Checkpoints - 5 Minutes Backswing

If you who have already watched the complete 5 Minutes to the Perfect Backswing video, this is a great practice tool which accompanies that video. Creating the proper backswing positions will allow you to hit the ball dead solid and bomb your drives. Watch the full length video available to Premium Members and use this video as a refresher to help your practice sessions.

  • Shoulder elevation - bottom of elbows to bottom of pecs
  • Right elbow pit - facing straight up
  • Right elbow flexion - no more than 90°
  • Forearm rotation - 45°
  • Upper arm external rotation - 10-15°
  • Grab left thumb in right hand - some left arm rotation is fine
  • If elevation is correct, the left wrist will block the view of the right eye
  • Hinge from the hips, get a little bit of knee bend, and rotate back

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Eric
I think shoulder elevation was a big piece missing in my swing. I always worked on rotating in my golf swing, but without the elevation I would get stuck behind myself. It gives you a low take-away and you have to raise your arms up to get into any kind of a reasonable top of the back swing, which leaves you stuck with a flying right elbow. The combination of starting with the core oblique muscles to rotate with some elevation just feels really good (traces the movements of the book drill). I will keep an eye on the right elbow pit. I've also changed REF to WFEF, since i want to think about putting some weight into my right foot, weight shift. THANKS
September 17, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Eric. Yes, you must have some elevation to keep the arms in front and from going deep. Check out the 4 Square Drill.
September 17, 2019
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Chad
craig, I looked at the 4 square drill but if I concentrate on keeping my hands in front then I feel like I don't turn the right shoulder behind me, yet if I do a proper rotation and turn my right shoulder behind me then I feel like my hands whip too far to the inside, any suggestions? I guessing my hands should come in as I turn my right shoulder but I need to elevate, but I elevate way too much and get across the line at the top.
July 14, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Chad. Take a look at the Pool Noodle Drill to try and plug the pieces in slowly. Also, How to Keep the Left Arm Straight Video. You must allow for the lead arm to rotate from the shoulder socket to help set the plane and not cross the line while adding elevation.
July 14, 2019
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Kevin
I'm struggling with my left arm in the backswing. I am trying to keep connection to my pec but can't understand why I get it so far across my chest at the top of the backswing event though it appears I'm rotating. If I just elevate and rotate my backswing feels very short and choppy. I also feel like I dont make a good coil / rotate. Looking for some thoughts or feels on the connection of the left arm - thanks
April 23, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kevin. 1. You need to maintain better trail knee/glute load. You are losing your flexion too much which is affecting coil feel and hip turn (Load Right Leg Video). 2. You are pushing the arms across the chest. The arm swing should feel very short. They do relatively nothing in the swing. Slight elevation and flexion. Take a look at the 4 Square Drill Video to see how they stay in front. Also, How to Keep the Left Arm Straight Video to see how the lead arm rotates properly, but stays in front. And, the 5 Minutes to the Perfect Backswing Pitfalls Video for some checkpoints.
April 23, 2019
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Kevin
Thanks Craig..I think i have some opportunity with my right arm folding too much based on the "left arm straight drill" Appreciate your fast responses
April 23, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kevin. Most welcome and thanks for the compliment.
April 23, 2019
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Donlee
When I elevate as described (right elbow to bottom of pec), and incorporate prescribed flexion and rotation; my left forearm does not block my right eye. In fact, to achieve that position, I have to elevate a couple inches more. So which is more important, elevating to bottom of my pec or to a height sufficient to block my right eye?
November 14, 2017
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Donlee. Elevation is variable in the golf swing. You may have a little more or a little less than the base of the pectorals. The blocking out of the trail eye helps maintain the arms in front. Your goal should be focused more on keeping them in front rather than perfect elevation.
November 14, 2017
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Michael
Thank you for the latest video review insight. I can see all too clearly how my right arm folds too much and makes my swing narrow and long. The instruction is great. I am practicing hard and trying to really get into the positions shown and described. It is much more difficult than I imagined. Is there a typical time to see improvement from the many students that are using this site? As I am semi retired I am practicing the moves often. How much time needs to be spent to make rapid improvement.
