Early extension in golf is a phenomenon that has perplexed and frustrated golfers for generations. It’s a term that’s often thrown around, yet its true nature remains elusive to many. I rarely hear the correct cause or definition during my lessons.
This comprehensive guide aims to remove the barriers to understanding early extension, dive into its underlying causes, and provide solutions. I am looking forward to putting to rest the fallacies that have led to the propagation of this supposed fault.
Understanding Early Extension: A Primer
Early extension refers to the involuntary movement of the hips towards the ball during the backswing, downswing, and or both. Yes, some golfers start their early extension on the backswing.
I find that these individuals have an easier time fixing this issue vs. the golfers who do it on their downswing. This will make more sense as you get deeper into this article.
Early extension is a motion that’s easily observable but often misunderstood. Many golfers recognize it in their swing but struggle to correct it. We can not correct that which we don’t understand. The error I see so often in golfers when they try to analyze something in their golf swing is the lack of understanding of cause and effect and diagnosing a supposed issue based on what they see on TV.
A great example of this would be the many golfers that come to me wanting to hit it longer and the way for them to hit it longer is to clear their hips like, Rory. Early extension, like so many other supposed swing faults, is misdiagnosed mainly because the golfer doesn’t understand the root cause.
The Historical Context of Early Extension
Understanding and eradicating Early Extension has likely been part of the game since its inception. However, with the advent of video technology, it has become more easily identifiable.
This has led to increased awareness but also confusion. I believe video and most coaches have been taught to look at early extension as a swing flaw.
When you start to look at it as, once again, our body is saving us from possibly missing the golf ball because of a serious flaw or flaws in the golf swing. We need to appreciate what our body is able to do for us when we can’t.
Early Extension in Golf: A Misdiagnosed Problem
The Myth of Early Extension as a Swing Fault
One of the most common misconceptions about early extension is that it’s a swing fault. This belief leads to misguided attempts at correction.
In reality, early extension is not a fault but a response to a move we are making in our golf swing and or club face positioning. In essence, your early extension is helping you hit the ball better because of the faults in your golf swing prior to early extension.
The Many Faces of Early Extension
Early extension can take on several forms, each with its own set of implications for a golfer’s performance. It’s fascinating how golfers and even professionals come up with creative names to describe this challenging movement pattern. Some of the names that people commonly use to refer to early extension include:
1. “Humping the Goat”: This colloquial term humorously describes the pelvic movement that resembles the motion of someone trying to lift or thrust an object, akin to the motion of milking a goat. It highlights the exaggerated upward thrust of the pelvis that characterizes early extension. Yes, you still hear coaches that talk about it to their students this way. I never have.
2, “Loss of Angles”: This term reflects the fundamental change in the angles between the hips, spine, and thighs that occurs when the pelvis moves closer to the ball. These altered angles can lead to a loss of power, accuracy, and consistency in the golf swing. This can actually be applied to many other cases of faults or like this one a supposed fault.
3. “Standing Up”: Golfers often refer to early extension as “standing up” due to the sensation that the body is rising prematurely during the downswing. This upward motion can lead to inconsistent ball-striking and reduced clubhead speed.
4. “Hip Thrust”: Similar to the concept of “humping the goat,” the term “hip thrust” underscores the noticeable thrusting motion of the hips toward the ball during the swing. This action can disrupt the golfer’s balance and compromise the quality of the strike.
5. “Chicken Wing”: While typically associated with the arms, the term “chicken wing” can also be used to describe early extension. As the pelvis moves closer to the ball, the golfer’s body can contort in a way that resembles the awkward posture of a chicken wing, resulting in a loss of power and control. This one surprises golfers.
6. “Duck Walk”: The term “duck walk” is sometimes used humorously to depict the appearance of a golfer who exhibits early extension. The pelvis moving towards the ball can create a stance that resembles the waddling motion of a duck, further illustrating the deviation from proper posture. I have read this in the past and know some older golf coaches that use this term.
While these names provide a lighthearted perspective on early extension, the reality is that addressing this issue is essential for golfers striving to improve their performance.
As a leading golf coach at EJS Golf Academy in Scottsdale, AZ, I have witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of early extension on a golfer’s game. Through my years of experience and comprehensive understanding of golf biomechanics, I have developed effective strategies to help golfers overcome this challenge and unlock their true potential.
