Club Head Speed vs. Hand Action

By M.L. Rose
Tiger Woods allows his body and arms to lead the way during his downswing, keeping his hands passive as long as possible.
Tiger Woods allows his body and arms to lead the way during his downswing, keeping his hands passive as long as possible.

Hand actions are clearly an important part of the golf swing. For example, every good golf swing begins with a proper grip. If you don’t hold the club correctly, an otherwise flawless swing won’t yield the desired result. Hand movements remain important even after you’ve gripped the club. As with many other aspects of the golf swing, however, opinions differ regarding how active your hands should be to generate maximum swing speed.

Keep Hands Passive

Swing coach Butch Harmon believes the typical golfer “tries to do too much with his hands,” thereby diminishing his swing speed. He notes that his former pupil, Tiger Woods, focused on keeping his hands passive through the downswing. The most important aspect of hand motion, Harmon says, is to synchronize the movements of your hands with the rest of your body.

From the Ground Up

Woods says he generates club head speed on the downswing “from the ground up,” with hand movement occurring last. He begins his downswing sequence by shifting his weight forward, then rotating his hips and shoulders, then moving his arms. At the end of his swing, he uncocks his wrists and moves his hands forward. But even when he plays a draw, which requires his right hand to turn over his left at impact, he focuses on rolling his right forearm, not his hand, over his left arm.

Making Corrections

Golfers may be forced to use their hands more aggressively during the downswing if they are not rotating their hips correctly, according to golf instructor Jack Lumpkin. If you fail to rotate completely, the club face will be wide open at impact if you don’t twist your hands. Lumpkin believes golfers generate more club head speed by rotating properly and allowing their body’s centrifugal force to uncock their wrists naturally.

Uncocking the Wrists

A golfer’s wrists must uncock so the club head can snap forward through the impact zone. However, golf instructors often have very different ideas about the hands’ role in this movement. Kay McMahon says the hands have one primary purpose: to hold the club. She believes golfers should employ “no conscious manipulation” of the club with their hands. Dean Reinmuth, though, maintains that the hands and forearms must rotate the club “aggressively” at the moment of impact, adding that the hand motion must be smooth and steady throughout the downswing.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

Photo Credits

  • David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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