Sometimes it's the little things that make big differences. Bringing the clubhead into the ball square and in line is such a precise skill that the littlest thing can throw it off. Or, the littlest thing can ensure that you're all lined up. Here's one of those little things--your left elbow.
Golf swing coaches counsel us to put width into our swing if we want to hit the ball a long way. They say to extend both arms at takeaway to create the longest swing arc you can. The reasoning is that the longer the arc, the farther the club has to move to hit the ball, and the more time it has to build up speed. That sounds like good advice, because who doesn't want to hit the ball a long way?
The problem is that the wide swing arc, created by extending the arms well into the swing, comes at the price of accuracy. The wider arc makes it harder to find the ball again, and swing path and clubhead control can easily be sacrificed.
There's another way to get distance, with no loss of accuracy. That is to start folding your left elbow early in the backswing. Let the takeaway motion go directly into this folding movement. Do this instead of keeping that left arm extended out with the right arm.
This will accomplish three things. First, it will encourage a complete turn away from the ball. By folding so soon, the right arm gets out of the way of your rotating torso, giving it a clear path to make as full a turn as you are capable of.
Second, it helps the right forearm rotate on the way back, keeping the clubface in the same square position that it had at address. Excess cupping of the right wrist (bending it backwards), throws the clubface out of square. This error is eliminated because the left hand is not forced back against the right due to a lack of space to move into.
Third, folding the left elbow early keeps the swing free of tension. Because the body has a clear path to complete the backswing, it doesn't have to fight against itself to get where it wants to go. Thus the mind stays relaxed and can start the clubhead down calmly. The most prevalent error recreational golfers make, hitting from the top, is in this way prevented.
Don't take this folding too far, though. The left arm must not come in so much that the right arm starts folding, too. That arm must stay in the same posture that it had at address.
Benefits continue as the downswing develops. The early folding allows the left arm to fold completely, so it can tuck itself neatly into the left side on the way down. This is a fabulous position for storing power.
In addition, the left arm will still be bent at impact, which is exactly how you want it to be. This arm will eventually straighten, but at impact occurs in the process of straightening, releasing the power you stored up earlier.
This all adds up to longer, more accurate shots because you will hit the ball on the center of the clubface, square and in line, much more often.
Experiment with finding the point after takeaway when your left elbow should begin folding. This might be the one thing you need to turn your swing completely around.
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