Flying Elbow Must Find Its Roost
by Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research
When your elbow flies away from your trail side during your backswing so that it juts out at the top of your swing, it can cause you some problems at impact. And then again, it may not, depending on whether you make one important adjustment on the way back to the ball.
One of the basics of a good downswing is that your trail elbow must, at some point, line up with your trail hip. If it doesn’t, your clubhead is trapped behind your hip, preventing it from getting into position to release the club. So, it’s OK to let your elbow fly at the top of your swing, ala Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus, as long as you tuck it back onto your hip as you start back to the ball. To maneuver into position, your elbow needs to tilt slightly, starting down until it points at your hip. This puts your clubshaft on the correct approach angle for solid contact. But there is one thing to watch out for: Don’t tilt your spine away from the target to create the elbow tuck because this drops your trial shoulder too much downward, driving your clubhead into the ground behind the ball.
The way to achieve the correct angle is to tilt your forearm so that your elbow points at your hip. This should occur by the time your left arm is parallel with the ground. I’d recommend that you let your trail elbow float away from your side during your backswing, then concentrate on returning it to your side as you start down. This, coupled with a correct weight shift, is the crux of Harvey Penick’s “magic move” — and with a little practice to get the timing down, it can work for you.
At the top of his backswing, Fred Couples gives his right elbow free rein to fly out away from his body.
First thing from the top, Couples tucks his elbow back in, close to his body. His teacher, Paul Marchand, says this has been his only swing key for years.
Note: Fixing this problem requires perseverance. Film your swing and then advance the video in small increments to check the progress of your elbow mechanics. And remind yourself that sometimes you must suffer hitting it the worst you ever have to hit it the best you ever have.
If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.