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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 ([email protected]) 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 [email protected]

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

Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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