*Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin describes how Branden Grace won for the fourth time this year on the European Tour by shooting a 60 at Kingsbarns enroute to capturing the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday. Kevin offers his tips for going low and shooting your best possible score.
By Kevin Hinton
There are several things about Branden's swing I like, but one aspect in particular is the loose, free-swinging action he creates. One reason he can create this look is that he allows his left arm to bend in his backswing. Amateurs often report to me that their struggles are being caused by their failure to "keep the left arm straight," which closely trails only "I pulled my head up" as the most common complaint I hear.
The reality is, neither of those things are fundamentals to playing great golf. In addition to Branden, there are numerous examples of world-class players who have bent left arms at the top of the swing, as well as a few notable examples of great players whose left arm is bent at impact--Lee Westwood and Retief Goosen are the first that come to mind. Here are a few benefits you might notice by softening your left arm in your swing.
Lack of tension There is no easier way to add tension to your swing than by trying to keep your left arm unrealistically straight. Most people are not flexible enough to do so, and as they try, the tension in their swing builds. I'm not suggesting you bend your arm to the degree that the shaft rests on your shoulder, but it's important to find a middle ground. If you're working on straightening your left arm throughout your backswing, be certain to monitor your grip pressure and overall tension level. You might also realize that some stretching might be in order.
Better wrist hinge
In this video, you'll see that as Branden's left arm has reached parallel to the ground in his backswing, he has at least 90 degrees of wrist hinge. His left arm is not straight at this point. It's much easier to properly set the golf club when your left arm is "soft," not rigid or over-extended. By allowing his left arm to bend slightly, his right arm can fold, making it much easier to hinge the club.
More clubhead speed
The first two points are essential to producing the final product of a golf swing that creates ample clubhead speed. If you are overly tense and do not allow your wrists to hinge and unhinge properly, your potential for speed is significantly limited. I certainly get the argument that a straighter left arm can lead to a wider "arc" to your swing, but I feel for many golfers that the risks outweigh the potential reward. Most amateurs will benefit more by loosening up and allowing the club to swing freely. Branden is a great example of this.