June 14, 2016
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Michael, check out the learning how to learn video and other videos in the intro section that discuss what it takes to ingrain a movement pattern. Also, a great book that we really promote called the talent code. Glad you are enjoying the videos and the instruction and we look forward to working with you more on your game.
June 14, 2016
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Michael
Just reviewed the learning videos again as you suggested. I get it. And as said in the video "learning fast and practicing hard" means practicing the drills correctly and stacking bits of learning together with the appropriate feedback tools. I need to be my own teacher with your help. I just needed reminding. Thanks.
June 14, 2016
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
My pleasure Michael. We are all here to help you 100%.
June 14, 2016
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Christoph
Two quick questions: if I want the hands / arms to cover my right eye as shown in the video, I need to elevate my right elbow higher than the lower pec. Maybe I have a longer neck, no idea. Should I rather focus on the lower pec (and have the arm below my right eye) or do I need the eye to be covered (by elevating the right elbow more towards shoulder height)? Then, how "straight" should the left arm be after bending the right elbow to 80-90 degrees? I feel that naturally there is always just a tiny amount of bend. Is that ok? If I really try to keep the left arm completely straight, then I feel that I have a hard time reaching the 80-90 degree bend of the right elbow and, more importantly, it really tenses up the whole posture, which is not necessarily a good think right? Thanks a lot!
May 8, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Christoph. The eye is a checkpoint. This can vary a little depending on a someone's genetics. Base of pectoral is the ultimate goal. The left arm should be straight. It can be a little soft in the elbow. I don't want you to lock it out. One reason you might be experiencing the tension is not allowing for any wrist set.
May 9, 2016
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tony
With limited rt shoulder external rotation at the top like clay talked about, how much should the rt wrist be flexed (cupped?) while left is flat.
March 23, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Tony. The trail wrist will be cupped mid way. Not as much as holding a tray or as straight as a board. What you will need is to allow for a little more trail forearm rotation. This will give you the ability to be on a better path. Take a look at the Fix the Flying Elbow and 3 Functions of the Right Arm. If you lack the ability for external humeral rotation. As you fold the trail arm allow for some forearm rotation.
March 23, 2016
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Gary
Why does my right hand lifeline lose connection with my left thumb during my backswing? It's causing me inconsistency . I'm not sure but I also think my left heel pad may move about also, could that be gripping too much in the fingers with the left? Any help would be grateful, thanks.
February 17, 2016
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Gary
I think it could possibly be coming from the right arm breaking down
February 18, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Gary. Take a look at the Golf Grip Tips first to check your hand position. Secondly, it sounds like you are supporting your plane in the trail arm. Take a look at Creating a Swing Plane and the 3 Functions of the Right Arm. Make sure the club settles a little into the trail wrist.
February 22, 2016
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Tom
Hi Craig, I reviewed this video because I have been trying to determine how much elbow bend I should have and when. When I start my backswing I have been working on keeping my right knee bent and keeping my right elbow straight. I have always struggled to keep my backswing wide so I have spent a lot of time on the wide-narrow-wide video. I have a tendency to bend my right elbow when I get to the top of my backswing or I get in an uncomfortable position at the top went I try to keep my right elbow straight too long. What do you suggest since you know my swing? Finally, I received one of the weekly RST videos this week and their was an offer to receive 15% off on training aids. It appeared to be offered to people who were not premium members already. Can premium members get this deal as well and what do you think of me purchasing Perseus Anchor knee brace and the RotaryConnect tool? I think they would help with the swing items you are having me work on. Also, I purchased one of the Smash Bags from a local golf store and it fell apart in 3-4 months. Is that normal? It had a 90 day limited warranty but I was surprised it fell apart so quickly. Thanks again for you help and advice!
