My Golf Instructor

Keep Your Left Arm Straight
Myth or Must?

Everyone has been told to keep their left arm straightKeep Your Left Arm Straight

One of the very first things a beginner golfer hears is "keep your left arm straight". That is for right handers of course. Do you think that is must or a myth? Somewhat of an old wives tale or sage advice? Well it's a little bit of both. In reality, the only place a straight front arm is a must is at impact. Simply put, we start with our left or front arm fully extended or straight at address (at least we should) and we want to return to the ball with the same.

Your front arm is your leading arm and it is important to think of it as an extension of the club. How much power would you put into the golf ball if you struck it with a broken club shaft? Almost none. A broken lever is no good. So returning to impact with that strong, straight leading arm is crucial. Note that a player with a wide arc is going to generate a lot more speed than a player with a narrow, collapsed arc.

Another thing to consider along with power is consistency. Think of the distance between your wrist joints and the center of your chest as the radius of the big circle you are making around your body with the club. Let's say for instance that this radius starts at two feet at address. If you come back with a radius that is less than two feet, you are above where you started and will miss the ball or at very best hit a really thin or topped shot. The opposite also rings true. If you come back to impact with a radius that is for some reason longer, (assuming you actually started with a kink in your leading arm) you will hit down too deep causing a behind the ball fat shot. Yes, we lose a lot of power with all of this movement and energy being wasted, but we set ourselves up for really inconsistent contact!

Must You Keep your Left Arm Straight?

So is it a must then to keep your leading arm straight throughout the entire back swing. Well, as I stated above, a lot of movement and change in the radius is not a good thing for consistency or power. However, good contact can be made even if the leading arm is bent at the top of the back swing. In fact, I have seen photos of a lot of great players, Jack Nicklaus to name one) with a bent leading arm at the top of the swing. Of course, all good players come back to impact with the leading arm straight and driving down into the ball. The "must" is straight at impact.

Every wonder how to keep the front arm straight? I'm sure many of you have been told to do that, but has anyone ever told you how? What is also vastly misunderstood is WHY the leading arm bends. The first thing to consider is flexibility. Countless students have come across the tee and upon trying to straighten the leading arm at the top of the swing started shaking violently. I like them to experience this because it shows that a leading cause of the break down is lack of flexibility. If you are like me and hyper flexible you can make a very big shoulder turn and stretch your arms out almost out of the socket!

For those though that are tight in their shoulders, obliques, lats, triceps, etc., it is very hard to achieve full extension at the top of the swing. The first step should be to get on a good mid to upper body stretching routine to see if day by day they can extend their arc. The second thing to consider is does the leading arm really bend on it's own? The answer is "no". It is the rear arm that pulls in. When your back arm collapses or pulls into your body, your front arm will naturally collapse. For this reason, our focus must be on the width that our rear arm is creating and maintaining.

The Situation:

Your front or leading arm is bending either on the backswing or at impact.

The Solution:

Check your flexibility and if you feel this is a physical issue get on a stretching routine to loosen up your mid and upper body. Secondly focus on maintaining good width with your rear arm. Get the feeling that you are actually pushing your rear arm away from your body on the backswing. Don't focus so much on swinging up, rather focus on swinging back or out.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
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