Do I Pull With My Right Elbow and/or Arm on the Backswing?

The golf backswing. This is something I have worked almost two years on perfecting and there are still bits and pieces that I need to clean up. The main hurdle I have is to not use my right arm and right elbow to get to the top of the swing. There are millions of amateur golfers that start the backswing by pulling with the right arm or right elbow. They think it is “starting a lawnmower”. In fact, I have been on tee boxes in which someone will emulate the pulling of the pull cord on a lawn mower to get more power in the golf swing. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is not how you generate power in the golf swing.

There are a select few tour pros that pull the club back with their elbow in an attempt to hit the golf ball. The one most people know is Matt Kuchar. Kuch will start the swing by pulling his right elbow and keep pulling it all the way to the top of the backswing. Here is a video of Kuchar’s swing:

Notice how Kuchar also doesn’t have the best posture at setup either. He is definitely not bending at the hips the way Adam Scott or Rory McIlroy does.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Matt Kuchar is 6’4″ and his average driving distance is 282.7 yards
Rory McIlroy is 5’9″ and his average driving distance is 320.2 yards

How is it possible that Rory is a half a foot shorter than Kuchar yet can outdrive him by almost 30 yards? This is what a proper golf backswing should look like:

Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Cameron Champ, Brooks Keopka and Dustin Johnson have dynamic golf swings. They rotate their body to generate power versus pulling with their arms. If Kuchar turned his body he would hit the ball well over 315 yards. At 6’4″ he should be in the top 20 in driving distance every single year.

Many would argue that Kuch is a top 25 money making machine. While that is accurate, he has never won a major and never will. He also cannot compete with the best players when they are on their game. Notice how Kuchar only wins tournaments when the big boys are lounging on the beach in Florida or preparing for the next major.

The only way Kuchar can win is to be steady Eddie in a tournament that is playing hard and fast. If there is any moisture on the ground or it rains during the tournament, Kuchar has no chance. Rory and Justin Thomas are notorious for going low during lift and place tournaments. Why? Because they have dynamic swings that allow them to carry drives well over 300 yards. Kuchar usually only carries his drive about 260.

So, why do so many amateurs pull with their right arm and right elbow on the backswing? It is easier and it feels powerful. Professional golfers with a dynamic golf swing do not feel power in their arms at all. They generate power with their core. That is why it looks like their hips are way ahead of their arms during the downswing. CBS and NBC will try to slow mo it to show you, but they don’t tell you the power is generated with the left obliques and left lat on the backswing and the right obliques and right lat on the downswing. The hips are simply along for the ride.

Quick Fix

If you pull with your right arm or right elbow on the backswing and you want a quick fix, there is not one. Remember I said I have been taking lessons for almost two years and I am still working on my backswing? It took about 110 lessons to finally get the true feel of allowing the core to get the club to the top of the backswing.

It is extremely difficult for someone that is an “armsy” swinger to accept and feel that the golf swing is not predicated on the arms.

If you do not want to take the time to get better, accept that your size and strength will not make you outdrive the smaller guy that has the dynamic golf swing. You may even find the “fall back flipper” hits his driver further than you but he has other problems. Get the fall back flipper inside of 125 yards and he is a complete disaster.

To fix the pull of the right elbow and right arm, you will have to start with proper posture which is being bent over at the hips. From there, you need to get the feel for the left side starting the backswing. A good practice exercise is to get set up with a golf club and try to get the backside of your left obliques to start the swing without moving your hands or arms. It will be a very small movement, but this is how a dynamic swing starts. It may take you thousands of reps before you can start the swing without moving your hands and arms.

Once you have that mastered, take it to the driving range and spend time allowing the body to start before the hands take the club back. This will build a foundation for a better swing. You are still going to pull with your right elbow and right arm somewhere during the backswing, but you will be better. If you want to get to a true scratch, you will need to feel your left side getting the club all the way to the top without any pull or lift of the right arm. Good luck!

The Feel of the Arms in the Golf Swing

The arms should feel very soft and light when hitting golf balls. Unfortunately, every amateur in the world feels tremendous tension in their arms as they lift the club to start the swing. There are a number of “swing aids” on the market that attempt to get amateurs to feel softness in their arms. You may have seen the ball that hands down from your neck and stays between your elbows. Some swing instructions will try to wrap a towel around your arms to keep them connect. These are all efforts to get your elbows to fall inside your shoulders and remain soft.

If the first move of the golf swing is to pull with the right elbow, the elbows are already outside the shoulders. The longer the elbows can remain inside the shoulders the better you are going to hit the ball. One way I feel the softness in my arms is to stretch by moving the inside of my elbows toward the middle of my chest. I basically try to touch my elbows together. This is what the arms should feel like during the golf swing.

It will take hundreds of hours of swinging like this to get the feel and actually be able to hit the ball. This is the exact reasons Tour Pros can never miss a shot while an amateur can go five rounds without hitting one pure shot.

When the core creates the backswing and starts the downswing, there is support allowing the arms to remain soft and the elbows pointed in.