Some golf advice has stood the test of time and has been taught to players for decades, if not centuries. While other golf advice is still being preached but sadly, hurting the chances of playing your best golf.
One piece of advice that is still a good way to approach the golf swing is to keep your left arm straight. I remember learning this golf tip early on in my playing career and still think about it 20 plus years later.
Today, we’ll break down why this piece of golf advice is still a good idea and how it can improve your backswing. Plus, help you avoid a few of the common mistakes that most beginner golfers make to help speed up the learning process.
Straight Left Arm in Golf Swing (Arm Swing 101)
I’m sure you have a lot of questions like…
- Do I keep my arms straight?
- Do I need a straight left arm?
- What about my right shoulder in the swing?
- Should I bend left arm? Or should I have a straight lead arm?
- How should the right arm move in the golf swing?
Before getting into how to keep the left arm straight (for right-handed players), let’s discuss why this can help you become a more consistent ball striker and improve swing plane.
Promotes a Full Turn
The first reason you want to keep your left arm straight in the backswing is to promote a full shoulder turn.
Remember, you want the shoulders to rotate 90 degrees on the backswing – basically your left shoulder should be under your chin. While professional golfer Dustin Johnson rotates closer to 100 – 110 degrees!
A bigger shoulder turn means more speed which correlates to more distance on every shot.
According to Trackman Golf, the everyday amateur male golfer only hits their driver 214 yards with a 93.4 MPH swing speed. Needless to say, everyone can benefit from adding more distance to their game.
Also, if you’re interested in gaining more speed make sure to check out the SuperSpeed golf sticks too.
Creates Width in the Backswing
When the left arm remains straight, it also helps create width in the backswing.
When you create width you make it easier to generate speed (aka more distance) but also helps with accuracy too. While distance is important, accuracy is still very important when it comes to hitting more greens in regulation.
When you keep your left arm straight through the swing it also makes it easier to get back to the same position at impact. This makes it easier to square the club face and hit the golf ball from a more powerful position. It’s when the arms bend too much that accuracy is compromised.
How to Keep Left Arm Straight in Golf (Proper Left Arm Positioning)
Now that you know some of the biggest benefits to this left arm position, let’s talk about a few downsides of bending the arm. When your left arm collapses your spacing and swing arc changes.
This results in less distance, less club face control, and improper timing in the sequence of your swing. Needless to say, if the left arm breaks down, all kinds of bad things can occur.
Here’s how to keep it straight throughout your swing.
Step 1: Start with Address Position
To keep your left arm straight it’s important to start with the proper position at address. Too many golfers don’t have a straight left arm to begin with which means they’d need to extend it during the backswing.
Step one is to make sure that both arms are fully extended but relaxed.
While a small amount of bend is okay (you don’t want to lock your arms and elbows) the goal is to keep it as minimal as possible. Next, make sure your arms are rotated more underneath your body so your forearms point toward the sky. Otherwise, if the top of your arms are showing more at address you will round your shoulders.
The goal is to keep your arms in this connected position throughout the swing.
Step 2: Check P2
To make sure you’re creating plenty of width in the backswing you want to evaluate your golf swing at P2. Position two (known in the teaching world as P2) is when the shaft of the club is parallel to the ground. Even though only the takeaway has occurred at this point in the swing, you can learn a ton from this position.
You want to make sure your left arm is still in a stable position at the first part of your swing. If it breaks down early, you will have all sorts of problems at the top of your swing. Try to feel the left arm close to your body at this position.
If you struggle with feeling “connected” in your swing you need a training aid like the Tour Striker Smart Ball. This training aid is so helpful because it rests comfortably between your forearms throughout the swing. If you don’t keep your left arm straight, it’ll provide instant feedback.
Step 3: Avoid Tension
Keeping the left arm straight is a great swing thought but it’s easier said than done. Sometimes trying to “feel” the arm stay straight can lead to excess tension.
