Left Arm Blocking Vision at Top of Backswing | Swing Surgeon - Don Trahan Peak Performance Golf Swing

Left Arm Blocking Vision at Top of Backswing

Wed, 06/26/2013 - 14:00 -- Don Trahan

The Peak Performance Golf Swing uses a limited turn. This is one aspect of the swing that I think gets overlooked. We don't want to have a big, rotational swing that gets us deep into the sacred burial ground, but there has to be a turn. Otherwise you would just be swinging outside and over the top without any sort of consistency. 

Jonas Weingarten and Allen Fisher both wrote in about the role of the left arm in the takeaway and backswing. Jonas is having trouble seeing the ball when he swings his arms vertically, while Allen has figured out how to put himself in the right position every time he swings the club.

Here's what they had to say:

I have a question regarding the foundation swing series that I have been using. I find that I cannot get my left arm out of the way of my face during my backswing so I can't see the golf ball as I start my downswing. I realize that I am not as flexible as I use to be, however, females have their breasts to deal with during their backswing and are successful. What am I doing incorrectly?

Thank you
Jonas Weingarten

Allen then shared his "eureka" moment, which has him swinging better than ever:

Hi Don,

Eureka...Evolving from below was your sternum video a few days ago. I think I finally have it. You said your chin hits your left upper arm (bicep). My key...bouncing your left upper arm or bicep off the FRONT of your chin STOPS your backswing and prevents overturning and overrotation into the SBG and stops excess movement. Once I bounce off my chin the club just fires up and the ball goes boom, straight and high. Then, now for the first time, the RECOIL happens automatically. It just happens. Very Strange.

Anyway, very excited and hitting lots of great balls with zero effort. Using my chin to STOP the backswing and act as the bell ringer triggers the whole sequence.  To do this, I have to keep my chin down and my head held completely still. The weird thing is there is so little movement that it's impossible to feel where the power comes from, but it is there, for sure.

Allen Fisher

When you get to the top of your backswing, your chin should hit your bicep at the same time you start ringing the bell and bumping to start the forward swing. Jonas is most likely swinging his arms too far in front of his body. Instead of swinging his arms up over the toe line, he's swinging up outside. That means his first move is out, instead of turning the club toe up into the catcher's mitt.

He might also be lifting the club so much that he's reverse tilting. A good way to see if you're reverse tilting is to put your back to the sun and watch your shadow. It will give you instant feedback!

You can also use a baseboard in your house to test your takeaway and turn. The club should only stay on the baseboard for a half an inch. If it stays on it any longer or you feel resistance from the wall, it means your first move is to the outside.

Give it a try and keep it vertical!

The Surge

If you can't view the YouTube video above try CLICKING HERE. You must allow popups from this site for the link to work.


Dragonhead's picture

Submitted by Dragonhead on

An interesting video today Surge. Your description of lifting the club too early and lifting up to the top rang bells in my febrile brain : - ( I know now that I have been guilty of this from time to time. Back on track again due to your recent video with Mike Bartholemew and the importance of swinging up. It had me swinging beautifully in a short time. That and firming up my grip a little more. Without realizing it, I'd fallen back into using the softer previous rotational [holding an open tube of toothpaste], grip! Can't wait for the wet stuff to cease, so I can get out and swing again.
The Surge Nation, who ask questions of Surge, Doc, and other Surgites are often the light going on Eureka deliverers we might need. I am amazed at the amount of EXCELLENT advice and comments which have given me a far clearer insight not only into the Peak Performance Golf Swing, but golf equipment and the game itself. Thanks to all.
Keep on hitting them straighter and longer Surgites all.
DH and back to GBSAPS....and basics. Reading the manual etc,

Kevin McGarrahan's picture

Submitted by Kevin McGarrahan on

In reference to Allen Fisher's comments, "My key...bouncing your left upper arm or bicep off the FRONT of your chin... " and "... I have to keep my chin down ..." I see a potential problem, at least for me. If I drop my chin, my head starts to rotate as soon as my shoulders turn, which puts me deep in the SBG. I have to keep my chin up so that my head is in line with my spine, which allows my left bicep to hit the point of my chin without my head moving.

On page 44 of the Foundations Manual, it says, "First, at address and throughout the swing, you want to keep your upper body in as erect a position as possible, while still bending over at the waist." If you put your chin down, your upper body, which includes your head, is no longer "as erect ... as possible."

I did the baseboard drill a few moments ago and I didn't scrape the baseboard at all nor did I turn into the SBG. To quote Hannibal Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together."

