I have a confession:
I’m a chronic early extender.
I stand up on the downswing and “hump that goat” like my life depends on it.
But why do I (and you?) early extend? What’s the cause?
And is it really a problem?
In this guide I’m going to deep dive into early extension, figure out if we actually need to sort it, and include some of the best drills for stopping you humping that goat once and for all!
Oh… and in case you’re wondering if these drills actually work…
Here’s my swing after 30 minutes working on drill number 5.
Let’s get started by defining exactly what early extension is.
What Is Early Extension In Golf?
Early extension is when a golfer’s pelvis moves closer to the golf ball during the early part of the downswing (or indeed while completing their backswing).
This results in:
- a loss of spine angle
- a steeper shaft
- high hands at impact
And it can cause a variety of different misses. Everything from blocks and pulls, to straight out shanks. In other words, a two way miss, or a 9 iron that’s going off in a right angle into the trees.
So when we early extend, bad things can happen. But why do we actually do it?
Why Do We Early Extend?
In a nutshell: we early extend because we have to in order to hit the ball.
There’s a flaw in our backswing, transition, or downswing which means that if we didn’t stand up and raise the handle we wouldn’t hit the ball. Or if we did hit the ball, we’d hit it a lot worse.
According to Monte Scheinblum , 3 of the most common swing flaws which cause early extension are:
- Arms are stuck behind the turn and you need to stand up to make room
- The shaft gets steep in transition and you stand up to shallow it out
- The shaft gets way underneath the correct plane on the way down, which forces your hips to thrust to reach the ball
Monte explains more in this excellent video:
Early extension could also be caused by an open face coming into impact (a last moment effort to square up the club).
So there’s really no simple answer that says: “you early extend because you did this”.
Early extension could be caused by a variety of swing faults, and you’ll have to figure out which particular fault is causing the EE in your case.
Should We Try To Fix Our Early Extension?
Sorry, but the answer is kind of:
Yes and no.
Because the thing is, extension isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve already explained that we early extend because we have to in order to hit the ball. And guess what:
That extension also creates speed, and speed in golf is good right?
Extending through the hitting zone can add some serious zing to your strikes. In fact, it’s what most of the pros do.
So if that’s the case, why would it be considered a fault? Why do we all want to fix our early extension?
The problem for us amateurs is what we do in the transition, and early part of the downswing.
Extension Is Not (Necessarily) A Fault, But ‘Early’ Extension Is
Let me preface here by saying that there is more than one way to swing a golf club.
I already included a video from Monte above, and he:
a) has some of the best advice/drills for fixing early extension
b) would probably disagree with this next bit!
There’s a great article here from Adam Young , in which he argues (compellingly) that you definitely want to extend through the ball. And he gives numerous examples of pros doing exactly that.
But the difference between us and ams and those on the PGA tour is that before they extend, they squat as their first move in transition. Which means that even though they are extending through impact, they’ve lowered enough beforehand that when you see setup and impact in a still it looks like their spine angles/tush line have been maintained.
In the image below we can see that Rory is clearly extending (left leg is pretty much straight), but because he dipped first, his head is actually lower than it was at address.
Squatting as an intent in transition is a pretty contentious move.
There’s no doubt that it’s something that’s observed in many pros swings (Tiger, and Rory in particular), but some instructors will argue that it’s not something that we should be actively trying to do.
Or at least it may look like we squat on video, but the squat shouldn’t be the intent. Or if it is the intent, it should be a particular kind of squat (more of a sit into the left side).
And then there are other instructors such as George Gankas who are all about the squat.
Clear as mud right?
But to summarise:
A squat move in transition will almost certainly stop you early extending. But if you’re not immediately following that squat with extension through the ball, you’ll probably stick the club in the ground.
I’ve played around with a squat and found it tough to time, so by all means experiment, but as Monte often says “make sure the parts match up”. I’ve seen him say that if you’re squatting in the downswing, you better be extending in the backswing. Which makes a lot of sense really.
You might end up with something that looks pretty and athletic in a slowmo video, but makes you hit the ball worse than before. And at the end of the day, ball flight is really the only thing that matters.
