What Strong Wrists Can Do for Your Golf Swing

Plus an Exercise for Stronger Wrists and Better Distance, Control

Golfer gripping club
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How important are your wrists in your golf swing? Have you given it much thought? One person who definitely has is golf fitness expert Mike Pedersen of PerformBetterGolf.com. We spoke with Pedersen to ask whether wrist strength is an important part of the golf swing.

He answered with an emphatic yes.

"Take a moment and picture your golf swing," Pedersen says. "Start at the address position, then visualize taking your swing to the top, then to the impact position, and finally on to the follow-through. Now run this visualization again, but focus only on your wrists—isolate the wrist and hand positions in your mind. Doing this should help you see how important the wrists are in your swing."

But for those having difficulty with that visualization, Pedersen explains two of the most important roles the wrists play in the golf swing:

  1. Controlling the club throughout the golf swing. That means on plane and with the proper clubface alignment.
  2. Providing power through impact or the "hitting zone."

"If your wrists are weak it will be very hard to accomplish these actions," Pedersen states. He further explains:

"While you shouldn't be cinching up on your grip, your wrists need to be firm to control the club throughout your swing. For example, picture 'setting' your club at the top. It needs to be consistently in a certain position to make a proper downswing. If your wrists are weak you will have a difficult time controlling the club due to its length and weight.
"What about impact? The wrist position is crucial in generating maximum distance and to getting the clubface angle correct.
"The most common mistake caused by weak wrists is the collapsing or breaking down of the lead (the hand that is placed highest on the club's grip) wrist at impact. This dramatically reduces distance and accuracy. If you discuss this with your teaching pro he will tell you the same thing."

So what's the solution? There are exercises golfers can do to strengthen the wrists in ways that target their role in the golf swing. You don't need any special fitness equipment, either. You have what you need in your golf bag.

Golf Wrist-Cock Exercise

One wrist exercise that Pedersen recommends to all the golfers he works with is called the Golf Wrist-Cock Exercise. These are the steps as described by Pedersen:

  • Stand with your arm hanging at your side.
  • Grab a golf club (pitching wedge if you're just beginning, long iron if you have strong wrists already) in one hand towards the end of grip.
  • Raise the club only by cocking your wrist and keeping your arm at side.
  • The club will have the toe pointing up to the sky straight out in front of you.
  • Raise as high as you can, which will probably be just above parallel to the ground with your shaft.
  • Then lower and repeat until a set of 15 repetitions is done.
  • Switch arms and do the same thing.

Do one or two sets per wrist, 3-4 times per week (every other day or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday).

"If you do this exercise correctly you will get a burning sensation in your forearms," Pedersen says. "If so, that's great; if not, you may need a longer iron, or you are using more than just your wrist for the movement."

In people with weak wrists, or those who've never worked on their golf-specific strength before, such as junior golfers, the impact over time of this exercise can be impressive, according to Pedersen.

"I've had juniors improve their drives by up to 20 yards just by doing this one exercise," he said.

Golfers interested in strengthening their wrists can also find numerous exercise videos on YouTube.

(Note: Anyone with wrist problems or pain, or who has never worked on strength exercises before, should consult with their doctor before beginning any new exercise program.)