The Right Elbow and Forearm in the Golf Swing

The Right Elbow and Forearm in the golf swing is perhaps the biggest source of problems for most amateur golfers.
And many amateur golfers do not even know this - nor do they know how to fix it and turn it into their greatest asset in the golf swing.
This post will show you how to begin to master the right forearm and elbow to hit powerful, straight golf shots.
By studying some of the swings of history's greatest ball strikers, such as Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Moe Norman, you will find some similarities in certain aspects of their swings.  
Regardless of their physical differences in terms of body build and physiology and swing plane, there are some similar mechanics and similar "swing feeling" they experienced through the hitting zone.
We know that Ben Hogan set up closer to the ball and more upright than Moe Norman and therefore some of his movements had to be different, but these greats had similarities that helped them be some of history's greatest ball strikers.
Paul Bertholy, a great golf instructor from decades past (40s 50s and 60s) wrote about the right forearm and right elbow.  
He basically stated that when one learns what to do with the right forearm and elbow in the golf swing, the mechanics of the golf swing seem to disappear.
The right forearm and elbow (for a right-handed player) or the trailing arm can and do destroy most amateur golf swings because they have an instinct to hit from the top of the swing with their dominant arm, which creates a pre-mature release, casting and flipping of the club, and loss of most of the lag angle needed to create great club head speed and whip through impact.
If you study Ben Hogan's right forearm and elbow, Lee Trevino's right forearm and elbow, and Moe Norman's right forearm and elbow, you will find some similarities, specifically within the region of the swing just before and after impact.  


Don't get me wrong, these 3 guys had very different looking swings.
However, the way they retained the elbow and mass of the forearm on the way down and then allowed the mass of the right forearm to rifle down the target line after impact confirms what Bertholy said about how to contain and release the right forearm mass.
If you watch Hogan's body movement through impact, you can see a very powerful upward thrust of the left shoulder as the right shoulder feeds very under-neath and down the line (feeling like the shoulders rotate on a very vertical path).
lee-trevino-releaseLikewise, check out Lee Trevino's right forearm and shoulder, feeding well under the chin and firing underneath and down the target line, like Ben Hogan's side-arm throw only even more "under-arm".  
You can see that Lee Trevino looks like his right arm chased after the ball and well under his torso and chin.
Moe Norman, arguably the best ball-striker that ever lived because of how deadly straight he hit ball after ball, also said he had the feeling of swinging underneath himself stating his arms felt like a windmill.  
moe-norman-golf-impact-positionMoe's right shoulder worked very much vertically underneath him (not so much around horizontally) on the way down and his right forearm was retained and his right wrist and elbow was bent until after impact.
Ben Hogan said he wished he had 3 right hands - but that was only around 6/100ths of a second before impact, when the right forearm began to release and the lag began to release through and beyond the ball.  
The extra right forearm mass will ruin a swing if released too early and the right elbow flies away from the body too early in the swing, while the right forearm thrusts away from the body.
This is perhaps the BIGGEST AILMENT for amateur golfers of all ages - not knowing how to retain and release the mass of the right forearm at the right moment and in the right direction.
The proper feeling of the right elbow on the way down is that the right elbow is seeking the navel while leading the right forearm - which is leading the hand while the right wrist and hand stay bent in a "claw" position until just past impact.  
Retaining the claw position in the right hand will allow for a flat or slightly bowed left wrist at impact, ensuring that the club face is square and there is a bit of forward shaft lean at impact.
In addition, the way to really feel the power of this retained mass of the right forearm is to allow the right forearm to continue to supinate (right palm to the sky) while the left forearm pronates (back of left hand to the sky), keeping the mass and potential retained by the right shoulder, so that it feels retained by the right shoulder well into the downswing.  
This "torquing" motion continues to work in the opposite direction of the lower body rotating / moving toward the target until the last possible moment when the right forearm mass fires down the target line.
ben-hogan-right-elbow-in-front-of-hipLook at the photos of Ben Hogan talking about the side arm feeling of the right elbow and arm.  
Notice how the right elbow becomes apparently pinned ahead of Hogan's right hip area on the way down and does not really release until after impact, riding his rotation around and then thrusting like a powerful piston toward the target.
Utilizing the right forearm mass, rotation, and release properly is not an easy accomplishment.
However, once you learn what this feels like, it is a very powerful asset in your game, and, like riding a bicycle, it can become second nature when learned properly.
If you are struggling or would like to learn some drills to help build these proper feelings into your swing, contact us below.
You can also leave a comment or question on the page below for some in-depth discussion on these concepts.
John Wilkinson is available for lessons in West central Ohio and surrounding areas.  Aaron Schulman is available for lessons in the Delaware and surrounding areas.
John and Aaron are also available on a limited basis for online / Skype lessons.  Contact us for details.


