How Much Do the Arms Elevate in the Golf Backswing?

The question of how much the arms should elevate, or move vertically, during the golf backswing is a common one and one that literally defines how you will swing the golf club.

So, understanding what shoulder/arm elevation means and how much you have in your golf swing is absolutely critical.

Below is an introduction to this topic that’s covered in much greater depth in a recent Premium video, “How Much Shoulder Elevation?”

It’s crucial to realize that the amount your arms move vertically during the backswing directly impacts how you’ll be able to, and should, power your downswing, no matter how you swing the golf club.

What’s Shoulder/Arm Elevation?

To start to understand this, refer to the image below from the video where I’m demonstrating a low hand position. This was created by not elevating my arms much during the backswing.

I define this by the height of the right elbow in relation to the pectoral muscle. The red line represents the elbow and the green represents the approximate base of the chest. It’s clear that my elbow is well below my chest and elevated minimally during the backswing to achieve this position.

golf backswing
This would be a very low position for the arms, where little elevation of the arms was employed.


As the Premium video demonstrates, this predetermines how I will need to power my downswing because I’m not in a position that provides as much leverage compared to a position where my hands would be much higher.

When the arms elevate more in the backswing, there is more potential energy due to the simple fact that they will be falling from a greater height and gravity will be happy to assist with the initial acceleration.

It’s critical to understand this point as it will directly impact how aggressively you will need to rotate the torso during the downswing to produce club head speed.

This will significantly impact the amount of wear and tear that your body is placed under during your golfing career and how your golf swing will “feel”, as well as the drills you’ll want to focus on.

Leverage vs. Rotation in the Downswing

The most distinctive element that will be apparent in your golf swing is the amount of lag you will have in your golf swing based on the amount of arm elevation.

As you’ll see in the video, if your arms don’t elevate much in the backswing, you’ll need to use more body rotation for power and vice versa if you have more elevation.

This can most clearly be seen in the two images below from the video.


golf downswing
Note the difference in lag between the two swings.


In the image on the left, I elevated my arms quite a lot in the backswing. Because of this, I wouldn’t want to spin my body during the downswing, or my arms would end up trapped behind my body at impact.

On the right, I didn’t elevate my arms much and, therefore, didn’t have as much potential energy that can be gained by having the hands in a higher position. Now, I need to rotate my body more aggressively to produce club head speed.

In the end, both golf swings are pure RST, but as I discuss in the video, the amount of elevation during the backswing is a variable and not a fundamental, by definition, as their movements are dependent on what the body does.


  Watch This Premium Video To Help You Decide

It’s simply a matter of preference; the key is to determine how you prefer to move your arms in the golf swing, and in this golf instruction video, I give you the facts to help you decide.

how the arms work in the golf swing


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Chuck Quinton

is the founder of the RotarySwing Tour online golf instruction learning system. He played golf professionally for 8 years and has been teaching golf since 1995 and has worked with more than 100 playing professionals who have played on the PGA, and other major tours around the world.

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