If you are a right handed golfer, your right arm plays a very passive role during your backswing and downswing. It is not until you swing through impact and into the follow through that the right arm becomes more active and dominant.
At set up, your right arm should be bent at your elbow, with your elbow tucked in towards your torso. During your backswing, your right arm is very passive, it is the left arm that is the driving, dominant force. The right hand holds the golf club and as the left shoulder moves the club away from the ball, the right arm remains closely linked to your torso. At chest height, your right arm remains bent at the elbow with the elbow pointing downwards and it also remains linked to your torso, maintaining the position it started the swing in, just in front of the right side of your chest. At the top of your backswing, your right arm remains in front of the right side of your chest, with your elbow bent downwards towards the floor and your right hand palm upwards towards the sky with the club handle resting on top of it. This hand position could be likened to that of a waiter holding a tray up above customer's heads on just their right hand.
To encourage you to keep your right arm linked to your torso and to stay relative to it's start position, place a head cover or glove between your upper right arm and torso. Swing the club back and keep the head cover/glove between your upper right arm and torso - this will keep your right arm position very passive and prevent you from pulling the golf club back with your right arm which would cause you to drop the head cover/glove as your arm pulled behind your body.
As you swing the club down towards the ball on your downswing, again the lead arm is the left which pulls the club downwards. The right arm remains bent at the elbow until just after impact. Now the right arm extends and straightens allowing the club head to travel along the target line. The right arm points along and follows the target line as it straightens and then extends into a position pointing directly at the target line. As it does this, it is rotating towards the left, allowing the palm of the right hand to roll over the left hand.
Once fully extended and pointing at the target, the right arm now continues to rotate over the left, forcing the left elbow to bend and point downwards and then as it reaches the follow through position, it once again bends into a comfortable, well balanced follow through.
Correct Right Arm Swing Sequence Start to Finish
When you are making your golf swing, you shouldn't consider one of your arms to be 'more important' than the other. Each arm has a job to do, and your shot is only going to be successful if each arms holds up its end of the bargain. Getting your two arms to work together isn't always an easy task, but it is essential to quality ball striking. For a right handed golfer, it can be specifically difficult to get the right arm to 'behave' in the swing. Your right arm actually has the potential to ruin your swing if you let it get out of position, so work hard on the range to teach that arm exactly what it is supposed to do.
Sequencing is an important part of the golf swing, whether you are talking about the swing as a whole or just one part of the swing specifically. For this article, we are going to be looking at the way your right arm progresses through the swing from address all the way up to the finish. The role of your right arm changes during the swing, so it would be a mistake to think that you just need to do one thing with that part of your body. Understanding what the arm should be doing when is a huge part of making sure it fits in to the rest of the swing as a whole.
If you decide to work on how your right arm behaves during the swing, it is important that you do that work on the driving range rather than on the golf course. When you are on the course, you want to think of your swing as one single unit – rather than as a collection of pieces that you are trying to bring together on the fly. The work on the fundamentals of your swing mechanics should be restricted to the range, and you should keep your swing thoughts simple and clear when you are on the course trying to post a good score.
As you work on your right arm positioning and sequencing, make sure you aren't squeezing the grip of the club too tightly with your right hand. It is easy to grab onto the grip too tight as you focus on your right arm motion, and a tight grip can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes down the road. A light grip pressure is one of the key fundamentals in the game of golf, and it is especially important that your right hand remain relaxed throughout the swing. You want to have enough pressure in your fingers to control the movement of the club, but that is all. If you are squeezing tighter than necessary to control the club, you are only costing yourself swing speed that could have been used to launch the ball down the fairway.
All of the instructional content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
An Outline of the Right Arm Sequence
Before you take a trip to the driving range to work on using your right arm correctly, it is a good idea to have a clear picture in your mind of how the right arm is supposed to work at various points throughout the swing. By knowing the steps that the right arms needs to complete, and in what order it needs to complete them, you will have a better chance of using this part of your body properly. Of course, you will still need to practice these moves once you learn them, but taking time to understand the process is a good first step. Most golfers never take the time to think about how their right arm should function in the swing, and their technique falls short as a result.
The following steps will take your right arm successfully from address all the way through to the finish.
