Golf Downswing Forearm and Shaft Alignment/Plane

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Published: February 18, 2014

When a golfer first looks at their own golf swing on video with their golf instructor or on their own, it can be as confusing as a wiring schematic for Boeing 747. There are so many things that can be broken down and dissected in the golf swing that a road map of the things that really matter is very important.

With this video, I talk in depth about what is one of the most important positions in the golf swing. The alignment of the club shaft and the right forearm at the right stage in the downswing is paramount for getting your shots to start off on their intended line.

If you study the photo below of Chuck Quinton on the right and Ernie Els on the left, you can see this alignment clearly demonstrated.

ernie els golf swing

In the picture on the left, Ernie was struggling with pulling the ball during this tournament. Note the shaft coming high through his right bicep at this point in the swing whereas my shaft on the right is bisecting my right forearm.

From this position, I can continue to rotate and release the club aggressively without any fear of missing the shot left. Ernie Els has to either hold the club face open with his hands or stop everything from releasing and come into impact very weak to avoid pulling this shot.

As you will see in the video, he pulled this shot as he released the club normally. Ernie had to work on getting the shaft shallower on the way down at this tournament with Robert Baker and Adrian Wadey (from our Golf Instruction videos) in order to stop pulling the ball.

As you will see in the golf video above, this is a simple thing to check once you understand it's importance and what to look for in your own golf swing.

So the next time you are pulling the pull, check your club shaft and forearm alignment at this point in the golf swing and see if you are simply getting too steep. This video includes other golf swings and examples of this position from Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Adrian Wadey and Chuck Quinton.


Checkpoints for Practice

  • A pull can be caused by many different factors, but there's one critical angle to look for
  • If the shaft comes down through the right forearm in the downswing, you are probably going to hit straight shots
  • The shaft should come through the middle of the right bicep, then through the forearm when the hands are about over the feet
  • There are many other dynamic factors, but in terms of the shaft itself following the proper plane, this angle is key
  • See the video for examples of pulls & straight shots by Ernie Els, Adrian Wadey, Adam Scott, and Chuck Quinton

Video Transcription: Forearm and Shaft Alignment

A lot of golfers pull shots, and really don't understand what exactly is causing this. For each golfer, it can be something entirely different. It can be something dealing with the grip, it can have to do with the way that you rotate your body, the backswing plane, the downswing plane, etc., etc.

Shaft through right forearmCritical angle: Shaft through right forearm

All these things can get really complicated for the average golfer who's not sitting here studying golf swings constantly and working as an instructor.

For those of you who are out there and you're looking at your own swings on tape and it just looks like trying to dissect a topographical map to you and you don't quite get it, I'm going to give you the anatomy of a pull, using some video samples here of different golfers, and show you.

When it comes down to the golf swing, at the end of the day we're always just looking for a repeatable impact.

But if you're looking at just still frames, a lot of golfers can look exactly the same at impact, but there's one angle that's really, really critical that I'm going to talk about here to help you understand where a pulled or a pushed or a blocked golf shot is going to come from.

Today, specifically, we're going to deal with pulled shots and I'm going to show you, using several different golfers, including professional golfers and myself, the angle that really, really matters right before impact, and that is this angle that you can see with the shaft here, through my right forearm.

Chuck's hands are deepChuck's hands are deep

It seems kind of like a silly little thing, but it's a really, really great way to check whether or not your swing is coming down properly on plane. You can ignore the rest of the golf swing. You can ignore the takeaway, you can ignore the top of the backswing position. If you get this reasonably right, you're going to be able to hit straight golf shots.

Now obviously there's a lot of other dynamic factors that go into there, but as far as the shaft itself coming down on plane and getting the ball to leave more or less - we're not talking about club face angles and those types of things in this video, just about the shaft being on the proper plane to give you the best chance of launching the ball at your target without pulling or pushing it - this is the only angle that matters.

If you can see a shaft going through the middle of your right - obviously this is for right handed golfers - going through the center of your right forearm at this point in the golf swing.

Club through bicepThrough the middle of the right bicep

What is "this point in the golf swing?" Basically, every golfer at one point or another, when their hands get back down toward the target line, right over their feet - you can see that here my hands are deep. As they come back down, right here, my hands are just about over my feet again.

For certain golfers who work their arms more out, it might be a little bit farther out but either way you can see that this shaft is traveling, at this point it's through the middle of my right bicep when my hands are still deep behind me, and as it comes back down, right through the center of my right forearm.

Over here on the left I've got video of Ernie Els in South Africa, playing at an event when Adrian Wadey, a good buddy of mine and guys you know from instructional DVDs, who was working with Ernie and Robert Baker at the time because Ernie was pulling all his golf shots and they couldn't get him to stop pulling them.

