I’ve seen so many different approaches to golf instruction that some things have come full circle. For every instructor who says keep your head down, another says let it turn. For every pro who has told his or her students to keep their left arm straight, I’ve heard others (including me) argue that it’s better to allow your arm to naturally bend at the top of your swing. Contradictions are everywhere, especially when it comes to golf instruction.
The question is, who should you listen to? Who’s right, and who isn’t? Well, I’m here to explain some of what I consider to be the most common swing myths, many of which have been wrongfully taught for decades by both golf instructors and amateurs alike.
I’m willing to bet you’ve already heard of a few of these, which is why I’m presenting not only the myth but also the fix. Read on and get ready to eliminate swing myths from your golf game and get your game back on track.
Myth #1: Keep your head down
Who hasn’t heard of this one? Keeping your head down at any point during the golf swing is the last thing you want to do. By keeping your head down (see photo to the left), you stifle your upper body’s ability to rotate. A hindered rotation means my hands will get flippy; my weight will either shift too little, too late or not at all; and furthermore, any chance of solid impact will lessen significantly.
In addition to hurting my ability to hit solid shots, keeping your head down can actually hurt you, physically. It puts a tremendous amount of stress on your neck.
Let your head move
Here’s the right way to do it. See how more of my face is visible under my hat? My head is up, and my neck is in line with the rest of my spine. This enables me to rotate without my head getting in the way. Also, by keeping my head up (and my eyes on the ball, of course), I retain my spine angle better than I do with my head tucked down. Look at the difference in body rotation, arm extension and weight shift. All three factors are directly attributed to keeping my head out of the way.
Myth #2: Keep your left arm straight
A straight, rigid left arm not only can cause you to have a reverse pivot, but also can have the opposite affect on your right arm at impact. In the small photo below, notice what happens if you have too much strain in your left arm at the top—you’ll lose your ability to shift your weight properly, and in doing so, the right arm will straighten too soon on the downswing. So, if the left arm is too rigid, the right arm will do the same through the impact zone.
Let it bend
Hey, if you can keep your left arm straight without strain, go for it. It will add power. But if you can’t, it’s perfectly acceptable to allow for some bend in the elbow. By allowing the elbow to flex, the body will rotate more, and the release through the downswing will be much more fluid. In the photo below, I’ve lessened the tension and strain in my arms, which then allowed my body to rotate much more than it did with a rigid left arm.
Myth #3: Keep your left heel down
Not everyone is as flexible as Tiger Woods. Scratch that. Nobody is as flexible as he is! If you aren’t flexible enough and you attempt to keep your left heel grounded as you swing, you’re likely priming yourself for a reverse pivot (as shown above). Instead, by allowing your left heel to raise (naturally, don’t force it), the body can shift its weight back and forward much more effectively. Nicklaus, Snead, Palmer, et al. They all lifted their left heel. Why shouldn’t you?