Full Left Shoulder Movement

So many shots are ruined by moving the club away from the ball with a snatch of the hands. Whether it is a full swing, or a tricky pitch shot, feeling your left shoulder participate in the swing will create width and timing. This shoulder moving fully will give us a patient feeling and the confidence to let our swing run its course. The old-school advice to “finish your backswing” when under pressure, speaks directly to this idea.

Trouble is brewing when your shoulders don’t move, and your arms go free. Even though we all swing the club differently, we all should hope to feel a cohesive movement between our body and arms and see a symmetry on both sides of our golfswing. What it looks like in our backswing, should be similar to how it looks in our follow-through. The essence of swinging the club is an aggressive turning of our trunk (to the right and then to the left) while our arms react to that movement. That body movement facilitates the necessary arm movements to hit solid golf shots.

The left shoulder moving aggressively, from the outset of the swing, can keep us from some of the common swing flaws we see in many golfers. Those include: 

Left arm rotation- with a lack of help from the shoulders, your left arm will start turning immediately to begin the swing. This is in a clockwise fashion. At the same time the clubface is rolling open and the shaft may be put in a position that takes a recovery move in the downswing. Rather than the confidence that comes from knowing that the clubface is in position and that we can accelerate fully, now the downswing will be a hand-eye, timing move with many different ball flights as a result.

Early wrist cock- Movement of the left shoulder creates width or extension in the backswing. The circle of our swing is wide and gives us time to comfortably release the face through impact. Lack of left shoulder movement means our wrists may react is a quick cocking motion. Now the shaft is very close to our torso and room for the club to approach the ball, in the correct attack angle, will have to be created in another area of the swing. Early or artificial wrist cocks create a domino affect in our swing. Every correct movement creates freedom and poor positions create the need for a compensation.

Outside to in or “cut across” swing path- Picture your golf swing from an overhead view or your shadow in front of you. If your left shoulder moves fully underneath your chin, your left arm will be at about a 45-degree angle inside the target line or pointed at your right foot. The shorter your left shoulder moves, the less your left arm gets inside the line. I you believe you have finished your backswing and you left arm is parallel with the target line, you will cut across the golf ball. When you shift weight to initiate your downswing, your left arm will move outside the target line and will be pulled across the ball. 

I tell my students (in the book also) that the length of your backswing is not defined by a parallel shaft at the top of your backswing. It is decided by the length of your left shoulder movement.  Bending elbows and breaking wrists can make the backswing look full, but true power for swinging the club is stored through left shoulder movement.

Any time you feel like you must pressure the club back into position for impact, you probably didn’t load enough backswing. Full left shoulder movement is like stretching a rubber band that will unload huge natural force into the downswing.

Swinging the club asks for the full participation of our body from head to toe. If there is something you want your arms to do in your golf swing, chances are your body will have to work above or below that arm to make it happen. Think about that. Your left arm will only get into position if your left shoulder moves fully above it. On your downswing, for your right arm to correctly maintain its position through impact, your right knee below the arm, right hip behind the arm, and right shoulder above your arm will have to move in correct sequence. Knee, hip and shoulder are key to correct right-side movement. Otherwise, you probably have a “stop and hit” move. 

How many clubfaces do you feel? If, at address, you have placed your left arm in a straight line with the shaft, then you have built a relationship that we hope to see again at impact. When your left shoulder, the back of you left hand and the clubhead all move together to begin the swing, you can feel three clubfaces and it is much easier to anticipate the release of the club through impact. The swing that begins with an independent move of the clubhead may never feel the necessary relationship that impact and control of the golf ball demands.


Today Bryson DeChambeau won the Bay Hill Invitational. Much like the US Open, he showed a great ability to handle heavy rough. Several times he was able to create enough height and spin to get the ball to settle on firm greens.

Certainly, his power plays a role in this. He can simply keep his clubhead speed up with the resistance of the high grass. Also, his short irons being longer than normal make his clubhead swing heavier through the ball. I have watched his ball show more spin, out of the rough, than any other player the last few years. 

His power is not going to create a situation where he wins each week. Other players are still better golfers than DeChambeau, but there are times where he, like Jack Nicklaus, has an advantage over the field with tee shots that are off-line. Their ability to recover onto hard greens, while others are chipping out to the fairway or scraping it into greenside bunkers, is something that wins what are the tournaments that people most remember.

Jordan Spieth has continued his solid play and it is a combination of straighter driving than in the past and a return of some of the scary good putting we have seen in the past. He makes more long putts than the field, on the average, and making birdies when you have played away from the hole, to the strong side of the pin, is a rare commodity in tournament golf.

Colin Morikawa continues to impress with his maturity and control of the golf ball. He has a knack of fitting his “one way” ball flight into the hardest courses and managing his game to the point where he makes very few mistakes.

Golf has been enjoyable this past month because the courses showed some teeth and made the players show some their considerable skills. I believe this will bring an increasing strength to the PGA tour and the product they produce.

In the coming days, I will produce videos that demonstrate the ideas expressed in this newsletter and others that pertain to the journey of the Driven Golfer. I appreciate your feedback. Please make comments or ask questions through the Q & A section of the website. That way they won’t get lost within the mass of emails we all might get. 

Thank you everyone,



About Me

Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)

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