The right , wrong places for chicken wings

Thank god it’s Friday (as I pen this column)! It has been a heck of a week. A tradition at the end of the work week is hooking up with good friends, visiting your favourite watering hole to share a few laughs with and just unwinding.

Lakewood Golf Course professional Scott Bergdahl demonstrates the wrong way to swing a club

Lakewood Golf Course professional Scott Bergdahl demonstrates the wrong way to swing a club

Thank god it’s Friday (as I pen this column)! It has been a heck of a week.

A tradition at the end of the work week is hooking up with good friends, visiting your favourite watering hole to share a few laughs with and just unwinding.

It seems the Friday night tradition could be the carrot at the end of the rope that keeps us going till the weekend. Well deserved, I must say.

Of course, what would a night out on the town be without a little cheer, and of course chicken wings? Mild, medium or hot sauce, teriyaki, salt & pepper. Which to choose, they all sound so good?

Well unfortunately, this week’s choice of tasty chicken wings is not so tasty. As a matter of fact, when it comes to the golf swing, the dreaded ‘chicken wing’ can be considered an infectious disease that even the most renowned golf doctor shutters at the thought of curing their patient of.

The chicken wing is something that most golfers can call their own. Virtually all golfers who have challenged themselves to play this great game of golf have been infected by this golfing disease. So much so that one would think that the golfing gurus should actually include the move as a recognized and acceptable swing motion. After all, if everyone is doing it, then why do you have to eliminate it from the swing motion?

Topping, skulling, pushing, slicing, fading, missing and of course the rare pull, that’s why! All of these terms refer to the contact a golfer makes with the ball, and of course the direction the ball travels. The end result of the dreaded chicken wing is poor direction and loss of distance.

This is the exact thing that we are all attempting to correct when we engage in taking golf lessons.

It is all about ‘cause and effect’.

Is the chicken wing the root cause of the swing flaw, or is it the direct effect of something else incorrectly happening within the golf swing?

Fix one flaw in the golf swing and a few others automatically repair themselves. How, you ask? The mind is a wonderful tool.

First of all, let me explain what a chicken wing is. When I reference the chicken wing, I am referring to the bending of the target arm (right arm for a left-handed golfer) through impact. In your address position, your target arm should be straight. As you swing into your backswing the target arm remains straight as it does in the downswing and through the ball to what is referred as the post impact position (slightly past the ball where your hands are approximately waist high). From here, both arms will bend as your body approaches a full finish position.

In reality, there are many factors that will cause a golfer to have a chicken wing through impact.

In fact there are too many to discuss in this article. Therefore, I shall briefly discuss a couple of the most common causes. They include; improper body rotation, incorrect grip pressure and perception.

The first step is to understand how the body works.

In many articles proceeding this one, I have discussed the body motion . . . that the swing motion as it relates to the body is a rotational one versus a lateral one. The fact is that in the golf swing we are attempting to create a coiling motion as we move the club into our backswing.

As you swing down and through the ball if done correctly, your body will just unwind, allowing the arms to fully extend through impact. Ensuring that you load properly will assist in not allowing you to get ahead of the ball at impact (a position where your head is in front of the ball as you make contact). Being ahead of the ball at impact causes — in most cases — you to fold or bend your target arm, creating a chicken wing.

The second cause of the chicken wing is grip pressure. Grip pressure refers to the tightness that you apply with your hands on the handle of the golf club. Gripping the club too tightly creates the perception of control. This control is more comfortable for golfers as they are trying to return the club back to the ball, when in fact they should just turn their body and let the club swing through the ball. A tight grip pressure causes a flipping motion through impact, which in turn creates a bending of the target arm (the chicken wing).

In order to avoid too tight of a grip pressure, hold the handle of the club as if you are holding a baby bird. You want to hold the bird just tight enough that it does not escape your grip and fly away, but not so tight that you kill the bird. This is relaxed and the same pressure as you would apply throughout the swing. Relaxing the grip pressure will also ensure that your wrists and arms do not hurt after hitting a few balls, as well.

Lastly, it’s all about perception. I see many golfers attempting to help the ball in the air. In fact, you need to try hitting the ball into the ground. Each and every golf club has it own loft and it is this loft that will assist in getting the ball up in the air.

When making a swing, you are simply trying to make a circle around your body with your golf club. As the club approaches the ball, the bottom of the circle is where you should make contact with the ball. If executed properly, the loft that the golf club has will create trajectory. The end result will send the ball skyward and towards your target. Many golfers feel they need to assist this process by flicking their wrists as they approach the ball. Doing so causes the chicken wing and many miss-hit shots.

I certainly hope this sheds light on your Friday night tradition. Next time you order chicken wings please order up a dose of body rotation, relaxed grip pressure and proper perception. You shall be surprised how good you feel the next day. Enjoy your week on the Links.

Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake. His column appears Tuesdays in the Advocate.

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