Early Extension

Early Extension

In this article, I will explain the myth of early extension, as well as why your attempt to fix it may be hurting your game more than helping you.

One of the commonest problems I hear people say is

I keep losing my angles

What a player is typically referring to here is the act of standing up/raising up through the downswing to the point that they look like a beanpole at impact

early extending

The butt comes ‘off the line’ and moves forwards, the head moves away from the ball, the spine gets very vertical.

 

I Got 99 Problems

This has been linked to several issues such as shanks (due to backward movement of the spine severely shallowing the club through impact and the hands getting away from the body). However, you could just as easily link this move to a toe shot, due to the fact that the lead shoulder ends up farther from the ball at impact, which could either result in a toe or a thin shot.

In any case, early extenders will struggle like hell to maintain lag or shaft lean – simply because they wouldn’t be able to strike the ball with the combination of early extension and forward shaft lean.

It has also been linked to consistency problems. Hmmm, we could also link ‘breathing air’ with consistency problems, so……

 

But Extending Aint One

Unfortunately, the go-to ‘fix’ for this kind of fault is to try and ‘maintain posture’ through the swing; in other words, taking the angles you make at address and trying to maintain those angles throughout the swing.

This problem is often met by attempts to reduce the amount of extension the player does. However, I contest that this is not only wrong, but detrimental.

In my opinion, rather than taking away the extension, we should be adding something to the swing (to be explained later).

Extending is not a fault – in fact, an extending force is a necessary element for a golfer to create speed, dynamic balance and a good hand path. For that reason, we shouldn’t be trying to reduce the extension. Let me explain.

 

Tug of War

When a professional golfer swings a club in front of their body and releases it, a tremendous amount of force pulls them towards the ball.

Tiger force

If you are having a hard time picturing this, grab a heavy iron bar and swing it like a golf club as quickly as you can. You will be pulled forwards off balance through what would be the impact area. For a professional golfer swinging a driver at 120 mph, this force pulling them forwards can reach (I have heard estimates of) around 150lb.

Now, we know that if you have a force of 150lb pulling you forwards, you had better be pulling back against it. This is a game of tug of war with the forces of the club, and if you lose you are going to get pulled forwards off balance. However, if you pull with an equal and opposite amount (150lb in the opposite direction), you will have the appearance of maintaining your angles. Some professional golfers manage to overcome the forces of the club and raise their bodies up through impact.

Mcilory phase 2

This picture shows McIlroy raising up through the hitting phase – winning the game of tug of war

Imagine if the club were pulling you forwards with that much force and you were trying to ‘hold’ your body angles. That would be like trying to win a game of tug of war by standing still.

Need for Speed

If you wanted to swing an object in a circle around your body as fast as possible, what would you do? Well, someone who knows the answer is an Olympic hammer thrower.

In the picture below, this is just pre-release. What we see is that the hammer will be creating a very large force to the thrower roughly in the direction of the pink arrow. The hammer thrower will be applying a force roughly in the direction of the green arrow. This serves to speed the hammer up.

hammer throw

We can see that the hammer thrower is pulling back away from the hammer with all his might. What is interesting is, even though the hammer thrower’s arms are straight here, he is not straightening them. If anything, he is trying to pull them towards his body as hard as he can.

Does this hammer throw remind you of anything?

tiger hammer

 

Hand Path

We now know that one of the hallmarks of a good player is that their hands raise through impact. This is discussed in-depth in The Strike Plan.

tiger hand path up

Here we see Tiger’s hands clearly raising up through impact (the club is still travelling down)

While a big part of the hand path movement being attributed to the left shoulder moving up and away from the ball through impact, this is often facilitated through body extension. As we can see in the below pictures, during the execution phase of the swing, lots of professionals actively extend their body upwards, helping to create this hand path.

Spieth phase 2

With Spieth, we see the left leg and pelvis raising upwards, as well as the head backing away from the ball

Mcilory phase 2

We see the same thing with Mcilroy, with the body moving upwards through impact via leg extension and spine extension.

 

Is It Really a Problem?

Besides – is early extension really a problem?

angles downsized

Not many angles were maintained in the making of the above swings.

 

Add, don’t Take Away

I know what you are thinking.

But I have seen videos of professionals maintaining their angles

And you are part right – there are pros who are in a similar spine angle at impact as they are at address. So, what is the difference between the guy who early extends, and the pro who maintains their angles?

