Hand Movements

wrist flexion extension.jpg

Often I get emails or questions from students about hand positions such as supination, pronation. While I know these are the correct anatomical terms used in medicine and physical therapy, I find the potential for confusion in golf swing related discussions to be substantial. We have a lot of TGM converts or dabblers floating around these parts so if you toss in bent, arched, cocked, uncocked etc… it adds to the potential for misunderstanding.

If memory serves me correct, I think Hogan had pronation and supination backwards in Five Lessons somewhere. While supination is palms up if held in front of you… pronation is palms down… but the hands are always working in opposing directions when doing this… so if the definition is not hand specific, we are going to be subject to confusion for many.

This probably why Homer Kelley avoided the correct anatomical terminology.

If anyone has a copy of Five Lessons handy, it might be interesting to post Hogan’s quote on hand positions. I won’t have access to my book for a few more days.

I prefer to define the movement of both wrists in unison for simplicity. Cocked up or down. Arched or cupped (back of the wrists bent)… forearms rotated clockwise or counter clockwise.

Looks like he’s talking about the left wrist specifically. In fact, he doesn’t say too much about the right wrist at all.
The caption for the illustration on p. 102 is “The left wrist begins to supinate at impact. The raised wristbone points to the target.” Sounds like a combination of supination and a little bit of flexion. So I guess that implies pronation and extension of the right. Counter clockwise rotation of course.

5 Lessons Quotes:
“…During this climactic part of the swing, the left wrist and the back of the left hand begin to supinate very slightly - that is, to turn from a position where the palm is down to a position where the palm is up. They continue to supinate throughout the rest of the swing…”

“…Every poor golfer does the exact reverse. As his club comes into the ball, he starts to pronate the left wrist - to turn it so that the palm will be facing down…”

“…Supinating, on the other hand, sets up a number of extremely desirable actions. it helps the player to develop a properly wide forward arc. It puts him in a position where his arms are well extended at impact and will be fully extended just after impact as they swing out toward his objective…”

“…At this point, the left arm is also straight - the one and only time in the swing that both arms are fully extended. After this, led by the supinating left wrist, the left arm begins to fold in at the elbow, like the right arm does on the backswing…”

In the second quote he appears to be describing extension instead of pronation.

His description of supination is supported by this figure which appears to be a combination of flexion, UD and supination:

Just a quick tour through The Vault, a few grabs from there… and while I understand he may have had that intention to roll the wrist hard through and post impact… that intention could only exist if you were bringing into impact a shaft that was very flat and loaded up with pressure and tons of forearm rotation. Then that kind of action could be a very real sensation or intention. But for most golfers, the intention to flip the hands over that fast post impact is a swinger’s release void of those kind of pressures.

Reading Hogan is always a bit cryptic. Was he talking reality, or intentions or feel? I think he was talking intentions and feel, and those intentions and feelings are based upon other pre existing dynamic conditions that are not often spelled out. A lot of assumptions going on. Correct… but only if (this or that is happening and he is not going to tell you because then the book would be 700 pages) Hogan did mention in one of the Seitz articles that such a book that he intended to write would be of epic proportions. We are left with Five Lessons and tons of imagery of him striking shots to put the pieces together.

hard to argue there is not some serious forearm rotation going on to slot the club here:

And having the ability to resist the flattening of the left wrist well into the downswing for this particular shot:

What Ben Hogan did with his hands through impact is a very interesting subject to research. In addition to 5 lessons, the Life article he wrote in 1955 has some very insightfull stuff in it when it comes to golf swing mechanics. Here’s a few highlight quotes:

[i]“The better the swing you have and the better player you become - as far as hitting the ball, that is - the more definitely you become a hooker. The mechanics of a good swing demands a hook. To get distance the hands roll into the ball just before the point of impact and after it is hit the wrists roll over the top of the shaft. When hit this way - the way the best tournament players hit it - there is nothing for the ball to do but take off low and hard. It curls from right to left and the end of it’s flight…It is very hard to control, or at least I found it so”

“I tried all the conventional cures - opening the stance, altering the grip, using more left arm and cutting the ball. They all worked, but in the process they cut down my distance by five to 10 yards. Five yards is a long way. You can’t give anybody five yards”

“The two adjustmends had transformed pronation into a bonanza for me. They were so delicate that no one would ever think of looking for them - and I certainly was not going to tell anybody where to look. The first was in the grip. I moved my left hand one-eighth to one forth inch to the left so that the thumb was almost directly on top of the shaft. The second adjustment, which is the real meat of the “secret”, was nothin more than a twist or cocking of the left wrist.”

