One of the reasons golf is such a fun, but frustrating sport is the sheer number of moving parts. Literally, every part of your body plays a pivotal role in ball striking on every full swing shot.
Your feet, hips, core, shoulders, arms, and hands all need to work together. Otherwise, all kinds of bad things can happen and leave you feeling frustrated throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong, no matter how good you are, don’t forget it’s still golf.That’s why we have such a love-hate relationship with this game.
Never forget, even the best players in the world have poor ball striking days.
One big part of the total golf swing is the right arm. Chances are, you have probably asked yourself at one time or another, “What should my right arm do in the golf swing?”
In this post, I want to help clarify how the right arm should move throughout the swing. We’ll cover everything from address to followthrough to help you make better contact.
Right Arm in Golf Swing – What you Need to Know
When talking about the right arm, it’s important to break down the different parts of the swing. For this post, we’ll break it down into four main sections; address, backswing, downswing, and followthrough.
Also, please note, this entire post is based on right hand players (sorry lefties). But if you are a left-handed golfer, make sure to reverse everything to your left arm and everything applies.
To better understand the right arm, let’s start with the setup position.
The longer that I play this crazy game, the more I realize that the devil is in the details. So much of what happens in your swing happens before you ever take the club back.
Your grip, alignment, and overall setup position plays a huge role in becoming a consistent ball striker. After you have developed a neutral (or neutral to strong) grip and alignment, don’t forget about your arms.
First up, you want to make sure that your left arm is fully extended at address. The right arm is almost fully extended, but has a slight bend so that it rests underneath the left if you view your swing from behind the line. You do not want to start in a bowed elbow position before you have even taken the golf club back.
You also want to make sure that your arms are rotated under so the forearms are pointing toward the sky. This will open your chest and not cause you to have a rounded, hunched back at address too.
In one word, you want your arms to have connectivity.
As Ben Hogan said in his book Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, “In the golf swing, the arms, in effect, act as the connection between the club and the body. The closer you keep your two arms together, the better they will operate as one unit and when they operate as one unit, they tend to pull all of the elements of the swing together.”
But that’s not the full picture though. The elbows themselves play a major role in a fundamental setup as well.
Like Ben Hogan said, “The elbows should be tucked in, not stuck out from the body. At address, the left elbow should point directly at the left hip bone and the right elbow should point directly at the right hip bone… You want to press them as closely together as you can.”
Hogan claimed that when you press your elbows closer together, it should lead to better connectivity throughout the swing. He also said the right elbow should not move during the backswing nearly at all. Instead, it should always be pointing straight to the ground throughout the backswing.
The last piece of a good setup is making sure that your arms are relaxed.
If they’re tense and tight, it’s hard to have the right tempo and start your backswing off correctly. You will notice that extra tension gets your right side too far away from the body on the way back.
Don’t feel like you need spaghetti arms, though – instead, you need active relaxation. A little tension is necessary as your arms are about to go in motion for your backswing.
The most popular way to remove excess tension before the backswing is the waggle. Hogan said that the waggle gives the golfer a running start and blends right into the swing.
If you’ve never tried to waggle the golf club to relieve tension, I highly recommend giving it a shot. When waggling the club, make sure to remember these things:
- The left hand is the controlling hand in the waggle. The right hand and arm simply follow suit.
- Do not turn your shoulders during the waggle. This move is all about freeing up tension in the hands and arms, not making a full swing.
- Vary the rhythm of your waggle for the shot you’re about to play. For example, if you’re playing a soft shot to take a few yards off the full distance, take a smooth waggle. Or, if you watch Bryson DeChambeau, you can see his driver waggles aggressively before he puts everything he has into bombing it off the tee.
During The Backswing
Once the setup is sound, next up is the backswing. As Ben Hogan said, “On the backswing, the order of movement goes like this; hands, arms, shoulders, and hips.”
The right arm plays a pivotal role early in the takeaway.
The goal is to have the arms stay connected and not have the righe one fold early. If this happens, the club goes on an inside path quickly and makes it very difficult on the rest of your swing. It usually leads to a dreaded, over the top swing that produces a slice.