February 11, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Tom. Depending on the use with the smash bag. Some have been known to fall apart faster than others. I've had mine for 6 years with no problem. Probably, luck of the draw. You would have to ask Customer Service about the discount. They work on a different part of the system from the training aid store stand point. I don't think the Perseus Anchor or RotaryConnect would hurt your training at all. They might provide some new insight or feelings. However, you are on the cusp of maybe not needing them at all. I understand the feeling of the trail arm staying too straight. You can lock it too much and create discomfort. At some point the trail arm has to bend. I would try thinking from the 9 O'clock or takeaway position. Elevate, then add a little flexion + humeral rotation. Make sure you allow for the club to settle in the right wrist. Take a look at the 3 Functions of the Right Arm Video. Chris has redone the video with some new training and talks about the right wrist. It might be the key to help with discomfort.
February 11, 2016
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Johan
Clay, as you complete the takeaway the left wrist is still cupped from the setup and to keep you from going inside on the takeaway it is kept a little cupped. When does the transition to a flat left wrist happen and how is it done? Is it a biproduct of the 45 degree rotation? Can you explain in a little more detail than in this video?
January 14, 2016
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Johan, the rotation of the wrist coupled with the natural cocking of the wrist (setting the club), will inherently make the wrist work to a more flat position in the takeaway. Try rotating just wrist and then cocking it (ulnar deviation) and you will see that it flattens on its own. See the "using the wrists effectively and efficiently" video for further explanation of the movements.
January 14, 2016
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Stephen
Hi Craig, In this video Clay mentions about turning the right arm 45 degrees. However, in the 5 mins to the perfect backswing video "turning the wrist 45 degrees" is not mentioned. He says about flexing the right arm and this will rotate the left (lead) arm. Should I concentrate on trying to have45 degrees in the right wrist at the top of the backswing. When I do the backswing drills from Chucks videos my right wrist doesn't rotate but my lead arm does? Thanks for help. Stephen
December 9, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Stephen. As in the "3 Functions Video" where you can see the right forearm rotate is a key component. The folding of the right arm is what allows the left arm to rotate properly. You need to allow for some of the right arm rotation. More require this than others because of variances in the amount of external humeral rotation one can add. Clay cannot add a lot of external. Therefore, he really has to focus on making sure there is some rotation of the right arm not only for the club, but to help keep the right arm in place.
December 9, 2015
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Brian
Hello does the rotation of the forearm 45 degrees and 10 degrees external arm rotation help to get left wrist flat at top of swing? My tendency is cupped at top especially with driver. Should I continue with drill until wrist is flat or is slight bow acceptable?
November 13, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Brian. The lead arm will rotate as a function of folding the trail arm correctly. When you reach the top the trail wrist will have a little hinge/set. The lead arm rotation and the subtle move in the trail wrist will help flatten it at the top. Take a look at the Using the Wrist Effectively and Efficiently Video.
November 15, 2015
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Bob
To James rayson. On my last review you asked me for a response. My swing is okay my distance sucks I am turning better on the takeaway am having problems with my positions at the top of my swing will keep at it. I like your recommendation on transsitition. Will work on it. For your information I hit the driver consistently straight but my carry is 180 to 190 with no release or roll
October 28, 2015
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james (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey bob thanks for the message! Work on these backswing drills and then this will have a carry over effect to help your transition and we can ramp up your distance! Enjoy the drills mate!
October 29, 2015
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fulbert
For someone who's slightly across the line because the right elbow is outside the right shirt seam will this feel more of being laid of and flat at the top?
October 20, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Fulbert. Yes, it will feel more laid off. However, in actuality you are matching your parallel shift plane better.
October 20, 2015
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Chris
Trying to make sure I'm getting into the right position at the top. In this video Clay says the left arm should slightly cover the right eye. If I get to the position then rotate it seems my hands are higher then Chucks hands are in the other backswing videos.
August 7, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Christopher. As you bend and rotate into position keeping the head looking at the ball. You left arm won't be blocking the right eye. Take a look at the Pitfalls Video in this Section. I discuss the same topic and you will be able to see.
August 8, 2015
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Loran
This hands on golf club below the right eye line is for every golfer...of different body types and height? Any higher than that is considered high shoulder elevation that leads to a reverse pivot?...a curvature of the spine?
June 27, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Loan. If the lead arm leaves the trail eye then you have either elevated too much or rotated the lead arm to an excessive degree. It should be the same relative to body size. Higher than this position can easily lead to over swinging an a reverse pivot type position.
