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Top 5 Issues Killing Golfers Over 50: Left Shoulder Abduction

Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by, today we’re going to take a closer look at the next series in our posts regarding golfers over the age of 50.  In this post we’ll cover some great stretching exercises you can take care of at home to help fight the next item on our list of the top 5 problems killing golfers over 50, which is: Left Shoulder Abduction. Let’s get to the post!

Left shoulder abduction is when, in the golf backswing, you cross your left arm across your chest. This is key to having swing width, which is one of the vital components to power and distance, without having to add muscle or swing harder. Poor flexibility here leads to a backswing with many compensatory breakdowns such as collapsing the elbows in the backswing or an extremely limited backswing.

Unfortunately, there are very few movements that you make during your daily routine that uses this particular motion in full. As the saying goes, if you don’t use it you will lose it. This saying is very true with golfers over 50.

What typically happens is that as the golfer makes his/her backswing, they run into this shoulder limitation about there quarters of the way to the top.

At this point, one of two things will happen:

1. The backswing stops. The golfer maintains good mechanics but essentially settles for 1/2 of a swing and the loss of distance that comes with it.

2. The golfer makes “compensations” to complete the feeling of a full backswing. Unfortunately, like medications, all swing compensations come with side effects.

Like I mentioned before, most golfers will allow their elbows to breakdown or bend too much. However, allowing the elbows to breakdown causes a complete loss of swing width. And a loss of swing width results in a loss of power and distance. In addition, you will experience a decrease in accuracy because you are adding more variables to an already complicated swing. More variables leads to less consistency and accuracy.

Here is what a swing looks like when the elbows break down:

Golfer is compensating for poor flexibility by collapsing elbows at the top of the backswing.
Golfer is compensating for poor flexibility by collapsing elbows at the top of the backswing.

The best stretch that I have used to improve this motion is sometimes referred to as the Knot Stretch and I think you will find the name appropriate when you get into the position.

Arm Cross Stretch for a Bigger Golf Backswing

The stretch is pictured lying prone on your stomach. However, you can perform this stretch in the same manner standing up facing a wall.

First, take your right arm and stretch it to the left keeping it at shoulder height. Next, stretch your left arm to the right with the left arm on top of the right arm. You may need to turn your head to get deep enough for a shoulder stretch. Hold it 30 seconds and repeat with your arms switched (ei right arm higher than the left arm). Sink deep to get a good stretch. If this is too difficult, you can use only one arm instead of two and work your way up.

Good luck and stay flexible out there.  Thanks for reading!


About the Author. Dr. Ryan York is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Golf Performance Specialist. He Co-created Age Defying Golf which serves men and women golfers between the ages of 50-75 years young. Visit us at

One Comment

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  1. Dr. York,

    Nice article.

    It appears that there is a typing error. Did you mean to say that left shoulder aDDuction( instead of Abduction ,as stated in this article) is when, in the golf backswing, you cross your left arm across your chest.

    The knot stretch will stretch the aBDuctors enhancing more aDDuction.

    Thank you!

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