Dragonhead's picture

Submitted by Dragonhead on

Agree with the position of the head and the information on page 44 of the Foundation Manual Kevin. The erect upper gody and the head to me is absolutely vital. If the chin is down towards the chest, it does not allow the free movement of the muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper arms during the Forward upswing. When I have not had the head elevated off the chest, my 'knackered' shoulders and neck soon tell me. I can expect painful results. With the head more erect [looking down my nose at the ball almost], I can swing away without fear of pain, even after a vigorous swing session on the golf mat or a round on the course. Will try the drill on the 'baseboard', which we used to call the 'skirting board'. Don't know if it is still called that.

brucebubello@yahoo.com's picture

Submitted by brucebubello@ya... on

One of the best tips yet. I just need to remember this when I play. My left arm should just end up under the chin.

allenfischer2002@hotmail.com's picture

Submitted by allenfischer200... on

My fundamental problem was trying to swing standing up too straight. I needed to bend over a whole lot more than I ever realized. Once I bent over a lot more, maybe to 30-35 degrees, at the waist (without squatting), it was easy to stop rotating into the SBG and it was easy just to keep my head down and nose at the ball and let my left bicep tap my chin and then fire up AFAP with virtually no movement. The ball then just goes straight without a pull. The bottom line: Try bending over MORE at the waist without squatting. It might work for you too.

Robert Fleck's picture

Submitted by Robert Fleck on

Surge has mentioned a few times, though I don't know that he's stressed it enough, Dr. Ned Armstrong's rule of 30. 30* seems to be a natural angle for the body to allow balanced athletic movement, so yes, we should be bent over about 30* from the waist. It will be a little more than that for shorter irons and a little less for woods, but pretty close. I know Steve Smith did an examination of spine angles for Surge and DJ before and posted his results. Both were just over 30* with the club they were using in the video Steve used for the check, as I recall.

allenfischer2002@hotmail.com's picture

Submitted by allenfischer200... on

As you know, very very very few of today's bad amateurs bend over any where near that far, and it seems that may be a fundamental problem that makes substantial improvement nearly impossible. Failure to understand that reality was certainly the problem with my swing.

mosleyj@mycvc.net's picture

Submitted by mosleyj@mycvc.net on

Surge, I'd just like to commend you for your online instruction. You're not only informative, but entertaining as well. Carry on!

RMSous's picture

Submitted by RMSous on

Surge, I want you to know I believe in your system, because I immediately began hitting the ball straighter and further, and have never --- ever --- felt so comfortable swinging my clubs. I have a question, however: you talk both about the body (dog) causing the arms/club (tail) to move, and that we should relax our arms and let the dog wag the tail. But you also talk about lifting the club up the tree after the body stops turning. Lifting, to me, implies interference with the motion begun using the body. So my question is: is it possible to attain the very steep Surge backswing position without lifting with the arms, that is, think of it solely as a continuation of the club motion initiated by the body? In short, you stop the body turning, but LET the club continue to climb upward on its own, so to speak. If the answer is no, it is first a turn, THEN a lift, it seems to me the arms will get active and be in danger of taking over from the dog.

Robert Fleck's picture

Submitted by Robert Fleck on

Surge has never recommended using the body to swing passive arms. That's rotational swing theory, the antithesis of what Surge teaches. In the PPGS we turn our body only to allow for the free motion of the arms. The swing should be 80%-90% arms. That's why Surge likes to use the rock on a string analogy. We hold the hand (body) steady to swing the string (arms and club) faster.

Also, we hear the term steep used all the time in relation to the Surge swing, but in reality the path with this swing into the ball is very shallow because of the minimal action of the wrists. That's what allows us to nip the ball off the ground and take almost no divot. When I'm on the range, I can hit most of a bucket of balls and hardly have to change the spot where I place the ball unless I screw up and hit one fat. I rarely have to worry about using the sand from my cart to fill a divot on the course because I generally just trim the top of the grass off. Don't confuse getting the club vertical with having a steep angle of attack into the ball. Guys who dig beaver pelts of grass out of the fairways have steep swings, no matter how flat and around their club path is. PPGS folks don't.

RMSous's picture

Submitted by RMSous on

Thank you very much for your comments, Mr. Fleck, which cleared up my confusion about the steepness of the Surge swing. (A quick check in the mirror revealed that although the swing feels extraordinarily upright, it is not. I had been swinging on such a flat plane before adopting Don's system, that my new "feeling" does not square with reality).

However, my point in my letter was that Don indeed teaches that the dog should wag the tail. Take, for example, Chapter 8 in his online book. The entire chapter is in fact devoted to his teaching that, in the takeaway, the body moves the arms, not vice versa. "...the clubhead's movement is begun by the turning of your torso and your shoulders. Meanwhile, the club is merely held passively in your hands. By this I man that your hands and arms are put into motion by your upper body...I like to think of the takeaway in terms of the analogy 'Does the tail wag the dog or does the dog wag the tail.?'(p.61). And: "Does the tail wag the dog or does the dog wag the tail? We know that the dog should wag the tail. I believe that the turning movement of the hips and shoulders sets the arms in motion." (p. 62).

