Golf Swing Elbows – The Chicken Wing (more help)

In a nutshell, a “Chicken Wing” is one of your elbows bending outwards, behind you. This can happen in either backswing or downswing. It disrupts many things. In my opinion, you could partially blame some form of the Chicken Wing, for almost every miss hit. It is that prevalent. Almost no golfers (Pros alike) use their elbows correctly by my discoveries.

Why Do golfers User Their Elbows?
Golfers use their elbows because they are getting ready to throw the club head at the ball with just the arms and hands. They subconsciously hinge every possible lever, and lift the arms, to try to create as much potential possible to throw the club head. None of these movements are consistent or repeatable.

I do not want to go into all the different miss hits caused by this problem. Let’s just get to what will make your swing more athletic, control your chicken wing, and improve your shot making.

Read the next paragraph slowly, then simulate with a club up against a door jamb.

If you look at a powerful, solid golf shot, at impact, the hips are slightly turned (not cleared)… the arms and wrists form a solid Triangle. The front wrist is flat and the back wrist bent in. The wrists are firm and holding this shape (being pulled by the body turn, not releasing). Also, the shaft is in line with the front arm, and the elbow pointing back at the front hip, with the back arm slightly bent in towards the front arm, and its elbow too pointing back at the back hip. At this moment, the body is pulling all this around to the left. This is the position we want to be in at impact.

If we are not in this position, what happened during the swing? Some thing(s) broke down, disconnected and disrupted everything. So who are the “Disrupters”? The “Disrupters” are the Elbows and Hands. We need to control the disrupters, how do we do that?

How to Take Control of the Distupters:
1. Setup shaft in line with the front arm, elbows pointing back at the hips, pinching a little. Maintain that pinching during the entire swing. They only separate at the very end of the swing.
2. Once the shaft is in line at setup, lock your wrists and keep them fixed in the setup shape, the entire swing. Let your shoulders turn around your spine on the backswing and your body unwind your arms/club for the downswing.
3. You should have a feeling of Squeezing your grip a little and Squeezing your elbows a little at the same time, the entire swing. This defeats them. Gives them something to do that is productive and allows the Large Muscles to take over.

Start with short swings/shots to feel this work. Make sure the club face stays square. Many of you will want to use the hands and roll it open (no hands).

Path of Least Resistance – Golf Backswing

I ask my students to use their shoulders to control the backswing. This means the shoulders will move the arms and club to the top of the backswing. My students ask me, where should my arms go? up what plane? to the inside? I tell them the “Path of least resistance.” I know that sounds non committal, but that is what happens. If the arms were setup properly (shaft in line with the front arm, elbows close together pointing back at the hips), traveling up the path of least resistance will be very easy. Again, the shoulders control the backswing…the arms and hands must not help or lift.

We first need the spine to be natural and athletic. We do not want to have the top of the spine tilted right or left. If the spine tilts to one side, the shoulders get bound and can’t turn freely. The shoulders themselves, need to be level and natural. The spine will also tilt forward a bit, as our rear end counter balances to get into an “Athletic Position”. This is not a lean out, our weight is always straight down to gravity. Our goal is for the shoulders to rotate (at 90°) to the spine.

Now on the takeaway, when the shoulders turn 90° around the spine, the arms/club are moved on the path of least resistance. It does not matter where they go as long as the shoulders maintain control. If we are successful, we can then use the body to control the downswing. As the body unwinds, the body mass will unwind the shoulders/arms/club. Since on the backswing, everything traveled up the path of least resistance, everything will return back down that path, for a solid shot (if not disrupted by the hands or elbows taking over or changing).

Changing Your Golf Swing

Changing your golf swing is like changing the path you take to a particular room in your house. Your current golf swing has a routine that starts in room 1, goes to room 2, then 3 and finally in room 4 you take your swing. When you follow this routine or path, you are in your comfort zone and have the best chance for consistency.

Now, if you take a different route, through different rooms, your mind will be apprehensive, and you’ll not be sure of yourself, until you trust the new path, it becomes familiar and replaces the old path. This takes time and many repetitions sticking with the new routine. This is very doable as long as you stay focused and have discipline.

The golf swing I teach is simple, athletic and repeatable. What is different with my method is the setup, which prepares you for your new swing. If you don’t follow the setup, or add to the setup or leave something out, you’ll struggle. My method does not have many setup pieces once learned and will give you confidence that you are ready to take your golf swing.

One last thing. If you want to make changes in your swing, you must start from a new room and take a new path, and you will become successful. (Hint) if you lose focus and start in your old room 1, you’ll just get your old golf swing or a hybrid of old and new (not good).

Constant Elbows Pressure & The Fixed Triangle

Constant Elbows Pressure
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I mention constant grip pressure or passive hands a lot. It is crucial if we want the Large Muscles to dominate, that the grip pressure remains constant so the hands do not take over. It is also equally important for the elbows to maintain constant elbows pressure towards each other.

