Early extension is probably the greatest inhibitor keeping most golfers from improving their games and enjoying their time on the course. It is defined as any excessive forward motion of the pelvis on the downswing (a.k.a. “standing up” or “thrusting the hips”). This deathly move causes lack of space for the arms to swing creating a “stuck” position and excessive need for the hands to flip to square up the club face at impact. The most common shot patterns accompanied with this move are the flare to the right or the hook to the left (if you are a right handed).
For those of us struggling with early extension, quite frequently we attribute it to the fundamentals of our golf swing and habits that seem impossible to break. Although this is true in some regards, I would attest that most of us can improve upon this so called “unbreakable” habit without setting foot on a golf course. Many swing instructors will try to put their students in the correct positions, but the golfer rarely sees significant results because their body will not allow them to access the positions. Sometimes getting off of the range or course and having a few sessions a week in the gym can yield promising results.
Physical Limitations & Corrective Exercises
Below I have listed three general physical limitations that can directly lead to early extension in a golf swing. It is important to note that if one does not have any of these limitations yet still struggles with early extension, they most likely need drills with feedback to train correct movement patterns. I do not mention these in this post, but I am available to help in this area as well. If you do have these physical limitations, perform these corrective exercises and watch your game improve!
Disassociating Pelvis From Torso
In order to avoid early extension a golfer needs to possess the ability to separate their torso from their lower half. At impact, great golfers will have at least 30 degrees of hip turn relative to the target line; this is compared to 0-20 deg of torso rotation relative to the target line. Without disassociation a golfer will slide or thrust their hips instead of rotating them. Try these two exercises to improve separation.
Hinge + Thoracic Rotation
Tips: In this exercise the lower body should be locked down with your trail leg extended straight in a hinge position; one should not move if another person gives them a light push. Grip the dowel firmly and have good upper body engagement. Follow this by rotating against the forward leg while maintaining your spine angle.
Tips: Maintain core engagement while performing this movement and drive the lower body into the ground, so it is locked and stable. Allow your head to turn and follow the arm that is moving.
Hip External Rotation
The downswing is initiated by the external rotation of the lead hip/knee. Without this ability one will straighten their lead leg instead of turning causing a “standing up” move to occur. Try these two exercises to improve hip external mobility.
90/90 Hip Mobility
Tips: This is a movement that has numerous variations that can be beneficial. Play around with using hands for support or progressing to where there is no need them at all. One can look on our PFS youtube page for some more 90/90 variations.
Lead Hip External Rotation
Tips: The most important thing with this drill is that the leg closest to the wall remains stable and the lead leg is the one externally rotating.
Posterior Chain Strength
When starting the downswing many great golfers load into the ground and have a squat motion followed by a powerful explosive push off the back leg. This means a golfer needs strength and stability in their posterior chain, so they can maintain their spine angle and have a base to push from. Without a strong posterior chain, a golfer’s core will break down and cause a lift in the downswing rather than stabilizing a grounded base.
Goblet Squat Banded
Tips: The band should be located underneath the armpits and is allowing one to stay tall while sitting into a squat. For most of us, our head will start to move forward as we go into our squat not allowing us to load our posterior chain properly.
Tips: This is a progression of the banded goblet squat. If one can stay tall and sit into their squat with the band they can progress to a non-assisted movement.
Box Pistol Squat
Tips: I look for two main things in a box pistol squat: control and full range of motion. One should just happen to run into the box rather than falling onto the box without control. Additionally, when standing back up one should be as tall as possible with a fully engaged glute/high hamstring.
This drill will help you learn maintain your spine angle through the hitting zone properly and also help with adding swing speed. It also incorporates all three of the preceding limitations as well!