How to fix early extension in your golf swing – getting the angle right

How to fix early extension in your golf swing

It is no surprise that, on a list of technical faults which are common in golf, early extension as you take your golf swing is right up at the top of those things which drive us amateur golfers, crazy. How to fix early extension in golf swing is one of the most common faults we want to put right.

Technology has only added to our problems here. As we can now all look at videos of other players making this mistake, and even video ourselves as we play, this problem can be easily seen. Early extension in golf swing seems to be everywhere. It is an error which is very easy to spot. You can see this in these pictures.

Draw a line from your backside to the ground, and you can see if you are going wrong. The line should be straight and if it is not then you have a problem with early extension. In other words, it is a problem which our smartphones, YouTube and golfing sites make easy to identify. But seeing it is one thing, trying to solve it can be more difficult. 

How to identify early extension in your golf swing

Let’s start off by defining the issue. It’s about your spine angle, the relation of your spine to your hips and getting that angle correct. On top of that, even when you do get it absolutely right, it can be tough to maintain that angle. Even once you have mastered the basic technique, it doesn’t always feel natural, and that makes it harder to remember when you are playing.

Preventing early extension is all about your body line in relation to the ball. This video gives a clear illustration of what it should be, so I suggest you watch that before we start so you can identify if you have this problem.

Another way to check is if you find you are hitting the ball with the hosel rather than the face of the club frequently. That is another sign that your extension needs improving.

Pay attention to your position at address. The aim here is to keep the angle between your spine and your hips as you go through the whole swing. Otherwise, your arms and hands will become restricted, and you will mis-hit the ball.

Strength and technique

Most of our power is in our lower body, this is where the biggest strongest muscles are. Golf is about taking that power and accurately applying it to the ball, through the medium of the golf club. To do this correctly, we need both strength and technique. If these two things are not in place, then you will mis-hit the ball.

We also need to talk about your physical strength and flexibility. Early extension is a technical fault in your swing, but you do need to have the physical power there to correct this particular technical fault. Try this test to see if you need toning up. If you have good core strength, you should be able to rotate your upper body while keeping your lower body still. Like this:

If you find this difficult then try to build up your flexibility. Let’s be clear here, to play good golf you do not need to be superman or woman. You need some strength and flexibility to be sure. But, as I am sure you notice out on the golf course people who you do not expect to have a lot a brute strength, older people, or petite slight women, for example, can be excellent golfers. It is about how you apply the power you have. It is about technique. Try these exercises to build up your core strength and flexibility.

Simple drills to fix early extension in a golf swing

Going back to basics is essential. The relation between your hips and your spine is what counts, so focus on that in your practice. Start with this straightforward exercise, which you can do at home. Try gently putting golf balls while keeping your backside against a wall. Do this until you to get the feel of this, then you will know what your spine angle should be. If you can get this right, then you will find it easier to get your swing smooth and powerful when you are out on the course.

Once you have mastered this, you should work on your address position, with your hips pushed back and your spine tilted over, that relationship between the hips and the spine is what you want to maintain as you swing the club. To get this right, you need to concentrate on the position of your hips. I stress this because folks often get this wrong and make things more complicated than they need to be. Here is what I mean, if you are early extending with your golf swing, then parts of your body will not feel right, not just your hips. Your head will come forward, and your arms will be cramped down by your sides. You may focus on your head or your arms at this point, but this will be wrong. Your head and your arms are not causing the problem, the position of your hips is causing the problem.

So, get your hips in the right place in relation to your spine by doing ‘the backside against the wall’ drill. Once you are happy with this, move on to these other drills to correct early extension when you take a proper golf swing.

Practice your swing without hitting the ball at first. Pay attention to that all-important angle between your hips and your spine, and then keep the movement of your hips smooth. Keep the movement fluid, enjoy it. Get used to how it feels.

Once you are comfortable with this, go back to your address position and try a new drill. As you swing around, it is essential to make sure you shift your weight as you maintain your line. This is not easy, but if you practice it and you will get a feel for the movement, you will notice that you have more power in your swing (this is because your arms are in the right place and you are transferring energy much more efficiently). You are also more stable on the ground, and this allows you to get more precision in your swing. Stability and accuracy go together in golf. Notice how now, as you swing your hips you can get both speed and power. Notice the flex in your knees, this is also helping transfer that energy to the ball, and that is the way you hit the big shots.

Repeat this until it becomes very familiar. You want these movements to enter your muscle memory, the way to get that to happen is to practise and practise a lot. Notice that the action in your hips is transferring energy. You want your hips to be at a thirty to forty-degree angle to your spine at the impact with the ball.

Here is an excellent video to help you.

Keeping up the good work

Unfortunately, early extension in golf is a problem which can slip back unless you keep practising. If you find you are mis-hitting the ball when you are playing, especially if the hosel is connecting with the ball rather than the face of the club, then go back to basics. Try the ‘back against the wall’ exercise again to remind your muscle memory what the right spine to hips angle feels like. Then go back on the course and run through this checklist.

Make sure your angle is correct at the address position. Shift your weight as you rotate. Visualise the angle and keep it through the downswing.

When you are practising on the course take an adjustment marker, a straight stick is fine, and put it behind your hips so you can ensure that you maintain that angle. Even when you feel you have solved the problem and are no longer early extending on your swing use the marker to double check from time to time. Early extension is a problem which can sneak back so be vigilant and continuously remind your muscle memory of what the correct position of your hips in relation to your spine should be. As you check, pay close attention to how this angle feels.

You will probably feel as if you are making a massive adjustment to get that spine line right, and the danger is that your brain starts telling your body that massive is too much and you begin to pull your hips in. By using an adjustment marker, you prove to yourself where your body should be and get to feel it. Remember that feeling, that is what you want when you are out on the course.

Some golfers find that they can detect a signal in their body which tells them that they are at the correct position. This is a very individual thing, but it is worth checking out for yourself. When you are in the right position, and you know you are not early extending do a quick mental body scan and identify a pressure, or a pull in your hips or spine which tells you, ‘this is it, I know I am doing it right.’ If you can find that you are halfway there.

How to fix early extension in your golf swing – Avoid injury

There is another reason why you should work to get this movement right. If you do not rotate correctly, shifting your weight as we have described, then you are in danger of injuring your lower back. The ideal is that you use your weight to power your swing, rotating in line with your weight, so your weight and your rotation and working together, not fighting each other. You must avoid using your spine to compensate or try to correct poor weight distribution. That is the way to get injured in your lower back. Conversely, learning to distribute your weight well will strengthen both your core and your lower back. It is a perfect workout in fact.

Here is to happy, healthy golfing.

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