It is extremely important for senior golfers to keep their left arm straight during their backswing as doing this allows you to make a great connection with the golf ball and secondly you will generate maximum club head speed when you swing and therefore hit the ball the maximum distance that you can.
As you address the golf ball, you should have a straight left arm if you are a right handed golfer. As you swing the club head away from the golf ball on your backswing, work on pushing your hands away from your body to keep your left arm fully extended out from your body and straight. As you do this, the club head will travel at the maximum distance possible away from your body, giving you the widest possible swing arc. The wider your swing arc, the further the club head has to travel around you as you swing it, so the more time you have to build speed into the movement. The faster you swing the club head through impact, the more speed will be transferred into the ball and therefore the further you will hit the golf ball.
Keeping your left arm straight also affects the connection that you get between the club head and the golf ball. If you bend you left arm during your golf swing, you are shortening the distance between yourself and the club head. At the start of your swing the club head is at a maximum length away from you, so if you shorten this distance and then try to return the club head back to the golf ball, the club head will now be closer to you and as a result it will strike the top of the golf ball. Keeping your left arm straight during your backswing allows you to swing the club head back down to the golf ball at the height it started at so that you strike the ball well.
To encourage a straight left arm during your backswing, work on achieving the following:
At set up, create a straight line from your left shoulder down your straight left arm to your left hand and then down the club shaft to the club head. Work on pushing your hands away from your torso as you swing back, rather than pulling your hands in towards your body. To get the feeling of doing this, take a resistance band and place one end of it under your left foot so that it wraps up the outside of your foot. Now hold the other end in your hands as you hold the golf club. As you swing the club away from the golf ball on your backswing, stretch the resistance band away from you and this will extend your left arm and teach you how to push your hands away from your body.
If you do not have a resistance band, you could always use a large plastic bottle that you could cut either end off just to leave the cylindrical body. Slide this over your left elbow and now make your backswing - you will not be able to bend your left arm due to the bottle sleeve. HOWEVER, do not try to swing through with this on as your left elbow needs to bend on your follow through so only use this to help get the feel of keeping your arm straight on your backswing.
Why Keep Left Arm Straight During Backswing?
For a right-handed golfer, the left arm plays an important role in the backswing. Well, to be fair, both arms play an important role in taking the club up to the top of the swing – but in this article, we are going to focus on the job of the left arm. By keeping your left arm straight throughout the backswing action, you will be well prepared to make a powerful and accurate downswing into the ball. Many amateur golfers come up short on this important point, and the results speak for themselves. You will notice that most professional golfers play with a straight left arm, and you should strongly consider doing the same.
As you work on improving your golf swing technique, it is wise to pay attention to all of the small details which make up your backswing. The backswing is what sets the foundation for a great downswing, so any mistakes you make at this early stage are sure to be reflected in the final results of the shot. Get through the backswing without any real problems and a good shot is likely to follow. It might not be particularly exciting to work on your backswing form during an upcoming trip to the range, but that work is going to pay off in the long run.
While working on your left arm extension in the backswing, it is important to remember that there are other fundamentals to keep in mind as well. For example, you need to maintain great balance, you need to make a full shoulder turn, and more. Rather than being the only point you focus on in the backswing, your left arm extension should be seen as one piece of the puzzle. By blending this important point into the rest of your backswing technique you can wind up with an action that performs efficiently time after time.
Once you learn how to keep your left arm straight during the backswing you will find that this technique pays off for every shot you hit on the course. You don't need to adjust this mechanical part of your swing based on the shot at hand – it applies to all shots in all situations. So, once you successfully put this element into your swing, you should be able to forget about it while moving on to other things. As long as you don't slide back into bad habits at some point in the future, left arm positioning in your swing is something you won't have to think about again.
As will be explained below, it is important to keep your left arm straight for a number of reasons. However, you don't want to force your arm into a locked position so aggressively that you add tension to your swing. Yes, you want to keep your elbow straight as the swing develops, but don't feel like you are straining to do so. Keep the left arm straight but still relaxed in order to achieve the best possible results.
All of the content in this article is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
So what is it specifically that you will gain by keeping your left arm straight in the backswing? That is the topic we are going to tackle in this section. As with any important golf swing fundamental, keeping your left arm straight is actually going to benefit you in a number of ways. The list below is just a partial collection of the advantages to be found when you keep that left elbow straight throughout the backswing and into the downswing.
