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We get questions about the left arm (or right arm for you lefties) during the swing… should it stay straight or should it bend? Many times our amateur clients have been told they “collapse” at the top, so they try the opposite of collapsing, which is keeping that left arm ram-rod straight. Well… neither is going to help your swing.

Let’s take a look at how the pros do it.

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Athletic Motion Golf is a collaboration of four of golf's brightest and most talented instructors who came together with the sole purpose of supplying golfers the very best information and strategies to lower their scores. At AMG, we're bringing fact-based instruction that's backed by research and proven at the highest levels on the PGA Tour straight to golfers through our website. Our resources will help you "clear the fog" in your game and understand the essentials of playing great golf.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Stephen Finley

    Jan 16, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    This can simply be the difference between less tension or rigidity (in the pro) versus more tension and rigidity, not to mention a misconception from the get-go. I used to teach, and I never told anybody to keep a ramrod-straight left arm. I used to talk about “comfortably extended” at most, but really I didn’t even want people thinking about it. Better to think about the curvature of the arc, path and plane, and being reasonably wide, with the body supporting the motion of the arms and club. You’ll notice in the sequence in the video, the takeaway shot of pro versus amateur (2:29) already shows the pro’s shoulders and upper body supporting the swinging away of the arms and club better than the amateur’s.

  2. Jim

    Jan 10, 2018 at 11:34 am

    The analysis is interesting but has no instructional value. The reason is that the best ball strikers and longest hitters on tour all straighten their left arm at impact and also extend the left arm down the line after impact. Examples include Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Tiger, and Jason Day. There is simply no other way to achieve maximum power and consistency. Some players with superior timing do well with bent left arms at impact (eg, Lee Westwood and Jordan Speith) but in doing so sacrifice distance and accuracy. The importance of a straight left arm at impact is nothing new: Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus all talked about it.

  3. Deez

    Dec 21, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    This stuff is awesome. Whether the commenters would like to admit it or not, even in a sport almost completely based on skill, there are still genetic/physical limitations that hold back your potential. The more you can learn about the how the best players in the world move bio-mechanically, the easier it should be to realize what physical limitations might be causing your swing flaws.

    • AMG

      Dec 21, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks, Deez. The intent with this series was to finish with a large collection of comparison swing elements as a broad reference to the difference between how the best do it and what we can apply to our own swings when applicable. Thanks for watching!

  4. JimN

    Dec 20, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I think you may be focusing on the wrong arm. I see a greater difference in the right elbow than the left. For me, that flying right elbow puts me in a great position to ‘arm wrestle’ my shot into submission, typically ending in a nasty hook.

    • AMG

      Dec 21, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      The right arm is definitely important, Jim. The guys GolfWRX already have our right arm video which should be released in the next week or two. Thanks for taking the time to watch and comment!

  5. DaveyD

    Dec 20, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Regardless of what 3D models show, if my swing works for me, it’s largely based on what my body lets me do. I’m not interested in getting injured just because I decided to move my arm angle a few degrees because of videos like this.

  6. MarkH

    Dec 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

    The Difference?
    Amateurs have homemade swings… most pros had and still have swing coaches.

  7. James

    Dec 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

    AMG?? That logo???? How have you not gotten a cease and desist order from MB? Blatant ripoff.

  8. Anthony

    Dec 9, 2017 at 5:58 am

    This is BS. It completely depends on the golfer and how it affects delivery etc!

    • Mark

      Dec 20, 2017 at 2:50 am

      Anthony this guy is the definition of simple minded. Many many different functional matchups to play golf at a high level.

      • Nutz

        Dec 21, 2017 at 3:52 pm

        Simple minded? The vast majority of players on the PGA tour are in very similar positions throughout the swing. There’s a reason Furyk is known for having a weird backswing; cause its not common among the best players in the world. But even in Furyk’s case I would be willing to bet that halfway through the downswing he looks like almost every other player on the PGA tour.

        Fact is there are certain positions you need to be in during the swing to be a VERY good golfer. You can either accept it and try to change, or just accept mediocrity

  9. Someone

    Dec 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    I think there is a very huge difference at 2:30 at the top of the swing. part of the reason the am has more elbow bend is because you can clearly see how much wrist hinge is in the left hand. The pro is only holding and maintaining the angle on the way up where as the am is taking it inside and tight; you can also tell that the am is taking it basin them based on how much the right arm is bending and folding BEHIND him, whereas the pro still has it rather outside his body.

