In golf, avoid the chicken wing

In most cases, chicken wings are good - very, very good (especially the Asian Zing wings from Buffalo Wild Wings). But when it comes to describing your golf swing, chicken wing isn't a term you want to hear. Unfortunately, that's exactly the term Scott Janus used when breaking down my swing earlier this week.
Matt DeYoung
Aug 13, 2011

In golf terms, a chicken wing is when your clubhead accelerates ahead of your hands and makes contact with the ball while your hands try to catch up. When viewed in a still frame, the shape of your left arm and the club form an outward angle that looks, I guess, like a chicken wing.

“We call it impact, the moment of truth,” said Janus, the director of the Janus Golf Academy at Grand Haven Golf Club. “It’s actually pretty common to about 90 percent of golfers to have that bend in the left arm called the chicken wing.”

The chicken wing leads to the flip. With your hands trying to catch up, the club decelerates as it hits the ball, and you’re left with a weak flip instead of a powerful strike of the ball.

“If you don’t have a golf coach, and if you haven’t worked on this through drills, you can assume you have a flip and a chicken wing,” Janus said. “If you have worked on impact drills specifically, you’ll start to see the difference. A tour player as a very straight left side, and his hands get to the ball before the clubhead.”

Janus explained that the hands leading the clubhead through impact causes the club to accelerate through the ball. In addition, the steeper angle of the club face at impact adds distance to your shots, which explains why a tour player can hit his 7-iron onto the green from 180 yards.

“The club has not caught up to your hands, which means the club is accelerating through impact,” Janus said. “As soon as the club passes your hands, that means the club is decelerating. Also, it will close the clubhead, so you hit it left, and you’ll hit the ball higher. Your 6-iron at impact becomes a 7-iron.”

The drill to fix the chicken wing and flip is a simple one. Approach the golf ball with a pitching wedge and take an abbreviated backswing, then come through and strike the ball, making absolutely sure that your hands pass over the ball before the clubhead gets there.

“The key is a loose grip, which helps keep your hands in front and the club lagging behind,” Janus said. “This is a great one to do in the backyard. Make sure the club is closing, and hit a lot of soft wedges with Wiffle balls.”

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