Keeping the body and especially the arms relaxed during the down swing is vital for both a solid strike and good distance on any given shot.
Tension in the body will kill tempo and coordination throughout the swing. This is especially important on the down swing as the arms travel through impact. However, many golfers find it difficult to relax arms during a period of the swing where the club could be traveling upward of 100mph. There are a number of different methods which could be deployed; here are a few to try.
The grip pressure placed on to a golf grip by the player will have a significant effect on the amount of tension which builds up in the arms. To see this in effect, pick up a golf club in one hand and grip down as tightly as possible. With the other hand, feel the muscles in the forearms, biceps and shoulder. With the grip pressure so tight, the muscles should be popping out because of the strain they are under to keep up the grip pressure. Under this amount of strain it will be almost impossible to swing through impact with any kind of rhythm or feel.
If you are gripping the club too tightly, try adjusting your pressure by thinking along the lines of an adjustable scale. At the top of the scale is number 10 which represents the tightest grip pressure you can apply and at the other end is 1 which is the lightest possible grip pressure you can apply. Play around with the scale hitting shots from 10 to 1 on the scale. When out playing, focus on keeping the grip pressure at about 4 or 5. This should give a nice balance of feel and control.
Softly Does It
One cause of tension in the arms during the down swing can be traced back to trying to hit the ball too hard. As the golfer swings into impact, the club head speed increases, sometimes a golfer can begin to grip the club tighter and tighter in a bid to stay in control.
To help stop this happening, you can try to bring the club down slowly from the top of the back swing into the transition for the down swing. This slowing down of the transition will cause the arms to relax and fall into place, it should help alleviate tension in the arms.
Both these methods will help players struggling with tension during the down swing to relax and hopefully strike the ball much further, straighter and truer.
How to Keep Arms Relaxed in the Downswing
Staying relaxed during your golf swing is an important element for a number of reasons. First, a relaxed feeling throughout your body will make it easier to generate speed as your body will be free to turn rapidly toward the target. Also, your swing will become more repeatable when you are relaxed, enabling you to hit consistent shots from the first hole to the last. If there is tension in your body during your golf swing, you will never reach your potential on the course. Work on getting rid of all tension in your swing and you should be able to reach new heights as a golfer.
One of the common areas to find tension in the golf swing is in the arms during the downswing phase of the motion. Most golfers think they need to actively use their arms in order to swing the club down at the ball with power, but that simply isn't the case. It is your lower body and your torso that create power in the downswing – all your arms need to do is come along for the ride. In fact, if you are trying to force your arms to move down toward the ball, you will almost certainly be costing yourself distance.
Unfortunately, it is a little easier said than done to relax your arms in the downswing. It is natural to get tense right before striking the ball, and that tension will cause your body to tighten everything up – including your arms. The only way to get around this natural tendency is to practice. Once you have mastered your swing technique on the range by allowing your lower body to control the downswing, you should be able to go out onto the course with enough confidence to swing without tension. There is really no other way to get the job done, because without practice you will always lack the necessary confidence to make a relaxed arm swing down into the ball.
Maintaining relaxed arms is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. While you have to have your body mechanics under control in order to swing in a relaxed state, you also need your mind to be in the right place. If you are feeling exceptionally nervous about a particular shot, for example, it is unlikely that you will be able to keep your body relaxed all the way through the swing. Again, this is why confidence is so important. Building confidence on the practice tee will help you to navigate your way around the course with a relaxed swing, even when you are faced with some intimidating shots.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Getting in the Right Position to Stay Relaxed
Every single piece of your golf swing is connected to every other piece. Each move that you make has an effect on the overall look and performance of your swing, so you can't even take the small parts for granted. When you work hard at ironing out even the smallest details, you will unlock the potential to hit great shots on a regular basis.
The top of the backswing is a great time to check on the fundamentals of your golf swing. At this position, everything should be well organized and balanced – ready to attack the golf ball on the way down. This will help your arms remain relaxed because you won't have to compensate for mistakes that have been made elsewhere in the swing. If you were to allow a couple of your other fundamentals to get off track, you might have to tense up your arms on the way down in an attempt to save the swing. The best golf swings are the ones that have every part of the body working toward the same goal. To keep your arms relaxed throughout the swing, make sure that everything you are doing with your mechanics is designed to deliver the club effortlessly to the back of the ball.