- Relaxed at address. Many golfers get their right arm position wrong from the very start, making it difficult to get back on track later on. The right arm should be relaxed – not straight – at address. While your left arm will likely be locked out straight while you stand over the ball, you want your right arm to have some bend in order to put the rest of your body in a good position. Not only should your elbow be bent slightly, but you should also have a soft, relaxed feeling throughout your arm. As mentioned above, tension is a bad thing in golf, so make sure your right arm is not tensed up when you settle in to your stance.
- Still relaxed in the takeaway. As far as your right arm goes, nothing should change from your position at address to your position in the middle of the takeaway. Since your shoulders should be controlling the takeaway, your right arm should just be coming along for the ride at this point. If you were to pause your backswing after just moving the club head a foot or so away from the ball, your right arm would still be bent and it would still be relaxed.
- Folding up. When the backswing starts to near its completion, your right arm should begin to fold onto itself. The right elbow should be pointing down at the ground, and your left arm should remain straight. It is important to note that these positions should happen naturally as a response to your shoulder turn away from the target. You shouldn't be forcing your right arm to fold up – rather, it should be folding as a natural reaction to your shoulder turn and the continued straight position of your left arm. If you think only of turning away from the target in the backswing, the position of your right arm should mostly take care of itself.
- Compact at the top. When you reach the top of the backswing, your right arm should be folded up and the right elbow should be pointed down at the ground. Many amateur golfers have a 'flying' right elbow at the top – meaning that elbow is pointed well behind them, a position that often leads to a slice. Everything should be nice and compact at the top, with your right arm in tight to your side and ready to propel the club down into the ball.
- Hold your elbow angle. This is where it usually goes wrong for the typical amateur golfer. As the backswing turns into the downswing, many golfers are tempted to straighten out their right arm immediately in order to push the club down to the ball. That is the wrong move to make, and it will cost you big time in terms of your ball flight. As the downswing starts, it is essential that you are able to maintain the folded right elbow position that you found at the top. Your right arm will straighten eventually, but that action need to wait until you are almost at the bottom of the swing.
- Fire away. Finally, as the club is speeding down toward the ball, you can release the angle in your right elbow and use your right arm to smash the ball aggressively. It is hard to be patient enough to hold your right arm back until this late stage in the swing, but your patience will be rewarded with powerful ball striking. It is a great feeling to be able to freely release your right arm through the ball when it is done correctly, so work hard on this point if you would like to take a big step forward in your game.
- Extension in the finish. As you swing up into the finish, your right arm and your left arm basically trade roles – your left arm folds up and the right arm gets a chance to stretch out as it chases the club down the target line. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your right arm position in the finish doesn't matter since the ball is already gone. Your finish position provides insight into the swing you have just made, so be sure to check on how your right arm is working even at the end of the swing. If you are up into a full, balanced finish position with a mostly straight right arm, you have likely done a good job throughout the swing.
You might not have been expecting a list of seven specific steps for just the movement of your right arm in the golf swing, but there is a lot to know about this crucial piece of the golf swing puzzle. Again, you don't want to go out onto the golf course and try to swing while thinking about all seven of these steps, so take them with you to the range and work out the mechanical part of the game in that environment.
Early Fold Leads to Slice
As you already know, the slice is one of the biggest problems in golf for the amateur player. If you are someone who fights a slice, you are likely folding up your right arm prematurely in your backswing. While the right arm does need to fold eventually, allowing it to do so early is a sure way to get in trouble with your swing path. Instead of getting the extension you need to put the club in a good position, your backswing becomes short and narrow, and you are almost inevitably going to cut across the ball at impact.
It is the outside-in swing path that creates a slice, and one of the best ways to avoid that path is to make a wide, extended backswing in which your hands stay well away from your head at the top of the swing. To work on eliminating your slice once and for all, the first thing you should do is shift your focus to the left arm during the takeaway. Hit a few shots at the range while thinking only about keeping your left arm straight early in the backswing. If you are maintaining the extension in your left arm throughout the takeaway and up into the rest of the backswing, your overall move will instantly gain width – and it is that width that should help you avoid the dreaded slice.
Once you make this change, you will likely notice two things – you have stopped slicing the ball, and you are now hitting a pull. When you gain extension, you make room for a better swing path in the downswing, but your lower body is likely still falling short of meeting its obligation in the swing. To get completely on track, add in some additional lower body rotation from the top of your downswing to go along with your wider backswing. The combination of an extended left arm and active hips from the transition down could lead to the best ball striking of your life. Of course, it is going to take some time to master the combination of these two moves, but they have the potential to unlock ball striking ability that you didn't know was within you.
