Another way to consider the motion of the arms in the golf swing is to think of the triangle formed by your arms at address. This swing thought can be used to help prevent getting laid off or across the line at the top, preserving the correct swing plane, and it can also aid extension back and through. Finally, it's absolutely critical for a proper takeaway.
It's important to note that the triangle stays in front of the body or chest all the way through the swing, and it can even be used for short game shots. The sides of the triangle near the base (your upper arms) should stay connected to the sides of your chest.
Using this triangle swing thought keeps the elbows related to the hips, especially the right elbow to the right hip, and helps maintain the swing radius. It's important on the backswing to remember that the right leg stays bent to get the full benefit from the triangle.
Simply form the triangle at address, lift the triangle vertically on the backswing (as if it swings around your neck) by rotating the shoulders (the right elbow naturally folds as it rises); allow the triangle to lower on the downswing using hip rotation, and allow it to lift vertically on the through swing. The triangle stays in front of the body the entire time; the triangle does not become "horizontal" or more parallel to the ground until you reach the top (going back in the takeaway, it should feel vertical, with right arm above the left). A full 90-degree shoulder turn is essential to using the triangle correctly, with the right shoulder pulling the triangle into position at the top.
During the takeaway, the right arm should remain straight for as long as possible, and it will initially stay above the left arm, as mentioned above. This will help keep the club head outside the hands during the takeaway, which is key to avoiding an OTT downswing. When the right arm finally does fold up, the right elbow should be pointing down at the ground--not behind the golfer (both elbows should stay relatively close together--as close as possible to the distance they were at address). Separating the elbows at the top is a major flaw that can lead to the arms collapsing, and it's a sign that the arms are doing more than merely moving vertically.
The movement of the shoulders is key; the triangle in the takeaway moves in response to the right shoulder pulling back and up behind the golfer, while the left shoulder tilts down. The right palm faces down toward the target line during the takeaway, such that the club face angle matches the spine angle. The arms, wrists, and elbows do very little to get the club back, but the arms rise vertically to get the club up.
The raising and lowering of this triangle (along with wrist action) constitutes the upward and downward motion of the golf swing, while hip rotation (and associated shoulder rotation) constitutes the horizontal, circular motion of the swing. At no time should the arms pull the club back behind the body; the correct feeling is a lifting up-and-down in front of the body without much independent arm movement.
Martin Hall has criticized this "triangle thought" because the arms don't actually maintain perfect triangles throughout. Instead, he argues for keeping your arm extension. Don't let this deter you. As with anything in golf: If it helps you then USE IT! Yes, we're not talking perfect triangles (the elbows do bend) but you get the point.
The triangle concept perfectly illustrates the takeaway. The butt end of the club should point roughly at the belt buckle during the takeaway (before the arms begin rising). If you're used to quickly pulling the club inside with your hands then this will feel really weird and wrong--as if you're outside the target line. But you're not! You're keeping the club head OUTSIDE your hands until the correct moment in the backswing by maintaining this triangle and keeping the butt end of the club pointing at your belt buckle in the takeaway. You've heard that the pitch shot is actually an abbreviated full swing; I think the pitch shot is either the takeaway or just beyond it with a little bit of wrist action!
However, there is ANOTHER triangle worth mentioning: the so-called "eternal" or "magic" triangle, formed by the angle of the left arm, club shaft, and an imaginary line from the left shoulder to the club face. The longer this triangle is maintained, the greater the lag. However, the first triangle we discussed is really the key to the "eternal" triangle. Not surprisingly, this also is the "L shape" of the left arm to club and Ernie Els' "maintained box" shape (he focuses more on the angles of the right arm to the club as opposed to the left). Keeping these angles ensures the use of the joints as levers (as in physics), which produces maximum lag and energy transfer.
Here is a quick drill: Hold the club straight out in front of you and extend your arms out as far as they can. This should create a TRIANGLE between your chest and your hands. This triangle is the key to a consistent golf shot. We want to keep this triangle formed throught the entire swing.
Take the triangle you form between your arms at the top of your swing and pump it up and down to waist high. Get the feeling that your right elbow grazes against your right hip. Don't jam it into your hip. Just make sure it connects in some way. Also, stand in front of a mirror and watch for the gap. When your right elbow grazes your right hip, you should see some space (daylight) between your forearms. If you see this, you are coming from the inside, and on your way to playing good golf.
