*Photo by Nicola Muirhead
*Photo by Nicola Muirhead

Randy, an employee at Tucker’s Point, and a newcomer to golf, was set a challenge by the club’s pro Paul Adams. It was to learn to play the game in 20 hours and compete in the World Par 3 Championship in March. So with the challenge set, what’s Randy been working on? 

So we have restarted lessons with Randy focusing on chipping and pitching.

I think there’s a lot of mis-understanding about keeping the arms straight in the backswing and downswing. But what feels “straight” to you might feel hyperextended to the next person.

Randy had been bending his arms too much and we had worked on keeping them a little straighter and like when a doctor says take a pill, he means one, NOT the whole bottle! 

One of the most common faults in the backswing stems from the belief that you must keep your left arm rigid and straight during the swing in order to create width, precision, and power. 

Unfortunately, this normally has exactly the opposite effect. While it may feel powerful, attempting to keep your left arm as straight as possible as you sweep the club straight back away from the ball on a wide arc will actually limit your power. The result of keeping your left arm rigid and tense is two-fold. First, the clubhead will travel on an unnaturally wide arc on the backswing. 

During the change of direction between backswing and downswing, the forces exerted on your left arm will cause your wrists to flex excessively, leading to a narrow, steep arc that creates ball-striking problems. 

The second problem is that forcing your left arm to remain straight causes your body to turn too early in the backswing. If your upper-body coil is already complete when your arms have not even reached their halfway-back position, your arms will inevitably have to complete the rest of their journey to the top on their own, resulting in poor strikes and directional problems.

You can quickly test this out on your own with your left arm. Just extend your left arm straight in front or horizontally across your chest and notice how that feels.

Now bend the elbow slightly (like a crescent moon) and notice how that feels. It should feel much more soft, alive and whip-like. That is really the feeling you’re after — light, soft, free-flowing and ready to snap the club into the back of the ball.  When it comes to chipping it becomes even more important to relax the arms, reducing the tension and allowing a more relaxed, smooth-tempo swing. 

Paul Adams is director of golf at Tucker’s Point.