To better position your body at the top of the swing, make sure you are meeting the three criteria below –
- Even weight distribution. Many golfers make the mistake of thinking that they should be 'stacked' on top of their right leg at the top of the swing - this is incorrect. Instead, you want to be evenly balanced between your two feet so that your center of gravity is right in the middle of your stance. The downswing is a rotational action, and the best way to make an aggressive rotational move toward the target is to start from a balanced position. If you are off balance at the top of your swing, the first thing you will have to do is recover your balance before going forward. This not only makes your swing more complicated than it should be, but it also will serve to add tension to your arms. Throughout your backswing, your main focus should be on keeping yourself balanced perfectly between your two feet. Even if you make other mistakes in your swing, getting your balance right will go a long way toward hitting great shots.
- Feet flat on the ground. You might not ever think about footwork as something you need to be concerned with in the golf swing, but it is actually an important piece of the puzzle. At the top of your swing, your feet will ideally be flat on the ground rather than rocked up onto your toes or back onto your heels. At the very least, your right foot should be sitting flat on the turf. If your left foot needs to come up onto its toes slightly to allow a full turn, that is okay. However, in the best case scenario, you will be able to keep both feet flat on the ground because that position will give you plenty of traction and you will be able to use the ground to supply power to your downswing.
- Back to the target. The best way to keep your arms relaxed in the downswing is to put your big muscles in charge of moving the club toward the target. That means rotating aggressively to the left with your lower body and your torso. Of course, you can't turn left without first turning to the right. At the top of your backswing, your back should be facing the target (or as close to that position as you can get). Think of this position as the loading up of your swing. With your upper body turned to the right, and your lower body nicely balanced, you will be ready to unleash an aggressive turn toward the target. This is a point that most amateur golfers miss, and it is a big part of the reason why so many golfers tighten up their arms during the downswing. The absence of a great turn away from the ball will leave you no other option but to throw your hands at the ball, using your arms as your only source of power. As you probably would guess, this is a terrible way to swing the golf club. Place an emphasis on getting your back turned to the target in the backswing and you will have a much easier time turning the club loose on the way toward impact.
Most of the success or failure of your golf swing is determined by the time you reach the top of the backswing. If you handle the backswing nicely - including the three points above - you will be in great shape to make a relaxed and aggressive downswing. However, if you miss on a couple of those points and you wind up off balance or otherwise out of position, things can go downhill quickly. Take the time and effort to find a beautiful position at the top of your golf swing and you will be rewarded with improved ball striking.
The Grip Plays an Important Role
Among the key fundamentals in golf, the grip is likely the most-overlooked of the bunch. The way you grip the club is critically important to the quality of your swing, yet most golfers don't think twice about it. Instead of forming a grip with care and attention to detail, the average player just grabs onto the club and starts to make a swing. If you are actually serious about becoming a better player, you will invest time in learning how to hold the club correctly. Specifically, you will learn how to hold the club with a light grip pressure so you can keep the tension out of your hands and arms.
When you grab tightly onto the grip of the club, that tension is sure to spread up into your forearms and even your upper arms. Tight grip pressure is among the leading causes of tension in the swing as a whole. On the surface, it is easy to see why golfers are tempted to grab tightly onto the club. After all, the golf swing can reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, so don't you need to hold on tight? Not really. Make no mistake, you need to use enough grip pressure to maintain control over the club, but you don't want to squeeze so hard that you limit your ability to make a quality swing.
One of the best things about learning how to use light grip pressure is that it won't just improve your full swing - it can help you from the tee all the way through the green. Light grip pressure is just as helpful when chipping and putting as it is when you are hitting full shots, so don't overlook the importance of that part of the game. It may take some time to learn how to use a lighter grip pressure on all of your shots, but you will notice a dramatic difference once you get comfortable with this technique.
It should be pointed out that you are free to hold onto the club in any fashion that you would like when it comes to the positioning of your two hands. Some players like to interlock their grip, while others prefer the overlapping method. Each of those options (and even the ten finger grip) can work beautifully when employed correctly. You should experiment on the driving range with a variety of grip styles until you settle on one that gives you confidence and control over the club. However, no matter what style of grip you use, light grip pressure is a non-negotiable point.
There is one final key that needs to be mentioned in relation to the grip - you need to do a good job of maintaining the physical condition of your grips and your golf gloves. In order to use a light grip pressure, you have to have plenty of traction between your hands and the club itself. You definitely don't ever want the club to fly out of your hands, so be sure that a solid connection has been created prior to each swing. Replacing your golf glove as soon as it gets slippery and washing your grips in between rounds should help tremendously while you are trying to use a light grip pressure.
