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Early Extension: One of golf’s most destructive swing flaws

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It’s known by various names: early extension, pelvic thrust, even “humping” the ball in some circles. What these terms describe is a premature motion of the lower body/pelvis toward the golf ball. In my opinion, there are not many moves in golf swing more destructive than this one.

Watch the video below, where I explain a classic example of this move.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IomNBDmBEvc&feature=youtu.be

When the pelvis thrusts out toward the golf ball, invariably the torso moves AWAY from the golf ball, as you saw in the above video. Here are just some of the problems associated with this move:

  • Loss of posture.
  • Loss of ability to leverage the ground properly.
  • Inability to swing the club through impact with any kind of proper arc.
  • “Standing the club up,” which means that the hands will come in well above where they started on the downswing
  • Inconsistent contact on face of the club.
  • Inconsistent attack angle into the golf ball.

In short there is nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost when a player falls into this habit. That’s why you see so few tour players in this position. Notice the difference between the lower body motion in the first video and the way Jason Dufner moves his lower body in the video below.

I love the way Jason Dufner keeps his lower body UNDER him, which allows so much freedom for him to swing the arms through impact. He can exit to the left all he wants and hit down on the golf ball by applying the correct force. His path and attack angle are so consistent because he can maintain his posture right through impact.

If you suffer from this move, here’s a drill to help.

Try hitting some balls with an aim stick behind you, touching your rear end. Start without a club, and then progress to a few easy swings with a club. Gradually build to partial swings with a ball until you feel comfortable hitting full shots. See if you can feel the lower body using the ground and staying under you.

At first, you might feel as though the pelvis is actually backing up, pulling away from the ball, but I guarantee that it won’t be.

Even at home, you can take an address position with your rear against a wall and make some arm swings without a club. It will feel different, but create awareness of how the best golfers in the world create a position that allows for consistent ball striking.

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me (dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com) about my online swing analysis program.

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. AB

    Sep 11, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Trying to move the the hips to start the down swing will also cause you to thrust the hips forward. The crease in the right hip and the position of the right knee at the top of the swing must be held for the hips to stay back. Moving the left shoulder away from the chin helps the hold the hips for a split second. People have been taught to turn the hips to start the downswing from the top of the swing with disastrous results. By moving the shoulder away from the chin, the club drops and we get into the Sam Snead squat position with the hips back over the heels. Your left shoulder and left hip work together. Try this little exercise to prove it to yourself, stand straight up and have someone tap you on your left shoulder from behind you. You will notice that your left shoulder and left hip both moved at the same time when you turn. This also shows you how slow this move is from the top. This allows you to also swing left because the left shoulder is moving back to its original starting position and back behind you, not up which causes the high left shoulder and head to fall to the right straightening the hips. Tension in the lower body will cause your hips move forward and thrust outward also. Your lats will get tight forcing the hips to extend forward to release the pressure. Softness in the left shoulder and lower body helps the alleviate this. Try it!

  2. Dennis Clark

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:26 am

    you need to see someone, really. Sometimes trying to correct it yourself can dig a deeper hole. where do you live?

  3. Andy Saunders

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I am a 4 cap, currently overhauling my swing with my PGA pro. I’ve been working on this for 7 weeks, with a goal of finishing the change by July 2016. I need some advice! Right now, I am 80% lost. Basically, I hook most shots. When you are doing such an extensive overhaul(grip, path, release, hip turn, etc.) how lost do you get before it starts to click? Right now, on the range, I hit 1/10 sweet. On the course I’ve gone from mid 70’s to mid 80’s. Bogeyman is very frustrating. Can someone who’s really committed to a long term change like ridding early extension please tell me that this is the right choice? Right now I am very afraid I will never be good amateur again, I’ve been as low as 1.5 and shot a low of 66 off the tips of my course. Right now, that’s a far off fantasy! Feedback is appreciated. Take care.

