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Friday, January 27, 2012

That Sneaky Lead Elbow!

Here's an image to help you make better contact and stay on plane throughout your swing.

If you've looked at the posts in the "basic principles of the game" category, you'll see that I have a real hang-up about twisting your forearms during your swing. Twisting your forearms (often called "releasing the clubface") is one of those things that most instructors casually assume you need to do during a good swing. Let me make this perfectly clear: You don't and you shouldn't.

Let me repeat that. You don't need to twist your forearms during your swing and you shouldn't. No less an authority than Ben Hogan backs me up on this. In his book Five Lessons, which is a bible for many instructors, Hogan writes:
"The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club."
That's on page 82 of my copy, and Hogan felt so strongly about it that he put the whole thing in capital letters. If you try to use your hands, you automatically twist your forearms.

Why is that such a big deal? There are several reasons, but I'll focus on just one today. If you start trying to twist your forearms during your swing, most of you will end up with a "chicken wing followthrough." And among other things, "winging it" will produce slices and topped shots.

When you twist your forearms, you point your hands and club shaft away from the ball and pull through the shot with your elbow leading the way. If you do that, your hands can't "catch up" and square up the club face, hence you slice. Then that bent elbow pulls the clubhead into a shorter arc and you hit higher on the ball, hence you top it.

I talk a lot about connection -- that is, keeping your triceps resting lightly against your chest as much as you can throughout your swing -- and you can keep your lead tricep resting against your chest all the way from address until you swing your club over your lead shoulder when you pose at the finish. Your lead shoulder is your left shoulder if you play right-handed, and it's your right shoulder if you play left-handed. This connected position keeps your lead elbow fairly close to your chest.

That's important because a connected lead elbow is pointed toward the ground all the way through your swing.

And if your lead elbow stays close to your side and points to the ground all the way through your swing, your hands and the club tend to stay in front of you. When that happens, the back of your lead hand tends to return to its address position and you square up the club. Your arm doesn't shorten its arc. You get a nice solid hit on the ball.

Best of all, no one accuses you of being Col. Sanders's next victim. Smiley Faces

One of the best ways to get a feel for this move is to imagine you're throwing a Frisbee™ or hitting a tennis backhand. Most people naturally make the correct movement if they do that, plus they make the proper lower body move without sliding their hips too far forward during the downswing.

So pay some attention to that sneaky lead elbow and its tendency to move too far away from your side and lead your downswing. The only good chicken wing is an edible one!


  1. The Frisbee visual is perfect if you are having trouble keeping your swing in sync. Everybody knows what trying to throw a Frisbee too hard looks like, a wobbly mess that doesn't fly very far. Once I started grooving the feel I found I could hit fades and draws by imagining I was throwing the Frisbee to curve right or left.

    Fantastic tip that really uncluttered my head and got my natural rhythm back.

  2. Mike

    just want to say i look forward to your writing everyday...i thoroughly enjoy it........informative....and fun



  3. WJ -- It's always little things that make a difference, isn't it? Like I said in the post, anytime you can attach something new to something you already know (and that's not just in golf) you make things much easier to learn.

    Howard -- Thanks for the kind words!