How to Prevent Left Arm Collapse in the Golf Swing
If you've been around the game of golf for an extended period of time, you've likely heard one of its cardinal rules about keeping the left arm straight for a right-handed golfer. Some professional golfers, such as Sergio Garcia, maintain rigid left arms during their backswings, while others, such as Jim Furyk, keep their arms somewhat bent. The truth is that the left arm does not necessarily need to be perfectly straight to execute a powerful golf swing. As long as the left arm is straight through impact and the hands are ahead of the ball, it doesn't necessarily matter how it gets there. Furthermore, a tight left arm, or a locked elbow, may actually do more harm than good. Your left arm should never "collapse," but it may not need to be perfectly straight either.
Improve your flexibility. Perhaps the biggest reason the left arm collapses during the backswing is a lack of flexibility in the left deltoid, hip flexors and abdominal muscles. In order to achieve a parallel position at the top of the swing, you likely will bend the left arm to complete this motion. Instead, stretch the deltoids, hips and abdominal muscles daily to improve flexibility in the torso and reduce the need to bend the left arm.
Perform the towel drill. This drill emphasizes rotating the shoulders and hips during the backswing instead of relying on the arms to achieve a parallel position. Place the towel underneath your right armpit. Hit about 20 to 30 range balls, keeping the towel in place. During each swing, the towel should not fall out until your follow-through.
Practice taking a long, low takeaway. Keeping your arms straight during the takeaway will promote a wider swing arc and a straighter left arm during the top of the swing. At address, imagine a peach placed just behind the clubhead. As you take the club back, visualize gently rolling the peach backward.
Check your swing in the mirror. Perform your takeaway and backswing, and hold the top position for several seconds while checking to make sure your left arm is fairly straight throughout. Attempt to identify the point of the swing in which your left arm collapses and place special emphasis on rotating during this point, rather than bending the elbow.
A left arm collapse may result from dozens of swing errors. The easiest swing fix is to sign up for lessons with a qualified PGA teaching professional.
- Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf; Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind
- A.I.M. of Golf; Mitchell Spearman and Harry Hurt III
- World of Golf: The Truth About a Straight Left Arm
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.