    If i had to guess, with the lack of hinge at the top that maybe the pro was jason day…It is similar to jb holmes at the top where he is just holding the angle rather than making it smaller, but i wouldn’t say it’s holmes simply because holmes doesn’t take the club back as far. But just my guess…

    Anyhow, i think the wrist hinge plays a huge role in whether or not the left arm can remain “straight” throughout the swing. it seems obvious that keeping it straight is not true since there is obviously some bending going on here. perhaps the “keep the left arm straight” was a lesson from old teaching days where they knew they couldn’t keep their arm straight but by consciously trying to do so, it would get their left arm in a better position through the entire swing. They didn’t have the same equipment we have these days, so it makes sense how t could be a possible explanation for the “left arm straight” guidance.

  10. Bob Jones

    Dec 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Let your left arm hang straight down. That is its natural shape. Now keep that shape when you address the ball and throughout your swing. No need to make it ramrod straight like Ben Hogan made his. It’s YOUR left arm, do what’s natural with it for you.

  11. Tom54

    Dec 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Funny how your amateur you chose to depict says he is making it a point to keep his left arm straight throughout his swing. Maybe that’s why it’s hyper extended before impact. Trying to keep it straight tightens the shoulder. Maybe that’s why his impact looks so different. I didn’t see as much of a chicken wing as described. I think some bending is natural as long as it’s not too severe. Nice to see the subtle differences though in your video

  12. Mr. Divot

    Dec 8, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Good video. Shows me what I need to adjust. Appreciated. I noticed a big difference in their wrist positions at the top of the swing too. Bottom of the pro’s wrist seemed much more inline with the bottom of his forearm, where as the Amateur cocked his wrist perhaps in an effort to get his club further back. Would you agree with this?

  13. JTG

    Dec 8, 2017 at 11:27 am

    So now that we know we need to keep the left arm straighter…. how do we make that happen? IS there a follow up that shows exercises or drills to help? Or is that just a point of information?

    • AMG

      Dec 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      We have an entire series of drills planned to release throughout the winter.

  14. Chris

    Dec 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Lee Westwood?

  15. Patricknorm

    Dec 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I’m a left handed golfer with a permanently bent right arm from a football injury.. When I was a teenager I was tackled hard on Astro turf ( football) on my right elbow. This elbow is bent about 20 degrees. Clearly this affects my distance because my lever is a shorter. My compensation as per my instructor is that I’m about 75% accurate for fairways and greens. I play to a 7.9 factor ( index).
    My bent elbow isn’t as severe as Calvin Peete’s was but, it’s close. I’ve looked into surgery but each surgeon I’ve talked with said it’s not that bad. However, there are times when the bent elbow hurts a lot.
    If you saw my swing on video it doesn’t look that bad but I know I’m compensating , regardless. I would guess, based on tournament play, I’m giving up 15-25 yards off the tee . I think if I were 20 years old I’d be a mirror of the amateur in the video ( without bent elbow).
    Excellent video by the way. I know there has always been discussion about Jordan Spieth’s slightly bent left elbow.

    • AMG

      Dec 7, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      It sounds like the other parts of your game are pretty solid to post those scores which is great!

      Two pros come to mind that we’ve measured that have a pretty good bit of flex/bend in that lead arm in the downswing. Would not consider that element by itself in any way a swing flaw. Jordan would be a great example.

  16. Andrew Cooper

    Dec 7, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing this info. Could you elaborate on the 3.6 hyper-extension in the pro’s set up?

    • AMG

      Dec 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      It’s not uncommon to see their left arms fairly straight but with more bend in the right arm, and almost the opposite trend with ams. We’re working on a right arm video that will go into more detail about that. Did that address what you were asking about?

      • Andrew Cooper

        Dec 7, 2017 at 6:36 pm

        Thanks, I appreciate the reply. Yes I would’ve thought fairly straight, but just surprised that it would be hyper-extended, which I take as meaning bent beyond normal range of motion. Anyhow, enjoying your videos, some great info.

  17. jim

    Dec 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Shall we assume that the pro and good amateur are anatomically identical? If not then the comparison is flawed.
    As for the ‘chicken wing’ followthru …. Jamie Sadlowski anybody?!!

  18. Branson Reynolds

    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    The video has an okay idea, but a 1:1 sample size is crazy. It’d be a lot more useful to have at least 10 of each.

