Every right-handed golfer knows the left arm should be straight at address. (For lefties, its the opposite.) But what about the right arm?
Theres no hard-and-fast rule about the right arms position at setup, but this much is key: It should be relaxed, not tense. If you squeeze the club tightly with the right hand or rigidly extend the arm from shoulder to club, the tension will prevent you from rotating arms and club correctly on the backswing.
Typically, the right arm will form a pretty straight line from the shoulder to the clubs grip, with minimal bend at the elbow. Many teachers advocate a “soft” right arm, with a slight elbow bend so that the right forearm hangs a touch below the left. From here, the right arm can fold more naturally on the backswing, promoting proper rotation of the arms to get the club on plane. This easy bending of the right arm is a key element of a Compact swing.
If your right arm tends to get far away from the body going back, try relaxing it during your setup while allowing the elbow to droop a little. Then take the club back until the hands are at hip height and the shaft parallel to the ground. If the club points directly to your right, parallel to the target line, with the toe pointing straight up, youre in perfect position.
If the club and/or toe point in front of you, a stiff right arm could be inhibiting your rotation. Loosen up the elbow and your swing will flow much better.
Let Right Arm Bend at Setup to Improve Backswing Rotation
The golf swing is all about rotation. If you focus on only one fundamental throughout your entire swing, it should be rotating both back and through the shot completely. Even if you make a number of other errors during your swing, you can make up for them quite nicely as long as you rotate. Power in the golf swing is created through rotation, and a good body turn will make it much easier to make solid contact with the ball. Simply put, you arent going to reach your goals on the golf course unless you learn how to turn effectively.
The backswing is where many amateur golfers go wrong from a rotation stand point. Rather than turning their back to the target, many players simply lift their arms up and away from the ball. Without turning back, you wont have any room to turn forward into the shot, and your swing will always lack power. While it is important to turn both back and through, it is really the backswing rotation that requires the most effort because the forward swing turn somewhat takes care of itself. As long as you are in the right position at the top, you should have little trouble rotating aggressively through the shot.
One way to improve your turn in the backswing is to bend your right arm slightly at address. With a small angle in your right elbow as you stand over the ball, your right side will be soft and ready to turn away from the target. Should you have your arm locked out straight, you will be putting tension and pressure into that side of your body – which is going to severely inhibit your ability to rotate. You need to begin your rotation in the backswing as soon as the club starts in motion, and a soft right arm is a great way to promote that action.
At some point, the right arm is going to have to bend in the backswing – its the only way to swing the club. If you were to try making a golf swing with your right arm straight throughout the motion, you would quickly find that it is impossible. So, since the right arm is going to bend at some point, why not give it a head start at address? Setting up with a slightly bent arm will simplify your backswing, and simple is always a good thing in golf. With part of your backswing work out of the way before the club ever even moves, you can focus completely on the upper body rotation necessary to get into a great position at the top of the backswing.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Getting Your Setup Right
Setting up correctly over the golf ball is one of the most important things you can do to benefit your game as a whole. Once the golf swing starts in motion, there is very little time to make adjustments, so you need to have everything in the correct place before things get started. Trying to make corrections on the fly is a game that you simply arent going to win.
Beyond your right arm, there are a number of other important ingredients that you should watch for when you are setting up to hit a shot. Review the list below and make sure that your address position is meeting most or all of these points.
- Head up, eyes down. This is the point that many amateur players miss, and it comes back to cost them once the club goes in motion. At address, you want to have your head up so you can keep your back in a straight line as you stand over the ball. The last thing you want to do is hunch over the golf ball, because a hunched spine can limit your ability to turn away from the ball. Most golfers think that, since they need to keep their eyes on the ball, they should also keep their head down. That is not the case. Make sure your chin is up and away from your chest, allowing your shoulders the necessary room to turn away from the target completely. As the club comes down toward impact, your eyes will remain down but your head will stay up so that your right shoulder can come through the shot without interruption.
- Flexed knees. If you stand over the ball with your legs locked straight, you have no chance of making a great turn. Flex in your legs is crucial because it will engage the muscles in your upper legs as well as your torso, which will give your upper body the support it needs to make a great turn. You dont have to use a lot of knee flex at address - the right amount of bend is going to vary from player to player. However, you do need to have at least a little bit of flex in your knees to ensure the rotation in your backswing is completed successfully.