  4. Rox

    Sep 5, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I’m also seeing the amateur in the Video comparison roll up on his Right toes(Right foot moves towards the ball initially allowing the hips to move closer to the ball) before rolling his foot over to follow as opposed to Mahan who rolls his Right foot over to the instep and holds it to the ground long enough to help keep his hips under the upper body.
    IMO this is also an issue for most amateurs that slide too far out from the upper body on the swing.
    So many things that contribute to the early extension.
    Get a PGA instructor to help focus on prioritizing what needs to be worked on and improvement will come.

  5. Bill Gillenwaters

    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    I have also struggled with this to the point where my club stops shortly after impact. When I tried to keep my posture I would lose balance. After viewing this and making some practice swings, I have made some observations. It seems if I put my weight on the instep of my right heal on my backswing and less into the heal I am able to transfer left, maintain my posture, and complete my finish in balance. Does that make sense.

  6. Dennis Clark

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    • Bill Gillenwaters

      Sep 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Edit last comment. ” when I put my weight on instep of my right FOOT…

  7. christian

    Aug 27, 2015 at 4:11 am

    A simple swing thought to avoid this is “keep the bum sticking out”

    • adam

      Aug 27, 2015 at 9:48 am

      My girlfriend (6HDCP) was taught to think of sitting on a barstool which has helped me “stick my bum out.” Helped immensely.

  8. Loz

    Aug 27, 2015 at 1:54 am

    Most other articles now seem to focus on how this is often the result of a physical limitation. I’ve got very poor flexibility, I’ve never been able to touch my toes (I’m 6′ 4″ with long legs), but have in the past played to a 3 hcp in the UK. Having recently identified this through video, this wasn’t available when I was younger, this bad habit has just been part of my swing. I’d love to get rid of it but think it’s pretty much impossible now as I hardly play these days and am no doubt even less flexible. I’ve tried some of the TPI exercises and can’t get close to any of the positions they mention.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 27, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Im not saying it isn’t a physical limitation, it may very well be. That’s what TPI people can help with when it is identified. But we never really differentiate a bad habit from a physical shortcoming. Both are needed, the diagnosis and the training…

  9. Dennis Clark

    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    yep, almost always is…nobody makes bad moves for no reason; they do it because the HAVE to when the club gets out of position. Thats why I have written volumes about the body responding to the club, not the other way around

  10. jylos

    Aug 26, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I think this is a compensatory move when you feel the clubface closed during the backswing.

  11. Dennis Clark

    Aug 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I think it important to understand how ANY move affects impact. There is far too much emphasis on the motions of the body and not nearly enough on how these motions affect the GOLF CLUB. Thats why I mention the things the motion can CAUSE! Nobody’s hips hit the ball, but IF the hip motion is causing too steep or shallow, or toe hitting etc. THEN this might be cause. Read any of my writing and you’ll see this is how I have taught golf all my life. The only thing that matters is the club face, the path and the attack angle. Everything we do is control THOSE IMPACT FACTORS Thx for reading

  12. Dennis Clark

    Aug 26, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Sure, whatever it takes…its the great chicken or the egg debate isn’t it? Does the body drive the swing or does the swing drive the body? My experience tends to favor the latter.

  13. blake

    Aug 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    i mean isn’t the ability to do this and really hold your spine position the difference between a scratch golfer and a 10+ handicap?

    I am 32 and in the best shape of my life and I just cannot keep from losing my posture and my head rising at or near impact.

    It seems that in order to really fix this issue one would need to devote a lot of time to flexibility and strength training, no?

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 26, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Yes thats why we’ve just added a Pilates studio to our golf academy. But losing your posture is often the result of the club getting out of position itself and the “hump” is an attempt to get it back into position. I believe you may have the ability to stay in your posture, but possibly the golf club is position is not allowing you to do so.

