One of the specific areas of the golf swing that deserves your attention is the role of your elbows. Rather than thinking generally about how your arms should work during the swing, think more specifically and pay attention to the movements of your elbows. Each elbow plays an important role in the swing, although they have different responsibilities. Many amateur players get their elbows out of position during the swing, which can create all kinds of problems. If you are able to simply control where your elbows go – and where they don't go – you will quickly become a better golfer.

Elbows Lesson Chart

The good news is that the job of your elbows in the golf swing is pretty simple. In fact, golf can be made fairly simple if you don't allow yourself to overcomplicate it. Sure there are a lot of fundamentals to learn and techniques to practice, but taking them one at a time can allow you to keep your mind focused and clear while performing the task at hand. If you ever start to feel your mind get cluttered with too many thoughts while practicing or playing golf, you will know it is time to step back and take a deep breath. Keeping golf as simple as possible is one of the main keys to playing well.

In this article, we are going to focus on one specific part of your body and how it should work in the swing – your elbows. The elbows play a surprisingly important role in the swing and using them properly can set you up for great success as you continue to build your game and refine your technique. While there is some room for individual style with regard to how the elbows are used, sticking close to standard fundamentals will serve most players well.

Fixing A Flying Right Elbow During The Golf Swing
Pull Down Right Elbow to Stop Casting Club
Pull Down The Right Elbow To Stop Casting During The Golf Swing
Correct Elbow Position In The Golf Short Game
How and Why: Tuck Right Elbow in the Golf Swing
How To Use The Right Elbow In The Golf Swing

What To Expect From A Golf Swing With A Tucked Right Elbow
Tucking The Right Elbow In During The Golf Swing
Playing Golf With A Flying Right Elbow Like One Of The Greats
Using A Flying Right Elbow To Play Your Best Golf
What To Expect From A Golf Swing With A Tucked Right Elbow
Back Arm Elbow Control
Who Could Benefit From A Flying Right Elbow In Their Golf Swing
Golf Pro Jack Nicklaus: Flying Right Elbow
Golf Pro Jason Dufner: Tucked Right Elbow
Is It Right To Tuck The Right Elbow In During The Golf Swing
Measure The Success Of Your Flying Right Elbow In Your Golf Swing
Right Elbow Control During The Golf Short Game
The Simple Role Of The Left Elbow In The Golf Swing
Finding Good Golf Swing Positions – All About The Elbows
Senior Golfer Swing Tip – Keep the elbows together
Top Three Tips On Proper Use Of Elbows In The Swing

Right Elbow Golf Swing Position Drills
The Ultimate Drill To Tuck The Right Elbow In During The Golf Swing

What Should My Right Elbow Do During My Golf Downswing?
How Should My Elbows Bend During My Golf Putting Stroke

There are a lot of moving parts within a golf swing. Even in a relatively simple swing there are still plenty of components that need to work together in order to strike the ball properly. It’s not possible to think actively about what each body part needs to do while you swing – there just isn’t time for that much thinking. The whole swing only takes a couple of seconds, so you need to master your mechanics in practice to be able to take them onto the course successfully.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

— Basic Elbow Keys in the Swing

As you read this article, you may be uncharted territory for your golf game. In other words, you may have never before thought about what your elbows are doing, what they should be doing, etc. And that’s okay. There is always room for more knowledge in golf, as adding to what you know about this game should only help as you strive for lower scores and more consistent play.

To get started with your ‘elbow education’, we are going to discuss some of the basics in this section.

Elbows Lesson Chart

  • Straight at address. When taking your stance over a standard full swing shot, you are going to want to keep your elbows in a straight position. That means your arms will be extended down to the handle of the club, where your hands will hold onto the grip. While your arms are going to be straight, it’s important not to lock them out rigidly. You want as little tension in your golf swing as possible, so setting up at address with stiff arms would be a bad start. Think about keeping your arms relaxed yet straight so you are in a good position to start the swing out right.
  • Left stays straight, right folds. If you are having trouble understanding how your elbows should work in the swing, you can keep it simple by remembering that your left arm is going to stay (mostly) straight in the backswing while the right elbow bends. This is the natural progression of things, as you are swinging the club back to the right, so your left arm needs to remain straight in order to create enough space for the swing to occur. There is a lot of debate in golf about whether or not the left arm needs to stay totally straight in the backswing, or if it can bend a bit without any harm. This seems to be a matter of personal preference and style, as players have had success in the game with both methods. As long as you are turning your shoulders properly in the backswing, you can decide if you want to keep that left arm totally straight or allow it to bend slightly. Again here, if you do decide to keep the left arm straight, be sure not to allow too much tension to enter the system. Even a straight arm can be relatively relaxed, and that is what you should be striving for in your swing.
  • Right elbow points down at the top of the swing. This is a big one, and we will get into it in more detail later in the article. The ‘flying’ right elbow is a big problem for many amateur golfers, and it is often a sign that the player is about to hit a nasty slice. At the top of your backswing, you’d like to see your right elbow pointing down toward the turf. If it is up away from your body and pointing off into the distance behind you, it’s going to be hard to put the club in a good position on the way down. With your elbow tucked in nicely and pointed toward the ground, you should be able to pull the club down into the slot and send the club head toward the ball with accuracy and power.
  • Things reverse in the follow through. Once the ball is gone and the club continues through into the finish position, your elbows should do the opposite of what they did in the backswing. In other words, the right elbow should make its way into a straight position, while the left elbow folds up. One common problem seen among amateur golfers is a lack of extension in the right arm through the hitting area. Many players seem to hold the club and their arm in close to their body as the club swings through, perhaps because they are trying to guide the ball toward the target. If you can learn to trust your swing enough to turn your arms loose and fully extend through impact, you’ll unlock hidden power and become a better ball striker in the long run.