Don very definitely says that after the toe-up-clubhead is, so to speak, in the catcher's mitt, then the club is lifted with the arms and shoulders. Lifted. No more dog, just dog's tail. My question to Don (I'm a newbie so I don't know how to ask Don himself to respond) is: how do I avoid getting my arms too tight and dominant on their way to the top, and so being in danger of taking over the swing, if I am lifting to the top. I was always under the impression that my arms should feel like limp spaghetti throughout the swing, so that they could be swung faster (whether you believe in the body as main power source, or armswing as main power source). As I am learning Don's swing, I find the backswing's two components (dog and tail) in conflict with each other. First I am supposed to turn, then I am supposed to lift. I need Don to advise me how to turn my backswing into ONE smooth motion. Perhaps there are drills covering this issue?

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on


Before I share some links that may help may I say welcome aboard and you have found a great place to get a good swing.

Something all new Surgites need to learn to utilize is the search box. This will access you to 1000's of free 5-12 minute daily lessons that have been given over the last 4 years. The take away for example has been covered dozens of times from many various aspects. notice at the top right of this page under the word LOGOUT or LOGIN there is a blank space with a tiny magnified glass?? This is where you can put in a word or short phrase that will lead you on an amazing journey of answers. Many or any of these answers may lead to more light and understanding on all aspects of the golf swing and more. This is saved archive of a ton of information. You may remember from the movie with Will Smith "I ROBOT" how the professor/scientist robot developer told Will that he must ask the right question?? Same for us. So for example if you put in - one piece take away- you will find these;


Notice in that section that any where the words one, or one piece, or piece are found an article or daily covering something on that word or subject will be available. As you filter through these many pages of dailies you will find some that zoom in on your QUESTION and some that hit on an intirly different part of the subject or not. Like the "Matrix" it an take you to a world of places. You must ask the right question and then focus grass hopper.
Good luck. I have found that the search is well worth it and there is not another golf site on the WWW that can touch what Surge has made available for our learning golf.

If you learn to use the archives you are as they say learning HOW TO FISH rather than being given a fish to eat.

RMSous's picture

Submitted by RMSous on

Thank you for pointing to the search function, which seems to be an excellent tool, where I found Surge's response to my exact problem. You were very kind to direct me in this way.

By the way, the resolution of my dilemma appears to be that Surge has two teachings on the initial part of the takeaway: one, that the move to the catcher's mitt position is strictly a body turn, with passive arms (which is what I found in Chapter 8 of his book); and two, a contradictory teaching, found in many other places, that you LIFT the club into the catcher's mitt position (a hand/arm/shoulder proposition) from the get-go, and then, to obtain a fluid backswing overall, you just CONTINUE that lifting motion to the top (and, incidentally, stop turning your body once your left arm reaches the toe line. So you can see why I was confused. The second option is NOT "turn to the catcher's mitt, THEN lift", it is: "make one fluid lift all the way from dead still to the top of backswing." In other words, the second option is: the tail wags the dog at all times. I can live with that, and can certainly hope to make a more fluid swing by practising a one-lift move. By the way, I believe the swinging arms in the single lift motion can actually move the body to the requisite 70% or 3/4-position, and one need not even think about moving the hips, shoulders, etc. This position is the diametric opposite to George Knudson's philosophy, which is that the body turn, or pivot, per se, moves the arms automatically into the perfect top of backswing position, and that the forward pivot moves them, automatically, to the perfect finish position. I believe George was correct, and I am starting to believe Don's totally opposite theory is also perfectly feasible, though perhaps somewhat harder to execute consistently. What do you think, Don?

Kevin McGarrahan's picture

Submitted by Kevin McGarrahan on


I can see how you may think those two points are contradictory, but they are not. Since the upper body is inclined at about 30*, turning the shoulders on that incline will automatically cause the club head to lift off the ground up into the catcher's mitt. From there, as you finish the turn to the toe line (upper forward arm parallel to the toe line), you lift with the arms to the top of the BUS. This is done in one fluid motion. If you are like I was and start lifting with the arms before turning into the mitt, you will consistently get outside and over the top.

Hope this helps. Keep it vertical and hit 'em long and straight.

Edit: I concentrate on moving my hands along the rim of the ferris wheel that Surge has mentioned numerous times. By doing that, I find that the turn and lift happen together quite smoothly and keep me from getting any tension as I lift. By maintaining a firm forward wrist, the club goes along for the ride and is in the proper position all the time. I've pretty much gotten the PPGS swing down to three key points: The setup position (just before initiating the takeaway), the top of the BUS, and the T-Finish. When I get in those three positions, I hit the ball almost perfectly. Of course, deviating from those positions results in far less favorable shots.