Aaron, I'm 67 years old and as I stated in the "subject", I've been trying to swing like Hogan for many years. Since my wife and I are both retired and living on Social Security, a series of lessons would be out of the question. Would you be willing to take a look at my swing in a single lesson?
We live in North Canton, Ohio and I'd like to meet with you sometime over the Winter months. Thanks, Ron

Please advise me of some drills to help use my right elbow and forearm in the golf swing. Thank you. Ron

Aaron's picture

Hi Ron, Thanks for your comments!

The best thing for you to do would be to send an email or call us: Aaron 614-372-6142 or John (937) 408-3070. I (we) currently do not have an indoor training facility so winter lessons might be tricky.  As for drills, there are a few you can try in order to get the proper feeling and sequencing. The right elbow movement is not dependent on just 1 thing but a sequence of events & conditions in order for the right elbow to move in softly underneath the shaft plane.

Here is what must happen in order for the right elbow to move properly according the the Hogan swing model.

1- The arms and wrists must be very soft - they are only along for the ride as the body pivots.   Any attempt to tighten or stiffen them on the way back and especially on the transition to the downswing will wreck the swing plane and cause mis-hits.

2- The setup must be solid.  Wide enough stance and the right distance from the ball for solid footwork and stable pivot (weight staying inside the insteps of the feet - never swaying out)

3- The upper body initiates the back swing while the weight of the club is released as soon as possible so that you can feel it "in orbit" around your pivot.  The tension must build along the leading side of the body on the way back (like building tension in a rubber band) and for the right-handed player this would be the left side from the left shoulder girdle all the way down the left side.  There is an initial tension in the arms that must be released very early in order to properly feel the circle and the weight of the club head in orbit around you, while the emphasis is on the left arm and club being 1 unified rod that your pivot swings around you.

4- The lower body, using the knees and hips, must initiate the downswing / forward swing or uncoiling of the body with the leading side of the body using the tension to sling the club around.  The weight should never be forward on the toes, but should start over the inside arches of the feet and move toward the heels through the swing, finally stabilizing on the right heel / foot / post at the end.

1)  Take a look at this drill (some would not recognize it as a drill but it can be used to get the sensation of the lower body and upper body coordination on the forward swing)

2)  Work on getting the right arm to supinate (rotate naturally so the right palm moves toward the sky) on the transition from the back swing to forward-swing like Hogan is doing in this drill while feeling the right elbow moving toward the navel.  Moe Norman used to talk about feeling his right arm scraping his belly in the way down and through - but it must not come from a forced upper body move, because the arms and wrists must be very soft and passive after they are initially released at the beginning of the back swing.  When the arms are really soft and the lower body pivot initiates the downswing, the arms must drop and be slung through impact to finish.

3)  The key is that your body rotation / pivot must continue to lead very soft arms, wrists and club through impact, feeling that the body is doing all of the work, not the arms.  If at any moment you add speed or flip the wrists intentionally, your body rotation will stop and you will have dumped all of your potential (casting the arms).   Lee Trevino was also one of the best at using his body mass and rotation to sling his arms around.  Lee said he learned how to hit using his body rotation and mass (slinging very soft arms) because of Ben Hogan. 

4) There are some really good slow motion drills we use as well as arm dragging drills that Gregg McHatton shares on feeling the arms being dragged forward and back, but they are difficult to find online.  It would be best to meet in person some time in order to make sure you are doing the drills correctly (or via online lesson).

The trick is to do many of the drills at home, but when you go to hit on the range, you must focus on feeling very soft, passive hands, wrists and arms throughout the swing.

If we cannot meet in person over the winter, we can have some online video lessons via Skype, or you send your videos to me and we have a call and walk through the drills that will help.  If your setup is not correct, the drills will be difficult to accomplish properly and you could enforce more bad habits as well.

Thanks for the comment and I'm looking forward to working with you.

email- aaron "@"

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