Drill 304. Backswing: Arm Position at the Top of the Golf Swing

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Drill 304. Backswing: Arm Position at the Top of the Golf Swing

Most amateur golfers completely misunderstand how to use their arms in the golf swing, especially in the backswing.  As you’ll see in the next few drills, once you learn how to turn, as you’ve been working on in Drill 303 – Backswing: Full Shoulder Turn with Weight Shift, moving your arms correctly to make a perfect backswing is remarkably simple.

This misunderstanding is natural.  When you watch Tour players on TV, you see them making huge shoulder turns and swinging their arms an enormous distance — 180 degrees going back and then 400 degrees or more coming down and through.  When most amateurs try to emulate this, they swing their arms wildly around their body.  This feels powerful, it’s a big swing with lots of effort, but it’s extremely inefficient, and it results in many of the faults, the inconsistency, and the lack of distance, suffered by many amateur golfers.  It also results in back pain and potential injury.

Well, you’re about to see that most great golfers don’t actually swing their arms anything like as much as you might think, relative to their bodies.

Apologies to the lefties out there, but for simplicity these instructions are given for a right-handed golfer.


As we’ve been discussing so far in this section and in the takeaway section, the backswing is all about turning your body.  If you turn your body correctly, making a full turn with plenty of separation, then you can generate a lot more power and consistency in your golf swing.  Drill 303 showed you how easy it is to make a full turn once you know how, and how you can get your body in a great position to simplify the golf swing and generate enormous power.  Unfortunately, even armed with this information, many amateur golfers still don’t turn correctly in the backswing.

If you use your arms incorrectly, as most amateur golfers do, swinging them around your body, cocking your wrists too early, letting your right elbow “fly” behind you, bending your right arm too early and bending it too much, bending your left arm as a result… then horrible things happen.  Your arms become disconnected from your coreThe muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. A strong core reduces back pain, improves athletic performance, and helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries., complicating the golf swing and losing power and consistency.  The golf club gets to the top of the backswing ahead of your body, leaving you two choices; stop there, and don’t make a full turn, or keep turning and over-swing.  The golf club gets pulled off plane, and your hands have to work hard to get back in front of your body in the downswing, requiring numerous compensations and manipulations to get back to impact with any success.

By moving your arms correctly, you dramatically simplify the golf swing.  You give your body a chance to make a full, powerful turn.  You make it much easier to get your hands back down in front of your body consistently through impact.  You set your arms and the golf club in the perfect position, every time, to make a great downswing — efficient, consistent, powerful, accurate, and kind to your body.

Most golf instruction on the backswing talks about how to move the golf club, how to keep it on plane and set it in “the slot” at the top.  The plane of the golf club is clearly important if you’re going to make an effective golf swing, striking the golf ball cleanly, with accuracy and consistency.  But, as you’ll discover in this section, if you move your body and arms correctly, then the golf club will almost take care of itself — you’ll set it on the perfect plane every time, without really thinking about it.

What’s more, because it’s simple, it’s easy to learn.  You could make a good golf swing by swinging your arms more around your body, some Tour professionals do (and many instructors teach this), but it’s unnecessary, you wouldn’t gain anything, and it would require you to master a complex series of compensations and manipulations, taking years of dedicated practice, and even then you’d need fantastic timing and coordination to play golf at a consistently high level.

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