Bowed or Cupped – What’s best for you?

Bowed or Cupped – What’s best for you?

One of the most common topics in golf instruction recently has been in relation to the left wrist position at the top of the backswing. This has become a hot topic recently as players such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and John Rahm have been consistent winners on tour while demonstrating a bowed left wrist at the top of the backswing. This would appear to the untrained eye like quite an unusual position compared to the  “stereotypical” look that most people would expect to see at the top of the back swing.


Dustin Johnson demonstrating a “bowed” wrist position

The left wrist position is a key link in the chain when it comes to achieving a square club face at impact, so what kind of wrist position should you look for at the top of the swing? Before we answer this I think we simply need to explain the different types of position you will tend to see. The two most common terms that we tend to hear in relation to wrist angles are bowed and cupped.:


A bowed wrist position is quite simple a wrist that would look “flatter” than normal, or where the Velcro part of the glove points more towards the sky than a “typical” golf swing would. If you take a look at Dustin Johnson below you can clearly see the back of his hand creates a flatter line than his forearm does, this is what a bowed wrist position looks like.


The Red Line clearly demonstrates a Bowed left wrist

When we see this type of wrist position you will almost always see a closed club face as well. This can have its positives and negatives which we will mention later.


A cupped wrist position is probably what most people would see as a stereotypical top of back swing look. This is where the back of the hand creates a slightly more upright angle relative to the forearm. Take a look at Henrik Stenson below demonstrating a cupped wrist position at the top of the backswing.


The red line clearly showing a cupped wrist position


So the big question is where did this new phenomenon come from, and the answer is simple…… Its not new! For as long as golf has been around there have been a variety of different wrist angles and top of backswing positions demonstrated by tour PGA Tour Players and Major winners. Claude Harmon Senior, lee Trevino and many more demonstrated and extremely Bowed left wrist at the top, and produced outstanding results in tournament play.


Claude Harmon demonstrating a bowed left wrist at the top of the backswing. Claude was the last club professional to win the US Masters in 1948, and known as an amazing ball striker


To me the answer very much depends on the player, every player is built differently and as a result every players answer will be different. For me there are two key questions:

What do you do naturally?

What is your ball flight?

The first question may seem like an obvious one, but yet as a coach our instinct is to often change things based on looks, rather than working on what you already have. This can be effective, but it can also take time and patience which most golfers do not have an abundance of. For most people it is far easier to work with what they do naturally rather than doing a full overhaul of their natural instinct and tendency. When you look at the players I have mentioned before such as Dustin Johnson, I promise you he is not trying, nor has he ever tried to bow his wrist, he simply just does!

The second question is possibly the most important one, what is the ball flight? The reason this is so important is quite simply the wrist position at the top, will have a huge influence on the face position at impact. A bowed wrist position will tend to create a closed club face, while a cupped wrist position will create a more open one. So if you are somebody who struggles with a severe slice and you demonstrate and exceptionally cupped wrist at the top of the backswing, it may be worthwhile looking at what causes it, and also softening the amount of cup on that wrist. The opposite can be said if you struggle with hooks and you.


When it comes to the pro’s it becomes obvious, there is more than one way to do things. When you look at the swings below at the top of the backswing you will see a full spectrum of backswing positions.


The key thing when it comes to understanding what backswing position suits you best really depends on your ability to match up the backswing position to some characteristics on the downswing. Use Dustin Johnson as an example, as we mentioned above you will see a bowed wrist and a closed club face position at the top of the backswing, however from that position Dustin does two things exceptionally well:

As he approaches impact his hips and shoulders open significantly more than most people would ever be able to achieve, this allows Dustin to get the club face into a square position relative to the target.

As the club descends into the golf ball DJ will never allow the club to get “stuck underneath”, in other words he will try to swing out to in to help him match the club face and the club path, in order to achieve the ball flight he would like to see. This is something DJ has changed in the last number of years with his instructor Claude Harmon III. They have changed DJ’s ball flight from a draw to more of a fade (left to right) shape. This allows DJ to maximise his control of the club face while maintaining his natural position at the top of the backswing. This also helps him produce a very strong, and accurate golf swing which he uses to overpower golf courses.


To me there are a couple of simple points which any golfer can take away from understanding wrist angles:

There is no one way to do it!! What your friend does, what a competitor does, what the best player in the world does, is completely irrelevant to you. Figure out what works best for you, what do you do naturally, what’s your ball flight, and how can you use this understanding to improve your control of the golf ball

Don’t just change the wrist or club positioning for the sake of it, only change thee things if you feel it is necessary to alter the ball flight in a positive way. If you have a certain position at the top, there is always more than one avenue to explore when it comes to creating your desired ball flight, find out if you are better to alter the face at the top or match it up with a change of path on the way down.