In Part 1 of this article series, I talked about the fact that Early Extension is extremely common among amateur golfers. I feel it is the most common swing characteristic that negatively affects your swing and your game. Part 1 covered the physical requirements necessary to avoid early extension in the backswing. This article will cover the physical requirements necessary to avoid it in the downswing transition sequence.
In simplistic terms, early extension happens when your pelvis moves toward the ball prior to impact. Doing this will absolutely kill rotation towards the target and is caused by a lack of rotation towards the target. Since all of you are complaining of a lack of consistency and a desire for more power, listen up because this is the solution to both of those problems.
Let’s say that you were able to load the trail hip in the backswing. That required you to pass the Overhead Deep Squat Test and the Lower Quarter Rotation Test (having adequate hip internal rotation on the right side if you are a right-handed player).
Overhead Deep Squat Test (pass)
Lower Quarter Hip Internal Rotation Test-trail side (pass)
Early Extension: DOWNSWING
This famous video is Tiger Woods exaggerating the squat pattern prior to the downswing transition. You’ll see the move at 6:30 minutes into his warmup is to help him ‘feel’ his hips staying back long enough to avoid early extension. As TPI co-founder Dave Phillips describes in the video below, putting more flex in your legs at the top of your backswing will help to get your belt buckle area to stay more underneath you. This is the first part of transitioning into your lead side.
Physical Causes of Early Extension in the Downswing
Before I talk about the physical causes, let me remind you that the downswing sequence is initiated by the lower body. The golf swing starts from the ground up. The legs push into the ground, the ground pushes back. That energy is then transferred to the core/torso, and up to the lead arm and the club. This sequence of events is known as the Kinematic Sequence. All great ball strikers, regardless of style, exhibit this sequence in the downswing transition into impact.
That’s if you can pass these next few screens.
To get the lower body to lead the downswing it needs to be able to separate (disassociate) itself from the upper body. This is determined by the Pelvic Rotation Test.
Pelvic Rotation Test
Can you rotate the lower body independently from the upper body? Most of you will struggle mightily with this test. More often than not, if you can move the pelvis at all it tends to move side-to-side (kind of like a dog wagging its tail). If you can’t disassociate the pelvis in a rotary pattern, you will early extension in the downswing.
To keep the lower body away from your hands and have sufficient space between your body and the ball you need to tilt and tuck your pelvis. This is determined by the Pelvic Tilt Test.
For most of you, this test will prove to be even more challenging. The pelvis needs to tilt upward (tuck under) to transfer that energy from the lower body to the torso. A simple analogy is to think of your legs as the prongs of a power cord and your torso as the outlet. If the prongs don’t go into the outlet all the way, the energy cannot be transferred.
Pelvic rotation and pelvic tilt combined are known as the pelvic powerhouse. It’s these two movements, combined with the ability to squat that allow you to create and maintain that space you need to avoid early extension. It allows you to create and maintain space between the belly button and the ball.
Watch the Pelvic Powerhouse movement in action by clicking this link:
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…….
Pelvic rotation and pelvic tilt are preceded by a lateral shift of pressure through the forefoot of the lead leg. This is another skill that eludes many amateur golfers.
So before you can rotate and tilt and extend your hips you need to create pressure into the ground with the lead foot to get the lead hip to extend and rotate back and out of the way. This requires the following physical abilities on the lead side.
Bridge w/Knee Extension Test (stability/strength)
- Lower Quarter Rotation Test (lead hip mobility-internal rotation)
Fail Fail Fail
- Single Leg Balance Test
The best players in the world are creating this lateral force into the ground with their lead foot even as the upper body and arms are still going back. If you watch videos of the best players in the world and pay attention to this, you will see the lower body is starting the downswing before the arms start moving towards impact. Putting pressure into the lead foot early in the transition is a big key to setting up the rest of the downswing. This concept is explained brilliantly by Mark Blackburn, who was recently named #1 coach in the game by Golf Digest, so he’s pretty good!
Another great drill to get the sensation of the lower body leading is called the Step, Change-of-Direction Drill. To view this drill watch the video below:
Mike’s Left Foot
The final drill I want to share with you is on how to use the ball of your left foot to both drive the lead hip into extension (when the knee straightens) and back into rotation (the hip goes back 45 degrees). This is beautifully demonstrated in the next two videos. The first is the abbreviated version of a podcast by the guys from Chasing Scratch and the second is by two-time long-drive champion Justin James. Pay attention to the ground forces they are using on the lead side.
Use The Ground and PLAY GOLF BETTER!
END OF PART 2