Get Relief From Golfer’s Elbow—Know What to Do With Your Elbows In the Golf Swing

Although there is no such thing as a right or wrong swing in golf, certain fundamentals are necessary to play effectively. 

While many novices and even seasoned golfers like driving the golf ball as far as they can all day long, accuracy and consistency will win 99% of all matches.

Tendinitis or a tendon tearing itself away from the bone are two common symptoms of injury to do with your elbows in the golf swing and golfer’s elbow. In the golf swing, the golfer’s elbow most frequently affects the lead elbow on the left side for right-handed golfers.

It’s so painful and crippling that, in many instances, time off from the sport or even surgery is needed to fix the problem.

The good news is that it can be entirely avoided by making some minor adjustments to your elbows in the golf swing. This won’t take much time or effort, but it will save you years of grief.

Elbows in the golf swing. A golfer with elbow pain.

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

The forearm tendons that connect to the inside of your elbow become inflamed and uncomfortable when you have a golfer’s elbow.

The condition is caused by the wrist’s constant gripping and whipping motion, which causes the forearm muscles to contract vigorously and pull on their tendon attachments.

This pulling action weakens the tendons over time, which leads to eventual microdamage. Discomfort, tenderness, and stiffness on the inside of the elbow and upper forearm are frequent symptoms.

These symptoms can develop gradually over time or appear suddenly. With gripping exercises like the golf swing, they generally get worse if left untreated.

Causes of Golfer’s Elbow In the Golf Swing

The majority (up to 60%) of the club head speed during the golf swing is produced by the right arm and right wrist.

If your right wrist is not being used properly, you will look for another place to add speed and power, which results in overcompensation and overuse of your elbows in the golf swing.

When a golfer overuses the left side of the body to generate power, it’s a typical swing fault that results in complaints of left elbow pain.

Two elderly golfers walk down the fairway arm in arm.

Proper Use of Elbows In the Golf Swing

To achieve consistent ball strikes, you need to focus on the set-up of your elbows in the golf swing—which is the foundation of creating great shots.

Two of the best ball strikers in history are Moe Norman and Ben Hogan, who both swore by the set-up and position of their elbows in the golf swing.

Here are some quick tips on properly using and aligning your elbows in the golf swing.

Keep the Elbow Close to Your Hips

If you’ve ever seen Moe Norman and Ben Hogan prepare to hit a ball, you’ll notice they have something in common. They are directly aiming their elbows in the golf swing at the corresponding hip.

The inside of their elbows appear to be rolled open and pointed straight up when observed from a head-on angle.

Both players’ right arms are able to fold appropriately and remain compact to their bodies in this crucial set-up position.

On the takeaway, in some instances, it appeared as though their elbow was resting against their right hip.

Golfers frequently have a “chicken wing” with their right elbow, which flares out and away from the body. Typically, this results from a bad set-up relationship where the arms are bent, and elbows are pointed more parallel to the target line, which should be avoided.

Correct Elbow Alignment Position

It can be confusing to even bring up the idea that the alignment of your elbows in the golf swing is just as important as foot, shoulder, and club alignment.

Never forget that the final connection between the club and the ball is made by your hands and arms. The coordination of the hands and arms—and elbows in the golf swing—act as a team and become even more significant to consistent success.

We are all aware of the importance of the grip, but if our arms are not moving in unison, it can lead to numerous mistakes in the golf swing. The elbows are where it all begins to help achieve good arm alignment.

You should be able to visualize drilling a hole through your elbow joints and looking straight ahead if your arms are perfectly positioned.

Due to open or closed shoulders, many athletes have one arm raised higher than the other. Your shoulders are probably too tilted if you can see the sky through this imaginary hole.

A golfer with a prosthetic leg at the peak of his backswing.

Envision Baseball Pitching

Take a ball, position yourself like a baseball pitcher, and toss it. This exercise will help you understand your elbows in the golf swing and, more specifically, how your right arm functions and releases to accelerate your throw. 

The golf swing functions exactly the same way. When releasing the downswing, use the right arm in the same manner. To deliver power, the elbow moves up in front of the hip and down toward it.

Delivering The Club From The Inside

An inside-out swing path through impact is produced by positioning the right elbow and arm correctly at the top of the backswing and keeping them there on the downswing.

This is how a golf ball acquires draw-bias spin. An immediate improvement in ball striking will be evident, and the extra distance will come naturally.

Elbow In The Golf Swing Do’s

• Throughout the golf swing, maintain the connection between the left and right elbows.

