Golf Swing Tip: Keep Your Left Arm Straight?

Posted by GolfTipEditor | | , ,

Symptom:  Slice, weak shots that tail off to the right, poor consistency, etc. AND you are a beginning golfer who seems to attract unsolicited advice.  Worse, you have heard about your left arm so often that you have come to believe that your key to golfing bliss is to keep that left arm straighter still.  Now your swing looks robotic and rigid and the ball still isn't going where you aim it...

Description:  Swing so that your left elbow stays relatively straight, especially at impact and during the takeaway. 

Why it works:  "Keep your left arm straight" is perhaps the most famous (infamous?) golf tip on the planet.  The tip must be understood in context.  In a properly-executed swing, the left arm will stay fairly straight, and this is desirable.  A bent left arm robs power from the shot, and will return the clubface to the ball inconsistently.  But if you focus on keeping your elbow straight, you will introduce tension that restricts your turn and inhibits a powerful release of the club.  If you are swinging and your left arm is bent, then forcibly keeping your left arm straight is unlikely to fix your problems -- you have much bigger problems that are best fixed by different drills, such as the underhand stick toss drill or the two ball drill.

I much prefer to phrase the "left arm straight" tip as "swing so that your left arm stays relatively straight throughout the swing" -- especially at the takeaway and at impact.  This phrasing emphasizes the turn, the release, the lag, and so on, rather than focusing on your left elbow.  Who wants to focus on the elbow anyway?  You need to focus on the ball -- that's what you're trying to hit!

To prove that you don't need a straight left arm throughout your swing to hit great shots, let's watch Kenny Perry.  Run the video to 0:17 and look at his left arm:

Let's also have a look at Angel Cabrera, a long hitter and great ball striker.

Run this video to 0:05 and have a look at his left elbow.  You will see it is bent even a bit more than Kenny's!

Jordan Spieth has a beautiful, rhythmic golf swing, and some fairly significant left elbow bend at the top.  Jordan's is a swing that the Occasional Golfer can imitate with success.  He initiates the swing with a nice starter move, maintains excellent balance throughout, and his left elbow stays supple enough that it does not unduly strain his lower back as he initiates the downswing. 

Actually "saving your back" might be the best reason of all to keep a little give in your left elbow.   

Run this video to 0:21 and have a look:

Finally, have a look at the great Tom Watson.  He has been a premier ball striker for decades, perhaps one of the best ball strikers ever to play the game.  In the video below, notice how his left arm is quite straight during the takeaway and throughout much of the backswing, but not at the top (0:14).  The left elbow is quite bent at the top, and stays so until just before impact.  Have a look:

golf left arm elbow kenny perry angel cabrera tom watson
Perry, Cabrera, and Watson all bend their left arm on the backswing.
So, please remember that a left arm that is fairly straight, especially on the takeaway, and when you strike the ball, is a good thing.  But keeping the left elbow rigid throughout the swing is not necessary to hit great golf shots.

Did you like this Tip? Feel liberated from the "keep your left arm straight" police?  Spread the Word!  Then don't keep it a secret, tell your friends!  Like, Tweet, Share, +1, or Email below!

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