So with that being said, here are some of the best drills (and intents) for fixing early extension.
The Best Drills For Fixing Early Extension
Below I’ve listed some of the best drills for fixing early extension.
1. Throw The Club Towards The Target Like A Frisbee
This isn’t actually a drill, it’s an intent. But I came across it on this GolfWRX thread and for me it was simple to visualise and made a lot of sense. I’ve quoted the intent in full below, but you should also check out the thread as there is a lot of great advice on there.
“For the curing of EE at the intent level, my intention would be to throw the club towards the target spinning more horizontally like a Frisbee or more like a carousel than a Ferris wheel spinning and flying toward the target. With this intent, you would shallow the club in transition automatically. You would counterbalance the dynamic weight of the club not through the shoulders but lower toward the right elbow, that is swinging more around the waist. Many good attributes of a good golf swing will emerge and you can further fine tune with the mechanical approach.”
2. Start At Impact, And Work Backwards
This is what I’ve been doing, and although it’s early days, I’ve seen a marked improvement in my ball striking (and on video, my early extension) from wedges to 7 iron. Weirdly, it’s also working well with my driver, but my mid/long irons and hybrids are still a little erratic.
I think what’s happening is that my impact conditions are better, which results in a cleaner strike and less dispersion, but I’ve lost of a bit of speed so say a 5 iron won’t launch as well. I’m pretty sure that over time the speed will come back though.
Basically, I changed my intent from hit this position/that position in the backswing/dowswing, to simply:
This is where I want to be at impact.
- my hands left, low, and forward
- the back of my left wrist pointing at the target (square clubface)
- my weight on my left side
- my hips open
What this “feels” like is:
I give zero thought to my backswing (I’m keeping impact as the picture in my head). On the downswing all I do is open my hips (smoothly) and focus on pointing the back of my left wrist at the target. It “feels” like I’m not swinging my arms at all, but of course, I am.
3. Pointing Your Belt Buckle Left Of Target
This drill, or swing thought if you prefer, gets you to focus on pointing your belt buckle towards and left of the target at impact.
When you early extend, your belt buckle will probably be pointing straight at the target line (rather than the target), so with this thought you’re trying to go to the other extreme.
Ultimately you’re going to get a similar end result to my impact focused drill above:
Open hips at impact. More rotation in the lower body.
Here’s Eric Cogorno explaining it:
To be honest, you’ll probably never get as open as that. But by exaggerating the feel and setting that as your goal, the chances are you will be a lot more open than you were previously, with less early extension.
4. Wedge Under The Right Heel Drill
This is a good drill from Dan Whittaker that gets you to engage the lower body in transition by pushing down with the right heel.
Basically, you stick a wedge under your right heel and keep it there during transition and the early part of the downswing. Once you get close to impact you can rotate and extend through the shot.
Dan demonstrates the drill about 3 minutes into this video.
I much prefer this drill to the commonly recommended one of putting your backside against a chair and keeping it on the chair throughout the swing. Sure, it eliminates early extension, but just feels ridiculously contrived.
With Dan’s drill I was able to effectively hit shots while getting live feedback on what my lower body was doing.
5. The 2 Ball Drill
The 2 ball drill is probably one of my favourite drills from Monte Scheinblum (up there with “No Turn, Cast”).
Stick 2 balls down, setup to the outside one, then try and hit the one on the inside.
Here’s Monte explaining how to do it…
And here’s me practicing it on the range…
Wrapping This Up
Early extension is probably something that you’re never going to completely eliminate. At least on camera. And without it, you might even play worse golf with your current swing.
But less thrusting towards the ball, and hips that are more open at impact is definitely something you should strive for.
The 5 drills above are highly recommended, and should help you get there.
Here’s a side-by-side video which shows the difference in my swing…
Early extension = gone.
Only problem now is I seem to have developed an inside takeaway! Oh well, guess that’s the next thing to work on 🙂
But let’s finish with another Monte video where he once again reiterates why your goal shouldn’t be to fix early extension, it should be on improving your overall swing. Your body is early extending in an effort to help you hit the ball. Your task is to figure out why.