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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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Instruction

Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Instruction

Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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