How to Use the Arms in the Golf Swing: A Clear Answer

By Todd Kolb
November 16, 2022

There’s no one-size-fits all answer for how to use the arms in the golf swing. This guide will help you determine the right answer for YOU.

It’s so easy to get in your head once you start wondering how to use your arms in your golf swing.

You may not have given much thought to which arm should be running the show when you started learning this game. 

But then maybe a golf partner wondered out loud if you’re focusing on the wrong arm. Or you started thinking more about your form and realized you haven’t given a lot of thought to the way your arms move together.

Or maybe something just suddenly felt… off.

Next thing you know, your consistency goes to pot because you’re in your head.

Listen, it’s not just you. There is a lot of confusion around how to use the arms in the golf swing. 

Should you feel like you’re swinging more with your dominant arm? Your lead arm? Both answers feel like they could be right, so which is it?

Honestly, the solution depends on what’s going on in your swing right now. And lucky for you, it won’t take much time or thought to figure out how (or even if) you need to adjust your arm movement.

I’ll tell you what to look for and give you drills to help you shift the focus of your swing motion.

But first:

I Want to Be Clear on This One Thing

At the end of the day, you want your arms working together

The advice I’m about to give you may direct you to focus one arm more than the other to fix a specific issue in your swing. 

But that advice is only designed to help you recognize if one of your arms is failing to fulfill its responsibility. Right or left, trail or lead, dominant or non-dominant… both arms have a job to do, and they’ve got to work in unison.

Now, we’re not going to get into the concept of connectivity in this article, but it is an absolutely essential element of the perfect golf swing. If you think you may have trouble staying connected in your swing, I highly recommend checking out the Vertical Line Swing Stacker.

This is a lightweight, no-fuss practice aid that trains connectivity in addition to a few other skills that are key for getting more speed, accuracy, and consistency. It’s also gonna help you fix your slice. You can find it here.

Anyway, now that we’re clear on the fact that your ultimate goal is for your arms to move together, let’s talk about those situations when you need to give more attention to one arm over the other.

If you slice the golf ball, this first tip is for you.  

The Chronic Slicer’s Guide to How to Use the Arms in the Golf Swing

If you’re in a constant battle with the slice, you might be using your trail arm a little too much.

This is a common problem with chronic slicers, and it’s easy to see how it happens. Your trail arm is your dominant arm. It’s only natural to let that arm take the lead, especially if you’re focused on generating more speed.

But that push for power is exactly the problem. 

See, when you’re at the top of your swing and you initiate the trail arm—trying to accelerate as you swing down and through—you naturally throw the clubhead out and across.

Or as your fellow golfers might tell you after your third slice of the day, you keep going over the top.

To add insult to injury, you’re also likely to inadvertently open the clubface when you allow the dominant arm to lead the downswing. 

If you’re thinking this might be your problem, I encourage you to shift your focus to the lead arm on your downswing.

Instead of telling your dominant arm to swing out as fast as it can, let your lead arm pull the club down from the top.

This downward pull causes the club to drop more to the inside for a good in-to-out swing path. This will also create a little forward shaft lean at impact so you can hit down on those iron shots.

These two elements together are going to help you cure your slice and hopefully even hit a draw

Now, you know me: I don’t like to just drop a golf tip and then leave you to figure out how to turn it into a habit. So here’s a drill you can do to practice putting that lead arm in charge on the downswing.

Lead Arm Drill

For this drill, you’re just gonna do some practice swings. You don’t need a ball; just an iron.

  1. Grip the club with your lead hand only.
  2. Place your trail hand on your lead arm just above the lead wrist for support.
  3. Take several practice swings with your lead arm only. Your trail arm is doing absolutely nothing other than supporting the lead arm.
    1. Please do not do this drill without using the trail hand for support. That support is helping to protect your lead arm and shoulder.