“At this point the swing had been made hook proof. No matter how much wrist I put into the downswing, no matter how hard I swung or how hard I tried to roll into and through the ball, the face could not close fast enough to become absolutely square at the moment of impact. The result was that lovely, long-fading ball which is a highly effective weapon on any golf course”[/i]

Equally as insightful is a gif that the Ben Hogan Swing Project dude put together on another forum recently. The gif shows a practice swing (left) prior to hitting a full swing (right). It’s very easy to see in his practice swing the right arm coming in bellow the left arm in the down swing and right quickly moves above the left arm through impact indicating a roll which indicates that he has an “inside-out roll” intent through the ball as opposed to a swing left intent that we see Tiger Woods implement in his practice swing since working with Foley. Based on all of this, I’d conclude that Ben Hogan’s fundamentals (5 Lessons) are designed to create a hooking ball flight with a pivot driven action, while his own unique modifications (pronation in the backswing, weak grip, wrist cupping) remove all the potential negative side effect from his fundamentals. Just like arithmetic is taught before algebra is taught before trigonometry is taught before calculus, perhaps a good way to learn to swing a golf club is to learn the use the body and hands to hook the ball off the planet on command and once this is engrained then proceed to making that swing hook proof. 5 lessons after all was written for the mid handicapper trying to break 80. It’s not a manual for the elite ballstriker who’s trying to block out one side of the course, hit a powerful fade etc.


How is it written for a mid handicapper? He teaches a weak grip and trying to turn your left hip as hard as you can from the top. If you got every mid handicapper in the world to do that I think they’d slice it off the planet. Although turning the left hip how Hogan suggests doesn’t necessarily prevent a hook, he thought it did and that’s why he’s saying it. The book was written for anyone, but the content definitely lends itself to the better player.

At the start and the end of the book ben hogan mentions that if the average golfer applies these fundamentals they can break 80. If you disagree that these fundamentals are appropriate for the average golfer then that’s fine, but it’s clear that he thought they would help the average golfer.

As far as combating a hook, I don’t recall him ever mentioning that his pivot was what contributed to him making his swing hook proof. He described forearm rotation, weaker grip and left wrist cupping as the cure.

No, I think his other-worldly pivot stymied his pursuit of banishing his hook. So, disgusted, he left the tour for a bit, went home and thought about it. He had done a lot of work, dug out from his marathon practice sessions. The planets were almost aligned, but something was missing. He changed his grip, weakened it to oppose and counteract his world-class pivot. A braking mechanism, but not.

How do you think he felt waking up that morning and realizing beyond a shadow of the next dawn that this added-extra was more than enough to get him to the first tee of championship golf? The feeling must have been bracing, liberating, esp. after that first field-test session. He said it worked like a charm. I’'ll bet after his epiphany the time he spent on the range increased…just to polish the charm…you know, make sure no stone was left unturned. (I can imagine Valerie at home, arms crossed, doing a Texas long-mile stare out the window, wondering, when is he coming home?)

So, head down, with that hat providing cover for his sly smile he proceeded to eviscerate the field.

How would you feel if you had worked into flat, heavy and stiff gear, worked at it hard and over time worked your grip weak, esp. the left hand, and doing this, over time, a thought coalesced in your brainpan and it was…

…try and hook the ball hard off the planet…

And the harder you tried to hook it off the planet, or any planet of your choosing, you hit it straight or to a three-yard fade.

You add, add, add, and then you take away…

That side by side comparison is pretty thought provoking…

Here is one possible take…

Barkow told me Hogan wasn’t interested in sharing his secrets. He wasn’t helping Snead or Nelson with their swings.

Money was not easy to come by… winning the US Open was $4000 at Merion. Might be $200K today with inflation… not 3 million.

That practice swing of his was NOT going to show his competition his secret of working the shaft low and left as he did in his fast full swing. It loosened up his wrists… and gave him a feeling of rotating the shaft. But if he did a practice swing that exaggerated his epic move… it might tip his hand to other players who he was ONLY interested in BEATING.

I think it might have been a decoy move.

