For right-handed golfers, one of the greatest myths in this game is that you must have a straight left arm during the swing.
This was the point of Golf Australia reader Norm MacIntyre’s query based on his interpretation of photographs, which, he says, show professionals swinging with a straight left arm. But, he adds, I try to keep my left arm straight and I “can’t hit it out my shadow”.
Norm, like so many before him, have equated a straight left arm with a stiff left arm. In their attempts to swing with a straight left arm, players can lock up or tighten the muscles in their wrist, elbow and shoulder. Then they are left with nothing to hit the ball with effectively.
I’m not saying you should have a bent left arm but a rigidly straight left arm will be the death of your golf swing.
The average player benefits more from loading the shaft with power on the backswing and unloading the shaft on the downswing and into impact. If your arms and body are rigid there is no loading.
Swinging the club back with a stiff left arm, forces the body to try and do all the work to get the club to the top of the backswing. This can lead to a poor weight shift and the loss of any good body angles established at address. From here, the shaft is not loaded with any power and the temptation is then too great not to try and hit the ball from the top, which leads to the club being thrust onto the wrong swing plane and swung across the target line at impact.
Here is a drill you can use to better understand the concept of loading and unloading the shaft with power – all without a straight left arm.
Take your address position and grip the club lightly. As a guide, imagine you are about to grip two raw eggs. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being an intensely firm grip, you should be looking at holding the club with a ‘two’ grip.
By holding the club this lightly you will find that the muscles in your wrists and arms feel more relaxed. It is important to remember that relaxed muscles work far more effectively than taut muscles.
Now swing the club back and forth whilst maintaining the soft grip you had at address and imagining the club is a length of rope or a hose. You will feel the clubhead will lag behind your hands at times during the swing, especially during the downswing. This is loading the shaft.
The wrists, which are now relaxed, are hinged halfway down into the ball and then unhinge just before impact. This is the unloading of the power from the shaft, which you can see Rory McIlroy doing here.
You will also see that Rory’s left arm is straight, not rigid, during the swing, especially at impact. This is due to the arm being relaxed and it extending naturally due to centrifugal forces.