As one of the top instructors in golf, David Leadbetter, said in Golf Digest, “Unfortunately, that thought can lead to all sorts of tension. Instead of thinking about your left arm staying straight on the backswing, focus on keeping your swing wide.
You do that by pushing the handle of the club away from your body with your right hand. Your left arm will straighten naturally, without tension.”
Step 4: Check Impact Position
Lastly, make sure to evaluate impact position as it’s the moment that matters most in the golf swing. Everything that happens at address, takeaway, and the backswing all lead to the moment of truth. If you pause a video of your swing at address you want to see both arms relatively straight.
If they have bend in them, it can lead to all kinds of misses. For example, if a player has “alligator arms” that means they bent them somewhere in the swing and have shortened. To compensate for this position, a player needs to move closer as the swing arc has changed.
When your arc and bottom point changes, this can lead to a lot of thin and fat shots. This is known as chicken winging in golf.
As My TPI described it, “Chicken Winging is a term used to describe the appearance of the lead arm on players who bend their lead elbow and cup their lead wrist through impact. The lead arm resembles the wing of a chicken, hence the name. Normally, the lead arm is extended through impact to create as much width as possible.”
A chicken wing can add loft, increase spin, and lose out on tons of power!
FAQs About Left Elbow and Arm Motion
Do you have more questions about the left elbow and arm in the golf swing? If so, keep reading to learn more now to develop a consistent backswing.
Should the left arm be straight in the golf swing?
Yes, the left arm should stay straight and extended in the swing for right-handed golfers. This allows you to create width and make a full shoulder turn on your backswing. Plus, allows the rest of your upper body to sequence the swing for maximum power and accuracy.
How do I get my left arm straight in my golf swing?
It starts by ensuring your left arm is straight at address. So many notice their left arm breaks down in the swing but don’t realize that it can happen from a poor setup position. Always check your arms at address before trying to fix anything in your golf swing.
Which arm gives power in the golf swing?
If you’re a right-handed golfer, the majority of your power will come from the left arm. This arm should stay straight throughout the swing to create width and power. The trail arms will bend during the swing to avoid a flying right elbow which also leads to ball striking issues.
What is the best training aid to keep my left arm straight?
Sometimes it’s difficult to feel the left arm maintain a straight angle in the swing. If this is the case, we suggest investing in a training aid to help you feel the correct position through the swing. While the smart ball mentioned above works great, another good option is the Weighted Elbow Brace.
This brace goes around your left arm (just past your elbow) or right arm if you’re left-handed to keep your arm straight in the backswing. It weighs two pounds and the weight is distributed toward the end of the swing motion. This helps you get a full shoulder rotation (at least 90 degrees) and stay connected.
As they said, “Swinging the heavy brace causes an isometric contraction in the left arm muscle group without a change in muscle length. With repeated practice, the contraction and relaxation of the muscle result in increased flexibility and develop strength to hit the ball farther.”
If you need a tool to help with proper wrist hinge, make sure to check out the Hanger golf training aid.
Why can’t I extend my arm straight?
If you’re having issues with extending your arm you might want to work on your flexibility. Try out some of these golf stretches or golf workouts to improve your physical conditioning/ add more size to your big muscles and hopefully get more out of your game.
Final Thoughts on Keeping Lead Arm Straight
A bent left arm isn’t as effective as a straight arm in your swing. Paired with good lower body movement for plenty of body rotation, you can groove a good swing that is dependable over time!
Hopefully you have a better understanding of the role of a straight left arm in the golf swing. Remember, it’s okay to ditch some golf advice that you learned in the beginning of your golfing journey… but this isn’t one of those.
When you keep your left arm straight it can lead to a solid backswing position and make it easy to start your downswing. This can lead to more power and more stability in the swing which should lead to more consistent ball striking.
If you’re still struggling with this position, make sure to try out on the training aids mentioned above.
Want to learn more about the right arm? Click here to read more about the right arm in the golf swing.