The answer is not that the pro is not extending/trying to extend through the execution phase. The answer is in what precedes it. In order to explain this, let’s have a look at one of the ‘cleanest’ looking swings on tour – Adam Scott.

Adam Scott

The yellow line represents his head height. Look how much lower his head is by the time his left arm reaches parallel in the downswing. He has essentially squatted down.

Let’s look at another example – Tiger

Here we see a significant lowering of body height from Tiger between top of the swing and left arm parallel in the downswing (transition). From this position, he could aggressively extend his body up and away from the ball (helping to create incredible speed and a good hand path) while still staying more flexed than his original posture. This would give the illusion of maintaining his angles.

We see this in the below picture,

tiger extend

Another hot player right now – Jordan Spieth. Let’s look at his head height during the transition. The left picture is before the top of the swing, the right picture is after transition.

spieth squat

 

Again, we see that squatting down and lowering of the head. This is followed by the extension during the execution phase, as shown in the below picture.

spieth jump

Interestingly, Spieth (as are most players swinging an iron) is still lower down at impact than he was at address (head height). So, even though he has extended upwards through the execution phase, he didn’t extend above where he started.

Let’s look at Rory

rory squat

 

A very noticeable drop in height (similar to Tiger) during transition.

 

rory jump

Followed by a noticeable upward push (extension).

 

Okay, I get it. But what am I doing?

So, we have destroyed the idea that pros aren’t extending through impact – they are! Even if they are not physically moving upwards as in the examples shown, they are still fighting the pull of the club and the preceding acceleration of the body towards the ground during the squat phase.

Let’s look at an example of someone who is early extending to see what is different.

matt v tiger

The above player is in what we would class as an early extended position. Compared to Tiger on the right, we can see that the player has lost their posture angles, resulting in high hands and clubshaft, which will also result in a reduced ability to have forward shaft lean at impact.

But, rather that trying to maintain posture through the swing and not ‘raise up’ through impact, let’s have a look at the transition of this player.

matt squat

Here we see the issue. This player didn’t have any squat during the transition.

matt jump

As a result, during the raising phase (execution), this player ends up with their body much higher than they were – giving the ‘early extended’ look.

Some info that you don’t need to know, but you might find interesting

It’s also important to note that, without the squat during transition, it requires less force to push the body upwards. This is because, when we squat, our body is momentarily accelerating towards the ground. We then require more ground force to reduce the body’s acceleration towards the ground and turn it into (what appears to be) a stable head, or (in the professional examples show) a head which moves upwards and away from the ball.

Top pros use this (unconsciously) to create more ground force and thus more ability to produce speed and power.

 

Conclusion and Summary

So, in my opinion, one of the biggest myths is that pro golfers maintain their angles. The difference between someone who early extends and a player who seemingly maintains their angles usually lies in the transition – where professional golfers tend to add some squat.

Body extension forces through impact can help with

so we should not look to get rid of this. Perhaps, instead, we should be looking at the moves which precede the early extension.

 

How I Use This Info 

When I am teaching, I use this understanding to visualise how it fits in with the variables the player brings to the table, and how it may effect their ball flight/consistency.

For example, if a player were to add more ‘down and forward’ squatting motion in transition, how would this affect

  • low point position
  • swing arc height
  • clubface
  • path
  • angle of attack
  • face to path relationships
  • dynamic loft
  • etc

If you want to learn more about the techniques that the professionals use to strike the ball so crisply and consistently, check out The Strike Plan below.

Strike plan enter

 

 

Notes

While there could be many reasons why you would early extend (clubface too open, trying to add loft, trying to not hit the ground, clubshaft too steep in transition), this article explores the idea that trying to maintain your angles might not be the best idea. The best players in the world are often not staying in their angles, but going through certain squatting/extending moves at specific times in the swing.

Also, it is not 100% necessary for the head to drop and raise as the examples shown – this is just a pattern seen in a lot of good players – especially with iron shots. What is more important is what the hands are doing through impact – and this can be facilitated via this squat/raise type body action.

 

41 Comments

  • Wong soo kong

    Working on your centre of gravity and centrifuge force.The hammer thrower works on that concept

  • Instructor

    How do you fix it? You wrote 15 pages of content without a solution. It’s not about how much you know.. It’s about how little you can say while getting your point across

    • admin

      I would have to write 100 pages on the ‘fix’. Any instructor knows that each individual will have their own reason for early extending. It could be to try and square up an open face, it could be because the shaft was too steep in transition, it could be that the player is trying to increase the loft on the club (perhaps they are a slow speed player), it could be they have poorly fit clubs etc etc etc.

