The left arm must lift

I am fast learning that the biggest problem among mid to low handicappers is they don’t have near enough arm lift at the beginning of their takeaway…and it forces them into late arm lift, which ends in a long out of sync backswing…but it’s their only choice to avoid the hands and club being way behind their turns.


Because when they were beginners they had “low and slow” and “don’t lift” and they kept those thoughts long past when they were effective and got them out of sync.

It is exactly this simple. The hips shoulders, arms and hands need to work together. If one is too active or too passive, it doesn’t work.

1. Setup with proper tilt and bend at the waist/hips.

2. Allow the hips to rotate freely, turning level to the spine.

3. Allow the shoulders to turn freely and rotate level to the hips and by default…level to the spine.

4. Allow the left arm to lift at the same angle the shoulders and hips are turning.

5. Allow the wrists to hinge at the angle to line up the club face to the left arm…and by default, align the club face to the shoulder turn, hip turn and spine.

Viola!…we have an in sync backswing.

#4 is killing so many of my students and that’s because no one says lift the left arm. That is taboo.

You need enough early arm lift, so you don’t need late arm lift.

Early arm lift to line the left arm up with the turn and keep the hands in front of the chest…GOOD!!!!!!

late arm lift because the left arm is across the chest and the hands and club are way behind the turn…BAD!!!!




  1. JohnG

    Thanks Monte, this could be a bit of a “light bulb” moment for me, I had only just read this quote from Tom Watson only 10minutes ago:

    “The golf swing is a chain reaction, very simple. Left hand, left arm, left shoulder starts the club head away from the ball. The shoulders turn around your spine and then they turn back along the same plane on the downswing. But once your shoulders start turning and you’re in the proper posture, your hips have to turn. If you’re in the wrong posture, your hips might not want to turn. If you have too wide a stance, your hips aren’t going to turn.”

    • randomhero1090

      Light bulb went off for me today. The “low and slow” trying to create width has screwed me all up. A bit of left arm lift = WINNING

  2. Kurt Holzwarth

    A video on this would be excellent, I think you’ve nailed something here. As a 13 handicapper I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “go low and slow, but hey, you’re below the plane big time on take away”….I’ve never been able to reconcile those two thoughts.

  3. woody

    This is a nice effort because there is virtually nothing in the blogsphere about how to do a backswing. I have to laugh because in your videos you go right to the top as if it were nothing…and yet the first inch of the swing is the most important.

    However, there are many ways to kind of save it–which makes it more complicated than it has to be. If people could get wound-up and loaded like you do, the downswing would be a breeze.

    I think about it a different way though…thanks to my buddy Bobby Jones (who screwed up my backswing for a long time). (1:44) Bobby starts the backswing, around 0:40.

    When you are at address, there is a lot of inertia to overcome. So, how about if you use the strongest muscle in your body (quad)? It’s like sitting in a chair and swinging your left knee toward the other knee. You can use your left leg (and whatever goes with it) to start your arms swinging. Both arms. You might think shoulders are turning, but I believe that it’s mostly your right shoulder–because of your back–lIke this: (trapezius & lat)

    Trap pulls your right shoulder toward the centerline of your back, and the lat swings your arm, and they make a nice combo (and whatever works with them.)

    If you use your left leg to start your arms swinging, the beauty of it is that it can work the same way on the downswing. Tony Lema said so: (Lema, 1:04)

    The audio on Lema is poor, and the aspect radio is off, but the use of the left leg is a piece of gold, I think. For him and Jones both. Of course, there is a handoff to the right leg/bun in the backswing (for a right-hander).

  4. Marshall

    Monte…I have been a frustrated mid-handicap golfer for years. Wish I had never taken a lesson. All the focus on turn & the old statement arms will naturally go to right place if you just turn. BS! If you turn with completely passive arms you will be stuck inside ASAP. Stand next to the ball & think about it. At 6’2 unless I want to use a Moe Norman type stance the clubhead/my hands have to go up much more than inside or around my body. The arms have to go up & won’t just happen based on turn….it has to be conscious upward move at least until you have educated the arms (I.e. muscle memory). So I agree with your point 4 for the most part. Instructors have ruined by saying….oh just turn & don’t worry about it….it will just happen. Then when it doesn’t they say oh you have too much tension & need to relax. What happens next…the student relaxes, turns body with passive arms, club goes deep inside & 90% time over top hack swing.