To tackle early extension, it’s crucial to dive into the root causes and explore the biomechanical factors that contribute to this movement pattern. The interaction between a golfer’s anatomy, swing mechanics, and muscle activation plays a pivotal role in understanding why early extension occurs.
At EJS Golf Academy, I utilize state-of-the-art technology, including Trackman 4 Launch monitor, 3D Pressure Plates, 3D Video analysis, and Hackmotion, to gain insights into a golfer’s swing dynamics and movement patterns.
Through meticulous analysis, I can identify the specific triggers that lead to early extension in each golfer’s swing. This personalized approach allows me to tailor my instruction and feedback to address the unique factors contributing to the issue. By combining my expertise in golf theory, biomechanics, and motor learning, I guide golfers toward making sustainable changes to their swing mechanics.
Top 6 Drills To Use for Eradicating Early Extension at the Root
1. Chair Drill
- Set Up: Place a chair or a similar object behind you, just touching your rear end while assuming your golf stance.
- Execution: Make swings without bumping into the chair during your downswing and follow-through. Have a heavy focus on what you feel yourself doing with your feet, where the pressure is.
- Objective: This drill teaches you to maintain your spine angle and pelvis position. If done correctly, you should be clearing your hips without making contact with the chair.
- Analysis: The presence of a physical object serves as instant feedback. The biomechanical advantage of maintaining proper spine and pelvis position promotes an efficient kinematic sequence and force transfer.
2. Wall Drill
- Set Up: Stand facing a wall, with your toes about a foot away.
- Execution: Execute a golf swing without your head or chest hitting the wall.
- Objective: This drill encourages you to keep your upper body back, preventing early extension.
- Analysis: Neurologically speaking, your body’s proprioceptive feedback will adapt to the restriction, allowing your motor patterns to recalibrate and prioritize the proper spine position. This is what it is all about.
3. Towel Under Feet Drill
- Set Up: Place a towel under your feet, gripping the ground as you set up for the swing. You can also use a tiny dowel and gain the same feelings.
- Execution: As you swing, focus on keeping the towel pinched under your feet.
- Objective: This drill encourages ground force utilization and dissuades the feet from pushing forward, thereby negating early extension.
- Analysis: Ground reaction forces are crucial for an efficient golf swing. Training the neuromuscular system to engage with the ground facilitates a more bio-mechanically optimized swing.
4. Impact Bag Drill
- Set Up: Position an impact bag or a similar object where you would typically make contact with the ball.
- Execution: Make swings with the sole objective of striking the bag while maintaining your posture. Feel like you are driving the bag low.
- Objective: This encourages the feeling of compressing the ball while staying in posture.
- Analysis: Impact dynamics are essential in translating the body’s kinetic energy into the ball. By focusing on the impact while maintaining posture, you train your body to preserve the optimal kinetic chain.
5. Resistance Band Drill
- Set Up: Attach a resistance band to a stationary object at hip height. Loop the other end around your waist.
- Execution: Perform swings while the band pulls your hips forward, resisting early extension. We want to make sure we are pushing back hard through our feet.
- Objective: The band will help you feel what it’s like to keep the hips back during the swing.
- Analysis: The external resistance serves as a dynamic cue for your neuromuscular system to adapt. Your body learns to counteract the pull, thus internalizing the right hip position.
6. Split Grip Drill
- Set Up: Assume your normal stance but grip the club with a split grip (hands about a foot apart).
- Execution: Execute swings focusing on turning the hips while maintaining the split grip. Think of your hips going to 10:30 if 120:0 is the target.
- Objective: This exaggerated grip setup makes it difficult to early extend and forces proper body rotation.
- Analysis: The non-standard grip disrupts habitual motor patterns that contribute to early extension, requiring the golfer to be more mindful of body rotations and alignments.
I guarantee that incorporating these drills into your daily 15-minute practice sessions will yield observable results, as long as you maintain a commitment to my feedback-driven approach to practice. I firmly believe that every golfer, regardless of skill level, can benefit from a holistic approach that encompasses both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
This belief is the cornerstone of my coaching philosophy, and it’s what sets EJS Golf Academy apart as a premier destination for golf improvement. My commitment to helping golfers achieve tangible results from their very first lesson is unwavering. I’ve seen countless golfers transform their games by embracing my 15-minute daily practice model and adopting a feedback-driven approach to practice.
