Can you imagine Jordan Spieth firing up Google and typing in ‘the importance of a straight left arm in the golf swing’. No, of course not.
Not only is three-time major champion Spieth capable of doing things with a golf ball the rest of us can only dream about, the 25-year-old American has honed an uncanny ‘chicken wing’ golf swing release all his life and it’s something that works for him and only several others in the game such as Lee Westwood.
But let’s emphasise those three little words again… works for him. Even his coach Cameron McCormick, who has worked alongside Spieth for 12 years, understands that.
“We’ve allowed him to develop these patterns with heavy priority with what the ball’s telling us in terms of function versus some architectural or appearance we want to fit into it,” said McCormick. “We’ve let his fingerprint be his fingerprint.”
As you can see from the image above, Spieth’s left arm is bent like a chicken wing as he makes contact with the ball.
This is because he’s working hard to keep the clubface from rotating through impact. He has figured out that the less the clubface rotates through the ball, the less he has to rely on timing, so the more repeatable it is.
You could say he is essentially hitting a glorified block all the time. But it works for him.
Nine-time major winner Gary Player is having none of it, though.
“Jordan’s got a bad fault in his swing and I am shocked that his coach can’t see it,” Player said during the 2016 Open Championship. “He stands there every day and they can’t see what he is doing.”
Even Johnny Miller – shock, horror – weighed in after Spieth’s fall on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National when throwing away The Masters in 2016.
“I’m looking forward to seeing if he and his teacher address that bent left arm,” said Miller. “It seems like it’s more bent at impact and after impact than last year. It will be interesting to see if we see a little swing change to eliminate that shot to the right.”
Well 11 PGA Tour titles and a Wanamaker Trophy away from landing the career Grand Slam at the age of 25 isn’t too bad, no guys?
In many ways, the chicken wing release is the reason why Spieth has got so consistently good at golf. It’s ingrained in his system to swing exactly like this on a weekly basis. Like a robot. Just like it is for McIlroy to swing – ok, more beautifully to the eye – with a straight left arm at impact.
We can assure every single one of you reading this that if you were to try and put Jordan’s successful ‘chicken wing’ release into play on the range this weekend, you might make clean contact with one of your first 20 balls.
Spieth is perhaps a radical example of every golf swing tip coming with a warning, but you get the point. Removing Spieth’s finishing move would be like taking the ‘People’s Elbow’ away from The Rock.
Yes, a straighter left arm is recommended by most swing coaches out there. Heck, even McCormick would likely agree with that. But who is to say if his pupil was to make a full pronation and supination of his arms coming into impact that he wouldn’t be shanking it all over the place?!
Every golf swing tip you see us produce on GolfMagic.com, and any others you check out on the net or in mags – how very dare you – should come with a written warning.
We caught up with The Belfry’s PGA National Academy senior coaches Ben Frost and Phil Akers, who both landed on making sure the prescription fits the condition…
“I absolutely agree that all golf swing tips, or lessons for that matter, should come with a warning,” says Frost.
“Much of it depends exactly where the swing tip came from. There are so many videos out there on YouTube but they’re all aimed at the masses.
“You need to know the tip in question relates to you, and you only. You might think it does, but do you know 100%? The tip in question might have helped your friend, it might have helped six of your friends for that matter, but if it doesn’t work for it’s worthless.”
“I agree, it’s very, very dangerous if the amateur doesn’t really know their game,” said Akers.
“A lot of amateurs misdiagnose their ball flights, they misdiagnose what they’re actually doing wrong in the swing.
“Let’s say someone thinks they’re hitting a hook but it’s actually a pull hook, you can create that shot shape from any one of the three swing directions or paths. The hook you can only create from one of those swing paths.
“Then they then go on to YouTube and look at an anti hook drill where the coach is explaining how to change one of those paths, when really it might be any one of those swing paths that they’ve got to cure.
“I think for the average amateur to take tips off the internet, unless you clearly know what your ball flight is and it’s actually specific to you, then I’d say everything should come with a warning.
“That’s why I’ve paid £40,000 for my education to learn all of this stuff! You wouldn’t get a plumber to do your electrics, would you? I think that can sometimes be the case when amateurs are diagnosing their own games. Go and see your PGA pro who will diagnose it all first.
“Once you know what it is you’ve got to work on, I think exploring around that topic is absolutely fantastic so that you can build up your knowledge. You can then question your coach and ask them about it during your next lesson.”
Frost also believes you can work so hard on fixing one swing fault that you actually end up causing another, so finding balance is key.
“Another reason why a swing tip or lesson should come with a warning is that if you were trying to fix a slice, for example, and the main cause is the club going left, you need to try and learn to swing more to the right.
“The problem there is that you can sometimes overdo that so you actually turn a slice into a hook. This is something I find is very common with amateurs I teach.
“You might walk away and think well that was a crap lesson, but it’s actually not. A slice to be better needs to move towards a hook, but you need to know that when you get to that midpoint that you stop.
“Everything can be overdone. Every good move can go too far and become a bad move.”
Frost’s biggest warning about swing tips, however, are injuries. The single biggest factor that prevents us from playing and enjoying our beautiful sport.
“Injuries in golf are just terrible,” said Frost. “The worst cause for injuries are us trying to gain distance.
“So when you look at the X Factor, which is a very real thing where we try and get the hips and shoulders separated, there’s a stretch and tension going down your back. As you turn your hips towards the target and your shoulders trail behind them, you’re creating speed.
“The problem is that this is all putting pressure on you. If it’s too much pressure then it’s going to hurt you and cause problems.
“It’s all good to hit the golf ball a long way, but if we’re injured from doing so and can no longer enjoy the game then it’s pointless.”
Should any symptoms of shanks, slices, blocks, pulls, duffs, air shots and bad backs occur from your next golf swing tip, please seek your PGA professional right away.