When it comes to teaching the golf swing, there are a lot of tired old sayings and terminology out there that are continually trotted out when someone hits a less than stellar golf shot. “You’re coming over the top,” “You’re chicken winging it,” “You’ve got a reverse weight transfer,” “You’re not keeping your head down,” etc. etc. etc. Now, for the most part, most of that armchair wisdom tends to come complements of your friendly neighborhood wanna-be teaching pro trolling the range and offering up free tips to just about anyone who will listen. You know the type, the guy or gal who, whether it be on the practice tee or the golf course, will tell you exactly what you did wrong after every poor shot courtesy of the latest Golf Channel Academy or Golf Digest Tip they heard. And while these sayings at times can have merit, without a positive bit of advice for what you should do in place of these bad habits, they are often really nothing more than a red-herring.
Now that being said, I’m unfortunately not immune to trotting out a few “oldies but goodies” of my own out on the lesson tee and my personal favorite is, “The higher your right elbow, the higher your handicap.” Now, I’ve been saying this one for so long that I honestly don’t remember if I made it up, or if I actually heard it somewhere more than 20 years ago, but what it refers to is the position of your right elbow at the top of the backswing. Now I’m not saying you can’t play decent golf with a high or “flying right elbow” at the top of the backswing, as John Daly and Jim Furyk have adequately disproven its impossibility. However, I can say that I can just about count on two fingers the number of great players I’ve ever seen do it, and when you look at the preponderance of evidence out there you will find that the farther north that elbow is at the top of the backswing the farther north that handicap number typically goes along with it. The difference between me and all those arm-chair quarterbacks out there on the driving ranges of the world, though, is I’m about to give you a drill you can use to feel it so you can fix it.
If you watched the Ryder Cup this year, you may have noticed Sergio Garcia taking one-armed practice swings with his left hand holding his right bicep just above the break in his elbow. This is a great way to get the feel of keeping your right elbow low in the backswing and it really helps limit the over-swing that tends to take place when that wayward right elbow starts to lift and slide up behind the torso. Once you get a feeling for this with a couple of practice swings, grip the club normally and take a practice swing trying to maintain the same relationship of the right elbow you had during the practice swing. That’s all it is, but it’s really quite an ingenious, not to mention inexpensive, little drill that can really pay dividends if you start to use it regularly. So, lower that right elbow and see how low that handicap starts to go, and if you need a little demonstration come on in and see me. Let me know what you think,