As you start the backswing, the right arm doesn’t do much before the club is waist height and parallel to the ground. The right arm should continue to fold in conjunction with the body turn. It should stay close to your body and not drift too far away.
But once you continue the backswing, this is where the trail arm begins to bend and tuck. It’s important to keep it tucked so that you don’t create a flared back elbow on the backswing.
This leads us to part two of the swing – the downswing.
During the Downswing
Now that we’ve covered address position and backswing, let’s get into what happens on the way down. So many golfers wonder, “How do you use your right arm in the golf downswing?”
Hopefully, this section will better illustrate the proper position in the downswing for optimal ball striking and consistency. Because here’s the thing, too many amateur golfers don’t use their upper body correctly. Far too many players start the downswing with their upper body instead of their lower body and cause all kinds of problems.
The biggest is the disconnection that leads to a massive loss of power.
It’s important to note that the right arm in golf is referred to as the “speed arm.” It helps transfer the momentum and speed generated by the torso on your backswing.
But if you jump at the ball and start with your upper body, you will have to use muscle to get distance. Instead, if you time the sequence up properly, you can use your lower body to generate speed as opposed to the upper body.
Right Arm on the Way Down
So what should it do during the downswing?
The right arm should rotate externally, so the elbow can move slightly closer toward your body. This should help you shallow the golf club and get your hands ahead of the club itself.
If the back arm rotates internally, then you have some problems. Specifically, it is easy to get steep and lose out on a ton of power as you aren’t compressing the ball at impact.
The right arm in the downswing needs to almost feel like it drops down after transition. This will in turn create the shallowing motion which all solid players make. In reality, it’s actually the lower body turning that leads to the arms falling, but some golfers prefer this type of swing thought.
The final stage is impact and the followthrough. In a perfect world, both arms should be connected, forming a triangle with the golf ball. Additionally, the right arm should be just in front of your hip.
The right arm should not straighten before impact.
Otherwise, you will make sort of a casting motion, lose out on a ton of power, and miss out on covering the ball at impact. In other words, too early casting and the club head gets in all kinds of bad positions.
As you move past impact, you want your arms to be synchronized and close together.
This makes it easier to release the club and rotate around your body with the right exit point. Ideally, you can swing out toward your target line with the club head and away from the body. This will allow your head to come up and track the ball at it takes flight.
Best Drills To Get Into Better Positions
As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts in the golf swing. But don’t let it overwhelm you and not attempt to improve your right arm positions.
Here are two of our favorite drills to help you improve your trail arm positions.
This YouTube video shows you how the elbow moves throughout the swing with one simple drill. Plus, all you need is a cheap inflatable ball to help your right elbow get in the right position.
Here is how you can use this ball to keep each elbow close together:
- You can use an inflatable ball or Tour Striker swing trainer.
- Put the ball between your elbows. It should not be near your left wrist or left shoulder. Instead, you want the ball between your forearms above your wrist.
- Then take some swings and see if you can keep the ball tucked.
- If your elbow “flies” too much, the ball will drop at the same time.
- Instead, try to keep the ball close to your body. Push your right elbow into your left elbow (do not squeeze them together).
- Do this over and over for repetition to train your body in the proper feeling throughout your swing.
Another great drill is from Chris Ryan Golf. As you can see in this video, he created a simple training aid to help you feel the proper motion and instantly notice if you’re out of position.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, grab a sweatband and tee peg for your practice session. Cut a hole in the sweatband and place the rubber tee peg through it. You want the tee peg facing the inside of your elbow.
- Take your normal backswing and start to see how the tee peg points near the golf ball. For example, if you get steep of a vertical plane, it should point well ahead of the golf ball.
- Then, take another slow motion swing and notice where your right elbow points to the ground. It should be at the ball or even slightly behind it.
This cheap device will help you hit it more consistently, feel the proper motion, and create the proper angle on the way down.
Do you have even more questions about the trail arm in the golf swing?
If so, hopefully you will find the answer in our frequently asked questions and answers section below.