• Position the arms in front of the chest.

• The right arm should always be underneath the left arm until after contact.

• When starting the backswing, the left elbow should be 90 degrees from the ground.

• When swinging into the slot on the downswing, lower the right elbow in front of the right hip.

• Extend the right arm as if pitching a baseball.

A golfer at the peak of the backswing.

The Key to Both Preventing and Treating Golfer’s Elbow

The important thing is to make the appropriate adjustments to your forearm function. Remember that stable elbows and strong grips depend on the forearm muscles.

The strain of the golf swing changes the anatomy of these muscles, shortening and weakening them. You must start there in order to prevent and treat your golfer’s elbow.

Stretching And Rolling

The muscles in your forearms must be able to stretch out like rubber bands, exactly like the quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs.

Simple wrist flexion and extension stretches held for 20 to 30 seconds are quite useful for treating golfer’s elbow and preventing further elbow and forearm injuries.

Rolling out your muscles with specific tools is another great method to keep them flexible. Rolling not only helps to loosen up bands of tense tissue in the forearm that can lead to golfer’s elbow, but it also increases flexibility and hydrates the muscles.

Strengthening

Start with some easy strengthening exercises once your forearms are more flexible and the pain has begun to subside.

Exercises that involve wrist flexion and extension while using heavy dumbbells put forearm muscles and tendons under stress, which increases tissue density.

It’s important to keep in mind that strengthening muscles and tendons to make them thicker and more elastic is the key to rehabilitation.

Similar to flexible and thick rubber bands, flexible and thick tissue is less prone to micro-tears.

Integrated Workouts

Golfer’s elbow is one of many orthopedic overuse injuries that is frequently linked to deficiencies in other parts of the body.

For instance, the forearm muscle may be working too hard to make up for weak shoulders or weak core muscles.

A rhythm of fluid movement throughout the body can be achieved by including some full-body, integrated workouts.

Simple diagonal backhand movements can include the shoulder and hips in the golf swing motion and lessen the overloading demands placed on the forearms and elbows in the golf swing.

Elbow Supports

To lessen the pulling stresses on the tendon attachment, a variety of elbow supports or strapping can be securely worn right below the elbow.

They help by providing stability and preventing further injury to your elbows in the golf swing.

Warming Up Properly

Golfer’s elbow and its symptoms can be avoided by using a warm-up regimen that incorporates all of the aforementioned elements.

Just one minute of rolling, one minute of stretching, and one minute of wrist and elbow movements can make all the difference.

Be sure to include a few tubing exercises, such as shoulder backhands, to help integrate the entire body, which takes the strain off your elbows in the golf swing.

When you warm up properly, you’ll be surprised at how much better your forearms and elbows feel.

Always remember that enhancing your body’s functionality is the key to healing from overuse injuries.

By investing some time in improving the overall well-being of your joints and soft tissues, you can increase the durability of your elbows in the golf swing and play for many more years.

A golfer watches their ball during their takeaway.

How To Relieve Golfer’s Elbow

A glove placed under the armpit during practice is a fantastic place to start if you experience the dreaded “chicken wing” during either the backswing or takeaway.

We’ve seen a lot of players use this to practice throughout the years. One of these players is Vijay Singh, hours of hitting balls with a glove or even a head cover beneath his right arm were observed.

His right hand would occasionally stray off the club just before impact, which would cause him to lose control of his driver.

He kept his right arm near the body and kept his hand on the club for a longer period of time by putting a glove under the armpit. Even today, he continues to use that drill.

What to Do With Your Elbows In the Golf Swing and Golfer’s Elbow Explained: Conclusion

Continue to play golf and train as usual if the pain allows. Tendons are extremely adaptive, meaning that the stresses we put on them make them stronger.

Our tendons strengthen when we play golf, much like a muscle does after strength training.

Some of these adaptations we’ve worked so hard to develop over time will be lost if we stop playing golf.

Continue playing golf and exercising as usual if the pain permits. Simply incorporate these isometric workouts into your weekly routine to target your elbows in the golf swing and promote recovery.

Keep reading and learn how to avoid more common golf mistakes!

Photo of author
Clint has been active in golf since he was very young. He graduated from the Professional Golf Management Program at College Of The Desert in Palm Desert, CA before turning pro shortly after. Upon moving back to Canada he has been certified with the PGA of Canada where he was the Head Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest academies. Now as a golf writer, he is happy to share his knowledge when he's not out playing with his family and friends.

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