If you can train your lead arm to extend before folding properly through the ball, you can develop more power and a better swing path. Here, I’ll explain the causes of the chicken wing before giving you two simple drills to train a more effective movement pattern.
The most obvious sign of the chicken-wing is the lead arm buckling through impact, the elbow collapsing and starting to point upwards. Secondary traits include a cupping of the lead wrist and an excessively lofted and open clubface, which sees you hit weak, high shots to the right (right-handers).
Rotten to the core
The chicken wing rears its ugly head when your core fails to contribute to the delivery of the club. Ideally the lower body should be initiating the downswing and transferring speed to the upper body. If you’re failing to do that, you can easily end up trying to generate power with your hands and arms – a weak, side-on hit that encourages the lead arm to break down.
While some simple technical refocusing can often cure the chicken-wing, there are two physical issues that can hinder your progress. The first is a reluctance to drive your swing through a dynamic rotation of the core; the second is a limitation in being able to externally rotate the lead shoulder. Our two drills will address both.
Ideally, we want your lead arm to be extended through impact. This extension is how you deliver maximum speed to the ball. Then, as the forearms begin to release and rotate, the elbow responds by starting to fold downwards. To get closer to this ideal release we need to wake up your core, and encourage the correct lead shoulder rotation.
The object of this exercise is to give you a better feel and understanding for what the lead arm needs to be doing during the throughswing. Begin by gripping a short iron in your lead hand only, down towards the bottom of the grip. Make a half-backswing before swinging through. Work on finding this position, the lead arm extended and the toe of the club facing the sky as the shaft swings through horizontal.
Elbow points down
From here, and as you continue the throughswing, work on the sensation of the trail elbow folding down towards your hip, not upward. This move will feel much more rotational to you. As you train it you will also encourage your lead shoulder to rotate externally, improving its mobility and your ability to make a better upper-body rotation through the impact zone.
Find a light ball – a football is ideal – and take your golf stance, holding the ball between your palms. All you have to do here is throw the ball forwards, either to a friend or against a wall. Swing your arms to a horizontal position both back and through.
After just a few throws you will feel how this throwing motion not only engages your core; it also promotes the forearm rotation that allows your lead elbow to fold downward on the way through. Throw the ball 10 times before taking a club and repeating this more rotational back-through move.