This thread seems mostly about the right elbow. Lately I've been worrying about the left one.
You remember where in Five Lessons Hogan talks about pointing the elbows backward and inside of the elbows forward? That diagram where the arms are bound together in front with bands? Like probably most of us I tried that a little and then quit thinking about it. What difference does it make? Isn't it better to just relax the arms and take a natural elbow position as opposed to a stiff unnatural one?
Lately I've come back to that part of Hogan's book. Here's why.
Consider what is called a "strong grip." It is used as a "fix" for slicing because if one's clubface is open at the time of ball contact, a "stronger grip" can be a patch for that. Well, I think left elbow position can also be a reason why the clubface is open at contact. I also think that if one is careless with elbow position in taking a "strong grip," the clubface will be open at ball contact for that reason alone, that it promotes slicing the clubhead across the ball.
A "strong grip" should not be taken when the left elbow points outward instead of back. That compounds the problem.
There are two reasons why the left elbow tends to point out at address. (1) it enables a longer appearing backswing because the elbow can bend along the plane of the swing = a sort of "cheat move. (2) It seems more natural especially to those involved in athletics.
To illustrate #2, think of how we do bench presses or ride a mountain bike, elbows outward. Or in boxing or MMA. Keeping our elbows outward in a sport reinforces the musculature for keeping elbows outward and makes a position that Hogan recommended all the harder and less natural.
(The shoulder like the hip is very flexible. I'm talking about the position of the humerus and how it moves with regard to the rest of the shoulder complex.)
My hypothesis is that when your left elbow points a bit outward, and especially when combined with a "strong grip," the result is a tendency to cut across the ball with an open clubface and to inhibit full release. Why? Because (1) it's harder to release through a left arm that is in an elbow out position, and (2) if the left elbow points somewhat outward, release takes the arms into a large radius on the follow through that creates a swing that looks like an ellipse and stresses the back.
This is related to another hypothesis of mine that the "strong grip" restricts movement of the left forearm and inhibits release, that it is appropriate for those with weak forearms and to treat RSI.
As I say this is a hypothesis for testing and not dogma. It's what I'm currently working on in my own swing. Critiques?
Edited by Ole_Tom_Morris - 8/2/13 at 12:59pm