As I work with my students and we address different issues with their golf swings, I find that many of these problems can be eliminated if their elbows start close together (pointing back at the hips) and remain towards each other during the swing.

Now, the front arm stays straight on the backswing and the back arm still bends a little, and the opposite happens on the downswing. A little bending is not what I am talking about. It is about keeping the elbows close together. It is almost too simple. By keeping constant elbows pressure during the entire swing, the shoulders can control the backswing, and the body rotation can control the downswing through to the finish.

The Fixed Triangle
Okay, so let’s tie-it-all-together. Ideally we want to maintain “both”, constant elbows pressure and constant grip pressure for the entire swing. I’ve thought of a way to do both with one thought. We combine the two thoughts into one “Triangle“.

If you imagine the elbows staying towards each other “fixed” as two points on a triangle, and your constant grip pressure as the 3rd point completing the triangle. Now all we do is maintain this “Fixed Triangle” during the swing and we will get both jobs done. There is something about keeping this triangle in tact during the swing, that keeps both the hands and elbows connected and busy, letting the shoulders control of the backswing and the body turn control the downswing. All we have to do is maintain The Fixed Triangle back and through.

This concept is fresh and new, but I’ve seen great results so far. I would love feedback good or bad. You must have the shaft in line with the front arm at setup (which is how we want it to return as we turn through impact). Please start with short shots, then lengthen the backswing a litte, but only with more shoulder turn (no lifting). You can turn as fast or slow through impact as you’d like for great results. I’ll make a video soon.

Elbows – Big Key to Consistency in the Golf Swing

The elbows in the golf swing are critical. You must keep them working towards each other during the entire swing. If you allow the elbows to come apart, many different problems can arise.

One common problem when the elbows separate on the backswing, is having your back elbow trapped behind your hip rotation on the downswing. This is a big loss of power and will force the club to flip into the ball.

Another common problem, is the elbows separating through impact*. This happens when your hands and arms took over, and are trying to pull the club through impact, vs. allowing your body rotation to bring your arms/club (with the elbows close together) through impact.

One final problem, is the elbows separate through impact and the front elbow bends out** and “Chicken Wings” as you rotate through. This opens the club face and can cause you to block your shots or may cause you to flip to save the shot.

Well, the answer to all these problems, is to set up with the elbows towards each other to begin with, and keep them working towards each other during the entire swing. This will also force you to use your Large Muscles (the shoulders in the body rotation) to control the arms and club.

In Ben Hogan’s book, he has an illustration showing the arms close together, with string wrapped around them as tight as possible. This shows how important it is for the arms to continually work towards each other during the swing.

One last note, Tim Clark is one of the best examples of a golfer that uses his arms correctly and is part of the reason he’s so consistent with the game.

(Hint): Pinching your elbows towards each other during the swing wakes up the Large Muscles to do their job. We want the shoulders to control the backswing and the entire body to pull those “pinched elbows” back down in front of our body as we turn through! This pinching helps defeat the hands and arms from taking over and connects the arms/club with the shoulders.

* The Elbows should be close together and point back at your hips through impact (hips will be slightly turned rotating).

** The front elbow should point back at your front hip through impact (front hip will be slightly turned rotating).

Shaft Leads the Club Face, When the Body Rotation Leads the Golf Swing

A solid golf shot will only happen when the shaft leads the club face. If the shaft is behind the club face, the shot will be thin, skulled or topped.

Once you learn how to turn through impact, your body will be leading the golf swing and it will be much easier to hit a solid golf shot. Your body is essentially dragging the club through impact as it is unwinding and accelerating. Since we setup with the shaft in line with the front arm to begin with, it will stay that way, leading the club face, as we turn to face the target. This will also automatically produce a divot after the ball.

Golf is Easy, Right? – Line & Distance

Okay, you don’t agree yet, but it can be. Playing golf is really just like “Connect the Dots.” You go from here to there, to over there, putt it in the hole and you’re done. “Give me a 3”

Let’s say your game is not like that yet. Well, then what happens with your game? This is the part of “playing golf”, most golfers don’t know, or don’t take the time to think about. “What went on during my round of golf?” What patterns can I find? Were my misses because of line or distance?

Let’s analyze the two words and see what hurts us the most?

Right Line- Wrong Distance:
If your ball goes straight, but is short or long, in most cases it won’t hurt you (unless there’s trouble short or long – rare on most courses). Straight usually leaves you with a good lie still in the fairway (short grass). Straight also keeps you optimistic and with a continued positive attitude. No real shots of adrenaline like when the ball goes sideways.