June 27, 2015
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GARY
Hi. During this drill I have been told to not let my left arm bend and that rotating it will prevent it from bending. When I do this then I end up having my right eye blocked by the middle of my left forearm and not the wrist as the video says??? By the way thanks for the advice re: my SLAP type 2 tear.
June 12, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Gary. It will block roughly the forearm/wrist position. It sounds like you are on the right track. However, check to make sure you aren't adding more than 90 degrees of flexion with the trail arm.
June 12, 2015
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Lee
Hi, I might be having a problem keeping the right arm in front of me as it appears that it is swinging open. The left arm is remaining extended and I have a nice triangle at the top so position looks good. Can you clarify the right arm position at the top and relation in front of the shoulder? thanks!
May 25, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Lee. Take a look at the 3 Functions of the Right Arm in this same section. You want to maintain the connection of the upper right bicep and pectoral.
May 25, 2015
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Jeffrey
Hi. I can't seem to find an answer to this in the videos or comments. How much wrist set (or lag) should we have at the top of the backswing before we "downcock" and proceed with the downswing? In other words, what is the ideal angle between our wrists and forearms at the top before we transition? I know that we should have 25% of wrist set during the takeaway, but 25% of what?? I think I tend to "overset" my wrists on the backswing, causing the club to go past parallel and resulting in a lack of an ability to downcock. I think this causes me to cast the club rather than keep or create lag in my downswing. Thanks!
May 22, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Jeffery. Take a look at the Pencil Tee Drill in the Takeaway Advanced Section and the 5 Minutes to the Perfect Backswing Pitfalls (3rd Segment in the Video). 25% of wrist set would equal club parallel to the ground and hands inline with the base of the trail pocket. Given the shoulder elevation is correct. In the pitfalls video I describe the angle and box formation at the top.
May 22, 2015
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Stephen
Hi craig, on this video clay talks about rotating his right forearm 45 degrees at the top of his swing. i recognise that i dont do this. should i concentrate in getting this engrained into my swing. when i rotate my left wrist it doesnt not rotate my right wrist that much at the top of my swing. what is the importance 45 degrees rotation of the right wrist
May 16, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Stephen. The rotation of the trail arm helps set the club on the plane and maintain the external humeral rotation. Keeps the scapula in the proper location to allow addition of core rotational speed in the downswing. I haven't seen an issue with this in your swing. But, will be happy to check next review.
May 16, 2015
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David
I have a problem keeping my left arm straight in the backswing. Is there an exercise or video covering this please
April 5, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello David. The left arm bends because the right arm bends too much. If you keep the right arm from bending more the 90 degrees. It will be hard to bend the left arm. Take a look at the 3 Functions of the Right Arm in the Advanced Backswing Section. No more than 90 degrees of flexion with the right, will keep the left straight.
April 5, 2015
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Brian
Does the 45 degree forearm and 10 degree arm rotation / movement occur naturally during the backswing? Or is it some that has to be practiced. Also is there another video that shows a flat left wrist at the top. Thanks
November 1, 2014
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R.J. (Certified RST Instructor)
Brian, Yes, it's the natural progression getting from the end of the takeaway to the top of the backswing with your right elbow flexion and right humerus rotation. Every backswing video will have a flat wrist at the top of the swing. R.J.
November 2, 2014
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Gregory
How much shoulder turn should you have when the club is at hip height in the backswing? Is too much shoulder turn right off the ball a good or bad thing? I struggle with whipping the club inside and not sure if it is overactive hands ( or leg arm , see I am learning!) or too much shoulder turn early. Thanks Greg
October 8, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Gregory. You want 45 degrees of shoulder turn and the completion of the takeaway or club parallel to ground. It is rare to see a player over rotate to this position, not saying it doesn't happen though. It's more than likely over active hands. Focus on the Bucket Drill in the Takeaway Section and the Understanding Shoulder Elevation Video in the Backswing Section.
October 9, 2014
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Pierre
Thank you that helps a lot!
October 7, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Pierre. Your Welcome. Glad you liked!
