There are many misconceptions about what players “must” do in order to hit a golf ball. Many golfers keep the right elbow close to the side throughout the backswing. This is thought to prevent coming over the top by keeping the club inside. However, legendary golf instructor Harvey Penick said, “The result is a swing that is too short and flat.”
Take a look at the swing of almost every good golfer. The right elbow is away from the body when the club is parallel to the ground and underneath the hands at the top of the backswing.
It’s never easy to make changes to a golf swing, but here’s a drill that can help golfers keep the right elbow away from the body. Grab the 7 iron out of your bag and take a normal address position with both hands on the club. Now, remove the left hand from the club and place it on your hip. Swing your right arm back as if you were making a one-armed swing until the club is pointed straight up. Your elbow will be away from your body and pointed at the ground. Now, reach your left arm back and put your hand on the club. Notice how much you will have to turn your shoulders to do this! To complete the backswing, just swing your arms up over your shoulder.
Another simple way to feel this is to assume the address position and, without standing up, swing your arms straight up and over your right shoulder, higher than your ear. Don’t turn, just pretend like you are chopping wood. Notice how your right elbow comes up. This is the way your arms should move in your backswing – just add a little body turn.
Your right elbow comes back to your side, but on the downswing, not the backswing. Mr. Penick called this the magic move – the right elbow goes to the side as your weight returns to the left. This can only happen if your elbow goes away on the backswing.