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Golf Equipment Buyer's Guide  
Harvey Penick tips: Dispelling Myths
 

Harvey's Quick Tip: A straight left arm inhibits the turn. Another block to the swing is keeping the head down too long. I doubt I tell one student a month to keep his head down, and I almost never say it to an older player.

 
The only time your left arm must be absolutely straight is at impact.
Keeping your arm and head too rigid causes a short and tight backswing.

This results in a weak, off-line shot at the point of impact.

Turn your shoulder properly and your head remains steady while moving with your body behind the ball.
Allow your head to move and your arms to be tension-free. This results in a more powerful position at the moment of impact.

A student once asked Harvey Penick what was the worst thing a golfer could do during his swing. Mr. Penick thought for a moment and then responded, “Well, it's not one thing, it's two — keeping your head still and your left arm straight.”

Keeping your head still and left arm straight are common myths which have permeated the minds of golfers, and it's often a shock for people to learn that these “fundamentals” can actually restrict a golf swing.

First, to keep your head still during the golf swing is practically impossible. Mr. Penick used to challenge, “Show me a champion who doesn't move his head during his golf swing. Sam Snead comes as close as anyone ever has, but he moves it too.” Those who try usually end up having their head move forward, down or both during their backswing, and this almost always results in a weak, off-line shot.

In any athletic motion, the head moves. If the golfer performs a proper shoulder turn, their head remains steady and moves with the body behind the ball. The eyes see the ball, but the head moves.

Secondly, trying to keep the left arm rigidly straight is very restrictive to the average golfer's swing. The backswing becomes short and tight and the downswing lacks authority. The left arm can bend at the top of the swing, but must be straight at impact. This is a natural result of a good setup and turn. The key word is try. Do not consciously try to keep your head still or your left arm straight during the swing. Allow your head to move some with your turn and your arms to be soft and tension-free.

This tip can be found on Page 55 of Harvey Penick's Little Red Book.

The Swing

First, to keep your head still during the golf swing is practically impossible. Mr. Penick used to challenge, “Show me a champion who doesn't move his head during his golf swing. Sam Snead comes as close as anyone ever has, but he moves it too.”