Jack Nicklaus shares fascinating insight on a move that may be hurting your golf swing


Andy Lyons

Not because of, but really ever since, Dustin Johnson hit his peak golfers have been really into the idea of a more flexed lead wrist on the backswing.

If you're not sure what that means, that's ok. In simple terms, when the back of a golfer's lead hand points more towards the sky at the top of the backswing, their wrist is flexed, or "bowed." The two terms are used interchangeably.

When the back of a golfer's lead hand is pointed more towards their head, their wrist is extended, or cupped.

Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm are more bowed. Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy and Will Zalatoris tend to be more cupped. Most golfers are somewhere in between, and there's no right or wrong way. Different things work for different people. It just depends on what you and your body can do.

Which brings us to Jack Nicklaus's fascinating comments earlier this week at the Memorial Tournament.

A reporter asked Jack about golf swings — specifically, which golf swings he likes the most. Sam Snead, he said, was his all time favorite. Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy were two names he mentioned of the current crop.

But what was more interesting was when Jack talked about the current trend of trying to play with a flexed lead wrist, and why it doesn't always work for everyone.

Jack on Palmer, Player, Rahm


They key to deciding if you can play with a lead wrist that’s more flexed, Jack said, is strength.

Because flexing the lead wrist will often close the clubface, Nicklaus said players need to be strong with their arms and core to rotate quickly. That prevents the clubface from closing too soon, he said, which can cause hooks.

Palmer played with a bowed wrist and it worked because he was strong, Nicklaus said, which is why he predicts the technique will work for Jon Rahm.

"Arnold was strong. Arnold played golf all his life. And he had been strong all his life," he said. "Some people can play that way. Jon Rahm will be able to get away with it...Jon Rahm is strong so he'll be able to play that way all his life. His body is so quick and through the ball and he's so strong holding on through the ball that he'll play well for a long time. Other guys may not."

But it doesn't work for most players, he said, because they lack the kind of elite strength required. Even Gary Player, who struggled with a hook because of his bowed wrist early in his career, learned to find the balance that worked for him.

"The first time I saw Gary Player, 1958, he was playing the second shot into the 9th green at Southern Hills. He was 22 years old at the time. And I saw he played his shot and sitting here [with a bowed lead wrist]. I said, We'll never have to worry about him," Nicklaus said. "The next time I saw him, his hands were more underneath the club. It changed his game totally because Gary's not a big guy. Even though he physically worked out, his strength would not last him for his career unless he made that change."

Ultimately, that was Jack's takeaway for the rest of us, and what we can learn from these other golfers. That every golfer has to find a balance that works for them. It was a lesson first taught to him by fellow pro Jack Grout.

"'He says, I just wanted you to know that there are many, many different ways to play the game of golf...They had learned those other ways of playing the golf and so they figured it out."