Don't forget about your grip while you are working on keeping your arms relaxed during the downswing. Tension in your grip can cause a variety of problems, and one of the biggest problems is that tension spreading throughout the rest of your body. As you are working on your grip pressure, start with short shots like putts and chips and work your way up through the rest of the bag as you gain comfort and confidence.
Speed Comes Gradually in Golf
Another common mistake seen in the swings of average golfers is the attempt to add speed all at once in a sudden burst during the downswing. That isn't how the swing should work, and building speed this way will never be effective or consistent. Instead, speed in the golf swing should develop gradually. From the top of the backswing to the moment of impact, the club should be steadily picking up speed until that speed is maximized right when the club contacts the ball. When you build speed gradually, it will be much easier to keep your arms relaxed because you will be allowing your body to do most of the work.
You have two options to begin the downswing once you have completed your backswing - you can use your lower body to begin a rotation to the left, or you can use your arms to pull the club down toward the ball. By this point, you should understand that using your lower body is the correct choice. If you opt to use your arms to pull the club down, the tension that develops in your arms will slow the swing down and will make it difficult to release the club head through impact. The lower body should initiate the downswing on each and every swing, because that move will set in motion the perfect series events to create a powerful and reliable impact position.
Now that you understand how speed is built, it should be easy to see that it is really the length of your swing that has a lot to do with how much power you can generate in your golf swing. The equation is simple – longer swings have more time to build speed than do shorter swings. It many ways, it is the same as driving a car. If you have only 500 feet to accelerate your car, you will only be able to reach a certain speed. However, if you had 1,000 feet to accelerate the same car, you would get to a much higher number of the speedometer. It works the same way with your golf swing. This is why tall players have an advantage over shorter players when it comes to distance. The swing arc of a tall golfer is generally longer than his shorter counterpart, allowing more time to create speed in the downswing. While you can't do anything about your height, you can do your best to maximize the speed of your swing by taking advantage of every inch of your arc.
So what does all of this have to do with relaxed arms? If you don't keep your arms relaxed in the downswing, you will never be able to gradually build swing all the way through impact. Instead, you will rush the transition of the swing, only to have the club begin to slow down as you approach the ball. You will have wasted the fastest part of your swing early the downswing, and your distance will never live up to its potential. By keeping your arms relaxed, you can use your lower body and torso rotation to gradually accumulate speed until the club slams into the back of the ball with maximum force.
Many golfers confuse speed with being in a hurry when it comes to the golf swing. Some of the most powerful swings in the world are long and slow, only picking up the pace as the club approaches impact. The long hitters on the PGA Tour know that the bottom of the swing is the only point where the club needs to be moving quickly – other than that, you are free to take your time. Build your speed gradually and unleash everything you have when the moment of impact finally arrives.
A Relaxed Mentality Makes for Good Golf
Golf is not an effort game. You have to try, of course, but you can't play good through sheer effort alone. In football, a big part of the game is energy and effort – the team that plays harder for all sixty minutes is often the one that comes out on top. Golf doesn't work that way. In order to execute the delicate skills that are required to get your ball around the course, you need to be relaxed and in a stable frame of mind.
In some ways, keeping your arms relaxed in the downswing is just a small piece of the overall job of staying relaxed throughout the round. Yes, it is important for your arms to be relaxed – but it is also important for the rest of your body, including your mind, to be relaxed as well. When you are relaxed while playing golf, you will make better swings, better decisions, and have more fun all at the same time. It isn't always easy to stay relaxed on the course when you get nervous or frustrated, but the goal should be to maintain an even keel and a positive attitude for all 18 holes.
It is important to remember that golf is supposed to be fun. Yes, you want to play well, and there is nothing wrong with working hard to get the best possible performance from your game. However, it is still a game, and it is still meant to be fun. It is hard to have fun while feeling stressed or pressured, so keeping a relaxed attitude is a great way to approach golf in general. Of course, that approach comes with the bonus of helping your game at the same time. By staying relaxed, your arms and the rest of your body will be able to perform the mechanics of the golf swing far more efficiently.
The downswing is the critical point during which all of your other mechanics come together. If you have done things right in the backswing, all you will need to do in the downswing is stay relaxed and let the rotation of your body lead the way. Keeping your arms relaxed as the club moves down toward the ball might not always be easy, but work on this skill on the range until you can consistently repeat it time and again. With relaxed arms and the right fundamentals on your side, great shots can quickly become a regular occurrence.