I'm going to go ahead and advance through this real quick here so you can see the angle at which Ernie's shot leaves the club face. I'm going to walk through this. You can see that from his target line to the actual intended target line, he's pulled the shot.

Pulled shotErnie Els' pulled shot

Now obviously Ernie's a professional golfer so he's not going to have a dramatic yank where it's going to look like it's going 50 yards left of him, but for a Tour pro trying to win a tournament this is pretty bad. This is definitely going to cause you to miss some shots and lose some money.

Ernie was struggling with pulling the shots, and you can see very clearly where this comes from as we go back and do just a little bit of detective work.

This is the reason I'm doing this video, so that you can do some detective work on your own. When you're starting to understand how to look at your golf swing on video and understand the elements that really, really matter, this is one that is at the top of the list.

As we get back into that position that I was talking about, watch Ernie's shaft come down. Right here, it's very high through his bicep. At this point, I would say 9 times out of 10 he's going to pull it.

The only way that he could not pull it from this position is to manipulate something coming down into impact at the last second. Either stop your body rotation, or get weak through impact and slap at it with your hands or try to correct it. But if you're just making a normal, free golf swing, this is going to be a pull all day.

The shaft at this point, ideally, would be more at this angle, then as he comes down into the next frame we'd want to see it come all the way down through his right forearm, so he's way too steep here. That whole week of this tournament, he pulled all of his shots.

Ernie Els pulled shotThe club is too high on the right bicep (left), then outside of hands (center). The ball starts out on line (right)

You can see very clearly here that that shaft is well above the ideal position. From here, it's still very steep at this point, coming down, and you can see that the club head has actually gotten outside of his hands.

The shaft is pointing more at the ball picker that you can see between his forearm and his leg here, and that's about where the ball is going to start out on line. It's going to start out more on this line because the club head and the shaft have worked outside and above the swing plane. As he comes through, of course he pulls it here.

Now on the right, you can see that as the club comes down - we're missing a frame here, but the frame should show that the club is just about even with my hands as it comes through. I can easily release everything - my body, everything through the shot - and the ball starts out on my intended target line. No pull here. That's all from just getting this shaft going right through my right forearm here.

Now let's take a look at a couple of other golfers. Let's take a look at Adam Scott here. Adam is another great example of a great ball striker, and this is a good shot of his. We know he's a very accurate ball striker anyway.

Compare Chuck to Adam ScottCompare Adam Scott (left) to Chuck Quinton (right) - their positions are nearly identical

As we go through here and walk his swing, as we come down watch how the shaft works down. This is just about perfect. Remember earlier I talked about being low on that right bicep. You don't want to be too low. You can be too flat, and then you can start blocking everything or snap hooking everything, but it's very low on his bicep and his hands are deep here.

This is almost identical to where I'm at as we come down.

Then as he comes down, right there, perfect. Right through the right forearm. Same thing you see here. Now you know that he can just keep firing from here. He doesn't have to make any manipulations or stop his body turning through impact. He's just going to be able to keep going right through here.

Notice how that shaft looks very different than the shaft that Ernie had. Ernie's was outside of his hands. He wasn't able to hit from the inside. He was just coming right over the top of it.

Adam is able to really fire everything through here and release the snot out of that golf club, and look at the ball come out perfectly straight along his target line.

Shaft through forearmBoth golfers get the shaft through the right forearm

Another golfer we're going to look at, just to get different perspectives on everything, is Adrian Wadey. We'll take a look at his golf swing here. I've got a couple of them that I'm going to look at. Hopefully this is the one I wanted.

We'll take a look at his golf swing as he comes down. Now, notice how the shaft is right about in the middle of his right bicep here. This is good. As he comes down just a hair steep, but very, very close to being perfect.

Actually, it's going to end up OK as long as we go to the next frame - right there - just about through the middle of his forearm. Now, when Adrian and I were working on his swing, this was before the 2006 Utah Open where he finished 7th. He played really, really well there.

When we were making changes to his swing he was a little bit off on some of these things that are more important dynamics, because we were focusing on other things throughout his golf swing, so this is not a typical position for Adrian, but still you can see the effect of what's going on here.

Right through the right forearm, club stays to the inside. As it comes through, perfect, releases dead straight.

Shaft through bicepAdrian Wadey: Shaft through the right bicep (left), then through the right forearm (right)

That's what you're looking for, when you're trying to dissect your own golf swing, is that that shaft never comes in steep. I can show you some more examples. If we look at one of mine here, this could be one where I got a little bit steep, where I was struggling with this a little bit, myself.