What you need to do with your elbows during the golf swing is actually pretty simple. Making it happen can be a little more complicated, of course, as this is golf, and nothing comes easy. In the next section, we’ll talk about some signs that may pop up in your game which could indicate that there is a problem with the way your elbows are working.

— Signs of Trouble

Generally speaking, it’s not too hard to figure out when something is wrong in your golf swing. If the ball is not going where you want it to go, after all, that’s a sure sign that there is an issue you need to correct. Of course, no golfer hits their target on each and every swing, so don’t use one bad shot as an excuse to overhaul your technique. Rather, only when you are noticing consistent misses in a particular direction should you determine that work needs to be done.

There is a wide range of issues that can pop up in your golf swing that will relate to your elbows – far more than we can cover here. However, we have highlighted three specific problems that deserve your immediate attention if they affect your game.

Elbows Lesson Chart

  • The flying elbow. It’s time to get back to this topic and take a closer look at what it means for your game. If you allow your right elbow to get up and away from your side at the top of the swing, it’s going to be extremely difficult to get into a good position before impact arrives. If you are currently dealing with a slice and you aren’t exactly sure where it is coming from, be sure to consider the possibility that your elbow is getting away from you at the top. It’s easy enough to check for this mistake – just ask a friend to take a quick video of your swing at the driving range. If you can see a lot of space between the side of your body and your upper arm when you arrive at the top of the backswing, your elbow is ‘flying’ and you will need to make a correction. Tucking that elbow back into your side is going to be a tough adjustment, but it will be well worth it in the end. Once you return to a good position with the right arm, you’ll find it much easier to generate power with your swing. Not only that, it should be easy enough to deliver the club on a good path, minimizing side spin and hopefully eliminating the dreaded slice once and for all. In the next section we have a drill that should help you bring your elbow down where it needs to be in the backswing.
  • A narrow takeaway. Many amateur golfers are unaware of the importance of the takeaway. They may know that they need to get into a good position at the top of the swing but may not be aware of how important a good takeaway can be in actually finding that position. One of the most common problems regarding the takeaway is width – many players move the club in close to their body shortly after the swing starts. If you are currently making a narrow takeaway, check the position of your arms at address for a possible cause. We mentioned earlier that your arms should be straight when you set up for a swing – if they are not, there is a good chance your takeaway will become narrow and you’ll run into trouble later on. To work on fixing this problem, try taking some practice stances in front of a mirror so you can easily see how your arms are positioned. Once you have straightened out your elbows it should be much easier to make a smooth, wide takeaway.
  • Poor extension in the finish. As the club swings through the ball, your right elbow should naturally straighten as a result of the forces involved in the swing. If that is not happening, you probably aren’t rotating through the shot correctly. The golf swing is a rotational action and virtually your whole body should be turning toward the target as you swing down and through. Without that rotation, you won’t be able to build much speed and it will be hard to deliver the club to the ball on the right path. If you notice that your right elbow remains bent even after impact, get to work on the quality of your rotation. Don’t try to manually extend the right arm after the shot has been struck – that is only going to cause more problems. Instead, learn how to better rotate through impact and you should find that the right arm extension comes naturally.

We don’t mean to suggest that the only three ways you can get into trouble with your elbows during the golf swing is to make one of the mistakes above. That certainly is not the case. There are plenty of other issues that are possible, but these three points are a great place to start when searching for results.

— Drills to Get on Track

It’s always a good idea to use drills when you are trying to fix something in your golf swing. It’s one thing to know what you are trying to do with your swing, but it’s another thing entirely to actually make those fixes happen – and drills can help get you to the finish line faster. Let’s take a look at some drills you might be able to use to improve your elbow performance.

