Remember, this page, as were the previous pages, is from the perspective of Ben Hogan golf swing fundamentals. With alternative swing styles, the position of the right arm is not critical so there is a lot of leeway as far as what is acceptable in a golf swing. Checkout Nicklaus and Couples to see how different it can be.
In the first picture, I am showing the approximate orientation of the right arm near the end of the backswing. Because people are built differently there isn't any one correct position. The idea is that the right elbow stays down during the backswing and, as Ben Hogan stressed, it should remain as close as possible to the left elbow. If you remember, in Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals Of Golf, Hogan had an illustration with a band drawn around his arms emphasizing that the elbows stay close to one another throughout the golf swing. With the right elbow in the position shown here, the right arm is free to hinge properly in order to keep the club in the correct swing plane, which by the way, will be a flatter plane since the low right arm will keep the hands low. The right arm
is a little high here because I don't have my left hand with my right and my body hasn't turned as it would in a real backswing. The point of this picture is to show the orientation of the arm, not the actual position. Additionally, the elbow would be much closer to the body and to the left elbow than had I let my right arm lift up and get back behind me too much, which is what I am demonstrating in the second, fourth, and fifth pictures.
As many of you know, Ben Hogan kept his right elbow closer to his body than just about any other golfer, especially at the top of the backswing. This had the effect of forcing his body to do the work, as opposed to what happens when the right arm lifts upward and away from the body, which forces the the arms to work much more independently.
Picture two shows the right arm position of the typical golfer. The elbow is up, and note the angle of the forearm. The club can't stay in plane! Instead, the shaft will rise above plane and if the shaft gets close to parallel, it will point to the right of the target.
In picture three, the clubface is much too closed, which can be a result of letting the right arm move up and back, or the arm can be moving that direction because the clubface is closed. Being too closed during the backswing is an affliction that effects most golfers and is a primary reason golfers have so much trouble getting the club into a good swing plane.
In picture four, the right elbow is up and you can see how steep the club is (had I gone back further, the club would be pointing right of the target). Unless this position is corrected before I start down, as good players do, but few amateurs, I will be doomed to repeat the swing faults described on the three preceding pages.
Pictures five and six show the same position from two different angles. The right arm is up even higher because I've gone back a little further. Notice the gap between the elbows. Obviously nothing is working together, not the body with the arms, nor the arms with each other. Looking at the front view you can see that allowing the right arm to lift tends to cause a reverse pivot, which is what happens when the the hips slide sideways, giving the appearance that the upper body leans, or is bowed, toward the target. This position, or some variant of it, is one of the more common positions for the average golfer.
Most instructors would classify Hogan's backswing position as a reverse pivot, but I don't. It comes down to how one defines reverse pivot. The general definition is a position in which the golfer leans toward the target at the end of the backswing, which Hogan definitely did. However, I prefer a more specific definition that includes the improper position that amateurs find themselves in, but doesn't include Hogan's position. My definition of a reverse pivot is a position in which the hips slide laterally away from the target and the head stays centered, resulting in a bowing of the body toward the target. An unusual variation of this would be a golfer who keeps their hips centered, but leans forward with the upper body, again resulting in a bowed look.
Hogan's backswing position was different—it was always good and there was a distinct purpose to it, and this is why I like to separate his move from the negative connotations associated with the typical amateur reverse pivot. Hogan did frequently lean toward the target, but his torso always remained upright, not bowed toward the target, because he kept his hips in line with his head, or even in front of it. The basic movement was that his whole body, not just the head, moved forward as he neared the end of the backswing (on full swings), and the result was that his weight was even more toward the target, really more centered, than a golfer with the typical reverse pivot.
An interesting note: while Nicklaus didn't move forward as much as Hogan at the end of the backswing, his body position, as far as where his weight was, was pretty similar to Hogan's!