October 7, 2014
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Toby
I have made screenshots of the positions Chuck (in "Completing the Backswing") and Clay (in this video) indicate shoulder elevation should put your elbows. I have adjusted the screenshots to account for size differences. Unfortunately I cannot post an image here, but the two position have nothing at all to do with each other.
September 28, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Toby. Shoulder elevation is to the base of the pectoral. If you are confused about the position or the images you captured. You may email them to me to. I have no problem taking a look. craig@rotaryswing.com
September 28, 2014
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Seth
Is there a gradual forearm rotation in each arm during the entire back swing? At full speed during the backswing I would think there would be a blend of the takeaway and completing the backswing into one fluid movement, giving the feeling of slight rotation for each forearm throughout the entire backswing.
June 20, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Yes, there is gradual rotation in the forearms. The rotation will be mostly passive. And the majority will happen from the takeaway to the top as right elbow flexion occurs. Pulling the left arm across center line and allowing for forearm rotation.
June 20, 2014
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claudio
I have a relatively strong grip and naturally my flat left wrist at the top is cupped. In my last swing review I was advised to have a flat left wrist at the top. I tried to flatten my left wrist at the top; it feels awkward and the club face looks very closed at top. My understanding is that what it is really important is to have a flat left wrist at impact. My questions are: - Is it truly necessary to have a flat left wrist at the top?. - How should I manipulate my left wrist? At setup, at the top or in the downswing (currently, my left wrist goes flat naturally at impact?
May 29, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Claudio, we would like to get the wrist as flat as possible at the top. If the wrist is cupped, we will require more manipulation to square up the face at the bottom. And there's not a whole lot of time to do that. Make sure it isn't to strong at Setup. That is the first culprit. Make sure the V between you thumb and index finger is pointing in-between the head and right shoulder. Check to make sure you are getting the proper left forearm rotation at the top due to the folding of the right arm. In the above video at 2:25 are you able to replicate the flat left wrist when working the arms in front and grabbing the left thumb? If you can, this is a position we would like to work towards while having a club in are hand.
May 29, 2014
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claudio
Thanks Craig. It looks that I can flat my wrist by just adding left arm rotation and without changing my grip. I will give it a try at the range
May 29, 2014
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michael
I am a right-handed golfer. What is the right elbow to do on the downswing? What is it's purpose on the downswing?
May 28, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
The right elbow/arm will work in front of the body on the downswing to allow maximum transfer of energy from your rotating torso at impact.
May 28, 2014
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Michael
Craig in my latest review you referred me to this video as I was not getting enough left arm rotation as a result of folding the right arm. I mentioned wrist cock but what I meant to say is that my own self analysis after listening to your comments is the feeling or thought of folding the right arm earlier after the takeaway is completed. This will produce more left arm rotation earlier and keep the right arm in front with right elbow pit facing target line. Also avoids left arm push about half way back. Of course I will monitor width but do not think it will be a problem. You agree. Thanks good review.
May 16, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Mike sounds like you are in the right direction and also sounds like Craig is keeping you on the correct path. Keep us posted on how things are going.
May 17, 2014
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james
Hi guys, been working on the backswing quite a bit now and the position seems good only the club points down the line rather than being in line with my left arm at the top. My right elbow has externally rotated and flexed. I am also concentrated on rotating the left forearm to get this straight line but it doesn't seem to be fixing this. Any tips? I have a picture too but where can I upload?
April 25, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey James, the picture function is not available just yet. We are working on that. Is the left wrist nice and flat at the top?
April 26, 2014
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john
after watching Clay Ballard going over the main checkpoints of the back swing I was surprised to find he emphasizes rotating the wrist /hand externally to such a degree. Will the club not be pointing off line with such external rotation?
April 7, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
That rotation that you are seeing is critical to keeping the clubface square throughout the takeaway and into the backswing. If you were to take the club in just the left arm only, and work to the top of the swing with a flat left wrist, you would see the that the wrist/forearm rotates (pronates) quite a bit. The right wrist will be reacting to this rotation by supinating as the left arm is responsible for controlling the club face during the swing.
April 8, 2014

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