What the Left Arm Does in the Golf Downswing - LADD Drill

By Chuck Quinton, Master RST InstructorFULL BIO

A lot of golfers don't understand how the arms work in the golf swing. That's why I have spent a great deal of time talking about the right arm to this point but not as much talking about the left arm. The left arm has an equally important role to perform in the golf swing, perhaps even more so in that it directly controls the club face through impact.

The right arm's job is primarily speed and support of the left arm; whereas, the left arm controls trajectory and direction. In this 20 minute long video I discuss how the left arm works in the golf downswing to both prevent injury to the left elbow, which is a very common golf swing injury, and to maximize control by understanding how the left arm should be rotated and positioned at impact, as well as the left wrist.

tiger woods left arm in the downswingThe left arm pulling with the help of the right arm pushing is what allows the hands to get in front of the ball at impact and create shaft lean as you see here.



The Left Arm Downswing Drill (LADD) is also covered in two phases, both without a golf club and with a golf club, allowing you to master these impact positions that are so vital for directional control. The topic of getting stuck in the downswing and how the incorrect movement of the left shoulder easily creates this dreaded feeling is also covered, as well as how the left shoulder works to get into the proper impact position.

If you have an otherwise good golf swing but struggle with spraying the ball over the course and play a lot of Army golf, this video will set you straight once and for all. The left arm role in the golf swing cannot be overstated when it comes to the direction the ball flies.

If you struggle with getting stuck in the downswing and hitting a lot of blocks and quick hooks, the movement of the left shoulder and the left arm from the top of the backswing as discussed halfway through the video will make a tremendous impact. You will be able to finally control trajectory and direction and not find yourself struggling just to make solid contact all the time.

Lastly, if you find yourself getting to the top of the swing and uncontrollably unwinding your torso and hips, this video will show you how to make a proper downswing and how the left arm facilitates this so that you can feel stable and under control at impact rather than spinning wildly out of control and hoping to make solid contact.

tiger woods left arm in the downswingClick image for larger view.

The image above of Tiger Woods tells the entire story of how the left arm properly works in the golf downswing. Notice at the top of the backswing, the angle formed by the left arm and shoulders is approximately 56° when viewed from this angle.

By the time the hands are about the height of his pants pocket, he has dramatically increased this angle by nearly 40° by using the proper pulling motion of the left arm, which is supported by the right arm. You'll note that his chest is still pointing well away from the target creating this closed appearance, giving his arms time to get back in front of his body as he approaches impact.

This creates the affect of his left shoulder being much lower than his right; whereas, golfers who tend to get stuck would have the appearance of the left shoulder being level with the right shoulder at this point. For such players, when the upper torso starts to unwind, the hands simply can't catch up as the left shoulder only needs to move about 6 inches in the same amount of time that the hands need to move about 6 feet.

This ends up creating too much secondary axis tilt and leads to a path that is too far from the inside. As Tiger uses the proper musculature of the left arm to help move the club back down in front of the body, he has the ability to bring his hands much more down on top of the ball, creating a sharp descending blow which allows him to flight the ball very low without making excessive compensations in his setup or golf swing.

Even though Tiger Woods plays perhaps the highest spinning ball on the PGA Tour, he is still able to control his trajectory when at places like Doral, which is a notoriously windy golf course during the Florida swing.

Without creating separation between the torso and left arm by pulling with the left arm to move the hands down in front of the body while keeping the shoulders passive, Tiger would not have the ability to control his ball flight the way he does now.

Watch the introduction to how the left arm works in the golf swingFREE right now:


Partial Video Transcript (first few minutes):

We all know the golf swing takes a lot of work. There's a lot of repetition needed in order to master any new movement pattern. This is the way the brain learns. But what we're talking about today will actually make an instant impact in your ball striking.

That doesn't mean you get to go out and do it perfectly every time; that's where the repetition comes in. But for once you will finally understand what really controls the ball flight. When we talk about ball flight there a couple things that we are specifically dealing with.

One is trajectory. The better golfer you become, the more important trajectory becomes to your arsenal golf shots. It becomes especially important to be able to score in all conditions consistently, especially when it becomes windy.

As an instructor, it is a huge piece to me when I work with my professional players because being able to control ball flight, especially in Florida, is critical to being able to score 4 days a row. If you regularly play golf in an area that's a windier one, pay especially close attention to this video.

The second thing is directional control. For those of you who have read the instructors manual, specifically the Level I Certification Manual for Rotary Swing Tour, we talk specifically in the manual about how the right hand and left hand work and compliment each other during the golf swing.

Today, we are going to talk about specifically what the left hand and arm do in the golf swing. Specifically how the bones and joints need to be in alignment at impact for control and power. When it comes to the left arm in the golf swing, two main areas to focus on.

The first is the back of the left hand or left wrist, and the second is the elbow on the left arm. We know at address we're trying to keep everything in neutral so that we're minimizing our chances for injury and assuring that we are connected to our core for power and energy transfer. But at impact those positions change due to the dynamics of the golf swing. Impact and address do not look the same.

If you look at the swing video that I did on Tiger Woods where I discussed his dynamics from address to impact which has been seen over 1 million times, you will see that his address position and impact position are very different.

These dynamics also affect the position of the left arm at impact. When we look at impact, we often check the position of the back of the left hand or wrist as it is primarily controlling the club face through the hitting area. Because the left arm must be pulled across the body in the golf swing in order to get into a leveraged position at the top of all swings, there is some rotation that occurs.

This rotation is internal rotation of the left arm. As we come into impact and during the early phases of the downswing this internal rotation actually slightly increases by a few degrees. This really happens during the transition as the arms begin to fall, and the left arm begins to ready itself for impact.

As it comes into impact, the left arm should be internally rotated between 75 and 90°. This allows us to check the simple positions of the left arm. The first one is that the left elbow is pointing more or less straight down the target line if it is internally rotated about 90°.

This puts the left arm in a stable position and prevents the flipping motion as the arm tries to externally rotate through the hitting area which is undesirable. While some rotation does occur what this rotation primarily come from the bones in the forearm that move the wrist rather than having two points rotating during the downswing.

This allows us to put the arm in a stable position and control the club face through the hitting area primarily just with the left hand. Many golfers who flip the club get the left arm in an externally rotated position where the left elbow points more or less back at the body rather than down the target line. This puts them in a position where the club is rotating closed rapidly through impact; it is very difficult to time and unnecessary.

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Checkpoints for Practice

  • This drill can improve your swing instantly because you learn what determines the ball's path
  • The left arm, especially the wrist and hand, controls the club face at impact
  • The left elbow should point down the line and the left wrist should be flat at impact
  • For the drill, keep the left shoulder shut, elbow pointing down the line, and rotate the wrist through the entire downswing
  • Practice with arms only, then add a club & impact bag - stop and check form at impact
  • The goal is to have everything aligned at impact - left shoulder over left hip, knee & ankle
  • You should feel that your chest is over, or "covering" the ball

Video Transcription: Left Arm Downswing Drill

We all know the golf swing takes a lot of work. There's a lot of repetition that's needed in order to master any new movement pattern; that's just the way the brain learns.

What we're going to talk about today can actually make an instant impact in your ball striking. That doesn't mean you're going to go out and do it perfectly every time - that's where the repetition comes in, and the practice - but what you are going to find is that for once you're going to start to really understand what controls the ball flight.

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