    Body does one thing…..arms do another. The focus on turn is a frigging disaster.

    • woody

      Do like the seven year-old kid does? To me, it looks like he’s using his body to swing his arms. (1:07)

      A lift might work for some…and others call it a placement. I like a swing because your left forearm has to turn. It seems like a fairly natural action with a swing, but one more thing to do if you lift or place. But, it’s a full-body swing, not an arm swing.

      With Bobby Jones (video clip above) the swing starts with his left foot.

      • Calvin

        The little peanut butter breathed scamps. 🙂
        They look like they lift the left arm till their shoulders stop turning. That’s
        the opposite of how I interpreted Monte.

      • woody

        I’m thinking that a young kid doesn’t have the strength to lift. They have to swing. Look how much body action there is.

        Monte says slow is not good. A swing is faster than a lift…though speed is not the focus of the backswing.

        You’ve got two problems with the backswing. First, your body is planted with loads of inertia, and you have to get everything moving and into proper balance for a backswing. You’re going to need a big muscle from somewhere, and two or more working together ain’t bad either. An unaccompanied lift won’t do it, nor will a shoulder turn. If you try to turn both hips together, there’s a great chance that you’ll be off-balance.

        Second, you’ve got all those parallel lines at address, and your body is in the way of anything that you try to do. Somehow, you’ve got to break the parallel-lock. (parallel lock)

        Or, if you’re coordinated, you’ll never notice the problems. Jack Nicklaus’ second book said (restated slightly), whatever happens below the waist should happen only in reaction to, in support, of what is done ‘deliberately’ above the waist. But, it doesn’t, or nobody would ever be over-the-top.

  5. IPM

    This is my biggest problem. How do I consistently get the club in the place at the top? How early does the lift happen? What causes it to happen (the turn, the wrist, the arms, all of the above)?

    • Monte Scheinblum

      It happens immediately off the ball and the wrists hinging early helps it.

      You want the shoulders turning, arm lifting and wrists hinging all in one cohesive movemt.

      • IPM

        Thanks, I’ll try it and see what happens.

  6. coops

    Certainly one of my problems… but how to do it with a one-piece takeaway?

    Here’s a youtube example of a pro advising there’s no need to try to lift the club… ‘it comes up and down all by itself’…. sigh,
    or even worse is this McHatton clip, saying there is NO up in the gofl swing at all… i mean, really?

    Seems that because it DOES happen naturally to some, it must not be an issue or it doesn’t even exist…. I mean – if i setup at a golf ball, then stand up straight while maintaining my left arm position/angle to my body, and then ‘just’ turn the shoulders… the club is so flat it makes Kuchar look like Furyk.

    That first clip shows the problem – when you do the vertical stance ‘baseball swing’ shoulder turn (to show the arms not lifting)… and then you bend over at the waist to get to the ball, you also drop the arms down… but that drop is often overlooked/ignored.

    • woody

      “…so flat it makes Kuchar look like Furyk…” Great line!

      That first clip is a perfect example of a coordinated person trying to teach an uncoordinated person to be coordinated.

      First, when he’s standing and “moves his torso,” there is no resistance at all to lower body movement. When you bend over, your lower body presents a lot of resistance to torso rotation. If I’m only using my torso, I doubt if I could get my hands to parallel half-way back.

      Second, if all you use is your torso, then all you’ll wind-up is your torso. Your torso is a nice trunk rotator, but it’s not strong or fast, and nothing significant gets wound-up or loaded.

      From infancy, we learn to use our back to help us to things, without exactly knowing how it’s done or that our back is even involved.

      Try this. Take a stance, and turn back using only your torso. Then try pulling with the right side of your back (for a right-hander) to crank your torso around farther. If I do that, I see significantly more turn, leading me to believe that my back is part of my backswing.

      I cite Golf Channel’s Michael Breed as an authority: that’s why they call it a backswing. Then, all I’d have to do is something lower down, so that my back wouldn’t have to crank my lower body around, as well as my torso.