    • AMG

      Dec 6, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      The data sample size was actually much larger than 10 of each. We chose the pro and the am in the video because they represented each sample size. The video would have to be much longer to show each and every golfer’s collected data. This is not a comparison of 1 pro to 1 am, but a representation of each group using these two golfers.

    • AMG

      Dec 7, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Is Jamie Sadlowski anatomically identical to the am or any other golfer? Can you see why we don’t just apply that criteria to looking at golf swings. None of our pros are anatomically identical, but all the ones we have data on do not hyper extended their left arm… neither does Jamie Sadlowski 😉

      • jim

        Dec 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm

        Thanks for your response to my query above. Before you can launch a comparative study between pro and amateur golfers on their lead arm biomechanics, you should first anatomically study their lead arm structure.
        You can’t just take a group of pros and amateurs, examine their swing mechanics and then conclude their lead arm mechanics are different. You must determine why it’s happening.

  19. PineStreetGolf

    Dec 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    This is actually a pretty good video that WRX kinda ruined by giving it a clickbait title.

    The most important difference between pros and ams is the ability to throw weight and center of gravity down the target line without losing balance or spine angle. This video is a good one, though, especially for the short game.

    If they had titled it “A helpful tip, especially close to the hole, to get cleaner contact” it would have been great. Its not the difference between pros and ams.

  20. Bob Jacobs

    Dec 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Might just be me, but at least from the pics, I couldn’t see a discernible difference between pros and ams. Was also very confusing for me to hear about X degrees of bend in an elbow because my elbows dont bend!!

  21. JEC

    Dec 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Why do instructors keep trying to compare what Pros and Ams do in the golf swing? This is why most golf instruction doesn’t help make the weekend golfer any better.

    • stevek

      Dec 14, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      It’s because they only study static pictures and postures with no knowledge of Newtonian physics which provides a Dynamic analysis through Kinematics and Kinetics.
      IOW, virtually all golf instructors depend on their subjective observations with no objective proof.
      It’s changing slowly with the use of Trackman, 3D video, force plates, and a proper college education.

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Instruction

“Float Loading”: The secret to hitting the one-hop-and-stop wedge shot

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One of the most impressive and effective shots in professional golf is the 20-30 yard wedge shot that comes off low and hot, skips once or twice, and then comes to a quick halt. Fans love this shot, as it always evokes a cheer from the crowd, and amateurs want to hit this shot.

Below, I’m going to teach you how to hit that low-spinning, one-hop-and-stop shot.

For the sake of this article we’ll assume that the conditions are right for hitting this type of shot: you have a clean and tight lie, your wedge is clean and free of debris, the ball you are playing is one that is designed to spin, and you have a green that is capable of receiving this type of shot. If you have these things you have a much better chance of stopping the ball like the professionals on Tour.

Now let’s examine the photos of how this is done…

1) Address: Weight forward

At address, you can see that my spine is centered, the ball is in the center of my stance, and my hands and weight are forward. These things set me up for a downward angle of attack with a forward leaning clubshaft. These two components will add spin (up to a point) and help the ball stop quicker.

2) No-hinge backswing

On the way back I have not hinged my wrists very much, or even at all, because they will “re-cock” on the way down to increase the bend in my rear wrist leaning the shaft forward during impact.

3) Transitional lag

Here is the secret to the shot: the angle between the lead arm and the shaft is decreased on the way down. This transitional lag of the clubshaft will cause the rear wrist to bend more on the way down.

The secret to this move is a slow and soft change of direction so you can “feel” the clubhead lagging behind you. The wrists must feel relaxed. Homer Kelley in his book, The Golfing Machine, called this “float loading,” and that’s just what the club feels like in transition.

4) Forward-leaning impact

At impact, depending on how much transitional lag you added in the above step, you will see a forward leaning clubshaft here. The amount of lean will determine the dynamic loft you have on your wedge at impact and this will cause the ball to launch lower.

One thing to note here: our goal is to just brush the grass after the ball with a forward leaning clubshaft, not dig a trench. If the angle of attack is too much downward, then you might have some trouble getting the ball to stop as quickly.

Remember, this is something you must practice! It’s not a shot that you will play every time, but it’s a great shot to play when you need some extra spin around the green. Float loading is a great technique, but only if you work at it!

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Instruction

Want more power and consistency? Master this transition move

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Lucas Wald Transition

World Long Drive competitor Eddie Fernandes has added speed and consistency by improving these transition moves. You can do it, too!