      The article was to suggest that
      1. Maybe Early Extension is not as big an issue as most people make out
      2. Professionals tend to have very defined movement patterns (described in the article)
      3. Taking the ‘extension’ part of the movement out of a swing (via butt board exercises or trying to hold angles) may be detrimental to a player

  • Jack Victor

    Hi Adam,I think this is one of your best ever blogs.I blamed early extension on my poor shots,shanks- just about everything I suppose, but you have made realise that we do need extension, but do it right and in the correct sequence. Thanks for your help.

  • Simon Kidd

    Adam, thanks I really like this explanation of the squat and using the ground force and as you have quite rightly stated, each golfer has his or her own set of issues.

  • Deron

    This makes perfect sense and is exactly what I do in my swing. For years I’ve just assumed that I “lose my angles.” Seems the more I try to force the tush line staying put, the more wrecked my swing gets. How would you advise someone to start incorporating a squat in their swing early in the downswing? I have tried this move before just messing around and the results seem to be about as bad as my trying to maintain my tush line. I assume I need to learn to walk before I can run, so to speak.

    • admin

      Hi Deron. To be honest, I work less on the squat part, and am more likely to work on the extension part – pushing up using the ground. Doing this in conjunction with hitting a tee (at first), then progressing it to quality ground strike seems to ‘self-organize’ the squat part of the motion – and people will be more likely to do it at a time which is more appropriate for their bodies.

      I would limit this type of work to off-season though.

  • Todd

    Early extension is a huge problem with golfers. Most times it is a physical issue. Either the golfer doesn’t have the mobility or stability to stay back. There are several exercises that can improve mobility and stability and reduce or eliminate early extension.

    • Gump

      Couldn’t disagree more. yes there are a small number of golfers that are limited due to flexibility issues, but when it comes to EE, thats rarely the issue. EE is a result of a swing issue. Its not the cause. You can’t fix EE by focusing on EE. EE happens because of something else. Fix your steep swing and maybe you fix EE. Fix your sequence, and maybe you fix your EE.

      This is why simply having someone practice keeping their tush on the wall rarely helps. because on the course, if you force your tush back without fixing reasons it wants to come forward, you risk injury and likely to slam clubhead a foot behind the ball

      • admin

        Not sure how this is disagreeing. We seem to agree on the fact that 1. EE is the result of a swing issue – yes in a lot of cases it is purely mechanical. We also seem to agree on 2. you can’t fix EE by focusing on EE – this was a huge premise of the article. We also seem to agree that 3. fix your steep swing and you fix your EE – to a certain extent, EE can be caused by a steep shaft and reducing that “can” (but not always) improves EE. We also agree on the fact that 4. having someone keep their tush on the wall rarely helps and can risk injury. It’s nice to find common ground in these so-called “disagreements”.

  • Rex Reese

    Looks to me that for the pros who maintain their angles, on the downswing the left hip leads the lower body out of the way by moving left, back and down at about 45 degrees.

  • Ray

    Great Stuff.

  • Michael Sydnes

    I personally have a problem with early extension, however it is much worse with my driver than irons. Is this common? Is there a reason for this?

    • admin

      Very likely it is a result of something else in the swing and that ‘fixing’ the early extension itself will only make matters worse.

    • Gump

      You’re steep coming into the ball. Work on flattening the shaft through proper sequencing.

      at top of swing the right knee will flex slightly while the left knee will turn outwards. the arms and hands remain passive which allow the shaft to shallow. The right elbow will lead the arms in downswing.

      • admin

        I don’t know who the “you’re” is that you are referring to here, so I can’t comment on that. Also, what do you mean by “steep”? Steep shaft? Steep angle of attack? Steep hand path? Steep clubhead COM path? Having a steep club shaft post-transition can often lead to early extension – Jack Nicklaus was a famous player for this move.

  • Mac

    Sure don’t see what is being stated as extension in the sequence shots of Rory….if you look closely at the tree that is on his backside at the top of his backswing you see his backside relative to that very same tree at impact. Am I missing something?????

