The Left Arm in the Golf Swing: (A Complete Guide to the Left (Lead) Arm )
Golf is hard. That is a given. Part of what makes it difficult is the fact that there are so many little nuances and minute details that are needed to become a complete player.
At the same time, golf is a beautiful and majestic game. In all its complexity, golfers can’t seem to get enough of the madness.
When learning the game, or trying to improve at it, you can break things down in a multitude of ways. From the different facets, such as Driving, Iron Play, Short Game, Putting, the Mental Game, and countless others, to the small, point by point details of each, there are a variety of directions you could go.
With the swing itself, I have seen a few ways to segment all the moving parts in an effort to learn and improve the whole. The great Mac O’Grady, a renowned instructor, and disciple of Homer Kelley’s book The Golfing Machine, likes to break the swing down in 10 positions.
- P1: Address.
- P2: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground On Takeaway.
- P3: Lead Arm Parallel With Ground.
- P4: Top of Backswing.
- P5: Lead Arm Parallel With Ground on Downswing.
- P6: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Downswing.
- P7: Impact.
- P8: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through.
- P9: Trail Arm Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through.
- P10: Finish
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Another way to break the swing down is by a specific body part and learn its particular role throughout the swing.
Today, I am going to focus on a combination of both. The P system of the swing positions, and one specific body part. My subject will be the Left Arm, or Lead Arm. For our lefty friends, you will need to do what you have become accustomed to doing and flip this tutorial for your benefit.
It’s important to note that when I refer to the left arm, that includes your shoulder, to your elbow, and on to the tip of your middle finger. It is inclusive of the shoulder, elbow and hand.
The Left Arm at P1- Address
At address the left shoulder, which makes up the top portion of the left arm, is in line with the right shoulder. As a unit, the shoulders are very slightly open to parallel left of the target, or ball line.
Data shows that the best players in the world are very slightly open to the target, at an average of about 7 degrees. That’s not much; so, do not overdo it, or you will be asking for issues…namely with your path.
Your left elbow is pointing towards the target at address. Fairly straight forward here.
The back of your left hand should be facing the target at set up and the wrist should be relatively flat.
The Left Arm at P2- Club Shaft Parallel With Ground On Takeaway
In the P2 position, the club shaft is parallel with the ground. Your left shoulder is starting to rotate back as your sternum stays over the ball. You are rotating your shoulders, as well as your hips, around that fixed point of your spine.
The left shoulder needs to work down as you rotate back. That is important, so I will repeat it…your left shoulder needs to work down as you rotate back. See the video below to see what this looks like.
This is important because it sets us up to move correctly on the downswing. Without this key move, of the left shoulder moving down as you rotate back, you will find it difficult to get shallowed out on the downswing.
The left elbow in the P2 position remains flat, or straight, in relation to where it was at set up. The left hand does as well.
At this point, I want to introduce two terms that are important in relation to how the arm moves as a whole. The first is Pronate, and in relation to the arm in the golf swing, it can be defined as the palm moving down as the arm rotates. The second is Supinate, which, you guessed it, means the palm is moving up as the arm rotates.
The left arm will be starting to rotate as you go back…Pronation back, and Supination on the way down.
The Left Arm at P3- Lead Arm Parallel With Ground
Not too much is changing in the functioning of the left arm in P3. The arm is parallel to the ground at this point. The left shoulder continues to turn back and down, and you should get a feeling of it being pinned to the chest as you turn.
The left elbow stays straight, and aids in keeping the entire left arm stable as it rotates or is in pronation.
You also want to get some width with the left arm as you get into this position. You want to really feel the hands moving away from the body, and the left arm extending out as it stays in front of your chest.
The back of the left hand also stays flat and in line with the rest of the left arm. A good visual here in terms of the role of the left hand is this…think of the back of your left hand as being the clubface. Where it goes, your clubface goes. Keeping it flat means a square clubface.
The wrist of the left hand, however, is moving. The movement of the wrist in this case is in what is known as Radial Deviation. Basically, it is starting to hinge up.
The Left Arm at P4- Top of the Backswing
Again, not much has changed in the structure of the left arm as a whole in the P4 position.
The wrist and back of the left hand is flat at the top. The video below from Hank Haney shows the correct positioning.
The left wrist is really the most noteworthy thing at the top of the swing.
As far as the left arm stands, as a whole, at the top, there is more of a range you should be concerned with. Let me explain this more…
When I look at swings from down the line and evaluate them on V1, or on other analysis software that I use such as CoachNow, I will draw two lines to help account for this range I mentioned above.
The first is a line through the bottom of the heel of the club, up through the shaft and on through the hips and out the lower back.
The second is a line that starts from the same originating spot as the first line, but this time, up through to my shoulders.
As Jim McLean mentions in the video below, this second line is that pane of glass that Ben Hogan famously mentioned in his book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.
As you get to the top of the swing, you want the club and your left arm to be somewhere in between the V that is created by those two lines. My personal preference is being more on the high side of that V. To me, it makes it easier to shallow the club out on the way down, and stay in that V on the way down.
However, all golfers are different, and no two are alike. With that in mind, there is no room for me as a coach to stick firm to one way of getting the job done. I need to work with what the student comes to the table with, and what will work best for them.
The Left Arm at P5- Lead Arm Parallel With Ground on Downswing & The Left Arm at P6- Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Downswing
To start down from the top like a pro, which is probably not what you are doing now, you need to focus on fixing how your left shoulder moves. The left shoulder NEEDS to move down and forward from the top. Forward first, and then down, with the left shoulder moving towards the left hip. The video below from the guys at Athletic Motion Golf shows this really, really well.
The left hand and wrist needs to almost feel as though it is in flexion or bowed on the way down. A great way to think of this is with your knuckles getting away from your forearm. Coach Eric Cogorno explains in the video below.
You may recall, in my review of the left arm in the P2 position, I mentioned that the left arm will be starting to rotate as you go back and will be pronating as it does so (palm down). Now that we are moving in the downswing, the arm will be in supination on the way down, or the palm will be moving more up.
As you can see, I combined the P5 and P6 positions in this segment. That is because you are just continuing the basic movements with the left arm in both.
The Left Arm at P7- Impact
Ah! The moment of truth! Impact is where the rubber meets the road.
The left wrist needs to be flat or slightly in flexion (bowed) at impact and the shaft needs to be forward in the 10-degree neighborhood.
The left arm and left hand is continuing to be in supination with the palm moving more up, or more specifically, facing away from the ball and target line.
The Left Arm at P8- Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through & The Left Arm at P9- Trail Arm Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through
We are now post impact. The left arm is continuing to rotate and extend. At about 40 degrees past the impact position, the left, and right arms will be extended and in line with the shaft of the club. The back of the left hand is now pointing left. With that, the face of the club starts to point left, with the toe up, as well.
The Left shoulder should be moving up and behind you, or to the left.
Once you reach the P9 position, where the right arm is parallel to the ground, your left elbow will start to fold. You will continue to rotate the body as you head into your finish, your left elbow will stay close to the body as it turns.
The Left Arm at P10- Finish
Not too much to report here at the P10 position as the bulk of the work has been done. At this point you will hold that pretty finish, and smile for the camera!
My hope in this article was to arm you (pun intended) with detailed knowledge on the role of the left arm through the swing. There was a lot of information thrown your way. Take your time in digesting it, and perhaps, bookmark this page to come back to later.
As I said at the start, golf is very complex, but at the same time, it is oh so beautiful too. You can love this game for a lifetime if you remember that it is a journey, and not a sprint. Enjoy!