Head Down, Left Arm Straight

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Golf Podcasts. Towards the end of the majority of them there will normally be a short Q&A session where invariably the presenter will ask,

“Name the worst bit of advice that you could give to a golfer”

After a brief pause, the interviewee will pretty much without fail quip…

“Head Down. Left Arm Straight”

Now, the fact that the golfing public in general has tended to somewhat overstate the importance of keeping your left arm straight and head down has long been a point of derision for many coaches. Once seen as a common staple of a stable swing, it has now regressed into nothing more than cannon fodder. 

I, myself, would agree with the notion that the reason that the person in front of you didn’t hit a good shot probably wasn’t because they lifted their head or bent their left arm.

Yet, the fact still remains…

Most good players DO keep their head down and left arm straight

Don’t they?

I mean, they do.

In riposte to this, most people will then say…

“Duval turns his head. So does Sorenstam and Stenson. And as for the left arm, Goosen and Westwood bend their left arm”.

You’re right. They do. But as some people only go looking for aesthetics anyway, why go looking for a flexed lead wrist when Els and Simpson don’t? Why try keeping the pressure on your left foot when prime Tiger didn’t? What’s the difference between that and “head down, left arm straight” in that regard?

It’s not that I’m saying that it’s a great bit of advice (it’s not) nor that it explains every mis-struck shot (it doesn’t) but why is it so much worse than any other bit of advice that doesn’t keep the ball flight in front of you in mind?

What’s more, it is very tempting to not only think that it is a poor bit of advice but actually TELL the person in front of you that it is. To grab the club off them, hit one shot keeping your head down and top it and another shot keeping your head down and rip it. And then do the same with the left arm. Then look back at them quizically.

Don’t do this (hands up, I have).

It does nothing but completely alienate them, make them feel stupid and make you seem like a know-it-all.

Besides, if they feel it helps them then does it really make a difference? Who are we to judge or to tell them not to?

You might also be fighting against past experiences. Tennis players, for instance, will often get taught to watch the ball onto the racquet face. If that same tennis player tries their hand at golf, you telling them to not do the same in golf goes against years and years of an ingrained way of thinking. You don’t have much hope.

With all of this, though, if you feel that them keeping their head down and/or keeping their left arm straight (and likewise if they’re not) is affecting the ball flight then please DO address it. Both things if done to the extreme can absolutely affect the quality of the shot. But, especially if focusing on these two points is helping them, there could be worse things for them to be thinking of.


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