Generate a more productive swing by correctly moving the right elbow
The last step in the drill is to simply rotate your shoulders 90 degrees or as much as your flexibility will allow. As you execute this turn, don’t allow your folded right elbow to move away from its set position. The right elbow should move only as far as it’s moved by your shoulder turn. Note how simple this all feels. This is being rightly related to your turn with your arms and elbows, and something you should strive for if you’re serious about improving.
Next, incorporate both arms at the preset position and turn again. Do this in front of a mirror and take a good look at what a full, loaded golf swing truly looks like. Quickly check that your hands lie just above the right shoulder and that your left arm is even with your right shoulder. More important, notice how your arms and elbows are situated only a small distance from where they were at address. Like I said, 18 inches is all it takes. For further proof, watch any professional the next time a tournament airs on TV. The modern greats never take their hands past 11:00, and nearly all of them keep their arms in front of their chest.
Now, try the same drill with a golf club. In practice, your goal is to find the simplest move from setup to the top that relocates your arms and elbows rightly in front of you.
If you can get correctly set at the top, all that’s left to do is to return your right elbow and forearm intact to your right leg on the downswing. The key here is to refrain from folding the elbow backward. Return your right elbow and arm to your right leg by maintaining your elbow fold and following the same route they took on the way to the top. As you reach impact, let everything unfold. You should find that, at impact, your hands, arms and elbows are in a much more forward position than where they were at address, which delofts the clubface and produces strong, boring trajectory shots. You should also find that your right elbow isn’t nearly as trapped as it may have been before because of the correct forwardswing movements. If so, you’ve eliminated a major flaw from your swing.
I’ve always felt that, once understood, the correct hinging and movement of the right elbow will accelerate improvement more than any other facet of the golf swing. Over the next few weeks, perform the 90/90/90/90 exercise and use the new motions on the range. Start small, with half-wedge swings, then progress to full swings, then to your mid- and long-irons. Suddenly, you’re only 18 inches from glory.
A correct folding of the right elbow is evidenced by four key right angles: 1) between your right tricep and your torso; 2) between the right tricep and right forearm; 3) between your right arm and the clubshaft; and 4) between your shoulder line and the target line. If you can create these four angles, you’ll successfully create a more compact swing and correctly maintain your arms in front of your body throughout.
PGA professional Joe Thiel instructs at the World Wide Golf Schools in Olympia, Wash.
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