Should you Keep Your Lead Arm Straight?
One of the more common myths with the golf swing is that to have an effective swing that produces distance and consistency you need to keep your left arm straight (for a right hand golfer). This is simply not true. There are great players on the world Tours, who have a very consistent swing but allow their left arm to bend at the top of the backswing. Many golfers are simply not flexible enough to keep their arm straight at the top of the back swing. There is no one way to swing the golf club, but there are parameters that we should all try to work within to give ourselves the best opportunity for success.
Width is the key NOT arm straight
Width in the golf swing refers to the distance your hands are from your swing center, the middle of your chest, during the golf swing. It is accepted that if you are able to keep your hands away from the body, thus having good width in the swing, then you will be more consistent and hit the ball farther. This has often been misinterpreted to mean that the left arm must stay straight in the back swing, as this will give maximum width.
In reality what we are trying to do is to simply take the distance between the hands and the center of the chest at address and maintain that distance for as long as possible throughout the swing. The less this distance changes during the back swing, the less you will need to make the equal and opposite change in the down swing to get the club back to the ball.
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How do you generate width during the swing?
At address the left arm is bent slightly and the goal should be to maintain that same slight flex to the top of the backswing. This will keep the arms and hands relaxed and allow them to react correctly to the body’s change of direction at the start of the downswing. If you try to keep the left arm locked straight, tension levels increase and the added tension will slow the club head down as you swing back to the ball as well as make it difficult to get the club on plane in the downswing.
It is important though that the left arm does not bend excessively. Too much bending, or collapsing of the left arm can cause tendonitis in the elbow due to it straightening and then meeting resistance in the form of the ground at the completion of the extension. It will also produce inconsistency as the bending going back and straightening coming down are two additional moves that you now need to coordinate correctly.
So what is the correct width in the backswing and how can you practice it correctly? A great drill for this is done using a piece of string. Take one end of the string and tie it to one of the buttons on your shirt. Take the other end and tie it to your right thumb, so that in your address position the string is taught. Now go to the top of your backswing and try to keep the piece of string the same stretch throughout the backswing.
Your ability to maintain the tautness of the string will depend on your levels of flexibility, but your goal should be to keep it as it was at address. Take several practice swing with the string before trying to hit a few shots with the ball on a low tee.
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