The Influence of the Left Arm

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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In many of my previous columns, I have eluded to the swing plane. The plane of your swing directly influences how the club head moves into impact. Last month I discussed trackman, the industry’s leading launch monitor, and how we can truly now diagnose ball flight accurately. Honestly before pre trackman, diagnosing ball flight correctly was impossible.

I feel one of the most important pieces of the golf swing is the top of the backswing. The position of your arms at the top has a direct effect on how the club will move down into impact. The path of our golf swing and the club face angle in relationship to that path dictates how the ball will curve in the air.  Almost every time an outside to inside path will result in a ball flight that curves to the right (for a right handed golfer). Just the opposite is true for an in to out path. This will result in a right to left ball flight.

The location of the left arm (for a right handed golfer) at the top of the backswing will dictate the path through impact. 

Take a look at these 3 left arm positions.  Picture #1 illustrates a more vertical left arm as evidence that it is set above my right shoulder. Unless I reroute my hands and arms during my transition into the downswing, my path will be from out to in resulting in a left to right ball flight. In picture #3, my left arm is set underneath my right shoulder. This path will be in to out resulting in a draw from right to left.  I would classify picture #2 as a neutral left arm. As you can see, my left arm is directly over my right shoulder. This position will give golfers the best chance to create a path that is ever so slightly from the inside resulting in a straighter ball flight. Remember, the most difficult shot in golf is a straight ball due to the face that the path and face angle have to match up perfectly to produce this result. 

My advice, pick which ball flight suits your game the best and mimic that left arm position at the top of your backswing.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor at the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. For comments or to schedule a lesson, email John at