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).

4 thoughts on “Elbows – Big Key to Consistency in the Golf Swing”

  1. Ross,
    Thank you for the response. Your answer has introduced another aspect related to the arm’s – that of lifting. My thought is that whilst the shoulder’s rotate to drive the back swing as you describe there is naturally some lifting or ‘separation’ of the upper arms from the torso. Note that I say separation not disconnection, and the upper arm’s descend back to their place on the upper torso just before impact with the upper body and arm’s being driven by the lower body. So, it is difficult for me to think of a swing with no lifting of the arm’s when they would seem to be too low at the end of the back swing. This topic seems a fundamental of your swing method so is very important to understand. Your thought’s are always very much appreciated. Cheer’s, Dave

    1. Dave
      I have a video series called Pre-Shot Routine. In that series, I have a video called The Arm Setup. In that video, I show my students with my arms extended out in front of me, to setup with the shaft inline with the front arm, elbows towards each other and let that hang. What that does, is put the back part of the upper arm (triceps), on top of the pectorals. This position is essentially on top of the chest vs. pinching the chest. Since the arms are essentially fixed, sitting on top of the pecs, once we sit down to the ball athletically (a counter balancing, quarterback look), there is a slight tilt in the spine. Now that the arms are on top of the pecs, as the shoulders turn, the arms/club will travel up the tilt angle riding on top of the pecs, as the shoulders/chest turn around the spine. We do not want them to lift up any higher than the angle established by the tilt (or will be disconnected). The tension by the elbows towards each other, is enough to allow the shoulder turn to move this arm template roughly 90 degrees around the spine, and since the spine is tilted, this moves them up, without lifting. The most important part of this, is letting the shoulders control the arms/club. If the arms are passive and the elbows stay close together, they will return right where we need them on the downswing. Momentum may be helping too. I hope this make sense Dave. You always make me think… Ross

  2. Hi Ross,
    I am very interested with how the arm’s work. Just a question for you – does the pinching action introduce tension into the arm’s or do you keep them soft but extended?
    Keep up the good work. Cheer’s, Dave

    1. Hi Dave
      I’m finding that the elbows pinching towards each other during the swing, keep the arms kind of “defeated’. There is a bit of tension and a feeling of restricting, but that is good. What I mean… if the arms are relaxed, many times during the backswing the brain sends an efficiency* signal out to the arms to “Let’s help this backswing” by lifting. When the arms get involved, the shoulders will stop rotating and now the backswing is in trouble. The backswing must be controlled solely by the shoulders for an athletic, Large Muscles, repeatable golf swing.

      * My theory is that the brain is always looking for the most efficient way to get the job done. This is not necessarily good for the golf swing. I don’t believe that the brain would choose to use the Large Muscles to get a job done that the hands could do. Also, more brain area is dedicated (as the go to source) to hand use than shoulders or hips . That is why every golfer’s first inclination is to use the arms/hands to lift and hit at the ball. That movement is not reliable for direction or distance.

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