This is especially important during the downswing. If you fail to rotate (aka release) the arms and hands through the shot, you'll invariably slice or push the ball. The key is timing this rotation so that the clubface is square to the target and traveling at max speed at impact.
Proper arm rotation isn't just a matter of rolling the arms over as you come into the ball. Ideally, it's a natural by-product of a sound, efficient swing – the lower body transfers weight to your left to begin the downswing sequence, pulling the torso, shoulders, arms and club along for the ride.
Here's a drill that will teach you to feel the correct arm rotation throughout the golf swing:
- Using a mid-iron or similar club, place your top hand in its normal spot on the grip and your bottom hand on the shaft, a few inches below the handle.
- Without addressing a ball, swing halfway back. Your left arm should be straight, the right arm bent.
- Now swing into the follow-through. The goal is to straighten both arms as they pass hip height. This requires a strong rolling action of the right arm across the left. Make sure your shoulders are turning through toward the target as well.
- After several repetitions, move your bottom hand up to touch the bottom of the grip and repeat the drill. Then move the bottom hand closer to the top, make another half-dozen swings, and finish with the hands side by side, baseball style.
- Finally, assume your normal golf grip and make a few more swings. You should feel the same rotation of the right and left arms.
Remember to turn the hips and shoulders while transferring weight properly during this drill. You want the arms doing their part without taking over the entire swing.
Correct Arm Rotation Key to Golf Swing
The golf swing is all about rotation. While some players try to make the swing a side-to-side action, it is actually best to move the club by rotating while your center of gravity stays mostly in place. By rotating properly in the swing, you will be able to accelerate the club quickly during the downswing while staying on plane successfully. A great rotational swing isn't easy to create – it takes many years of practice to refine your swing to a point of great consistency – but the end result of the process is the ability to hit quality shots time after time. It would be an exaggeration to say that rotation is the 'secret' to golf, but it certainly is one of the most important elements of playing well.
In this article, we are going to take a close look at the topic of arm rotation in the golf swing. When most golfers talk about rotation, they are talking about their body – shoulders, hips, etc. However, it is just as important that you rotate your arms nicely in the swing, as the arms (and hands) have direct control over the movement of the club itself. Without correct arm rotation, you will struggle to keep the club face square to the swing arc, meaning you will be destined to push or pull your shots in the end. Players who fail to rotate their arms nicely are left to use their hands to save the shot at the very last moment, and that is a strategy which will rarely be effective.
Of course, as you might suspect, it is not going to be as easy as just telling your arms to rotate while you swing the club. The golf swing happens quickly – the whole thing only takes a couple of seconds from start to finish – so you really don't have time to think through various mechanics along the way. Instead, you need to put yourself in a position to succeed based on the fundamentals that you use both before your swing, and in the early stages of your backswing. By 'setting the stage' properly for a great swing, you should naturally be able to rotate your arms in a way that will lead to excellent shots.
Although the goal of this article is to help you rotate your arms nicely in the swing, much of the content you find below will be on other parts of your technique. Why? Simple – you need to be in great positions throughout your swing in order for your arms to do their job properly. The task of rotating your arms in the backswing and downswing isn't all that hard, and it will happen somewhat automatically for most golfers. However, if mistakes you are making in other parts of the swing are getting in the way, it may become difficult to rotate the arms as needed. So, by focusing your attention on creating a solid, fundamentally-sound golf swing from top to bottom, your arm rotation will fall into place.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the instruction as necessary.
Building a Great Grip
Any discussion of the fundamentals of the golf swing needs to include the grip. Your grip is always going to be an important piece of the puzzle when working on your ball striking, but it is especially relevant to this discussion. It will be nearly impossible to rotate your arms properly when you use a poor grip, so making sure your hands are placed correctly on the club at address is of extreme importance. The grip is your only connection to the club in the swing, meaning you need to get it right if you are going to translate the movements of your body down through the club and into the ball.
So what are the elements of a great grip? The following list is a good place to start –
- Hold the club in your fingers. One of the classic fundamental mistakes that is made by beginning golfers is to place the grip in the palms rather than the fingers. You want the club to run up the base of your fingers in order to make sure you have proper control and feel throughout the swing. When the club does make its way up into your palms rather than your fingers, you will find it hard to hinge your wrists in the backswing – and it will be difficult to rotate your arms as well. If you have traditionally held the club in your palms, it is going to take some time to adjust to this key fundamental, but you need to stick with it if you wish to make real progress with your swing.