You can also imagine a triangle, formed on two sides by the shaft of the club and the left arm, with the third side an imaginary line from the club head to the point of the left shoulder. From the top this triangle must be tilted and brought down a ways without changing the length of the imaginary side.
This we call the "eternal triangle," because it must be retained as long as possible. As the speed of the golf club head increases, the imaginary side of the triangle lengthens, of course, and the arm-shaft angle starts to open up. But the triangle should be kept constant as long as possible.
A one-piece takeaway also keeps your hands in front of you. Note that [Lucas Glover's] hands are still pretty much in front of his belt buckle, even though his wrists have begun to cock. (In case you're having trouble seeing it, the clubhead is just to the left of his elbow.)
1. Grip Points to Belt Buckle...To ensure correct hand height, the butt of the club should point at your belt buckle at address.
2. Clubface Points at Ball...One useful checkpoint is to see that your clubface is pointing at the ball as you swing the club back (right). This will head off two Common errors: fanning the clubface open so it points at the sky, or holding it closed so it points down at the ground. Either mistake forces you to become handsy if you hope to return the club back to square at impact.
3. Wrist Cock Blends with Turn...When your wrists begin cocking up, they should blend with your turn to keep the club on plane. You can check this by stopping your backswing when the shaft is parallel to the ground.
When I ask amateurs to show me how they start back, most will move the club away with only their hands and arms. What I want to see is the hands and arms moving in sequence with the rotation of the upper torso. All three should move together as one unit until the left arm gets parallel to the ground--at that point the swing's momentum will keep the hands and arms on plane.
A couple of things to notice in these photos: the shape of the triangle that she [Annika Sorenstam] keeps with her arms and chest, the way that the club head stays in the center of that triangle (in other words, no early wrist cock), and the way that her right arm stays above the left arm all the way to waist high.
Notice how the upper part of my left arm is still attached to my chest, while the clubhead is outside my hands as the club has traveled about halfway back. My left wrist is still cupped, my right arm is above the left and my right knee is still flexed. These positions, though simple, are absolutely critical.
Compare any of the greats in history and pause the video on the DTL view when the shoulders have rotated roughly 45* you will notice all of them have the triangle at that point between their chest and arms regardless of lift of the arms or rotation only. If the left arm looks higher then the right arm at a 45* shoulder turn then likely that person has come away inside and very flat.
So it is more about arms and chest working away from the ball as a single unit not really the right elbow staying close to the body, if you look at a face on view you will see most golfers that right elbow when the shoulders get turned 45* is actually a pretty good distance from the body.
A good way to take the club away from the ball as straight as possible without swinging the club overly outside or inside the target line is to focus on keeping the right forearm staying above the left during the takeaway. Even if you try to keep your right arm on top of the left on the backswing, it will automatically move under the left arm at the proper moment as you swing the club to the top. As your backswing continues toward its top, your right arm should start to fold at the end of the takeaway and move under your left.
Simply put: The right arm should be on top of the left arm as you start the backswing, and then it should move under the left arm as you swing the club to the top.
Many amateurs fold and shorten the right arm too early as they snatch the club away. What you really want is a relatively straight right arm during the initial part of the backswing as this promotes width and good pace -- keys to hitting solid shots.
Most golfers ruin any chance of hitting consistent golf shots within the first 6 inches of the golf swing takeaway.
The first takeaway mistake that I see most often is for the golfer to hinge the right wrist early or bow the left wrist (often, both are done together). Simply hinging the right wrist 45 degrees will move the club about 3 feet without the body having to move an inch.
The other common golf swing takeaway mistake is pushing the golf club back predominantly with the left arm and shoulder.
This is typically coupled with early right elbow flexion (i.e., bending), which should not occur until the takeaway is completed. In other words, the right arm should remain completely straight until the club is past parallel to the ground.
The right arms should stay “above” the left as you move the club away from the ball with the palm of your right hand pointing at the ball. This will keep the clubhead outside your hands and stop you from fanning the face open. When the club gets to parallel to the ground during the takeaway the clubhead should still be slightly outside your hands with the clubface parallel to the outside of your right arm.
Notice Nick Price’s right forearm and how it is comfortably above the left. This is all accomplished by pivoting the shoulders on a fairly steep plane. The higher the right shoulder, the higher the right forearm and so on…
In a correct pivot, the left shoulder’s first move is down and then slightly across. This is in direct contrast to what most golfers attempt to do with their shoulders, which is: a. turn them as much as they can and b. get the left shoulder behind the ball.