- Relaxed grip. Squeezing the grip too tight at address is another problem that plagues many amateur golfers. It is easy to get into the mode of grabbing the grip too tight when you stand over the ball and feel slightly nervous about the results of the upcoming shot. While you are practicing on the range, focus on keeping your fingers and wrists relaxed and loose leading up to the start of the backswing. If you are gripping the club tightly at address, that tight grip will continue through the rest of the swing, and your swing speed will be limited as a result. A relaxed grip might feel a little bit uncomfortable at first, but it will certainly pay off in the long run.
- Total commitment. The last key in the address position is actually a mental point, not a physical one. In order to play your best, you need to be completely committed to the shot that you are going to hit. There should be no doubt in your mind that the shot you are planning to execute is the right one for the situation that you are facing. Golfers who have doubts in their mind before they swing the club are sure to struggle when they get into tight spots on the course during a round. Build up your confidence on the practice range so you can feel great over the ball from the first tee to the last green.
The address position is one of the single most important parts of your golf game. A great stance is going to allow you to make quality swings hole after hole, while a poor stance will make it hard to even hit one or two good shots. Before you get too far into working on the position of your right arm in the setup, first ensure that the point above are in place. Once you are happy with the rest of your stance, feel free to start experimenting with a bent right arm at address.
How to Bend Your Right Arm Properly
It isnt going to be good enough to simply walk up to the ball, take your normal stance, and bend your right arm to create a new position. There are going to be some other adjustments required in order to create a quality stance while using a bent right arm, so be sure to put together a complete game plan before putting this technique into action. It is important to be comfortable over the ball when hitting golf shots, so make sure that whatever position you land in is something that is natural enough to repeat over and over again.
The first step in the process of building your new stance is to bend over slightly more from the hips. Since you are bending your right arm, your arm will be shorter at address, meaning you will need to be slightly closer to the ball. Instead of standing closer to the ball, which will change the entire shape of your swing, opt to bend over just a little bit more in the setup. As you are bending over, pay careful attention to the position of your spine – you dont want to hunch, you just want to add some tilt. You should feel that tilt coming from your hips, so try to feel like you are sticking your backside out behind you when bending out further over the ball. Adding bend to your right elbow is only going to shorten your arm by an inch or two, so the change in your upper body position should be minor. Practice finding the right angle in your upper body on the driving range so you can easily take the right stance time after time on the course.
Another important point to watch is to make sure your grip doesnt change when you add some flex into your right arm. There needs to be a nice connection between the position of your left hand and your right hand, but that connection could be thrown off if you allow your grip to change when you bend your elbow. To make sure that doesnt become a problem, take your grip first prior to bending your arm at address. Secure your grip as you step up to the ball, and then position your arms while you are settling your feet into place. Doing these steps in the right order – grip first, then positioning your arms – will allow you to maintain the right grip.
As you bend your arm while setting up for your shots, dont permit any additional tension to work its way into your arm. Just as you need to have relaxed hands at address, you also need to have relaxed arms and shoulders. Your whole body should be comfortable and ready for the swing, and tension at any point throughout your body will only lead to trouble. If it helps, you might want to try shaking your arm a couple of times prior to moving in to your stance. Just a quick shake of your right arm could go a long way toward allowing you to stay relaxed not only at address, but also throughout the rest of the golf swing.
Just like with any other part of your golf game, the process of learning how to bend your right arm at address should start on the driving range. If you simply walk up to the first hole and decide that you are going to bend your arm when you setup to the ball, you are going to be met with disappointing results. Any improvement in golf takes practice, and this adjustment to your technique is no different. It is going to take some time to integrate a bent right arm position into your swing, but if you are willing to put in that time, you could be left with vastly improved backswing rotation.
Rotating Away from the Target
With the right arm properly bent and the rest of your stance in place, it is time to start moving the club away from the ball. The whole point of softening your right arm at address was to enable you to make a bigger turn, so it is important that you execute this turn correctly. After all, the bent right arm is going to do you no good at all if you fail to rotate your shoulders fully in the backswing. Only when you pair a soft right arm with a nice shoulder turn can you maximize your potential for power later on in the downswing.