RMSous's picture

Submitted by RMSous on

Thank you, Kevin, for your comments, which I found helpful: you will tend to go outside if you lift from the very start. But of course this underlines my point that the first move must be a body move, with passive arms and hands. While this will "lift" the club naturally into the mitt, it is this turning, not the arms lifting, that gets the club there. And consequently, what Don says in most of his comments is true: a little turn, then a lot of lifting. Fluidity remains a concern and I suppose each person will have to find a way to smooth out a clubhead path that suddenly veers from going laterally (and up) to vertically up.

Russty Kiwi's picture

Submitted by Russty Kiwi on

I would not put too much emphasis on the dog & tail idea as a guide for any particular part of Surge's swing. I have always thought of it as a generalization for the swing as a whole, where we need to keep our bodies quiet but controlled, so we can swing our arms. A dog who wags its butt to much, wont have a very good tail wag. We all need to find the thoughts & methods to the swing that suits us. We still have to rotate our body 70* in the backswing, so its not just a lifting of the arms. I have never thought about the catchers mitt in the backswing, but focus on the palms perpendicular to the ground throughout the swing, with my thumbes pointing straight up at the top of the backswing. Find what works for you, & you will see that ,this swing is quite simple. Good luck

RMSous's picture

Submitted by RMSous on

I continue to be impressed with the warm welcome and wishes I am receiving from Surge's fans, including you, Rusty. I feel your focussing on "palms up" is an example of an effective way to smooth out the b/swing by giving yourself one thing to do, rather than two (ie turn then lift). I have developed my own, different "technique" which also ignores the turn and lift advice: I just think of sweeping my left arm directly across my chest and letting the momentum carry it to the top. In doing this, my hips and shoulders naturally stop at their proper 3/4 -turn position.

As for the dog and tail not being "a guide for any particular part of Surge's swing"...I hear you, but would reply that it was Surge, not me, who wrote a whole chapter (8) mostly devoted to telling us dog (the body) absolutely must move the passive arms (tail) initially. In my first posting, I was soliciting readers' experience on how they cope with their passive arms "suddenly" becoming active, and their active body suddenly becoming passive. There is at least the potential there for the old herky-jerky. It is interesting, for comparison's sake, to note that George Knudson reduced the golf swing to (1) setup (2) pivot (3) pivot. Arms, wrists and hands totally passive throughout. And he had arguably the prettiest and definitely the second-most accurate swing in history, behind ole Moe but ahead of ole Ben. Simplicity, as you imply, is paramount.


Robert Fleck's picture

Submitted by Robert Fleck on

This is a good conversation you've started over the last week. :) Personally, I think Surge should revisit that chapter 8 in the Foundations Manual, as in Daily videos and everywhere else he's pretty consistent about saying that the lifting starts from the very beginning. He initiates all the motion with the thought of pulling his right shoulder and hip away from the target line, but immediately starts to lift the club with his left arm rotating to maintain the palms perpendicular position.

The important point that Neil brought out is that you also have to rotate the left arm from the shoulder socket in order to maintain Surge's other rule of keeping the palms perpendicular to the ground throughout the swing. You're not lifting the arms straight out in front of you, which would push you outside the line to start. You're rotating and lifting with the left arm to get the club over the toe line, where all turning stops and it's just lift.

Personally, I find it very helpful to not think about the turn at all. Only about lifting the club over the toe line and straight up from there. The body naturally turns in order to make room for that to happen.

Dave Everitt's picture

Submitted by Dave Everitt on

The key for me, is having a very clear idea, of where the second knuckle of the trigger finger of my right hand, has to be at the top to get a complete 3/4 back swing. With a little practice, it is easy to feel this place in space. With this visualization I never have to worry about whether my back swing is complete.

The right side of the body and the right hand gets very good at finding this place. Check out the cactus drill in the archives for that place in space without a turn. After completing the turn and lift, the butt of the grip of the vertical shaft should point down to the right ankle. The palms should also be perpendicular.

This is a little turn and a lift, to that place in space, that my right hand and trigger finger can reach, without a lot of stress.. Other people have run into a lot of problems trying to make it just a lift. Trying to overdo the lift, or making a deliberate pause at the top messes up my rhythm and timing.

I keep the swing very centered and my levels constant by feeling that my entire right side is rotating around a stationary tailbone, while simultaneously lifting to the 3/4 position from the get go. If I keep a little outward pressure on the knees, while doing the back swing , overturning does not happen.

If my arms are relatively soft at the top of the the back swing, they will fall correctly when triggered by my bump, which is a small move of the tailbone toward the back of the left heel. This simple move, gets the weight to the left heel, where it has to be, and after that the only thought is swinging the arms up to the finish.