How to Fix Your Flying Elbow and Get On Plane

By Clay Ballard, Certified RST InstructorFULL BIO

Does your club tend to point to the right at the top of your golf swing?

Has anyone ever told you that you have a flying right elbow?

fix the flying right elbow in golf swingIf you look more like the golfer on the left than the right (RST Founder Chuck Quinton), this article and video are for you!

I bet you are envious of how "connected" players like Tiger Woods, Trevor Immelman, and Adam Scott look at the top of their swings.

You may be shocked to find out that it might be impossible for you to get into those exact positions.

More on that later because, at this point, you may be wondering if a flying elbow is even an issue to worry about.

Is the Flying Right Elbow All That Bad?

Heck, there are many pros who have a flying right elbow at the top of their swings.  Some even argue that it's a good thing.

Jack Nicklaus was the poster boy for this position, and we'd all take his results, right?

The truth of the matter is that you can play good golf with a flying right elbow...but you will have to make compensations.

Here's what that means for you:

  • Extra movements, which increase your chances for messing up, and
  • Lots of extra practice to ingrain a repeatable compensating move.

For a consistent swing, you want to avoid those issues.  So, let's find out how to stay connected at the top...

Now comes the interesting part: Is it even possible for you to get into the great positions you see with Tiger, Scott, and Chuck?  

Find Out if You Can Stay Connected

Here's a simple test to see if you can.

First, stand with your trailing arm (right arm for most) as you see in the picture on the left below.

Then externally rotate your upper arm as seen in the image on the right.

can you prevent the flying right elbow in golfRotate your arm like this to test if you can presently achieve the perfect top of swing position. You need to be able to rotate about 20° more than I do here.

If you can rotate your arm 100-110°, you have "passed" the test and will be able to have a perfect top of the backswing position.

(As you can see here, I can only get to about 90°. So, I "failed" the test.)

If You "Passed" the Test...

If you can achieve proper rotation but still have a flying right elbow, here's a simple plan to get you on your way:

fix your flying right elbow with a rotaryconnectYou may be able to fix your flying elbow with the RotaryConnect training aid.

The RotaryConnect is a simple device that helps you keep the right arm connected and can save you months of hard work.

If You "Failed" the Test...

...it's not the end of the world.

The test is just the first part of this video, which is designed with you in mind.

"Awesome video. About two weeks ago, I was wondering if my old shoulder injury was preventing me from getting into the proper position at the top. Now, I understand exactly how it should work. You have a real gift. Keep the videos coming!"
-Dave Ramos, CEO of the Dashboard Group | Aug. 7, 2012

Here's a quick summary of the entire video:

  1. Forearm Rotation Test
  2. Stretches to Increase Arm Rotation
  3. Compensation for Limited Mobility

If you are like me and have limited shoulder mobility, it will be very important to stretch on a daily basis.

In this video I will go over several stretches that will help you loosen up your shoulders and improve your swing forever.

(Be sure to check with your doctor before doing the stretches in the video.)

What If Stretching Doesn't Do the Trick?

 
compensation for golfers flying right elbowWatch the video to learn the small compensation you may need.

You may find yourself to be one of the rare people who is unable to achieve the necessary rotation, even after continued stretching.

Fear not.  You can still make great contact and have a fantastic swing!

However, it will require a small compensation, which I'll cover in the video.

(I know, I know. I told you earlier that compensations are bad. But in this case, it's a good idea, and a small one is better than a big one.)

If you have been working hard on the backswing, but your results seem to be stagnant, this video may be just what you need to break through and achieve the positions you've been chasing.

Check it out now! 

Checkpoints for Practice

  • If your right elbow flares out & the club points to the right at the top, you need more forearm rotation
  • If you can't rotate the right forearm 100-110 degrees, try some stretching exercises to improve flexibility
  • If you still can't do it, you can learn to compensate with clockwise wrist rotation
  • Try the stretches first - it's easier to swing correctly than build in compensations

Video Transcription: Fix Flying Elbow to Get On Plane

Does your swing look anything like this at the top of your backswing?

Is this you?Is this you?

If so, if your right elbow is flaring out and your club is pointed way to the right, this is going to be a very important video for you. It all has to do with how much you externally rotate your forearm or this right arm.

You may be interested in knowing that it could be a physiological issue. It could be possible that you don't have enough range of motion in your shoulder to get that external rotation. It could be that you need to stretch a little bit more, or that you may never be able to get that much range of motion.

We're going to give you a test to know how to do that. That's the first thing we're going to do; we're going to test your range of motion.

Second, I'm going to give you a few stretches that I really like, to help loosen up my shoulders. Third, if we can't loosen up the shoulders - if you've had an injury or you have a very limited range of motion - I'm going to show you how to make correct compensations in your swing, so that you can get your club on plane at the top.