The key to making a great backswing is getting off to a good start. If you fail to start the swing correctly, it will be difficult – or impossible – to correct your mistakes later on. So what does it mean to start the swing correctly? Mostly, it means that you are moving the club with your big muscles instead of the small ones. To start the club in motion, turn your left shoulder slowly under your chin and away from the target. If you can focus on that simple but important movement, you can make a great turn in the backswing. Instead of allowing your hands and forearms to control the takeaway, which would get the club out of position and leave your shoulders behind, use the left shoulder to start the action. As your left shoulder moves under your chin, your hands should simply be holding on to the grip of the club in a passive manner. Only when the club reaches the halfway point in the backswing should the hands start to have an influence over the swing.
As the backswing continues, it is important to stay on balance if you wish to complete your turn fully. When your body starts to drift to one side or the other, you will have trouble continuing to turn because your natural inclination will be to fight to get back on balance. Use the flex in your lower body to hold your center of gravity in place while you keep turning to the right. Remember, you should only turn as far as you can without losing balance – if you feel the length of your backswing is pulling you off-center, it might be time to shorten the overall length of your golf swing.
Getting near the top of the backswing is when that bent right elbow is really going to come in handy. Because your right arm started in a soft, bent position, it will have a much easier time fitting into place when you finish the backswing. Ideally, you want your right arm to be down near your side, with your right elbow pointing down at the ground. If you were to have started with a straight right arm at address, you would have to do more work in order to find the correct spot at the top of your swing. Instead, your arm should naturally make its way there, allowing you to focus only on finishing the rotation and getting ready for an aggressive downswing.
Not everyone is able to make a huge turn away from the ball. Some golfers are more flexible than others, and some have better balance that others. The important point isnt that you make a big backswing compared to other players – the key is that you make the biggest turn you can make comfortably while still hitting solid shots. A soft right arm at address, combined with a proper takeaway, should make it far easier for you to execute a great backswing turn.
As with any change you make to your golf technique, there are very likely to be a few problems that come up along the way. Even something simple like bending your right arm at address can have a serious impact on the rest of your swing, so there may be a few bumps in the road before you feel comfortable swinging from this new position. If you are having a bit of trouble making the adjustment, review the troubleshooting tips below.
- Topping the golf ball. After bending your right elbow at address, you might find that you top a few shots – especially early in the process. Topping the ball can occur when the club is too high off the ground coming down toward impact, which means you probably didnt adjust your stance enough at address. Work on finding a little more tilt in your hips to get your upper body farther out over the ball, and you should start making better contact almost immediately.
- Hitting the ball fat. Hitting the turf before the golf ball is known as hitting the shot fat, and that usually occurs when your lower body doesnt do its job in the downswing. As you transition from backswing to downswing, your lower body should take control of the swing and drive your body forward into impact. While the shoulders are in charge of the backswing, it is really the lower body that does the work of creating speed as you turn back to the left. Many golfers struggle with using their lower body correctly, instead choosing to just use the shoulders in the forward swing much like they used them in the backswing. Work on being more aggressive with your legs going forward and the fat shots should become a problem of the past.
- Hitting a hook. If you take the club away too far to the inside early in the swing, you will be setting yourself up for a potential hook. This could happen with a soft right arm if you make the mistake of using too much right hand during the takeaway instead of allowing your shoulders to do the work. When you notice your ball starting to curve too much to the left in the air, correct the problem by taking your hands out of the early part of the swing – instead letting your shoulders and torso take responsibility. This might seem like a subtle change, but it can mean the difference between hitting a beautifully straight shot and a dreaded hook.
Bending your right arm at address is one of those golf techniques that doesnt seem like it would have a big effect on your game – but it can. By softening that right arm as you stand over the ball, you will make it far easier for the rest of your body to do its job. You should have an easier time making a full turn back away from the ball, and you should be able to make solid contact more consistently at the bottom. A bent right arm at address isnt going to solve all of the problems that are present in your swing, but it can go a long way toward making you a better player. A big backswing turn away from the target is great for both power and accuracy, and you can use a soft right arm at address to help you get closer to that goal.