Why Can't I Keep My Left Arm Straight?
Some Golfers Make It Look So Easy
by Mark Blakemore, PGA Professional
Many relatively new golfers complain about difficulty with keeping their left arm straight. (Of course, left-handers would be talking about their right arm, rather than their left.) This issue can be solved with a little clarification and a few
minutes practicing in front of a mirror.
For one thing it is not absolutely essential to keep your left arm straight. There have been great players that have not kept their left arms perfectly straight. In fact, a few noteworthy players have had a prominent flexing in their left elbows and
have still been very successful in professional golf (Miller Barber and Calvin Peete come to mind immediately). However, having acknowledged that, it is ideal (simplest and most efficient) to keep the left arm extended in the backswing and downswing
through the impact zone. But as long as the left arm returns to straight before impact it is not crucial to keep it perfectly straight in the backswing.
Even though the preceding paragraph is true, most healthy golfers with normal ranges of motion should still easily be able to keep their left arm fairly straight throughout the backswing. Why then do so many people have trouble with it? There are a
couple typical reasons: substantial movement of the arms separately from the torso and/or overswinging.
Most people that complain of this problem try to move their arms and hands farther around than their torso has turned. The left arm should not continue to wrap around the upper torso or neck once the shoulders have stopped rotating; it simply lifts up
a little bit, if anything. This means that your arms and hands are still pretty much extending in the same direction as your chest is facing at the top of the backswing, not wrapped around your neck or behind your back. Practice the following
sequence in front of a mirror to demonstrate to yourself that you can keep your left arm straight.
Face a mirror standing straight up and down holding a club with your arms straight out in front of you and the club shaft pointing up. Now, keeping your eyes and face toward the mirror, turn your shoulders so that they are as close to 90 degrees, or
your full backswing torso turn, as possible. Your arms simply turn with your torso. As you look in the mirror your left arm should still be parallel to the ground and it should still be very easy at this point to keep it straight. From this
position if we simply included a forward tilt of the spine toward the mirror, as you would normally have in your address position, and optionally a slight further lifting of the arms, we'd pretty much have a standard-issue top-of-backswing position.
Again, most people without major flexibility issues should be able to do this easily. The problem arises when the arms try to go farther than this, which can be referred to in this context as disconnecting or overswinging.
It is also possible that for some people limited flexibility is a problem. If you can't accomplish the mirror test above this could be you. See a golf professional in person to have that assessed. This is fairly rare and can easily be dealt with by
taking a shorter backswing. It might be a good idea to work on your flexibility too, eh? Also see my previous article on Overswinging.
So as long as you don't try to move your arms farther around than your torso has turned keeping the left arm fairly straight should not be a problem for most healthy individuals with normal ranges of motion.
For more help with your game get my 4-volume series of paperback books covering the entire game in detail -- The 'Your Golf' Series.
Find out more about these books