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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Dreaded Chicken Wing of Death

(PAY ATTENTION, RIGHTHANDERS! Normally I describe things as a righthander, and lefties have to transpose it. But Brian is a lefty and this is his project, so you righties will have to substitute “right” for “left” and vice versa. It will give you an appreciation for what lefties have to go through when they learn the game. But here’s a hint that will help: View the photos as if you were looking in a mirror.)

One thing that Brian mentioned is a persistent problem with a chicken wing. For those of you unfamiliar with this legendary creature, Brian has thoughtfully provided a picture of the “fowl” practice. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

The Dreaded Chicken Wing of Death!

A chicken wing shows up at the end of your swing and can be caused by many things but, as a general rule, a chicken wing is a symptom rather than a cause. You end up in the wing position because you did something else wrong; that’s why attempts to “cure” the wing by doing drills such as holding a spare glove between your upper arm and chest never seem to result in a permanent fix.

If you want to get rid of your chicken wing, you’ve got to fix the real source of the problem.

A chicken wing is evidence that you aren’t swinging the club; rather, you’re trying to muscle the club through the point of contact. Poor foot and leg action can also contribute to the problem, because it’s hard to swing the club when your body is out of position.

When you chicken wing at impact, your elbow is pointed in the wrong direction. Grab a club and take up your address position; where does your elbow point? Bend your elbow if you aren’t sure. I bet a straight line from your wrist through your elbow points behind you, at a slight angle away from your body. Where does a chicken wing elbow point? Usually toward the hole.

That means your impact position is nowhere near your setup position. Es bad mojo, mon!

Remember the last post, the one about fanning the club open on the backswing? Take your setup again and just fan the clubface open. (You can do this inside, since you don’t have to swing the club.) Where is your elbow pointed? Toward the hole!

Brian, if you break the First Principle and rotate your forearms, you’re setting up for a chicken wing from the very start of the swing.

In addition, we tend to equate swing speed with expended effort, but that’s an incorrect assumption. Rotating your forearms puts your arm into a position where pulling the club feels normal and even correct to a lot of people. If you’re pulling the club rather than swinging it, you’re going to have to spin your shoulders to try and get the club back into position, and most people have to spin their hips in order to spin their shoulders. From this state of affairs, it’s hard to swing the club.

Here’s our plan of attack: I’m going to help you stop spinning your hips, which should help you stop spinning your shoulders. Once you accomplish that, it should feel much more natural to swing your arms… and that will, in turn, help eliminate that nasty chicken wing at the end. (Save those chicken wings for the 19th hole, where they belong!)

So next up… we tackle that nasty over-the-top move that plagues so many weekend players.


  1. This is very well explained. I think I've mentioned before that I've read dozens of instructional books (from the world's top instructors - Haney, Leadbetter, Bradley, et al) and I've never seen that point about the elbows before! Brilliant!

    In terms of spinning the hips, I'll be interested in what you have to say because the nuance between bumping/clearing/rotating/opening the hips (all terms I've seen in the above-mentioned books) and spinning them has never been clear to me.

  2. The problem with the hips is that you can't really teach the move with a single drill. It's one thing to teach someone how the hips and legs move during the swing; it's another thing entirely to teach them how that move feels to them.

    I'm going to attack each separately, in order to try and make it clear. Tomorrow I'll show you the drill for the move, which you've probably seen before; we'll tackle the feel part in the post after that.

    But I'll give you this hint: Forget all that bumping/clearing/rotating/opening stuff. Those are attempts to explain the move, not the feel. I'm going to help you identify the way your body actually feels the move, which is how you want to play anyway.