The “flying” right elbow is what technically elevated Jack’s technique above those of his contemporaries. – David Lee
Unfortunately, for the golf world, when Jack Nicklaus appeared on the golf scene, he did a less than adequate job of explaining “why” he let his right elbow “fly” during his backswing. Ben Hogan had kept his right elbow tucked during his backswing, and had successfully convinced the world that he had perfect mechanics.
When Jack came along a few years later, with a totally different routing in the right arm, it was perceived by many as a flaw in his technique. No one considered the possibility that Jack was the one swinging the club in total compliance with the physics laws and that Hogan’s technique should have been the one in question. Hogan’s book “The Fundamentals of Modern Golf” had become the “bible” of golf instruction, and wasn’t going to be changed without a good explanation for doing something different.
In a proper golf swing, the right elbow leads in the back-swing, lays into the “slot” during the change of direction, and leads the forearm, hand, and club through impact. The more width that is in the right shoulder joint throughout the backswing and the change of direction, the easier it is for the body’s core to connect to the arms and sling them through impact. If there is insufficient width in the right shoulder joint through the change of direction, the brain will sense “slack” in that joint and involuntarily cause the shoulders and arms to tighten as they start down, in an effort to cover the slack. When this occurs, core-speed through impact can be diminished and the swing path can easily be disrupted. Women who play with too little arc width will have very limited power.
Learning how to route the right arm (or left if you’re a southpaw) correctly, is one of the most important keys to easy power and control in your golf swing.
The flying right elbow is a piece of a dynamic whole mechanism that should be controlled by the footwork from the ground up. The flying arm creates width that will allow good footwork and core rotation to increase the speed of the club during delivery and eliminates slack that occurs when the elbow stays down through the backswing. A tucked elbow position requires muscular tension throughout the swing to maintain connection between the core and the arms.
Study the “Gravity” golf one-arm drills, focusing on properly routing the leading elbow in the back swing: right elbow for right-handed players and left elbow for left-handed players. They are critical for the development of a fluid and dynamic swing.