Most golfers who fight a slice want to believe that it is a complicated, confusing string of poor swing mechanics that leads to their slice – but in reality, it is usually something simple like a right arm that is folding too early in the backswing. Take a look at your own swing and determine if your right arm is folding up before it needs to as you go away from the ball. If so, work on adding extension and controlling the backswing more with your shoulders, and you should be able to finally get rid of that frustrating slice that has been hampering your game for so long.
The Role of Tempo in Your Sequence
The sequence of events outlined earlier in this article explained how you can use your right arm to effectively hit quality golf shots. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as just checking off each of those points one by one until the ball is on its way. In addition to hitting all of those points, you have to do so with a nice rhythm that will allow the rest of your body to stay in sync with the movements of your arm. Rhythm is something that very few average golfers ever bother to practice – and fewer still ever find a good rhythm that they can use round after round to hit great shots.
One of the challenging things about using good rhythm is how easy it is to lose your rhythm during a round. You may start out with a nice tempo, but that tempo could be gone by the time you get halfway through the round. Or, you might not be able to find your tempo at all early in the day, only to have it arrive after your score has already been ruined by several bad holes. Just like anything else in your golf game, tempo is something that you have to create on the driving range before it will ever be reliable on the course.
Practicing your tempo and rhythm comes down to keeping an even and steady disposition prior to every shot. Players who are overly emotional will have a hard time controlling their rhythm, and the ups and downs that you may feel in your emotions will effect how quickly or slowly you swing the club. If you wish to become a player who can perform at a good level round after round, one of the key things to work on is your ability to maintain a relaxed, positive attitude from the first hole to the last. Golfers are famous for having short tempers, but getting mad about your game in the middle of a round is only going to make it more difficult to execute your swing. Specific to this article, you won't be able to use your right arm in the correct sequence if your overall rhythm has changed dramatically to what it was on the practice range.
Of course, it isn't always going to be easy to keep your temper under control during a round of golf. This game can be incredibly frustrating, as it is one of the most difficult sports in the world. A good way to prepare for the frustrations that are going to come along on the course is to challenge yourself to hit great shots on the range – and even put something on the line in terms of a competition with your friends. Go through a practice session with a friend where you challenge them to hit a better shot that you while aiming at a variety of targets. One by one, you can have these little mini-competitions on the practice range. Not only is this a fun way to practice, but it will also expose you to a little bit of pressure and frustration. When you hit a couple of poor shots in a row, focus on holding your temper in check and keep your rhythm on track to get your swing back under control.
Be Athletic to Play Good Golf
There is nothing wrong with working on the technical part of your golf swing. If you are going to hit good shots, you certainly need to have your mechanics in order. However, there is a fine line between working on your fundamentals and becoming obsessed with the technique that you are using to hit the ball. Golf is still a sport, and you need to maintain some level of athleticism as you stand over the ball if you are going to perform well on a regular basis.
As more and more technology has made its way into the game of golf, more and more golfers have become obsessed with every little position that they reach in their swing. Slow motion video has made it easier than ever to analyze the golf swing – but many players are going too far. The swing happens far too quickly for you to ever think about the positions that you are hitting in real time, so this kind of analysis always happens in reverse. Instead of thinking about the technical mistakes that you used to make, why not think about the things that are going to help you hit a good shot with your current swing? Fundamentals like balance and tempo never go out of style, and you don't need any technology to use them effectively.
This is an important point to make while you are working on the action of your right arm in the golf swing. Just like you don't want to let the attention you are paying to your right arm disrupt your tempo, you also don't want to let it overtake your overall thought process on the course. While actually playing a round of golf, you don't want to be thinking about folding your arm, extending it at the bottom, or anything else. You should only be thinking about the target and the ball flight you need to generate in order to get the ball close to the hole. Do you think a baseball player thinks about the mechanics of his swing while the ball is speeding toward him at more than 90 miles per hour? Of course not. All the baseball player is doing is seeing the ball and reacting to it as quickly as possible. Even though the golf ball isn't moving while you hit it, the mindset should be the same. See the ball, see the target, and react my making an athletic swing that sends the ball on its way.
The pattern of your right arm sequence in the golf swing is an important piece of the mechanical puzzle, but don't become so obsessed with its movement that you forget to make an athletic, rhythmic swing. Work out the details of your right arm action on the driving range and then keep things as simple as possible when you head out to the course.