The Futility of Treating the Symptom
Many golfers attempt to treat early extension directly, focusing on maintaining spine angle or forcing lag. These efforts are often in vain because they don’t address the underlying cause.
A Detailed Examination Towards Eradicating Early Extension:
The Real Causes
Muscular imbalance and physical limitations
While physical limitations can contribute to early extension, they are rarely the root cause. A comprehensive assessment of a golfer’s fitness and flexibility can reveal areas for improvement, but focusing solely on physical aspects misses the bigger picture. The golf coach needs to think bigger picture. Using the TPI assessment is valuable!
Swing mechanics and alignment
The real culprit behind early extension often lies in the swing mechanics. Misalignment, improper positioning, and other mechanical issues can force the body into early extension. Understanding these mechanics is crucial for effective correction.
A golf coach has to have keen eyes to see two steps backward from the actual and supposed fault. I look at it as always looking 3-4 steps behind the problem area. The issue is always caused earlier in the golf swing.
The mental image of the golf swing
The way a golfer trains and thinks about their swing can also lead to early extension. If we don’t have a correct image in our mind to tell our bodies how to move, we can’t expect to move correctly.
Unfortunately, you will not learn that from watching golf on TV and watching YouTube videos. A misguided focus on maintaining spine angle or forcing lag can exacerbate the problem. The mental aspect of golf is as vital as the physical, and a proper understanding can lead to significant improvements. It is very rare that a really good golfer doesn’t have a picture in his mind of what they are trying to do.
However, it is universal that the high handicap golfers do not have any of the proper images in their minds. How can we send signals from our brain to our muscles to tell them what to do when the golfer has no idea what that may be? This serious handicap makes this sport very difficult.
Solutions and Strategies for Eradicating Early Extension:
A Comprehensive Approach
Personalized assessment and training
The best way to eradicate your early extension is to get help from golf coaches with personal training. Here at EJS Golf Academy, we provide a tailored assessment using state-of-the-art technology. Not only do we measure what happens at and near the impact zone with Trackman, I do a TPI assessment to see how you move, look at the forces that we can’t see that precede motion on my 3D Dual Force Plates, and more. This personalized approach allows us to pinpoint the exact cause of early extension for each golfer and develop a customized training plan.
Focused practice and feedback-driven approach
My unique 15-minute daily practice model, guided by precise feedback, ensures that golfers make consistent progress. This focused approach, combined with our expertise, leads to tangible improvements in eliminating early extension.
No one has to play golf like this their whole career. Don’t buy into the lie that you just can’t rotate! I haven’t seen a player yet not be able to do what I ask. Better yet, the student is typically in shock about how much they can rotate and look like their heroes on TV without hurting.
Mental conditioning and mindset training
We emphasize the importance of the right mindset and training approach. By helping golfers understand that early extension is a symptom, not a flaw, and we empower them to make lasting changes to their swing. My goal with each student I coach is to get them to ultimately become their own swing coach. I want each of my students to understand their golf swing so well that no matter what is going on, they are able to diagnose it.
A real-world success story: transforming a swing
One of my students, a dedicated golfer struggling with early extension, came to me with a common complaint: loss of distance and persistent back pain. Through our personalized assessment, we identified the root causes of his early extension and developed a targeted 15-minute daily practice plan.
By following this plan diligently at home, he was able to eradicate early extension entirely. His swing became much more rotational, leading to increased distance with all of his clubs and the elimination of his back pain. This transformation is a testament to the effectiveness of personalized daily training with feedback and the power of understanding the true nature of early extension.
If any golfer can take one aspect from this blog, I want it to be that they know there is a system out there for improvement that doesn’t take long and find a golf coach who is willing to teach them how to maximize what they already do well. There isn’t a golfer that I can’t find a positive in what they are doing. Learn to build on the positive, not always the negatives.
Conclusion: A New Paradigm in Golf Training
Early extension is sold as a complex issue that requires a nuanced understanding and a comprehensive approach. As you now know there is a reason our body early extends. Knowing that it is doing this because of some other fault in the golf swing should empower you to finally eradicate early extension from your golf game.