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Sunday, July 5, 2020

More Thoughts on the Cupped Lead Wrist (Video)

After writing about cupped wrists yesterday, I realized some of you might like to see one way that a cupped wrist shows up in a legend's swing. I chose Harry Vardon because his swing may have been the first to resemble a modern swing.

I included a video made in 1923 in a previous post I did called Some Fun with Harry Vardon (Video), and I'm including it in this post as well. You can actually see Vardon cup his lead wrist as he begins his backswing -- at regular speed near the beginning of the video, and in slow motion after the 1:00 mark.

Yes, you've probably heard analysts talk about how those classic swingers of the late 1800s and early 1900s "dragged the clubhead back from the ball" to start their backswing. As I explained in that other post about Vardon, this is one way they controlled the much more flexible hickory shafts they used back then.

Bear in mind that Vardon would not have held the club like Ben Hogan, with the primary gripping done by the last two or three fingers of his lead hand. Rather, he gripped with the thumb and forefinger of both hands but especially the trail hand, with the heel of the trail thumb (he called it the palm of the trail hand) pressing on the lead thumb. Here's how he describes it in his 1905 book The Complete Golfer:
The grip with the first finger and thumb of my right hand is exceedingly firm, and the pressure of the little finger on the knuckle of the left hand is very decided. In the same way it is the thumb and first finger of the left hand that have most of the gripping work to do. Again, the palm of the right hand presses hard against the thumb of the left. In the upward swing this pressure is gradually decreased, until when the club reaches the turning-point there is no longer any such pressure; indeed, at this point the palm and the thumb are barely in contact. This release is a natural one, and will or should come naturally to the player for the purpose of allowing the head of the club to swing well and freely back. But the grip of the thumb and first finger of the right hand, as well as that of the little finger upon the knuckle of the first finger of the left hand, is still as firm as at the beginning. As the club head is swung back again towards the ball, the palm of the right hand and the thumb of the left gradually come together again. Both the relaxing and the re-tightening are done with the most perfect graduation, so that there shall be no jerk to take the club off the straight line. The easing begins when the hands are about shoulder high and the club shaft is perpendicular, because it is at this time that the club begins to pull, and if it were not let out in the manner explained, the result would certainly be a half shot or very little more than that, for a full and perfect swing would be an impossibility. This relaxation of the palm also serves to give more freedom to the wrist at the top of the swing just when that freedom is desirable.
Yes, Vardon is highly detailed in his descriptions. My own experiments have shown that, if you use an overlap grip as he did, you don't need to grip tightly with the lead thumb and forefinger because the little finger of the trail hand locks the lead forefinger in place, just as the trail thumb locks the lead thumb in place. It really does feel as if you're flicking a vary large flyswatter. (I really should do a post just on the ways that classic players created that "relaxation of the palm" he talks about. Bobby Jones got the same result but with a slightly different method that also works with Vardon's grip.)

But to get back on topic... that dragging motion also creates a cupped lead wrist during the backswing. It's the cupped wrist motion that helps create the clubhead speed legends like Vardon and Jones were known for. That's a topic for another post (or perhaps even a series).

The main thing I wanted to show you today was how a player like Vardon -- who was known for his accuracy as well as his length -- used a cupped wrist to get it. And as I said in yesterday's post about Webb Simpson, Vardon's more upright swing was a natural complement to his cupped wrist.


  1. Min Sun Kim 5 is this week's KLPGA winner at the McCol Yongpyong Resort Open.
    On the men's side Ji Hoon Lee defeated Joo Hyung Kim on the first sudden death playoff hole to win the KPGA season opener, the Busan Open (it's official name is actually longer but we'll just leave it at that). Meanwhile this highlight from the 3rd round made the rounds on social media yesterday as Ho Sung Choi whiffed his tee shot on the par 5 18th, then nearly saved par:

    1. I really do appreciate you keeping me up on the Asian tours, IC. Thanks!