No golf swing is the same or created equally. One aspect that has been often taught, asked about, and worked on is - how does the trail arm and right elbow work in the golf swing? (We will get into this later). There is no questioning the importance of the right elbow in golf swings, the trail arm plays an instrumental role at more than one point in the swing. In this blog I will discuss the importance of the trail arm, how it works and why, different techniques and non-negotiables. Additionally, I will provide you with some of my favorite drills for improving the mechanics of the trail arm so that you can own a better golf swing once and for all.
Why is the Right Elbow Key to Golf Swing Consistency?
Everyone wants a more consistent golf swing. That is by far the most requested need from a student when they visit me. The trail arm plays a massive role in one's ability to deliver the club head consistently into impact. Here are the top three areas of the swing that it influences.
- The first move off the ball is one of the most important parts of the golf swing. Hogan called it one of his “crossroads” where things could easily go one way or another. The right elbow is instrumental in the golf backswing. When I see a poor take-away it almost always stems from a lack of connection starting back. Either the trail arms folds early and the club rolls in, or it moves in a sawing motion (like starting a lawn mower) behind the body and puts the player in a very weak and unathletic position. Either way you are dead in the water! Having the trail arm fold progressively going back in conjunction with a good turn is huge. Also maintaining width and not trying to keep the trail elbow close to the body at this point is important for power.
- The transitional phase in the swing is really the make or break point regarding how the trail arm and right elbow moves and operates. The ability to shallow the golf club to deliver it on the proper path to impact is directly related to how the trail arm rotates. It is important for the trail arm to rotate externally which allows the right elbow to move closer to the body. You want to tuck the right elbow close to the body in order to let the club head move behind the hands and into a power position moving to impact on an inside path. On the contrary, the trail arm rotating internally and the right elbow flying away from the body on the way down is a huge reason why players get too steep and struggle to create power.
- The moment of truth (otherwise known as impact) is a great time to look at where the trail arm is relative to the body. The trail arm getting just in front of the hip without any space to be seen between the arm and body is instrumental for having proper ball first contact. When the right elbow gets away from the body and straightens too early the player will struggle with power, and with making a consistent divot after the ball.
Is There One Correct Position for the Right Elbow?
In no way is there one correct position for the right elbow at the top. There are several elite players who have been successful with a “flying right elbow” such as Nicklaus, Fred Couples and in modern times Matt Wolfe. These players were all able to quickly and efficiently externally rotate their trail arm back into position and deliver it beautifully into the impact zone. At the same time, I find that for most players it is easier to get into a good early transition position with the trail arm when it is away from the body but closer to vertical than horizontal. IF that move is natural with a flying right elbow, I do not see a need to change it. However, for most golfers, having your arms in a well-structured position at the top where they maintain their initial space can make all the difference in the world.
Tuck the Right Elbow in Your Downswing
The proper movement of the right elbow on the downswing allows for so many complementary and fundamentally sound movements to occur. It allows the club to shallow and move behind the hands, which in turns promotes more rotation of the body. This makes it much easier for the hands to lead the club into impact and provide a powerful and consistent impact.
Right Elbow Golf Swing Drills with Swing Align
At the top of the swing the distance between the elbows should remain consistent to how they were at address. A good drill is to swing to the top and focus on maintaining your elbow spacing. The Swing Align swing trainer with its flexible connection belt will keep your elbows from flying too far apart and away from your body during the transition from backswing to downswing.
With your trail arm in a good position the lower body can initiate downswing and pass control to the upper torso, then to the arms in the proper sequence. Having the right elbow in the proper position at the top allows the trail arm to move externally and under the lead arm resulting in a shallowing of the club shaft. This allows you to deliver the clubhead to impact on an inside track with strong body rotation for power and control. Starting at the top rehearse initiating your downswing and shallowing the club by driving your right elbow down and in front of your right hip. The alignment rod across your arms will be pointed slightly up in front. If it is pointed down you are getting too steep and coming over the top.
Having the trail arm move away from the body during the downswing can lead to a multitude of negative consequences the worst of which is a steep shaft angle that puts you in the death position with an over-the-top delivery back to the ball leading to a chunk, slice or dead pull. All of the things you want to avoid! Wearing a Swing Align device to rehearse positions or take full swings makes it impossible to separate your arms in this way.
Practice Your Right Elbow Tuck with Swing Align!There is no better way to guarantee quality and beneficial practice than using the Swing Align. It gives you terrific feedback on where your arms are in the swing and what they are doing. Not only does it help you stay more connected going back, but it helps you maintain arm structure at the top as well so that you can develop the muscle memory needed to be more consistent. It provides a great visual of where the trail arm is coming down relative to the lead arm.
It hits all the points for a beautiful, consistent, and effective golf swing in one device. Your time is worth a lot! Do not waste it by practicing without feedback. Get your Swing Align Now! And see for yourself the importance of the right elbow in golf swings.