Which arm should be dominant in the golf swing?
Assuming you are a right-handed golfer, the left hand is actually the dominant hand in the swing, not the right hand. While it sounds backwards, it’s true.
The left hand in general is the leader of the golf swing. All things start with the left hand gripping the club and then the right hand on top of it.
From there, the left hand guides the backswing, starts the downswing, and plays a big role in the follow through too. Don’t get me wrong, they both need to work together. But in general, the hand opposite your swing is the dominant hand in the golf swing.
That’s why you will see a lot of guys warming up sometimes with just their left arm. This is a good way to feel the club more in your hands and develop solid timing throughout the swing.
Should the right arm be tucked in the golf swing?
Yes, the right arm plays a different role than the left. On the backswing, the right arm and elbow should stay relatively close to your body.
On the downswing, the right arm should tuck so that you can shallow the golf club. This allows you to rotate your body through the swing and provides a great position at impact. It’s also where a ton of power is generated and why so many golfers don’t maximize their distance thanks to a flaw in their right arm.
How do I keep my arms close to my body in the downswing?
The main thing you want is to have everything connected. This means keeping your arms synced up with your torso to achieve the best position throughout the swing.
One of the best ways to do this is to put a towel underneath each of your armpits. Make a few swings (without hitting a ball) and see if the towel drops. If it does, try to squeeze them together more so that you stay more connected.
What is a flying right elbow?
Chances are you know what the flying right elbow is without realizing it. Just watch two great golfers to better understand. Perhaps the best two examples from popular players are smooth swinging Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus.
While the flying right elbow is not the ideal position, clearly their amazing careers show you can still hit the ball consistently. If you do have a flying right elbow like these legends, it’s important to make the right move on the downswing to adjust accordingly.
The reason they were able to have the flying right elbow and still become elite ball strikers is because they rotate their trail arm. This way, by the time they make it to impact, everything is in the right position.
How do I hit the golf ball more consistently?
Consistency is the dream for every golfer who has picked up this crazy sport. While there are a lot of tips, I think any golf instructor would tell you to improve your setup position above all else.
When you have everything right at address, it makes all parts of the swing better. Elite players like Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, and other pros work on their setup as much as anything else.
They understand that how they address the ball will play a massive role in:
- Proper shoulder turn.
- Creating more speed.
- Practicing more efficiently.
- Swinging the club with more confidence.
- Getting to the right position at the top of the backswing.
For most golfers, I always recommend picking a target and using an alignment stick on the ground in practice. This will help you start off in the proper setup and give yourself the best chances to pull off any shot.
Do the arms drop in the downswing?
Yes, in essence, the arms do drop on the way down toward the ground. But it’s not the first move of the downswing.
Instead, everything starts during the millisecond pause at the top, aka the transition. In this ultra-brief time, all your momentum starts to go the other way toward the target and produce the downswing.
But the arms or wrist are not the first part of the downswing. It’s actually the hips and legs that start the move down, so you generate force from the ground up. This ground force will help produce effortless power and act like a springboard.
As Ben Hogan said in his book, “The downswing is initiated by turning the hips to the left. The shoulders, arms, and hands – in that order – then release their power. The great speed developed in this chain action carries the golfer all the way around to the finish of his follow-through.”
One thing to note is that he says “turning the hips” not sliding the hips a little bit like so many players do. Once you turn the hips, then the shoulders, arms, and hands follow suit.
While sometimes it might feel like your arms drop on the way down, this actually happens after the lower body. When you turn and open your hips properly, it’s much easier to drop the club head/club shaft in the slot and shallow on the way down.
As you can tell, the right arm has a big role in developing maximum club head speed. Of course, your lead arm is important, but your trail arm will help you:
- Get on the proper path.
- Create a better lag angle.
- Swing down the target line.
- Develop more consistent golf swings.
Even if you don’t have big muscles like Bryson, any amateur golfer can increase the power generated as the club reaches the golf ball. Learning how to use your trail arm properly will help your impact zone as much as any other swing adjustment!
Hopefully, adjusting this part of your game will make all the difference to improve your golf swing.