As I come down...oh, no, this one's fine. Right low on the right bicep, just a little bit beneath the right forearm. I think that's more of a camera angle issue as it comes through.

Now here's one where you can see where the shaft gets just a little bit steep, and it's going to be just a hair steep. Let's draw some alignment angles here.

Feet just about on this line, shoulders are just about on this line or so. I believe I was probably hitting a little bit of a cut into this yellow flag, because I think the wind was blowing that direction. That's about where I'm trying to hit this golf shot, maybe just a touch left of that.

Chuck Quinton pulled shotChuck Quinton: Shaft high on bicep (left), above forearm (center), pulled shot (right)

Now as we walk through, everything looks great here, great here. Now as I come back down, notice that shaft is high through my right bicep again. Right there, it needs to be just an inch or two lower, looking through the right bicep. That's going to make a big difference up here, where it's going to be three or four inches lower.

Right there, this is the angle that we're talking about again, where that shaft is above that right forearm. There's no way that I can not pull this, unless I just hold the club face wide open and wipe across it. If I just make a normal golf swing this ball is going to start out left of my target line because it's too high. This shaft has got to be all the way down over here.

Now as I come down, the club head is starting to get outside my hands. As I hit it, definitely pulled it there. I probably held, just predicting that that was going to happen, I probably held onto that shot and hit a cut.

Whether I was intentionally doing it or subconsciously doing it to avoid just a big yank left, either way the ball started out left of my target line, and it's solely because of this angle.

Chuck Quinton comparisonChuck Quinton: Compare pull (left), with straight shot (right)

This is something that's very, very, very critical to check in your golf swing. If you're doing your own video analysis and you start to see this, you can see clearly from the pictures here on the left and right, there's a big difference here between where the shaft is coming down with the right forearm.

As far as how to get this position, attain this position throughout the golf swing, there are so many factors that are involved there and it's different for every single golfer. One of the keys in doing this is if you're rotating hard from the top, as you are a one planer, it's important that you have a steep enough shoulder plane and that your arms are low enough, and you have time for those arms...

You're either going to have to let your arms fall a little bit from this position, if I was correcting my swing here, or I have to get a little bit steeper, or have my arms a little bit flatter at the top. Either one of those three things, those are three possible corrections.

Possible solutionsSolutions: Lower the arms, steepen the spine angle, soften arms so shaft falls

I could lower my shaft, lower my arms a little bit at the top and that would get me into that position that I'm looking for. I could steepen my spine angle and shoulder plane here, or I could relax my arms a little bit and let the shaft fall down at the top of my swing just a little bit.

You can see as it goes here it actually starts to come down. It falls just a little bit back, but not enough to get it back on plane.

Any one of those three corrections would work here, but in your golf swing obviously it's important that you figure out how to correct it, but it's important that you recognize this first so that you start to understand where pulled shots are coming from.

If you're blocking a lot of shots, you can see the opposite. You can see that shaft coming in way underneath the forearm, or you can also see the shaft coming down here but the shot starting out right because the club face is wide open. Either one of those things can cause this, but at the end of the day what you're trying to do is achieve this position here.

If you achieve this, you can hit great golf shots constantly. You'll see that in all the great ball strikers, they all end up in this position one way or the other, who are the purest iron strikers out there on Tour.

If you're hanging out with your buddies who are great golfers and you ask to videotape their swing, you'll start to understand the anatomy of their golf swing and the anatomy of their golf shots; where certain shots come from.

Chuck Quinton comparisonClub face is slightly open (left) versus more shut or square (right)

If you see they have a tendency to pull or to hit pulls, they're simply coming down a little bit steep here. The shaft is above the forearm and the club face is open. The opposite is true; if they're hitting pull hooks you can see "OK, the shaft is above the forearm. You've got to get it to shallow out a little bit" and the club face at this position would probably start to be a little bit more shut.

If you look closely here - I don't know how well you can see this once we do the video, but that club face is sitting just a little bit open. It's just shy of vertical, but if you look at the one on the right that club face is a little bit shut, or a little bit more square.

I can tell that on this one I sensed that I was coming in steep and just to avoid hooking it over her into these houses that club face was held open just a little bit longer than normal.

Compare club face angles near impactThe club face angles are still very different nearing impact

Right there you can see it's still a little bit open, and right there you can see a big difference in the face angle of these clubs. This one's pointing more square to the plane, and this one's more open to the plane.

Both of those things are just things that you're sensing, subconsciously, or making corrections to avoid missing a shot a certain way. Either way, the goal at the end of the day is to get that shaft coming right through the right forearm, and you'll be able to hit good, consistent, straight golf shots that start out at your target line.

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