Stay Connected and Play Better

w/ Kevin Haime, PGA of Canada

Like all of you, I’ve had a lot of extra time over the last few weeks to catch up on some reading. So, I took the opportunity to revisit some of my favourite, classic, golf instruction books.

It’s been interesting to flip through them again and to see all of the notes and highlighting I did when I first read them. I hate to say it but most of my favourites are now considered “old school” especially compared to the sports science approach we now take when teaching the golf swing. Today we use things like 3D Motion Capture, Super High-Speed Video Analysis and Pressure Mapping to analyze full body and club data points. Thirty years ago, teaching was much less precise. There were even some ideas that have been proven false by today’s deadly accurate approach and understanding of Bio Mechanics but for the most part a lot can still be learned from the “classics”. 

One the best things I came across this past month was a passage from Jim McLean’s 1994 book “The Eight Step Swing”. In the book Jim talks at length about proper arm position throughout the swing and explains swing path with simple descriptions and clear illustrations. He also highlights what he calls one of his general principles…. “keeping the arms in front of your body centre throughout the entire swing”. It’s an important idea that can help countless golfers play better.

It’s no secret that lots of golfers slice because they have an outside to inside downswing path that cuts across the ball. It’s also no secret that many of those same golfers try to avoid that problem by swinging the club more around them during their backswing. The logic, I suppose, is that it will be impossible to slice across the ball with a super flat backswing. But the logic is faulty and contradicts McLean’s general principal of keeping the arms in front of the body throughout the entire swing. If you want to swing the club down into the ball on the correct path, you need to set the arms and club in the correct position at the top of your backswing with your arms supporting the club in front of your chest. 

Of course, you don’t want to pick your arms straight up into an overly steep position which will encourage a slice, but you also don’t want to pull your arms across your chest in behind you in an effort to flatten out your swing. That mistake will shrink your arc size and trap your arms behind you resulting in less club head speed, lousy timing and lots of mishits.

Better players always pay close attention to setting their arms in the correct position at the top of their backswing. To better understand proper top of swing arm position, have a look at the 2 photos included in this article. In the on-course photo below note how my trail (right) elbow has swung into a perfect “L” position to support the club. That’s a really great position and will give me the best chance to swing into the club down into the ball on the correct path. You can see in that photo that my right arm isn’t pinned to my ribs or pulled too far in behind me.

This photo was taken out at Cabot Links last summer on the 16th tee. I like it because it really shows proper top of backswing arm position. My arms are still in front of me and my right arm is in a perfect “L” position under the club. I’m set up here to deliver the club into the ball on the correct path. 

In the indoor studio photo I’ve actually used tape on my pant leg and sweater arm to show that my right elbow stays in front of my right hip bone at the top of my swing. That’s a really important point to grasp. The last thing you want to do is allow your arms to wrap in behind you. If they do, they’ll never catch up to your hips and body during the downswing and that’s big trouble for your ball striking.

Notice how my right elbow is still in front of my right hip bone at the top of my golf swing. Keeping my arms in front of my body like this keeps me “connected” and makes downswing timing so much easier. 

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