The Role of the Left Arm in the Right-Handed Swing

I was interested to see that Padraig Harrington, Tom Watson, and Adam Scott, in one way or another, all described the importance of their left arm in the golf swing in this new Golf Digest.  It’s been a fundamental of Jimmy Ballard’s for years, and yet I feel like few people seem to actually understand it.  It seems like it’s worth a minute of our time.

Most of us have heard to take our address and let our arms fall loosely straight down, once we have taken our grip and our stance.  What’s interesting about that, is that it puts your arms beside your chest, and not on top of it.  And unfortunately, for the left arm to work the way it needs to in the golf swing, it needs to be in front of, or you might say on top of your left breast.  That’s the only real way to get your clubface to square up with your body turn, without a ton of wrist manipulation, which adds a lot of timing (read: inconsistency) to your swing.  And the thicker your chest is—and I have a linebacker build, the more challenging and important this position becomes.

So, as the master of connection, Jimmy Ballard always used the towel or golf glove under the left arm at the armpit.  But here’s the key—he was not saying to be connected at the side of your chest, but connected on top of your left breast.  I try to get my left arm to sit on top of my logo on my shirt, with my elbow pointed at my left hip and towards the ground.  Then I simly turn my chest with my arms riding on top back to hand someone something like I’m holding something heavy between my arms (like a medicine ball) and I then turn my chest back and through to toss that medicine ball down the fairway.  Very little wrist turn, all timed by my legs using the ground to turn my hips, which turns the center of my chest back and through, and if I keep my elbows connected on top of my chest, with my elbows down or pointed at the ground throughout the swing.  And then the clubface shows up square a huge majority of the time.  This is why people call this more of a body swing, and it’s why many pros are so much more consistent, and have less timing to deal with in their swings.  Give it a try, and see how it works for you.

Written by Wade Baynham
Single-digit handicap, who learned golf in his early 20′s from my former father-in-law, a long time PGA tour and Champions tour player. I enjoy studying the golf swing and occasionally give golf lessons.