- Great width in the swing. Perhaps the most important element of keeping your left elbow straight in the backswing is the extension you will achieve. With that arm straight, your backswing is going to be as wide as possible – meaning you will follow a long arc from the start of your swing on through to impact. Why is a long arc desirable? With a longer arc, the club will have more time to accelerate on the way down to the ball, meaning greater swing speed in the end. When all other things are equal, long swings are going to hit the ball farther than short swings. Professional golfers tend to maintain excellent width in all of their swings, and you should be aspiring to the same goal.
- Consistent tempo. Once you get comfortable with keeping your left arm straight during the swing, this technique can help you to develop a smooth, consistent tempo to use swing after swing. The swing itself will be controlled mostly with body rotation, meaning it will be easier to repeat your rhythm than if you were using more hands and wrists in the swing. Most players who keep their left arm straight have a relaxed, gradual tempo, which is perfect for performing well under pressure. If tempo is something you have always struggled with on the course, you are likely to take a step forward by holding your elbow in a straight position.
- Clean ball striking. Keeping your left arm straight is going to give you a great feel for the location of the club head throughout the swing. If you were to swing with a bent left elbow, you might have trouble delivering the club head to the ball in the same way time after time. If your elbow is slightly more bent in one swing than another, for example, you may catch the ball a bit thin or fat. Take those variables out of the picture by keeping your arm straight. Consistency is your best friend on the golf course, and using this technique is a great way to add some consistency to your performance.
- Overall simplicity. Golf is a complicated game, so anything you can do to make it a bit simpler is something you should consider. You don't want to have a bunch of thoughts running through your head as you swing the club, because the swing only takes a couple of seconds to complete – there really isn't time to think. By keeping your left arm straight, you won't have to worry about overthinking your technique or making things more complicated than they need to be. This is a simple technique, and it is one which is highly effective as well.
You stand to benefit in a number of ways when you keep your left arm straight in the backswing and on down into the downswing as well. Is this the only way to swing the club? No – there have certainly been plenty of golfers who have experienced success with a bent left elbow. For example, Jordan Spieth allows his left elbow to bend in the backswing, and he is obviously one of the very best players in the world. However, for the average golfer, keeping that arm straight is the right way to go, for all of the reasons listed above. Taking your swing in this direction is likely to lead to positive results in the near future.
Setting Up for Success
To make it as easy as possible to keep your left arm straight during the backswing, you need to be sure to set up over the ball properly at address. This is a point which is taken for granted by the majority of amateur golfers, but you can do yourself a great favor if you are willing to spend time on this detail. A good setup position can make it rather easy to create a solid swing, while a poor position will leave you scrambling to make clean contact.
To put yourself in a position to succeed, make sure each of the following points is present at address.
- Squared up to the target line. This is one of the biggest keys to hit on when you take your stance. Not only do your feet need to be square to the target line, but you also need to get into a square position with your hips and shoulders as well. The average golfer struggles to setup square to the line they have selected for the shot, and the results reflect that mistake. It only takes a moment to check on the positioning of your body before the swing begins, and doing so will make it far more likely that you send the ball toward the target.
- Chin up off of your chest. In order to keep your left arm straight throughout the backswing, you are going to have to make a great shoulder turn. Without a good turn in your shoulders, your left arm will be forced to bend simply to move the club all the way around your body. So, knowing that you need a good shoulder turn, it would be a good idea to keep your chin up away from your chest at address. This chin-up position is going to give your left shoulder the space it needs to rotate to the right. As long as your left shoulder passes under your chest each time you swing the club, you can be sure that your rotation lived up to its potential.
- Arms hanging freely. Another key to using your left arm nicely in the backswing is allowing it to hang freely from your shoulder at address. You shouldn't feel that your left arm is reaching out awkwardly toward the ball, nor should you feel like it is pinned down against your chest. By using plenty of tilt in your hips when you take your stance, you can create room for both arms to hang down to the grip of the club. The address position you use in your swing should be comfortable, relaxed, and balanced – and allowing your arms to hang freely will help you hit all of those keys.
- Back flat. Ideally, your back will be in a flat position from your hips all the way up to your neck. When you do find this flat back position, it will be easier to make a full rotation than if you had a 'hump' somewhere in your spine. To do a better job of finding this position at address, try feeling like you are sticking your backside out behind you when your stance is finished. Bend your knees, push your backside out behind you, and keep your chin up. That collection of three points will nearly ensure that your back will be flat before your swing begins.
- Eyes on the ball. Okay – so you probably already knew about this address position key. It stands to reason, but it needs to be mentioned anyway – you should be looking down at the ball before the swing starts. Not only that, but your eyes should remain trained on the ball until the shot has been sent off into the distance. There will be a temptation to look up early to watch the flight of the ball, but that will cause your entire upper body to come out of the swing. Stay down through the shot and trust that it will be on line when you do look up.
