Patty Tavatanakit recorded 15 birdies and an eagle through two rounds in the Honda LPGA Thailand Tournament. Impressive stats for 36-holes, but what really caught my eye is the pure power she exhibits alongside that scoring knack she possesses. This week she is averaging 285 yards off the tee and leading the tournament by three shots. Patty is a fantastic young LPGA star who captured the first major championship of the LPGA season last month in Rancho Mirage, California.
How does Tavatanakit generate so much “pop” in her swing? Simple, she creates a wonderful amount of width in her swing arc.
How many times have we heard “keep your left arm straight” in and around the golf course? If you’ve heard it twice, that’s two too many. Tavatanakit’s turn is impressive, but what drives that tremendous torque is the width she creates with her right arm, her trail arm or left arm for my lefty readers.
Keeping your lead arm straight tightens the average player’s swing. It shortens the turn and brings the club far too inside in the takeaway. Let’s grab a medium length golf club. With your 8 iron in hand, get in your address position. Start your normal takeaway, but don’t fold your trail arm. That’s the right arm for a right-handed golfer. The first thing you will notice is more extension as you start the backswing. Continue turning and keep the right arm as long as possible, try not to fold it too much. By the time the club reaches hip high, the grip will feel miles away from you. That’s arc! The type of arc power players possess.
Continue turning to the end of your backswing. Along the way keep that right arm as extended as possible. It will no longer be straight, but the point is don’t let it completely fold. Reaching the top of your backswing you will notice a couple significant power enhancing moves in your swing. First, your shoulder turn will be greater. Second, your lead arm will have stayed pretty straight. That’s cool, because most players tend to fold the trail arm when they keep their lead arm straight. When we focus on keeping the trail arm wide, the lead arm comes along for the ride.
Inside that demonstration, you created some new feelings of width in your backswing. Once you get to the practice range, here’s a drill to continue creating that powerful arc. Stick with that 8 iron. Take your address position and then stand straight up with the club and your arms outstretched in front of you. The club will be pointing to the sky. For a right-handed golfer make a 90-degree turn to your right. (Lefties, turn the other way.) The club should now be in a wide backswing position. You should also feel a great big turn.
Start over and perform the drill again. Once you have repeated this stand up and turn drill a couple of times take your normal address position again. This time when you do the drill, stay in your tilt. Don’t stand straight up, keep that spine at the same angle you have it in at address. Now make your turn and get yourself to that wide position you just created in the drill. Feel the stretch in your back and the width in your arc. Hit the ball. Continuing performing the drill until you consistently keep hitting that wide backswing spot. Now try to hit the same spot by taking a traditional takeaway, all while focusing on stretching that trail arm.
Coordinating a long right arm is a very specific move. It’s simple in nature and will create a wonderfully wide swing arc. Continue to practice Patty’s right arm reach with all of your clubs. You’ll soon be amazed how much further you can hit the ball.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.