The chicken wing or flying elbow as it is more commonly known plagues many amateur golfers. Interestingly, you will also discover the same ‘fault’ in the swings of some professionals as well.John Daly, albeit not the greatest player in the world, has made a decent living using the flying elbow throughout his career. But, like most things related to John, I don’t recommend emulating his swing technique either… and let me explain why. Letting the elbow fly tends to lift the lead shoulder skyward making it easier to come over-the-top on the downswing, resulting in an open clubface. Daly, offsets his flying elbow by using a stronger grip which closes the clubface throughout the swing. Quite literally he has turned two wrongs into a right (you’ll find in golf, this old saying rings true quite often).
On the other hand, setting your elbow in a more upright, waiter-holding-a-tray-like position allows your shoulders to turn level with your spine, creating a simpler swing that travels on a more inside path into the ball. This technique tends to develop a nice solid draw, whereas the flying elbow leads to your fade or slice. So if you’re struggling with your banana ball, this may be your answer.
As you can see by the image above, the chicken wing tends to lay the club off at the top, with an open clubface. From here, making solid contact on the ball will be very difficult.
Position wise, your right arm should be close to matching your spine angle or even slightly more upright of the red lines as shown above. This will ensure that on the downswing, there will not be any extra movements needed to get the club traveling on the correct path to the ball. One very important thing to note is that these pictures do not show is the how influential the first few feet of the backswing dictate if you’ll have a flying elbow or not. A drastically inside backswing will tend to lead to this poor position. Be sure that your backswing starts back on or slightly inside your target line by setting a club down on it as a guide.
The combination of a better top-of-swing position and smoother transition will drastically increase your distance by enabling you to find the slot and properly create and retain lag. Furthermore, this simpler swing will help you develop more control and consistency.
I highly recommend videoing your swing, or having a golf buddy or professional to take a look to see if you suffer from the flying elbow. It could be that slice cure you’ve been looking for.