Elbow to Elbow Golf Swing
You may have heard the common expression "elbow-to-elbow" throughout your golfing career. This phrase is often used as a mental cue to keep the elbows tucked in and tight to the body. The elbows can play a significant role in the golf swing, and usually an adverse one. Focusing on the elbow-to-elbow cue at various points throughout the swing can help you remember to minimize excess involvement of the elbows and complete a full rotation with the upper body.
When approaching the golf ball, the elbows should be fully extended and tight together. Try to envision bending the elbows slightly inward as this will help keep the arms working together as a unit during the backswing. PGA teaching professional Mitchell Spearman recommends looking at the crooks of the elbow at address. If you cannot see the crease in your elbows, they are too far apart. While the elbows should be rigid and straight, they should not be tense.
During the takeaway and the backswing, the elbows should be held close together for as long as possible. As the club makes its way to the top of the swing, the right elbow begins to bend. Ben Hogan believed that the right elbow should actually remain in contact with the side of the body from this point on. If the elbow strays too far from the side of the body, the swing will take an awkward path back toward the ball.
Top of the Swing
Once the club has reached approximately parallel to the ground, the backswing is finished. The right elbow should be pointed down to the ground forming a triangle between the elbow, body and left arm. If the right elbow is too far away from the body, this will result in a very jerky swing plane and it will be difficult to get it back to the impact zone smoothly. The left and right elbows should still be relatively close together at this point.
The downswing is just a simple uncoiling toward the ball, initiated by the hips. The emphasis should be minimizing arm and elbow action during this phase and letting the body naturally unwind to execute the shot. The right elbow should again make contact with the right side of the body at impact and the right and left elbows should be tight together.
As the shot is struck, the arms and club should naturally wrap around the body and the left elbow should be held in tight to the left side of the body. PGA Tour golfer Vijay Singh is notorious for practicing with a towel between his right and left armpits. He is so good at keeping his elbows in tight that he can complete a swing at maximum speed without the towel falling out at any point — even during the follow through.
Drills and Swing Aids
Several drills exist to reinforce the elbow-to-elbow cue. In addition to the towel drill, you can purchase a strap that pulls your elbows together at address. This strap keeps the elbows tucked throughout the swing and forces you to complete a fuller shoulder turn rather than exaggerate the use of the arms. Furthermore, the elbow drill, in which you hold the club behind the back and through the elbows, can promote correct elbow movement, according to the Purgatory Golf website.
- A.I.M. of Golf; Mitchell Spearman
- Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf; Ben Hogan
- Purgatory Golf Club: Golf Swing Instruction
Graham Ulmer began writing professionally in 2006 and has been published in the "Military Medicine" journal. He is a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Ulmer holds a Master of Science in exercise science from the University of Idaho and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Washington State University.