Elbows Lesson Chart

  • Glove under the arm. This is a classic golf drill and one of the best ways to work on getting rid of your slice. For the drill, you will only need a club that you can swing – something like a 6-iron will work great – and an extra glove that you can place under your arm. While you can hit balls at the range with this drill, it’s best to get started by using the drill to simply make some practice swings. To try it out for yourself, find a good place to swing and take your normal stance. Before putting the club in motion, take the glove and place it under your right armpit so it is trapped in that spot. Then, simply make a swing with the goal of keeping the glove under the armpit throughout the backswing and into the downswing. If you let your right elbow fly up and away from your side, the club is going to drop to the ground and you’ll know that you have made a mistake. It is okay to let the glove drop during the follow through of the swing, as you should be getting good extension with your right arm at that point. Those who usually hit a slice will almost certainly struggle with this drill at first. Stick with it, be patient with yourself, and notice how the shape of your swing starts to change when you manage to keep the glove in place and turn through your backswing effectively.
  • Straight arm pitches. This simple drill will help you learn how it feels to have your arms fully extended through the ball at impact. You can do this drill on the range, or you might even be able to make it work in the short game practice area at your local course, if there is enough space. The idea is to keep your arms straight and just use your shoulders to turn the club back and through. You’ll setup in your normal stance, and instead of making a full swing, you’ll just turn back a bit – keeping your arms extended – and turn through to hit a pitch with your elbows still straight. This will look and feel a bit awkward, but it’s a good way to train yourself on what it’s like to have extension through the hitting area. After hitting just a few shots this way, go back to making regular swings and try to keep in mind that great feeling of extension that you had during the drill.
  • One-arm backswing. Another useful way to learn the feeling of extension in the swing is to make a backswing using only your left arm. We talked earlier in the article about keeping your left arm straight at address and throughout the backswing, and that will be necessary if you are only using your left arm for this practice swing. Without your right hand on the club at all – place it in your pocket or behind your back – make a few practice swings while trying to maintain solid form. These swings aren’t going to have anywhere near the power or speed of your normal swings, but you should learn how it feels to keep that left arm straight throughout the backswing and downswing. Just like with the last drill, do a few repetitions and then go back to your usual swing to see if you notice any improvements.

If you are serious about improving your golf game, it’s wise to collect a list of drills that you can perform on a regular basis. Too many golfers head to the range without any specific goal or purpose in mind, and they wind up wasting their time as a result. To improve the way your elbows work in the swing, test out these drills sometime soon.

— Elbows in the Short Game

Let’s wrap up our article by talking about how the elbows are going to work in the short game. As you might imagine, things are much simpler in this area, but it’s still smart to understand how it should work so you don’t make things harder than they need to be.

Elbows Lesson Chart

When putting the key is that your elbows should maintain the same amount of flex throughout the stroke, from start to finish. For some players, the most comfortable way to putt is to have the arms fully extended, and that’s great. For others, it works better to have some flex in the elbows, and that is perfectly acceptable, as well. The real key is that your elbows stay consistent with the same amount of flex from the start of the stroke on through to the end.

Stepping off the green for chip and pitch shots, you’ll want to mimic what you do with your full swing setup. So, in other words, you will want to have your arms extended yet relaxed at address, which will make it easy to swing the club back and through freely. For short chip shots that are played low to the ground, you can keep your elbows mostly straight and just use your shoulders to rock the club and send the ball on its way. However, as the chip shots get longer and turn into pitch shots, you will need to add some flex to your right elbow just as you do in your full swing backswing.

This is particularly important when you want to add loft to your pitch shots and bring the ball down softly on the green. For that kind of shot, keep your right arm as soft as possible and use the hinging action in your right elbow to elevate the club in the backswing. The key word here is soft. You want to keep everything soft including your hands and elbows, so you can strike the ball cleanly and control the distance of the shot with ease.

Finally, when playing a greenside bunker shot, right elbow bend in the backswing is essential. Just like with your full swing, that flex will help you build speed, and you need a lot of speed to hit a good explosion shot out of a greenside trap. It takes a bigger-than-expected swing to splash the ball out of a bunker properly, which is something that gives many amateur players trouble. By allowing your elbow to bend during the backswing on these shots, you’ll have the opportunity to produce speed and carve the ball out of the bunker time after time.

By this point, you probably have at least a couple of ideas for things you need to work on in practice to improve how your elbows work in the swing. If we can make one last suggestion, it would be to only work on one thing at a time. Giving yourself too many things to work on in the swing is a recipe for disaster – be patient and check off one thing at a time. It’s never easy to improve in this game, but you’ll be glad you took the patient approach when your gains start to show over the long run. Good luck!