -- if they swing right handed -- as a professional golfer.
A drill at the Journey to Scratch website, complete with illustration of a bowed left wrist, might help you achieve the proper position you are seeking. Take a partial practice swing with just your left hand on the club. At the point where the toe of the club is pointing straight up, commence the downswing, using the hips, arms and shoulders. Don't try to manipulate the wrists, just let them uncoil on their own. When you get to the point of would-be impact, your left wrist should be as bowed as Hogan's left wrist, with your knuckles pointing at the ground and the back of your left hand in position to "hit" the ball at the target.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.