A common issue killing golfers over the age of 50: The flying elbow. The flying elbow occurs at the top of the backswing and is when the right elbow is pointing behind you instead of down at the ground.
From this position, it is nearly impossible to attack the golf ball from the correct inside to square approach path. The result is typically a swing path that causes a slice. In addition, the swing is typically a lot steeper resulting in poor contact with the golf ball and more frequent fat shots.
I find this to be very common in golfers over 50 because, outside of the golf swing, most people do not use this motion very often. Young golfers can get away with this but as golfers pass the age of 50, they need to practice the proper back swing position in order to keep the range of motion.
The correct position of the elbow/forearm is in line with the golfers spine.
In order to have the forearm in proper alignment you need to have approximately 90 degrees of shoulder external rotation. To test yourself, stand with your back flat against a wall. Raise your arms to make an “L” shape as shown in the picture below:
Without arching your back, can you put your arms flush against the wall from your shoulders to your wrists? If you cannot, your body is causing swing faults that will not be corrected with lessons, drills, or quick fixes. You need to upgrade your most important piece of golf equipment: your body!
Step 1: Stretch
First you need to improve your shoulder rotational range of motion:
Sit next to a table/counter and place your forearm on the surface PARALLEL TO YOUR BODY. Bend forward at the hips until you feel a strong stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds…repeat often.
Step 2: Train the Body
Once you have regained your normal shoulder range of motion, you need to train the body to use the new position to dramatically regain power and accuracy. The best training aid that you can use is the Golf Impact Ball – Golf Swing Trainer Aid – Mens
However, you can use a rolled up towel that is 6-10 inches in diameter when rolled up (this is more cumbersome than the Impact Ball…but free).
Put the towel in between your elbows and squeeze your elbows together to hold the towel in place. From there, take your normal backswing focusing on squeezing the towel. You can perform this drill at home or on the golf range.
Warning Concerning Training Aids
Although this may seem like a technicality, it is VERY important to use something that you can squeeze in between your elbows instead of the training aids that strap your elbows together. The reason is that when your elbows are strapped together, you are pushing your elbows apart to keep the straps tight. You are training the wrong thing! You want to train the muscles that squeeze the elbows together so you can translate the drill into your actual swing on the golf course.
Please take the time to correct this swing fault, it will make a huge difference in your power and ball striking!
Article by: Dr. Ryan York is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Golf Performance Specialist. He Co-created Age Defying Golf EZ: Complete Golf Fitness Solution for Golfers Over 50 and Pain Free Golf: Solutions for Golfers Over 50
which serves men and women golfers between the ages of 50-75 years young.