Match Elbow and Hip For Solid Contact
by Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research
The quality of your impact position is determined by the relationship between two body parts: your trail elbow and trail hip.
The trail elbow determines the path of the clubhead to the ball, so if your elbow matches up evenly with your trail hip, your hands can get back in front of your body in time for impact.
However, if your elbow is trapped behind your hip, you’ll have an awful time squaring the face correctly at impact.
Here are two cures for a hip/elbow package that is out of sync:
- A long elbow swing: If your elbow must travel a long distance from the top of your backswing to impact, then your hips need to wait a bit as they make their turn so your elbow can catch up. You can keep the long backswing, but you need to slow down your hip turn.
- A short elbow swing: It’s just the opposite if your trail elbow doesn’t swing long enough at the end of the backswing. Since the elbow has a short journey to impact, it runs the risk of arriving too early, well ahead of the hip. In this case, you can lengthen your backswing or, if you like your short swing, simply speed up your hip turn. Either way, you’re back in match.
Slow hips and fast elbows are mismatched, unless you like to pull the ball way to the left.
The fast hips/slow elbow duo isn’t any better because your clubhead will be late for impact, sending the ball to the right of the target.
To swing your best, you need to coordinate your elbows and hips so they match, slow with slow, or fast with fast.
WATCH THE ELBOWS
Boo Weekley, one of the stars of our victorious Ryder Cup team, is known as an awesome ball striker.
And awesome ball strikers all have one thing in common: Just before impact, their elbows get closer to each other, either returning to the distance they shared at address or actually pinching closer together.
Tom Pernice, another wonderful striker of the ball, is very consistent and powerful. There are several important aspects of his elbow configuration at impact.
First, they are close together, proof that he has used his trail elbow as a piston that snaps straight in a powerful release through impact.
Second, the tip of his lead elbow points at the target while the tip of his trail elbow points at his right hip, ensuring that the clubface is pointing at the target through impact.
To be an accurate striker of the ball, your trail hip and elbow must be in this relationship, i.e., the right arm is tucked into the side.
This enables you to hit from the inside out, the goal of every good golfer. Problems occur when the trail elbow flares out approaching impact.
When this happens, the player may be able to recover from a flying elbow, but not every time.
The problem is that golf is infused with Murphy’s Law: ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.’ And the more swing errors you house, the more Murphy reigns.
Here is the earliest known ode to Murphy’s Law as it applies to golf: ‘I muff a shot, but I don’t care, and it finishes pin high. Unless of course it matters most, and then it’s ball — bye-bye.’