Early Extension: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs


The next topic in our series is often not given enough weight (pun intended); a golfer’s Dynamic Balance during the golf swing.

The amateur golfer in this video is typical of what we see when a golfer struggles with early extension and raising the handle through impact. We really don’t need to look farther than the first few feet of club movement to see the foreshadowing of those two issues.

Swing Catalyst’s 3D Motion Plate lets us see how the golfer “pressures” the different parts of his feet throughout the swing. In this regard, the golf swing is like so many other athletic motions we’ve all made since childhood.  

Stand in a golf-like address position and just throw a ball down the target line. Your footwork and pressure movement will work exactly like the professional golfer in the video. You’ll be more dynamically balanced and supportive of what you are trying to do with your arm as you throw the ball. It’s very similar to what we’d like to see in the golf swing. Conversely, you could really derail your best intentions to send your ball down the target line if you start the motion by pressuring both heels and then rebounding to both toe boxes during the delivery.

In the golf swing, your golf ball isn’t moving away from you as you move closer to it.  A number of very fast alterations need to happen to strike the ball cleanly and send it at your target. That is very difficult to do swing after swing, day after day.

Starting your swing with the dynamic balance of an athlete will give you every opportunity to eliminate the hump and high handle!

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  1. Based on these foot loadings I must conclude that these force plate pictures represent a 6 or 7 iron swing foot loading.
    Why? Because so little pressure is applied to the right rear foot during the backswing. A driver swing would have larger loading pressures in the rear/right foot/leg, and in particular into the right rear heel. Foot loading for a mid/short iron club will have a left/lead foot loading bias as seems to be indicated on the video.
    Am I wrong?!!

  2. Anybody notice the force plate loading for the pros rear/right foot and in particular the absence of loading into the right heel in the backswing and downswing? The loading stays in the right forefoot throughout which tells me that the Center of Pressure should track towards the right forefoot. Hmmmm ….

      • Yes, the CoP track does move slightly towards the left side but it also seems to aim towards the mid-foot, and then takes a long path to the left side. This would suggest to me the golfer is using a shorter club and not a driver, where you favor the left side in the backswing …. at least I do and also tend to release my hips early… maybe because I’m 6’4″ and my CoG/CoM is higher up from the ground.
        I wonder if a driver CoP track would show more pressure going into the left heel. Of course, the example illustrates the extension of the hip joints as shown by the ‘tush’ line contact with the glass pane.

  3. The early extension or opening up of the hip joints can only happen if the knee joints are straightening up as well. Why do amateur golfers straighten their knee joints in the downswing?

    I know why… do you?

    • hint: it’s got do do with perceived dynamic ‘imbalance’ and the meandering locations of the center of pressure …. as well as ….. the visual, proprioceptive and vestibular feedback responses to those looming imbalances …!

      • Yes, could be so and that could relate to a proprioceptive problem. Tight hamstrings would keep you squatting while weak hamstrings would force you upright and trying to override those handicaps results in faulty movements.

        Another problem could be a pot belly that interferes with your posture and keeps you upright. I remember those old yellow Ping ads on their shaft lie dot system where they show a portly man requiring upright lie golf clubs… because they can’t bend over without loosing their balance. Have you ever watched an incompetent fat man trying to swing a golf club … it’s not pleasant to watch.

        Still, why would a seemingly fit golfer prematurely unflex his hip joints and straighten up his legs and loose his sagittal spinal tilt while trying to rotate his body? Hmmmmm….

    • I don’t play golf, but I am a WRX Amateur who can discuss the scientific ins and outs of the golfswing …. and analyze how equipment affects the golfswing … e.g. golf clubs have no “swing” in them, and in fact are ‘anti-swing’ because they are nothing more than inertial resistance that impedes any body rotation and arm action. Think of that !!!

  4. It’s very clear the differences between the pro and amateur swings. Obviously if your an amateur who puts too much pressure on your front foot on the downswing, you need to reverse the pressure to the back foot.
    A good drill is to take one of those whippy orange sticks and time your follow through better. I had a hip replacement on my load side and it’s taken me years to trust myself on the load side. Meaning I was bailing out pushing off on my load side. A slower , deliberate takeaway is a good drill too. Hideki Matsuyama has this pregnant pause at the top of his swing which illustrates perfectly how he loading up on his back leg. I’m neither strong enough or flexible enough to pull this off but it’s a very good mental visual.

    • Well, once you know what the problem is, you can address it. I’m guessing you don’t have an instructor, and you are trying to improve on your own.

      The fix is simple, shift your weight on the backswing, return it to the front foot on your downswing. Now, you may need help with other areas first, such as strengthening the posterior chain of muscles to allow you to stay down through the swing. It isn’t likely to be a single action that ‘fixes’ your problem.

      • The foot pattern in the video of the pro was very linear. But actually there are more pros with the X pattern that have weight on right side at impact. Do they have “weak” legs too?

        • Good observation…. and if you look at how the Long Drive players load their GRFs (Ground Reaction Forces) you will see them going from the rear leg/foot and then thrusting heavily into the lead leg/foot… and then to regain dynamic balance they recoil back into their rear leg/foot just as the clubhead is going through impact.
          Of course there are exceptions and some LDers catch themselves on the lead leg/foot. There is no one solution but there are proper and improper methods of loading the feet and resultant GRFs.

    • Good point …. and I love to read these semi-erudite golfswing ‘teachers’ trying to scientifically explain the golfswing using measurement gadgets that provide them with numbers on aspects of the golfswing.
      They don’t know how the equipment measures the golfswing, i.e. the mathematical algorithms and the basic science that underpins the algorithms. They just accept the numbers on the computer screen and run with that. In effect, they are instrument jockeys that ride the gadgets…. and they do a somewhat decent job interpreting the numbers…. and a lot better than starting with those old and faulty ball flight patterns … pre-Jorgensen.

      And all the hallowed old golf teachers of the 1960s-90s are being overwhelmed by ‘science’ and the new batch of young gun teachers who seem more credible with their electronic swing gadgets.