Avid golfers are fairly familiar with this unfortunate flaw, even if they don’t know the term. You line up your shot, you swing, and as you do, you realize that your club is about to hit the ground. Your leading arm instinctively buckles into a “chicken wing” and what could have been a grand hit is now an embarrassing display as the ball falls short.
You may be wondering what the cause is, and let me assure you that it’s not something wrong with your arms— just an error in technique. A few adjustments and some self-awareness are all you really need to play a better game. Here we’ll show you how to both identify and solve the causes of chicken wing.
Posture and Crowding
A crowded posture occurs when a golfer doesn’t bend properly and give his arms enough space to hang while lining up the club. Your arms need to be directly below your shoulders. If your hands are too close to your thighs, you need to give yourself some space and bend a bit more to avoid crowding. Someone who is crowding will almost certainly pull their leading arm in to avoid striking the ground, causing the chicken wing and messing up the shot.
Keep Your Balance
Falling forward is a mistake that has led to many ruined shots, and you may not even realize you’re doing it. Your feet need to be properly planted, or else your swing might send you forward a bit, your head will drop, and you’ll instinctively wing your arm to avoid hitting the ground. That’s better than the alternative: chunking the ground. To wing your arm in front of your partners is one thing, but to get your club stuck in the ground is another form of embarrassment entirely. Before you play, try a few test swings to make sure you aren’t going to fly forward.
Work on your Downswing
Any slight problem with your downswing will cause a player to wing, lest they strike the ground with confidence. The main problem is a steep swing, which will strike the ground and chunk. Once again, those new to the sport will have bent their arm in an attempt to shallow the hit, and even if it works, it will still negatively affect the strike.
What we suggest is to keep your lead underarm tucked close to your chest as you swing. As your swing is in motion, you need to let your arms drop. This will improve the club’s path.
Work on Your Backswing
Just like with the downswing, the problem is the steepness of the swing. Once again, your lead underarm needs to be tucked in close. The trick with a backswing is the rotation; rotating keeps the swing from being too steep, thus allowing for a better strike and avoiding sticking your club into the turf. Too straight and you’ll delay your turn, causing a— you guessed it —steep swing. A few practice swings go a long way, and there’s no shame in asking for help or someone to critique your movements. Some people need a good visual to understand what they’re doing wrong.
There’s Nothing Wrong With a Divot
One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest, for winging it is the fact that players are afraid of striking the ground and pulling up some turf. In reality, all golfers divot, even the professional ones, and to divot is not the same as straight up chunking. A divot is a sign of a nice, strong strike. As long as you’ve got your posture, spacing, and balance in check, you should be just fine. If you do brush the ground, chances are that you’ll hit the ball first. With time you’ll make some micro-adjustments here and there as you become more aware of your own habits, and soon the turf will be spotless after every hit.
While I would like to believe that this little guide will solve your chicken wing problem, it will only do half that. Practice will make up for the other half. Professionals will practice for a couple thousand hours a year to get where they are, so make sure to adjust your spacing and posture each time you find yourself about to wing it, and soon your body will get with the motions and feel more comfortable and confident with each swing. Keep yourself steady, work on your posture, practice those swings, don’t be afraid of roughing up the ground.
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