    • admin

      Hips are wider than deep. Therefore, as Rory’s hips have rotated more at impact than in the previous picture, the left butt cheek should have blocked that tree off. However, the middle of the hips (or you could think of it as the tailbone) has extended forwards as they have rotated, giving the “look” of not extending.

  • Jhujhu

    What a poor article. Early extension is called ‘early’ for a reason. You wrote 15 pages proving that pros extend through impact. Of course they do; anyone who’s seen a few slow-mo videos of Rory and Tiger knows it. They extend but they don’t ‘early’ extend, which was kinda the objective of the article I thought. Anyway, good luck.

    • admin

      Hi Jhujuju, 2 points for you to consider. POINT 1 – 99% of cases of early extension are met with the fix of “stay over the ball/in posture/keep your butt against a chair”. This removes the extension out of the swing – not a good idea. This article hopefully shows people that the pros are not doing this in most cases. POINT 2 – refer to the images of pros with driver. Many of these do early extend yet were great ball strikers.

      • Gump

        I see a few differences. the amateur is EARLY extending. The pros hips are much more open and the extension is coming at or after impact. the amateur is extending at start of downswing.

        • admin

          Yes, the hips of the pro are more open. This “hides” much of the extension a pro goes through and gives the look of staying on the tush line for longer. You are right, the amateur is extending early – this is what the article is saying. It’s not “extending” that is the issue, it’s when, why and how to change it. Pros often have a squat-phase which delays the extension phase.

        • Ben Black

          It should be obvious the writer knows there is EARLY extension without specifically saying it. He is saying that high end golfers appear to mostly use their body in a way that creates speed at impact rather than before. A pros left hip will tilt slightly down in transition creating a tilta whirl effect on the hips -try it. Level hips back then tilt down left hip will create a large hip turn. Energy is pushed down into the ground so you can spring back up. That’s why you upload slightly on backswing – all these players have a slightly straighter right leg through backswing. A great swing is a snake motion, nothing is static, nothing is completely still. Too many magazine photos have created this illusion of set positions. The squat is the result of this snake like action. It is the acceleration and braking system of the body. The right side resists the pull of the left to maintain lag in the right shoulder and scapula. Somewhere along the line the greats have learned this instinctively and/or with great coaching – or a coach that doesn’t get in their way – butch Harmon and Woods for instance.

  • b keane

    Early Extension, in my case, is caused by early rotation of my hips. If I delay hip rotation and sync up with my arm swing with hip turn I do not extend too early.

  • jeff

    if one sets up with the tailbone sticking out, one had better early extend to protect their spine. tuck that tailbone under, like the greats, protect the spine, and early extension disappears faster than one can imagine

  • GJ

    TPI definition of Early Extension is defined as any forward movement (thrust) of the lower body towards the golf ball during the downswing.

    By definition the golf pros in your examples are not Early Extending (as defined) as you suggest.

    Your analysis does not appear to fit the definition.

    • admin

      Harry, you appear to have misunderstood my article. I am not saying the pros in my post are early extending. I am highlighting the fact that they are all extending, just later (or adding flexion preceding it). Why is this important? Because for many years, people have tried to get rid of early extension by completely eliminating the “extension” part.

      • GJ

        Pros are extending later – how much later? When should a player extend? Which part/s of the anatomy is extending?

        The extension is achieved without any forward movement (thrust) of the lower body towards the golf ball during the downswing.

  • Matt

    It’s too bad you are getting a lot of negative comments. I thought this article was bang on. In fact the squat move was a piece missing in my swing, and adding it instantly helped my path stay in to in, instead of huge block out to the right and toe hits. It also allows me to maintain my lag in my downswing. Lastly, it helps save my back, trying to “maintain” my spine angle during my swing is dangerous for the back.
    Adding the squat moves makes my swing more dynamic and athletic.
    The people who are hating just don’t understand the golf swing and have other flaws in their swing that are holding them back.
    Thank you so much for the insight, keep up the good work!!! 🙂

  • John Comninaki

    I read your Blog and love the information you disseminate (needed spell check for that one!) This is the best thing I have seen on early extension and wanted to say thank you! I have a question, if I may. My observation of smaller athletes that hit the ball a long way, Justin Thomas, as an example, have a great deal of side bend through impact. My thinking is the upward motion of the left shoulder creates a push into the left leg/foot that creates the ground forces that we see discussed so much. What are your thoughts? Or as Harvey Penick might have said, “It depends”.