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Instruction

Why you must practice under pressure if you want to play better golf

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Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.

The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition. And nowhere is this statement more true than on the putting green.

The art and skill of putting is a funny thing. No element of the game requires less inherent hand-eye coordination or athletic talent. Putting’s simplicity makes it golf’s great equalizer. You roll a ball along the ground with a flat-faced stick in the general direction of a hole nearly three times its size. Sure, green speeds vary wildly, and there are those diabolical breaks to deal with, but despite that, putting is truly golf’s most level playing field; it’s the one element of the game where even the highest handicappers can potentially compete straight up with the game’s most skilled. At the same time, there are few other situations (other than maybe the first tee) when we feel as much pressure as we do on the putting green.

Ben Hogan, during the latter part of his career — years that were marred by poor putting — claimed that putting shouldn’t even be a part of the game because, in his words, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”

Now, Hogan suffered a serious case of the yips later in his career, and while this statement was likely uttered following a frustrating round of missed three-footers, it serves to highlight not only the differences between putting and the rest of the game, but how taxing on the nerves it can be for even the game’s greats.

Its inherent simplicity, the slow pace of the stroke, and how much time we are given to contemplate it, are in truth what sets us up. It’s golf’s free throw. We very often know exactly what to do, and how to do it, like when we’re faced with one of those straight three-footers, but with more time to think, it opens the door wide for the type of second-guessing that arises during those moments we feel a bit of pressure. And that’s the biggest part of the problem.

The self-sabotage that leads to missing relatively short easy putts, the reasons behind it, and practices to overcome it is something for a different article. What I really want to get into at the moment is a practice that I think can help ensure you never end up in that desperate place to begin with.

Most of us rarely practice our putting, and when we do, it’s in about the most useless way we can. We’ve all done it. You grab a sleeve of balls just prior to the round, head to the practice green, and begin rolling them from hole to hole around the typical nine-hole route. Now I could go into a whole host of reasons why this isn’t very helpful, but the No. 1 reason it’s such a pitifully poor practice is this: there is no pressure.

Early in my career, I worked at a club where there was at least one money game on the putting green every day, and many nights too. The members (and staff) putted aces, 5 for $5, rabbits, and many other games for hours on end, and when the sun went down they often switched on the clubhouse roof-mounted floodlights and continued into the wee hours. Many days (and nights) I witnessed hundreds of dollars change hands on that putting green, occasionally from my own, but in my younger days, that was fortunately an infrequent occurrence.

Those money games were a cherished part of the culture of that club and an incredibly good arena in which to learn to practice under pressure. To this day, I’ve never seen as many really good pressure putters (many of very average handicaps) as I did during that period, and when I think back, it’s no small wonder either.

The problem with practicing golf, or just about any other sport for that matter, is that it’s difficult to practice under the types of pressure we compete in. In 4 or 5 hours on the golf course we might only have a half dozen putts that really mean something, and maybe only 2 or 3 of those knee-knocking 3 footers with the match on the line or the chance to win a bet.

When I was younger and playing in those money games on the putting green, I had a meaningful putt every minute or two, for hours on end, and you either learned to handle that pressure pretty quickly or your hard-earned paycheck was being signed over to someone else. Now I’m not bringing this up to encourage gambling, as I know for some people that can become a serious issue, but rather to point out how the opportunity to practice repeatedly under pressure helped me learn to deal with those situations. And with how infrequently we even get the opportunity to face that same pressure when we actually play, it’s important to try do our best to simulate it as often as we can during practice.

So when it comes to my own students these days, I don’t necessarily encourage gambling (I don’t discourage a little bit of it either), but I do encourage putting and practicing for something. I’ll get three of my students together on the putting green and say “look, you guys putt for 30 minutes and the loser has to do 100 push-ups” or something similar. I’ll tell students to putt against a parent for who has to mow the lawn, do the dishes, or some other mundane household chore neither of them really wants to do. The point is to have something on the line, something that will make it really hurt to lose.

You can even do it by yourself. Wait to practice putting right before lunch or dinner and make a pact with yourself that you can’t eat until you make 15 three-footers in a row. Until you find a way to practice under pressure all that practice is really just that: practice. You shouldn’t be surprised if, when the chips are down, mindless practice doesn’t translate to improved performance. Hopefully, by learning to simulate pressure during practice, you’ll play better when the heat is really on.

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