As you swing the club with your lead arm only, you should see the clubhead easily drop to the inside. It doesn’t take any extra work from you; it just happens naturally.

Once you get the feel for it, you can start involving the golf ball. Do a three-setter without the ball, then grab a ball, take your regular setup with both hands on the club, and take a shot.

You’ll probably start seeing a difference right away.

Now, let’s talk about how to use the arms in the golf swing if you’re struggling with rotten contact.

The Contact Killer’s Guide to How to Use the Arms in the Golf Swing

We just covered the ways in which the dominant nature of your trail arm can sabotage your downswing.

Now I want to talk about the benefits of letting your dominant arm run the show.

Your dominant side isn’t just better at generating power. It’s also better with precision movement. 

Think about it. 

You instinctively use your dominant hand to write, turn door knobs, catch and throw. If you’re unloading the trunk of a car, you’re probably going to use your non-dominant arm as the grunt worker, clutching a bag of groceries while your dominant hand handles the work of closing the trunk, locking the car, and singling out the house key.

It’s not that your non-dominant hand can’t handle these things. It’s just that your dominant hand is more proficient at them.

So it naturally follows that your dominant side is the side that knows how to get the clubhead to hit the ground where you want it to. And that’s basically what good contact is: low point precision.

If poor contact is what’s killing your swing, I have a drill that will help.

Trail Arm Drill

This is a great drill. I’ve used this one even with my tour professionals and my best amateur golfers. It’s an effective exercise for anyone, any skill level.

Bonus: it’s super simple. We’re just starting with practice swings again, no ball needed at first.

  1. Grip the club in your trail hand only.
  2. Let your lead hand rest at about your hip / belt buckle.
  3. Take several practice swings using only your trail arm.

Now, this will be difficult at first, but you’ll start to find more control as you keep at it. You’ll also quickly discover that the clubhead hits the turf right where you want it to.

Once you’re comfortable with the motion, grab a golf ball and try hitting it with that same trail-arm-only swing. 

I’m willing to bet you’re going to see much better contact.

Let’s Keep It Simple

Now that you know all the whys and what-to-do’s of how to use the arms in the golf swing, here’s a quick summary you can scribble onto a post-it so you don’t forget in your next round.

  • If you keep coming over the top and slicing the golf ball, focus on letting your lead arm pull the clubhead down in the downswing. Don’t let the dominant arm throw the clubhead out and across.
  • If your issue is poor contact, you can nail your low point by focusing more on the dominant arm in the downswing.

And that’s it! Now you know all the secrets of how to use your arms in your golf swing.

My only question for you is:

Did This Help?

Have you tried these drills for yourself yet? Did they make a difference? 

Drop into the comments and let me know what’s on your mind. And please don’t hesitate to ask any questions or request future topics. We’re here to help you play better golf, and the better we understand your needs, the better we can do our job.

If you liked how surprisingly simple this advice was, be sure to stop by vlsgolf.com. We’ve got tips and tools over there that are specifically designed to make the game of golf easier and more enjoyable for the everyday golfer. Check it out!

4 Comments

  1. Thanks, lead arm drill is great. John Daly warms up hitting balls with just his lead arm on the club. I have tried a similar lead arm drill and have had some success.

  2. Our pleasure John. Are you on our email list?

  3. It took me many years to figure out using the lead (left) arm rather than the right arm. No instructor ever told me that. Once I started using the lead arm and keeping my right wrist very loose, the fade/slice went away and the ball miraculously always went straight. Todd, thanks for the common sense and insight you describe in your videos. I agree that a lot of conventional golf instruction is counter productive. Swinging a golf club is as simple as throwing a ball. Conventional golf instruction makes swinging a golf club far more complicated than it needs to be. Todd, thanks again. Your insight and heart for helping others is very apparent.

  4. Bill,

    Appreciate you taking time to comment. Our team is fully committed to making this great game that is challenging, simple and something we the average player can understand. Are you on our email list?

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