Chicken winging is when the lead arm breaks down and begins to bend through the impact zone of the golf swing.
It looks almost as if the trailing arm (right arm for right handers) is pushing the club into the hitting zone instead of the lead arm pulling the club through the ball.
As you can imagine this motion decreases power significantly causing weak high shots that are either pulled or sliced.
It is important to correct the chicken wing swing characteristic as it can lead to elbow pain.
Most golfers that complain of pain in the lead elbow exhibit the chicken wing swing fault.
As a bonus, I have also created a Free Guide that lists exercises you can perform to correct the physical limitations that cause the chicken wing swing characteristic.
The exercises included in the guide are linked to the Titleist Performance Insitute (TPI) video library so you can see how to perform each exercise.
Click the button below to download the free guide that contains exercises to reduce the flying lead elbow and keep your arm straight through impact.
What is the Chicken Wing Swing Characteristic?
As mentioned before, it is a breakdown of the lead arm during the downswing and through the impact zone.
I think it is easier to see what the chicken wing swing characteristic is in photographs than it is to explain it and I have some photos posted in the next section.
How Prevalent is Chicken Winging?
A little under 36% of amateur golfers exhibit the chicken wing swing characteristic. Professional golfers don’t exhibit this swing characteristic as it causes a significant decrease in power.
Although some people mention that Jordan Spieth’s swing has a chicken wing swing characteristic, I don’t think it has anything to do with physical limitations.
It is more like his lead arm extends down to the target line. In this Golf Channel article Michael Breed explains Jordan’s swing.
How Prevalent is Chicken Winging?
How To Tell If Your Swing has a Chicken Wing
The best way to is to record a couple of videos of your golf swing.
One from the face on view, and another from down the line.
Using the down the line video, advance the video until after you hit the golf ball.
Slowly move the video until either the club or elbow comes into view.
As you see in the first photo the golfers elbow comes into view and exits their shoulder before you see the golf club. This is typical of a chicken wing swing characteristic. The photo is from a RotarySwing.com YouTube video.
In the second photo, you see the clubhead come into view before you see the arm and elbow.
To identify chicken winging from the face-on view, advance the video to slightly past the impact position.
It is not necessary to draw the lines because the arm position in chicken winging is very visible, but for the sake of it, draw a line from the middle of the lead shoulder to the center of the lead wrist.
The line should bisect the lead arm. It is sometimes difficult to assess because of the video camera frame capture is not high enough. The swing is moving fast at this point, and it takes a camera with a high frame rate to catch a good shot.
A better way is to see if the lead arm matched the drawn line. If the elbow is bent and is forward of the line, the swing most likely has a chicken wing aspect to it, and it wouldn’t hurt to address shoulder limitations.
The first photo is from a video by David Broach of Frank Moore Golf Academy. The second photograph is Dustin Johnson.
You can see in the first photo how the elbow is bent toward the target and does not match the line, unlike DJ’s perfectly straight arm in the second picture.
From these set of photographs, you can see how easy it is to identify swing characteristics from video recordings. Using video is the best way to find possible issues, and then perform a physical screen to narrow down if the cause of the issue is due to a stability or mobility problem.
Swing Assessment Program
Are you slicing or hooking the golf ball? Do you think your swing is costing you distance? Are the common swing faults, like early extension, over the top, and loss of posture costing you frustration and strokes?
Did you know that your golf swing can provide clues to swing faults?
Using two videos of your golf swing recorded with your smartphone, I can identify which of the swing characteristics you may possess.
I have developed a Swing Assessment Program to assist in determining swing faults. Correct swing faults with simple corrective exercises.
Use the buttons below to learn more.
The "Learn More" button will take you to a page on this website that describes the program in detail.
The "Visit Course Website" button will take you to the area of my website where I host my golf conditioning programs.
Physical Causes of Chicken Winging
An extreme over the top swing can cause chicken winging. The forces from the outside to in swing push the lead elbow out away from the body and don’t allow the shoulders to rotate. Click the link to learn more about the causes of Over the Top.
Other causes include lack of lead arm strength and flexibility of the lead shoulder. Muscle restrictions can retard shoulder rotation, and the force of the swing pushes the lead arm toward the target.
Limited lead shoulder external rotation again will not allow the shoulder to rotate, and speed of the swing takes the arm out away from the body inside of around it.
The best physical screens to see if the issue is a joint mobility or stability problem is the 90/90 Test and the Lat Test.
Note: I will link the physical screens to an article once I have written it.
One aspect of the 90/90 Test is to evaluate the amount of external rotation in the shoulders. If the lead shoulder can’t externally rotate, in all likelihood, the momentum of the golf swing will take the lead arm out and away from the body in the follow-through.
The test also evaluates scapular stability while in golf posture. If there is a lack of scapular stability, it changes the way the shoulder joint rotates and reduces the external rotation of the shoulder.
The Lat Test evaluates the flexibility of the lat muscles. Tightness in the lat changes posture when the arms are raised above the head, as in the follow-through.
It will also limit the rotation of the shoulders both in the backswing and follow-through.
Undergo a Physical Screen
It is best if you have a certified Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Fitness Professional show you how to perform the physical screens and observe the tests.
I also have a Swing Analysis Program where you send me videos of your swing, and I evaluate them for swing characteristics, return the results, and provide you with exercises to correct the limitations.
Or, if you live in Upstate New York I have an in Home TPI Screening Service.
If you have the chicken wing swing characteristic, don’t worry.
The guide has exercises that will increase your mobility, flexibility, and strength. I have prepared a free guide with those exercises for you!
It lists the exercises that will help you correct limitations causing your mobility issues.
Each exercise is linked to a video to show you the proper way to do the exercise.
Click the button below and enter your first name and e-mail address so I can e-mail you the Free Chicken Wing Correction Guide!