Testing flexibilityTesting flexibility

In order to test your flexibility with the right shoulder, we're going to raise our arm up until it's shoulder height, bend 90 degrees, and then I'm going to externally rotate this arm - the upper arm - as far as I can.

For those of you wondering why I stopped, this is as far as I can go. That's as much external rotation as I can get in my arm. I can stretch for months and months and months, and I'm not ever going to be able to get any farther than that. It's just how my shoulder is put together, but I'm a rare case. Most people can get well past this.

If you're doing it correctly - if I push my arm another 20 degrees or so - that's about how much you should be able to get in an ideal scenario where you're going to be able to get to put the club perfectly on plane at the top.

If you can get 100-110 degrees it's not physiological; it's just a mechanical issue where you need to practice it in slow motion and gradually build it into your swing. That's also where the RotaryConnect is really going to help. It's going to keep that elbow in, and it's going to make things a lot easier.

Now that we've tested this, if you look like me, if you don't have any range of motion, we need to stretch. I'm going to show you a few of my favorite stretches.

I usually like to start out with just a driver. A longer club is going to make this a little easier. If you're pretty flexible, you can start out with a shorter club. I'm just going to do an overhead stretch.

Club shoulder stretchClub shoulder stretch

This is going to help me stretch out my pectoralis muscles, which run in my chest, and they run up on top of the shoulders. If they're really tight, they're going to be pulling these shoulders forward. You need to stretch these out.

This is a great stretch for that. You're just going to take the club, work it over your shoulders, back and forth.

I want to warn you, if you have shoulder injuries, or if you had in the past, be sure you talk to your doctor before you just start yanking clubs over your head. You need to make sure it's going to be safe and it's not going to bring up any old injuries.

The second one I like to do is interlock my hands behind my back. I used to absolutely hate this. I couldn't stand doing this stretch, but I knew I needed to do it. Now, I love it. It feels great.

Back shoulder stretchBack shoulder stretch

When I first started, as I tried to reach my fingers together I could only get probably three inches apart. It hurt, and it was aggravating, and it was really uncomfortable, but I kept on working on it. Eventually I got where I could barely touch the fingertips together and now, a few months later, I can interlock my hands.

Now, if I put these hands together, I can go ahead and interlock my fingers. It really makes it a lot easier for me to get into my full range of motion for myself. I'm not going to get past that, but it makes it easier to get to here, so that's going to help out in my swing.

Lastly, any time we're stretching, all the strain is put on the tightest or the smallest muscle; the weakest link is always going to bear the most load. What we want to do is make sure we stretch the entire arm. I always try to stretch out my forearms, pull my fingers back. That's going to stretch out the bottom of my forearm.

Arm stretchesArm stretches

Then I go the other way, pull my fingers down. That's going to stretch out the top of my forearm, so I'll do this also.

You can also pull your arm across your chest; that's going to work out your posterior deltoid in the back of your shoulder.

Those are a few of my favorite stretches. There's tons of other stretches out there you can find online, or I'm sure if you have a physical therapist they can show you all kinds of different stretches to help out with your shoulders and your upper body in general.

We've stretched and stretched and stretched. We're still having this limited range of motion. For those of you who can't get a full range of motion even after you've stretched - whether that's an injury or if you're like myself where you're just not put together so your arm will go past there - then we need to make some compensations in the swing so that the club can still be on plane at the top.

No forearm rotationWithout forearm rotation

Here's how we're going to do that. As this forearm rotates, it's essentially flattening out the plane of the club. As it comes back, if I didn't rotate that forearm at all, you'd see this club face would stay shut and the club would be pointing way to the right at the top. It's essentially flattening out the swing plane.

Now, since we cannot rotate as much as we should be able to, we're going to have to compensate by flattening out the swing plane in another way, which means we're going to have to rotate the wrists clockwise more than someone who could externally rotate this arm.

What it's going to do, if you hinge this club in front of you, essentially when you rotate your wrists clockwise, it's flattening out this plane.

With forearm rotationWith forearm rotation

Now I'm going to try to keep my arm, as much as I can, in. This isn't an excuse to let it flare out there like crazy. I'm still trying to keep it in as much as I can, but to make up for that lack of mobility I'm going to rotate my forearms a little bit extra, and I'm going to set the club on plane. That should be roughly on plane.

That's going to make it a lot easier to be consistent.

Stretch first. If you still can't get a full range of motion after a couple of months, then make the compensation. Don't make the compensation first and forget about stretching. I promise you, it's going to be a lot easier if you can get this by rotating your forearm.

Good luck to you guys. I hope this helps you out with your golf game, and I look forward to seeing you more on the site.

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