While technically you could hit shots with a bent left arm, a straight lead arm is generally good practice. A straight left arm encourages rotation, and is the primary driver of power, speed, and consistency in golf. Developing proper left arm positioning is an important step towards total confidence in one’s ball striking ability.
Why Keeping the Left Arm Straight in a Golf Swing Matters
The left arm plays a crucial role in the golf swing. It determines the spacing and arc of your swing as well as clubface control and stability at impact. Consequences of a bent left arm include reduced power, ill-timed striking, and an altered clubface (often resulting in a pull or slice).
Although the left arm should be straight, it’s important to note that it shouldn’t be tense. Fluidity and flexibility is critical to a good swing. A slight bend is ok, but your left arm should be mostly relaxed and straight. Basically, the left elbow shouldn’t hinge until the follow through.
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The Left Arm In a Golf Swing: What to Do in Each Phase
During the backswing, a connected motion is key to an effective left arm. Rotation is your friend. Don’t fall for the trap of starting your backswing with your hands. Use your big muscles, particularly your shoulders and core to initiate the backswing. That way your left arm can stay straight all the way to the top of your swing.
Your right and left arms should be level. Factors like weight distribution, grip, and setup all affect your swing plane, but incorrectly initiating the backswing can quickly introduce bad habits into these areas if you’re not careful.
At the top of your swing always be mindful that your left arm is straight. Go to the range. At the top of each swing stop, and look at your arms. Have a friend take a picture if it helps. A straight left arm produces greater arc in your swing – who doesn’t want more power?
Pro-Tip: Left Arm Rotation in Your Golf Swing
When your left arm is bent, you lose rotation, limiting the potential arc and overall power of your swing. If you find your left arm bending at the apex, you’re probably trying to compensate for rotational power with sheer arm muscle, something that can’t be done.
What’s more, a straight left arm encourages proper timing and connectivity at impact. An early hinge only makes that more difficult.
Remember, if you want more power, rotate your left arm more. Your swing is as long as your rotation.
Like the backswing, the left arm is mostly straight during the downswing. Make sure you maintain a connected “v”. You’re transitioning your weight here, so you don’t want something like your arms separating to throw you off balance. As you rotate forward, it’s natural that the left arm is a little higher than the right. Keep the arms close to the body, and let your hips and shoulders do the work.
Pro-Tip: Lead With the Shoulders
The best downswings are left to right, and start with the hips. A player who starts the backswing with the hands, initiates the downswing with their arms, and uses little rotation is playing right to left. Starting on the left side of the body (left shoulder) and rotating through the ball promotes a left to right motion. The right shoulder, left hip, right hip, left arm, and right arm follow. Leading with the arms on the downswing limits the power, speed, shape, and connectivity of the shot. Leading with anything but the shoulders makes it virtually impossible to keep the left arm straight.
Keep your left arm as straight as possible at impact. If it’s bent, the club can’t fully release until it has long passed the ball. A straight arm at impact releases maximum power as your arms are allowed to swing wide and through the ball.
Pro-Tip: Extend Your Arms
Extending your arms at impact allows your arms to swing freely, transferring your momentum through the golf ball. Bending them can cause you to come out on top, to the right, left, or in the grass. Make sure your left arm is straight, close to the body, and connected if you want to avoid the chicken wing.
Fully extend your arms as you swing through the ball. Following through after impact instills good habits that generate greater speed in your golf swing. Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to following through: if you’re slowing down after impact, you’re doing it wrong. You should accelerate through the ball to achieve maximum results.
Pro-Tip: A Little Bit of Bend is OK
Maintain rotation as you start to face your target. This pulls your right shoulder down and through the ball to generate optimal power. While your left arm is straight for the majority of the swing, it should start to bend near the end of the follow through as you finish the swing. At this point your right arm will be mostly straight.
Drill for Mastering Your Left Arm in the Golf Swing: Left Arm Only
This drill is regarded by many professionals as one of the best drills in golf, and for good reason. Swinging with the left arm only requires full body rotation in order to get any sort of a shot – this reinforces fundamentals like body positioning and rotation and ultimately works to instill good habits.
How to Do It:
- Grab an iron
- Stand at the range, set up like you normally would for a shot
- Remove the right hand from the club
- Keeping the left arm straight, initiate the backswing
- You should feel the power from your body, not your arm
- Swing down and through the ball
Pro-Tip: Your Left Arm Shouldn’t Be Tired
If your left arm is overly fatigued after performing this drill, you’re likely doing it wrong. The point is to force you to initiate the backswing, the downswing, impact, and follow through with the shoulders and the hips, not the hands. You’ll notice that if under rotate, compensating with your left arm, you won’t be able to produce very good shots.
The lead arm in the golf swing affects your ability to produce fast, powerful, and accurate shots. The Pro-Tips above should get you headed in the right direction. Like anything else, fine tuning your left arm technique and positioning take time and commitment. So get out there and play!