Right Distance – Wrong Line:
Now, if your ball goes left or right, we know for one thing, we’ve left the short grass, we’ll probably be in the rough, native area or behind a tree, and who knows what kind of lie we’ll have. Here comes the spurt of adrenaline (unless you’ve been there before and know what to expect). Now, these kinds of thoughts will pop into your head… “Hope I find my ball”, “Is that OB?”, “Should I play a provisional?” “What will my friends think of me now?” (and many more non-productive, game-killing thoughts). My point? Hitting the ball in the wrong direction is not good… period!

What I’m saying is… crooked golf adds a lot of stress and makes for a long day and is not near as much fun. So, how do we play straight golf? Well, why does the ball go left or right? It is really mostly one thing… THE CLUB FACE!

Well, I setup with the club face pointing in the direction I wanted to go… What happened?

Maybe it was my alignment… (NO, it was not your alignment). Golfers have been justifying missed direction with incorrect alignment since day one and alignment or path only influences the ball about 20%… it was where the club face was pointing at impact that mostly determined where the ball was going (influence – 80%). So, we can conclude that where the face was pointing, is where the ball went (with maybe a little side spin due to path). OKAY… why did the club face change from where I had it at setup? There is only one reason the club face changes… YOUR HANDS TOOK OVER SOMEWHERE DURING THE SWING. Maybe you were taught to roll your hands open and closed, or you’re using your hands to help lift your arms to the top of your backswing… there are a lot of reasons. BOTTOM LINE… you’re hands must take a passive roll to allow the club face to continually return back to square or how it was at setup.

Your 2 Choices:
Now, you can try to practice thousands of hours (like many Pros we know) trying to groove timing those hands to get back to square for that split second through impact… or you can learn to use the Large Muscles to trap the ball keeping your hands out of the swing. One of these swings let’s you hit the ball straight every time.

Body Rotation Pulls Flat Front Wrist

Most miss hits are caused by a “bent in” or “flipped” front wrist at impact! A solid golf shot at impact, will have the front wrist flat or even bowed out a little and the back wrist is bent in. This wrist alignment keeps the shaft in line with the front arm and maintains a full radius.

What generally flips the wrists by impact is, the body rotation stops half way, to support some kind of hand release or throwing of the club head at the ball. This “hit at the ball” urge starts before impact, so by impact the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish has happened; the club head has passed the hands and bends the front wrist in.

There have been many fixes over the years to salvage the swing just before impact. Ben Hogan’s “Supinate” (roll or bow your front wrist just before impact) helped, but was a trade off with the face of the club pointing all over the place. This fix is not reliable… you may get more solid shots in many different directions.

The real big issue in all of this is the BODY ROTATION STOPPING because, when the body stops turning, the arms and club pass the body’s core/mass or what I call the Body’s Sweet Spot!!!

With my method, if you use the body rotation to trap the ball, keeping your hands passive, your front wrist will stay in setup position* and you get solid golf shots that are straight and long. What happens, is as the body unwinds, the ball is trapped with the entire body, all body parts aligned with the body’s sweet spot and they all sum together for a very efficient golf shot. With a little practice, this athletic move is very repeatable for a reliable golf swing… Ross

* I teach to setup with the shaft of the club already in line with the front arm. This is how we want impact.

Constant Grip Pressure – Big Key!

Sounds easy… it is for some and it’s not for others. My method focuses on using the Large Muscles to control your golf swing. For the Large Muscles to take control, there has to be no disruption from the hands taking over during the swing. Once learned, the results are awesome. The more control you have with your grip pressure, the better and better you strike the ball. The feeling is like your shoulders, arms and club are one unit, not disconnected levers and pieces hoping to reconnect at the ball.

Why is it difficult to keep your hands passive during the swing?

A large part of our brains is dedicated to hand movement. We do so many things with our hands. Moving our hands to accomplish tasks starts at a very young age. So now Ross says, don’t use your hands to hit the ball. Well, some things take work and practice to overcome. The trade off it so worth it once learned. The golf swing becomes effortless, continuous, repeatable, predictable and powerful.

If you analyze the traditional golf swing, it is hard to believe anyone could ever hit a ball. There are so many levers sliding, moving, lifting, hinging and the whole time the hands are rolling the club face open and closed.

Learning to control your grip pressure, keeps the club face square the entire swing, so direction is greatly improved. Learning to control your grip pressure, allows the shoulders to dominate the arms and club creating powerful potential on the backswing and allows the body to control the downswing. And, since the hands did not take over and disrupt the flow… the club face easily returns right back to impact square with the shaft leading for a repeatable, solid golf shot.

The best way to learn to control your grip pressure is with many, many shots into a net with no ball result… just body feedback. You will feel your hands becoming more and more passive. You’ll hear the ball striking become more and more powerful. Your grip pressure (about a 3 on a scale from 1-10) holds the grip just tight enough to control the club. Once again, you want to feel the shoulders, arms and club become one unit that the body can control on the downswing.