    • admin

      Hi John. Usually, the harder the player pulls the club up through impact (via left shoulder or whatever means), this can cause the head to drop in some players (converse to my article). Jason day is another example of this.

  • Fred Closs

    All swings, whether they be in golf, baseball, tennis or a hammer throw are all about loading force and releasing that force. It’s simple physics referred to as “conservation of angular momentum”. The more force you can store in the downswing will result in more force being released through impact. During the downswing, an angle formed by the spine and thighs must be somewhat maintained such that one can extend with more force through impact. The effect of this is a “squat”, more pronounced in some players, less in many others. The angular momentum of the hips causes the forward buttocks to connect with the hip board during the impact, resulting in tremedous power being transferred to the downswing as the spine angle is released. Most amateurs do not contact the hip board in this manner and the result is what Johnny Miller calls a “belly pop” swing that releases the club early with very little power.

  • joseph whelan

    I have tried squatting a little before i swing my driver it seems to help . I believe Mac o grady. Would this help with extension?

  • Sean

    Hi Adam, While you have a lot of detailed and technical information there you could be accused of doing what the golf industry have being doing for years, turning the act of hitting a ball with a stick into a black art. I realize nobody is willing to stop the gravy train but everyone wants to jump on.
    Anyway the reason for early extension IMO is simple. Most people are thought a that hitting a beautiful draw is the best shot in golf. We are thought to swing in to out. Which is not a problem with short to mid irons, but moving to the longer clubs swing at speeds of 90+ its a big problem.
    With the hammer thrower there is a flexible chain/rope so he needs to swing around his body but a golfer doesn’t. Swinging a golf 46″ club around your body at speed will no doubt move your right foot off the ground and your right hip forward into the early extension position. Your readers might recognize low heel strike patterns on their drivers. I am more in favour of swinging across my body rather than around my strike patterns have improved 10 fold. My balance is and finish are also much more stable.

    • admin

      Hi Sean – if you go really deep into my philosophy, you will understand that I actually keep things very simple. However, you cannot convince someone who is trying to fix their early extension to believe something simple without first demonstrating to them that you understand more about the issue. You have rightly identified one of the potential causes for early extension (swinging too much ot the right), although there are many more – and there is even a caution that it is not necessarily an issue. Several tour pros have demonstrated the center of pelvis not only moving forward through the swing, but being significantly more forwards at impact than address (which would constitute early extension). This is biomechanical data – not just video analysis. My goal as a coach is to understand the bigger picture, but be able to relay simple fixes to players – should it be necessary. The goal of an informational blog like this is subtly different, however. The target audience is different, the level of info they desire is different, and the method of convincing of the efficacy of alternate appraoches to “just keep your butt back” is also different.

  • Tony Santiago

    Adam, great article and an important nuance and different way of looking at early extension. I for one, have tried the butt against the wall/chair and have not cured my malady. Looking forward to trying to fix this with what you presented in your article. I am surprised to see the negative posts and can only guess that these are people who are not open to different points of view or have such a limited understanding of the golf swing that they will never comprehend your article. Many thanks.

  • Dan

    Hi Adam, would you say therefore that a large dip of the head in the backswing(before the transition) could cause early extension? Many thanks.

    • admin

      Hi Dan. It depends a lot on the timing of the drop in body mass. Most pros will have a squatting move of some sorts just after the top of the backswing, down until the left arm reaches about parallel with the ground. After that point, they extend upwards. Amateurs, who suffer with early extension, usually dont have any squat, or the timing of the squat is off – limiting power and affecting impact parameters, such as loft at impact (scoopy look).

  • Chris

    Hi there. Interesting article. I have been struggling with early extension for likely my whole life. If you don’t mind, here is a video of my swing:

    https://youtu.be/5zVfc7kymCc

    If you have any advice or ideas for might be causing my EE I would be extremely grateful. Thanks. Chris.

  • James

    Hi,
    I’ve had x-ray on my hips and have been told the hip joint it’s very tight. No arthritis , just the bone socket is small and there is little room for movement.
    Would this be a reason for my early extension?
    Cheers.

    • admin

      It might be – its worth checking out with a qualified golf fitness professional to see what you are/are not capable of producing. Might stop you going down some bad roads in the things you try, or even injuring yourself trying something your body is not capable of doing.

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.