The process of working on your address position isn't particularly exciting. It is helpful, however, if you have aspirations of playing better golf in the months and years to come. Improving on your address position will help you keep your left arm straight in the backswing, and it will help many other parts of your game as well.
Making a Great Turn
As mentioned above, you are going to have to make a great turn away from the ball if you want to keep your left arm straight throughout the backswing. A poor shoulder turn is going to make it impossible to keep your arm straight, as it will be forced to bend just to finish the swinging action. So, with that in mind, one of your main goals should be to make the best upper body turn possible in your backswing.
How do you do that? Well, for one thing, you can improve your level of physical fitness. By adding flexibility and maintaining a healthy weight, you will find it easier to turn successfully. Of course, if you decide to take on a conditioning program in order to benefit your golf game, you should be sure to consult with a doctor before getting started.
In addition to improving your fitness level, you can also use a few other tips to make a better turn. Those tips are listed below.
- Give yourself time. Sometimes, a poor shoulder turn is the result of nothing other than impatience. If you rush yourself in the backswing, your upper body won't have time to turn all the way back. The golf swing takes time to develop, and you have to be willing to give yourself that time if you are going to make a swing which lives up to your potential. The ball isn't going to roll away, so don't feel like you need to be in a rush. Take your time, turn your left shoulder fully under your chin, and start forward when you are sure your backswing is complete.
- All shoulders at the start. It is common for amateur golfers to begin the backswing by using the hands and wrists to move the club. This might feel right, but it is actually all wrong. When you start your swing with your hands and wrists, the club is going to move 'behind' you in a hurry, and you won't wind up making a great turn in the end. Instead, use only your shoulders to start the swing and allow your hands to get involved later on. At address, focus on your left shoulder as the source of power for the takeaway. Use that shoulder to turn right and let everything else come along for the ride. When done correctly, you will be well on your way to a full turn.
- Maintain knee flex. Even though it is the upper body that needs to do the work of turning away from the target in the backswing, your lower body has a role in this job as well. Specifically, you need to keep your knees flexed so your lower body can act as a platform for the swinging action. With flexed knees, it will be easier to keep your balance and your upper body will be free to do what it needs to do to get in position. Also, your knees should be flexed to start the downswing, so this point is crucial for a couple of reasons.
Learning how to make an excellent upper body turn is a key skill which you should practice specifically on the range. Some golfers believe that their turn 'is what it is', and it won't improve. That doesn't have to be the case. Just like anything else, you can improve on your rotation if you work hard and pay attention to the details in your technique. With better upper body rotation, your left arm will have a greater opportunity to remain straight throughout the backswing and into the downswing – and your swings will have added power as a result.
Soften Up in the Short Game
So far in this article, we have been discussing the importance of keeping your left arm straight in the full swing. However, this is a topic which should also be covered with regard to the short game. When you get close to the hole – whether you are chipping or putting – it is a good idea to soften up your left arm in order to add touch and feel to your shots.
The major advantage gained when keeping your left arm straight in the full swing is the extension that you will possess. With great width to use to your advantage, you can develop plenty of speed between the top of the swing and the moment of impact. When talking about the short game, the matter of extension is irrelevant. You aren't trying to create speed or power on your short shots, so you don't need to worry about tracing a wide arc with the club head. Instead, you should be worried only about feeling the club as it swings so you can control distance properly.
That is not to say that you need to intentionally bend your left arm at address or during your short game swings. If your arm happens to wind up in a relatively straight position, that's just fine – but you shouldn't be forcing it. Most players will putt with their arms slightly bent, as that is usually the most comfortable option while rocking the shoulders to make a stroke. Spend some time on the practice green experimenting with different setup positions until you find one which feels comfortable and natural.
As far as chipping is concerned, you may be most comfortable using a straight left arm simply because that will keep your setup similar to your full swing. However, make sure your left arm is soft and relaxed at address, and let it swing as freely as possible while playing your shots. Should you notice that you are having trouble with feel around the greens, experiment with a bent left arm in your chipping action to see if that helps your touch. Distance control is the name of the game in the short game, and it just may be that adding a bit of bend to your arm could do the trick for dialing in this skill.
For most golfers, it is going to be beneficial to make golf swings with a straight left arm. This is not one of those 'must-do' golf fundamentals, however, as many golfers have achieved success with a bent left arm in the backswing. Spend some time on the range working on the positioning of your left arm to discover which approach serves you best. Once you decide on a path forward, work hard to make that style as comfortable as possible. Bring together the right left arm positioning with other key fundamentals and your game will stand to improve dramatically. Good luck!