      • blake

        Aug 27, 2015 at 9:12 am

        yes, i think it is the club position too. after doing some research last night I think i might be mixing one plane/two plane swing tendancies and thus having to compensate on the downswing….causing my fwd hip thrust. Now i just need to figure out which plane is best i reckon

      • blake

        Aug 27, 2015 at 9:30 am

        maybe you can help make a recommendation…here is my down the line swing. what would you recommend I work on to stop thrusting at impact:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTgQOxWqlZ4

        • Stretch

          Aug 31, 2015 at 12:12 pm

          Try getting your head higher. My key is to make sure I see the ball centered in between the 2 noses (each eye sees one side of the nose.) Your video shows your head rising in order to give enough width at impact so the club head doesn’t bottom out behind the ball. I would also use video to see if the same move is evident with an iron swing.

        • Tb

          Aug 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

          Blake, first it’s shot at an angle. Get a true down the line. But it looks like your club face is pretty shut at the top. And your angle of attack looks suspect. My advice, increase forearm rotation in the half way back position and after a few topped shots, she’ll come in nicely. Increase rotation of the forearms in the backswing helps get the club in line with your shoulder plane. That should help you stay down. You can wire me the 50 bucks for that one.

    • Jack

      Aug 26, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      Not really. I learned to keep that angle and I’m still 10+. There are other things like injury and time limitations too. It is key though. Watch the pro’s, they all keep the crunch position through impact. When you execute that, it’s a very different feeling than from standing up through impact. BTW you can get pretty low scores if you just have a really good short game.

      • blake

        Aug 27, 2015 at 9:15 am

        I agree. I play to a 7 handicap but still cannot for the life of me keep the proper spine angle. I don’t think it is a strength or flexibility issue but more of an incorrect club position that leads to this form of compensation as Dennis points out. I think I am mixing one plane and two plane swing characteristics and causing the hip thrust.

        • other paul

          Aug 28, 2015 at 6:08 am

          Dont slide forward, rotate more in your center. Read the articles from this web site, i gained 30 yards on every club in the bag and everyone tells me how professional my swing looks. Driver club head speed jumped to 115 with techniques i learned here (on my first week) No jump, and no hip stalls allowed in this swing. Kelvinmiyahira.com

  14. Derek

    Aug 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    It’s hard to shake this habit and I made progress with this drill and also using the seat on my golf buggy resting against the back of my thighs. I made the most progress by stretching my hips, thighs and hamstrings to improve my mobility. I was told to abopt an open stance and close my shoulders at address to built a consistent in to out swing path resulting in a slight draw but this also seemed to help my left hip rotate and not extend.

  15. Jonny B

    Aug 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

    This is confusing to me. I was under the impression that it was good to “lead with the hips” in the golf swing, meaning the hip turn should be faster that the upper body/hands because this helps create lag and speed at the moment of impact. This allows the hips to “clear” and get out of the way of the arms which can in turn follow through to impact better.

    I find that some of my best swings occur when I am trying to do just that – I concentrate on leading with my hips or “firing my hips” from the moment I reach the top of my swing. Players like Rory and Sergio seem to do this well, should we not be trying to emulate them?

    • Mac n Cheese

      Aug 26, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      There is a difference between what you describe and what the article is describing. There is no harm in a forward press of the hips, which you describe which is a small lateral shift in the hips towards the target. however; the article describes shifting the hips towards the ball, which is a different motion than a lateral shift. A great way to think of it is imagine trying to scoot forward on a stool just an inch. That quick small motion is what the article is talking about.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 26, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Sure should, but they lead with the hips staying UNDER them, not going out toward the golf ball.

    • Jonny B

      Aug 28, 2015 at 7:49 am

      Thanks for clarifying

  16. Marcus

    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Hi Mr. Clark,
    I have myself suffered from this bad habit and what TW calls the ooh-lay swing. I have tried hard to find a solution and have found many “solutions” not workable. I believe the basic reason of the early extension is the swing balance, whereby the weight of the club, being swung too low and around the body causes the hips to extend, simply to maintain balance. What I have found is that keeping the clubface “outside” the hands will promote a better attack angle, swing plane and lower hands thru impact – all preventing the hips from extending thru the shot. To check that I draw a line from the clubhead through the shaft (from DTL view) and make sure my clubface never “drops” under that line in the swing. I believe that would be evident in your first video w. mahan. Does that sound like a solution ? Thanks !

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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