      • theMIKE

        What this guy is talking is obviously for many misleading, and causes to get you this flattish weak draw swing like Zach Johnson or Miguel Angel Jimenez are having (where the hands get away from the body on the down swing a lot).

        With a level shoulder turn you can and should do one piece, turn shoulder half way, then lift, with a steep shoulder turn, you have to start with the arms the first foot or so, either Kuch like (he has a fairly steep steep swing if you just look precisely enough, steeper than Jimenez or Zach) or Tiger like. with a one piece take away, the arms drift in nomans land on the takeaway and that causes very weak inside out shots, so you compensate, add more lift, get it across the line, overswinging big time and all this stuff.

        Just my 2 cents, Monte is spot on.

      • woody

        “Shoulder turn” needs to be defined. If someone said shoulder-turn is what they “feel,” I’d give them a pass …but I’d question its use for instruction. It’s an observation, not an action.

        Shoulders can’t turn the body, so what are people even talking about? Are they talking left shoulder? Right shoulder? Both spinning around the spine like a propeller on a shaft? (That’s impossible.) There are at least 2 definitions for shoulder:

        1. The part of each side of the body in humans, at the top of the trunk, extending from each side of the base of the neck to the region where the arm articulates with the trunk.

        2. The joint connecting the arm with the trunk.

        Personally, I start with my back (right shoulder to some folks) not my arms.

  7. exilgolfer

    Hi Monte, I have been out on the range yesterday with you thoughts here and must say the swing feels very different. It felt very good and I was hitting decent balls (which I always do on the range on a good day :-). But one big questions remains for me. How do you prevent the club from going way out in the takeaway, when you start lifting immediately? Is that just timing to be learned with the shoulder turn? Start it at the same time, but with a tiny little lift in the very beginning?

  8. Calvin

    Wow, this one really turned on the swing crack.

    • woody

      Bobby Jones, Tony Lema, Michael Breed…maybe we all need a little Harry the Hippo once in a while.

      P.S. Tom Watson. What did he say? Turn your back to the target. I’m thinking that he meant the right side of his back pulling the swing around.

  9. Billyd

    You have to get your body moving pretty aggresively to get enough momentum to get your arms up to the top of your backswing.

    No early life is just asking for arm run off at the top of backwing. Tiger Woods is almost fully rotated before he starts to lift the club (at least on the My Swing app). He also has enough talented to use this same sequence in the downswing. When I have alot of runoff it is impossible to get back onto the backswing plane.

  10. Ryan

    This is the only place I’ve heard to lift the left arm in the backswing. This is also the only place I’ve learned anything about the golf swing that makes any sense. I can feel like I’m doing everything correctly to only have my upper body move toward the target and have my body rotation stall on the downswing and will never overcome being too steep. Late arm lift has been the culprit. Being 6’3″, an early left arm lift to match the shoulder turn is golden. When done correctly this creates room to swing the club to the left and around my body on a shallow angle of attack instead of being steep from the late lift.

    Day of 1 golfing: “Keep it low and slow.” I subconciously do this whether I want to or not from time to time. This blog post will now be my home page for a while. This needs to be ingrained in my mind! Awesome stuff, Monte!

  11. Jonny

    Monte I like this a lot, me myself am a low and slow flat and inside then over the top swinger so it make a lot of logical sense to me and that is half the battle.

    However, doesn’t this ‘lift’ contradict your other popular video about swing plane?

    I always interpreted that video as you just turing level to the spine with no other manipulations. In this video there is no conscious lifting of the arms…

    • Monte Scheinblum

      No contradiction. On that video I am straight up and down. When you’re bent to hit a golf ball, your spine is inclined and the arms must lift to move level to the inclined spine.

      • Jonny

        Thanks Monte

        At 2:35 you make a swing with level shoulders – then you bend at the hips and you are in a perfect on plane backswing position, but the arms haven’t lifted up. All you have done is turn – the thing that got the arms “up” is the folding of your right arm I guess?

        That’s what I mean specifically. I guess it’s the same thing with 2 differing feels, or am I still wrong?

  12. Chez

    Monte-agreed. But, HOW can I get my left arm (and possibly right arm too) to lift a little higher thsn my shoulders?

    Right now, my left arm position in the takeaway is BELOW my shoulder plane.
    Tgank you


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