- Right hand matches the left. There is plenty of room for individual comfort and style in the grip, especially as it relates to the positioning of your left hand on the club. Some players like to have their left hand in a strong position – with the left hand turned well to the right – while others prefer a weaker position. That decision is up to you, as it is possible to play great golf either way. However, no matter what kind of position you select for your left hand, you need to be sure to match that position with your right. In other words, the palms of your two hands should be facing each other when wrapped around the grip of the club. By matching up your hands at address in the grip, it will be far easier for those two hands to work together throughout the swing. That means you will have less trouble rotating your arms, and it also means that you should have secure control over the club at impact.
- Light overall grip pressure. The biggest mistake that amateur golfers make with regard to the grip is holding on too tight. Most players think they need to squeeze the grip tightly in order to hold on to the club throughout the swing, but that simply isn't the case. As long as you have grips that are in good condition and your hands are dry, you should be able to control the club even with light grip pressure. By holding on lightly, your arms will rotate with less effort and you will achieve a better release through impact. Of course, you always need to hold on tight enough to avoid having the club fly out of your hands, so strike a balance between holding on too tight and too light. Start by working on this point in your short game and work your way up until you are comfortable making full swings with a relaxed grip pressure.
Changing your grip is one of the most-difficult things you can do in the game of golf. The grip that you have been using up until this point is what feels comfortable to you, even if it is somewhat less-than-perfect. To make a successful change, you need to have plenty of patience and you need to be willing to go through some struggles along the way. It will take time before your new and improved grip is going to feel comfortable, but the payoff will be significant when you finally make the adjustment.
The Lower Body Enables the Upper Body
Yes, this article is about the rotation of your arms, but you aren't going to be able to rotate your arms correctly with cooperation from your lower body. The hips and legs have a lot to do with any quality golf swing, as they are the platform on which the swing takes place. Without the help of your lower body, your upper body simply won't be able to do its job correctly. Think of your lower body as the foundation of a house – without that foundation, the house is sure to fall. So, before you get too carried away with thinking about how you are going to rotate your arms, be sure that you have the mechanics of your lower body action in place.
The process of building a great platform for your golf swing starts with the address position. If you can use your legs correctly before the swing even begins by taking a solid stance, much of the work will already be done. From there, you will only need to maintain your lower body position during the backswing before your legs jump into action during the transition. The story of the way your lower body works in the golf swing is really the story of two different halves – your legs will be stable and stationary in the backswing, and they will be aggressively leading the charge in the downswing. It is your lower body that is given the task of creating rotation toward the target on the way down, and when that happens correctly, your arms will be able to rotate through the ball just by following along.
Of course, if your lower body doesn't cooperate during the backswing, it won't really be in position to do its job during the downswing phase. So, what should your lower body look like on the way back? Check out the following tips –
- Flexed and stable knees. Controlling the movement of your knees is one of the best ways to make sure you are swinging on top of a solid platform. First, your knees should be comfortably flexed at address. Once that point is checked off, you need to be sure to maintain your knee flex as you move the club back and up to the top of the swing. When you arrive at the top of the swing, your knees should be almost exactly where they were at address – and they should have the same amount of flex as well. Even if you do nothing else right with your lower body during the first half of the swing, managing your knees correctly will still set you up for a solid shot.
- Feet just wider than your shoulders. Obviously, this is a point that you need to take care of before the swing begins. When taking your stance, make sure that your feet are just wider than your shoulders for most of the clubs in your bag. You can stand a little wider still when swinging a long club like the driver, and you can place your feet right under your shoulders when hitting shorter pitch shots. By setting your feet slightly wider than your shoulders for most shots, you will be creating a stable base that makes it far easier to hold your balance.
- Backside out behind you. One of the last pieces of the stance that you need to pull together before you start the swing is to make sure that your backside is sticking out behind you at address. By pushing your backside out in your stance, you will accomplish a couple of goals. First, you will flatten out the lower portion of your back, which is great news for your shoulder turn. Second, you will engage the big muscles in your upper legs when you take this position, and using those muscles is a great way to develop a powerful swing.
