The left elbow

…or right elbow for a left handed golfer.

We have always been told, “keep the left arm straight,” and as usual, it is taught and done to an unhealthy extreme.

There are four states the left elbow can be in the back swing:

1. Locked
2. Straight
3. Soft
4. Bent

States 2 and 3 are just fine and let me describe each.

1-Just as it sounds. A forced straight elbow into a locked position, creating tension and most likely cutting off the shoulder turn and release. If you pay attention, you will see a large percentage of people on the range doing this.

2-A nice relaxed straight left arm that is not a result of trying to keep the left arm straight because the shoulder turn is dictating the back swing.

3-A slightly bent left elbow that many golfers find as a better alternative to a locked left arm. Don’t let anyone tell you that a soft left elbow is a bad thing. As long as the bend does not increase during the swing.

4-I find a bent left elbow preferable to a locked one, but this is a difficult place to play from as it is a hard place to be consistent from. It is often the result of lifting with the arms and/or taking a back swing that is too long for the flexibility of the golfer.

As is almost every case in golf instruction, the cliche is the symptom and not the problem…and trying to fix the symptom actually causes even bigger problems.

Telling someone to keep their left arm straight is like telling your wife not to nag you about taking out the trash. Why not just take out the trash and avoid the problem all together?




  1. Brett Picotte

    Maybe there’s a training aid to help with this. (kidding) Thanks for the info.

  2. Wally

    What is equally important as a staight left arm in the backswing, is a straight right arm in the follow through. Most hackers break the right arm way too soon in the follow through. Watch the pro’s most reach for the sky in the follow that’s where the real power comes from.

  3. Calvin D

    The soft left arm is one of my relievers. My game is like a pitching staff. I have three or four starters and I usually have to go with a reliever by the fourth hole. I think I have about twenty “pitchers” on my staff. Choosing my starter is really tough. Sometimes I run through my entire staff during a round.
    Once in a while I get a complete game from a starter.


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