Aside from the differences post impact, check out the differences in knee bend. He’s standing almost vertical in the practice swing. Also less hip turn back and through. Major difference in the level of right knee drive toward the ball through impact.

What’s amazing to me is that the actual swing looks better than the practice swing in static positions. While I can achieve some of those looks on a practice swing, putting a ball down invariably leads to less knee flex, sloppier pivot, and steeper for me. Hogan’s actual swing looks like it should be the practice swing, not the other way around. Whatever it was he was trying to feel in the practice swing, or at least telegraph in terms of intentions in the practice swing (If Lag’s potential explanation is correct) was not the same as what he did when actually hitting a shot.

On that topic…
it looked like it hurt when he walked… probably from the accident… so a more relaxed looking practice swing
might have been the best way for him to prepare for his violent action through the ball.

I am certainly not claiming I know… :sunglasses:

Decoy move is an interesting theory, and can’t be ruled out because given the right set of incentives people do all kinds of crazy stuff.

However, another baffling example is his concentration drill where he shows a crossover release at impact. Here’s a couple pics at a clinic before and after impact while demonstrating this drill. Either this crossover was a deeply ingrained intention or the decoy was also extended to golfing clinics :slight_smile:

I completely agree that when viewing his action in full speed this cross over is not apparent. Is it possible that he was going for a full wrist roll but because of his aggressive hip and should turn with a strong arm body connection it resulted in his cut left look instead of Ricky Fowler’s disconnected look? An emergent property when the sum of his intentions were combined? Not swinging left but instead inside-out for the widest possible forward arc and a massive hook? A hook which was also subdued by his other famous compensations?

And lastly, the question that remains is wether all of this contradicts anything he’s ever said about the golf swing…I don’t see any contradictions but could (probably did) have missed something.

BTW, i also do not claim to know!


If you taught Hogan, right from his book, with the roll over release illustrated there… I don’t see how that would ever lead to the kind of release Hogan actually used to play in competition.

That’s why I think his secret remained a secret… at least that one of a hundred secrets. He didn’t tell all his secrets of which there were many.


Not to get too far off track(hand movements) but do you guys think that this held true(the idea of decoy info) concerning his equipment also? Hogans famous one iron. Hogans personal club specifications. Hogan wasn’t giving away anything it seemed…

That would mean that mr Hogan was one sneaky dude and that we can start burning all the (mis)information he put out to the world over many decades. He also performed that drill for the Coleman family in his twilight years, so what’s the incentive for him doing it in that case? I don’t know man I think there must be more to all of this other than premeditated mass deception.

…but I’ve been wrong before

The clubs he played were nothing like the clubs he released to the public.

Five Lessons is very cryptic in my opinion.

There is no “one” secret to the golf swing. I think he took a lot
to the grave.

He worked hard to figure stuff out, had legendary work ethic, and I can’t see him interested in making things
easy for others who might attempt to challenge his records in the future.

But I can’t imaging he would have been happy with the direction the game has taken… if he were to be completely candid.
Bomb and Gouge golf? No way.

This thread is sure serendipitous for me… and the discussion thought provoking.
I just picked up 5 lessons a few days ago, read the 1st chapter on grip and started browsing ahead, against the authors advice ,to the later sections on hand and wrist position and supination. I am still drilling on MOD2 and really trying to get the feel down
but have struggled mightily as of late with my grip and releasing my angles too early when playing.
I have gone from a 10.5 hdcp to a 12.3 since joining ABS so I am well aware of being an average player and the scoring regression
that comes with a swing overhaul. That said I played a scramble tourney today with my mens group and we won with an adjusted
score of 58. I applied to the best of my ability the concept of supination/left forearm rotation, bowed wrist, call it what you will…
and had one of my best ball striking rounds in months! The feel was my left wrist felt stronger firmer than ever at impact and I could really blaze away with both hands thru the ball… Hope this is on topic but really find it amazing what topics get opened up for discussion when one is really seeking to learn!!! Lets me know I am in the right place!

cheers all

I know he said that at the end of the book, it is widely quoted. He doesn’t say that the book is aimed at mid-handicappers which is what you suggested.

Ok Slammin you may be right. I’m a bit confused then why it was published in sports illustrated for mass readership if it wasn’t aimed at the average.

I think the big issue with Five Lessons is the insistance on spinning the hips right from transition. Dangerous without the rest of the puzzle in place. Higher handicappers will most likey ‘spin out’ and come OTT