It might not seem necessary to spend so much time on your lower body when talking about arm rotation, but everything in the golf swing is closely connected. A good stance and proper lower body movement throughout the swing is one of the best things you can do for your on-course performance as a whole. Spend some time working on your lower body and you might be surprised to see how quickly the rest of your mechanics take a step forward as well.
Rotating Your Arms at Impact
At long last, we are going to get down to the point of this article – rotating your arms properly through the swing. Specifically, we are going to talk about how your arms should be rotating through the hitting area. The ball only comes into contact with your club for just a fraction of a second on each shot, so you need to make sure that everything is positioned just right when impact does occur. Although the fundamentals that have been discussed above are certainly important, you still need to understand how your arms should be behaving in the downswing if you are going to hit solid shots.
Generally speaking, you have two choices when you approach impact with your full swing – you can rotate your arms through the hitting area, or you can 'flip' your wrists to force the club head down toward the ball. As you can probably guess, it is the rotation of your arms that is the desired outcome. Those who flip their hands and wrists at impact will always lack for power, and they will have trouble striking the ball cleanly as well. If you have done everything right up until this point in the swing, you should have a good degree of lag between your lead arm and the shaft of the club on the way down. You don't want to waste that lag by flipping or 'casting' the club at this point – instead, keep turning the shot and use the rotation of your arms to deliver a powerful and accurate blow into the back of the ball.
Obviously, both arms are going to need to rotate through the hitting area at the same time in order to strike the ball successfully. After all, both of your hands are on the grip of the club, so your arms need to work together throughout the swinging action. However, while both arms are going to rotate equally, it is usually easier to focus on just one arm as you think about your swing. For most right handed golfers, it is going to be easier to focus on the behavior of the left arm during the downswing. The left arm remains mostly straight throughout the swing, so it is easier to feel its rotation as you go.
To make sure you have rotated your arms properly in the downswing, you should be trying to point the back of your left arm at the target when you make contact with the ball. Rather than thinking about your whole arm, it may be simpler to just think about your left wrist. If you can strike the ball with the back of your left wrist facing the target, you will know you have done a great job of rotation. If that wrist is still pointing out to the right of the target when you make contact, however, your rotation will have come up short and your shot will likely be off target.
At first, it might feel a bit awkward to rotate your arms through the hitting area, especially if you are used to flipping the club toward the ball at impact. By sticking with this concept until you work through the initial struggles, you can eventually be rewarded with a swing that is as powerful as it is accurate. Rotating your arms is going to beat flipping your wrists every single time, and the results you see on the course will speak for themselves.
Arm Rotation in the Short Game
Addressing the full swing is only half of the battle in the game of golf, so before finishing we should touch briefly on how the arms should work in the short game. As you might expect, the mechanics of your arms are going to vary between putting and chipping, so each of those topics will need to be addressed individually.
When it comes to putting, you are going to want to mostly avoid any kind of arm rotation. The average player will be best served by making a putting stroke that is controlled by a simple rocking of the shoulders. If you allow your shoulders to rock back and through when swinging your putter, you will create a simple action that is capable of rolling the ball on the same line time after time. Simplicity is always the goal on the putting green, so avoiding any kind of unnecessary arm rotation is going to be your best option. While there are some players at the high levels of the game who rotate their arms slightly through impact when putting, that is a technique which is best left to the pros.
Chipping, on the other hand, is a different story. You absolutely want to allow your arms to rotate in your chipping motion, as that slight rotation is going to provide the release you need to square the club face at impact. Without a little arm rotation back and through, your hands will have to get involved to move the face into position at the last moment – and that is certainly not something you want to attempt on a regular basis. Too much hand action is usually big trouble when chipping, so rely on your arm rotation more than your hands to deliver the club accurately.
Where most amateur golfers go wrong with regard to this topic is when they try to 'lift' the ball up off the ground at impact. Remember, you are using a wedge with plenty of loft, so you don't need to help the ball into the air. Just by hitting down through the ball, you will be able to send the shot up into the air for a moment before it lands gently on the green. Rotating your arms through impact will help you to hit down nicely time after time, without having involve your hands in any meaningful way.
Arm rotation is not a golf swing component that receives a ton of attention, but it is certainly important to the quality of your ball striking. By using the information that has been offered up in the article above, you should be able to make big strides toward the goal of using your arms correctly in the swing. Stick with the process if you face some early struggles and you will find that your ball striking improves rapidly once you get the hang of this technique. Play well!