It's a long way from the beaches of Fiji to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Just ask Vijay Singh, the only man who's traveled that path.Indeed, Singh holds numerous distinctions that place him among the game's greats. His 34 career PGA Tour victories (as of September 2012) are the most ever by a non-American player, while his 22 wins after age 40 mark another record. Singh's high points include three major titles – a pair of PGA Championship wins (1998 and 2004) and a Masters (2000). He also snatched the world's No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods, albeit briefly, in 2004.
At age 49, Singh appears to have a bit of life left in his game, and there's no telling how much havoc he'll wreak on the Champions Tour after turning 50 in February 2013.
So how did Singh go from whacking coconuts as a kid (his family couldn't afford golf balls) to Hall of Fame induction in 2005? A tireless work ethic certainly helped. Throughout his career, Singh has been known for his obsessive practice habits and marathon sessions on the range. No doubt that's been key to his remarkable consistency and longevity.
Talent played a big role, too. At 6'3” and more than 200 pounds, Singh boasts tremendous athleticism and flexibility. His swing is the picture of freedom and rhythm, long, languid and effortlessly powerful.
Singh's signature: Extends both arms well away from the body on the follow-through.
Who else does it: Zach Johnson
At impact, Singh's hands return almost exactly to their address position – a rarity even among pros. What happens next is truly amazing. Singh focuses on driving his right arm down the target line as far as possible; even though it takes a natural arc to the left, the extension is so pronounced that the palm of his right hand actually comes off the grip, leaving only the fingers hooked around the club.
Whereas most pros begin folding the left arm as the hands reach hip height, both Singh's arms remain straight until the hands are high above his head, forming a triangle until they collapse at the finish. This would be impossible without rotating the shoulders completely through the shot and into the follow-through.
Why it works for Singh:
His extended arms are a continuation of Singh's long, slow backswing, in which he makes a huge turn with the shoulders and hips and stretches the hands well away from the body to create a wide arc. The through-swing mirrors the backswing, allowing Singh to unleash all of his stored energy. The same backswing with a restricted or shortened follow-through would cause him to decelerate into impact, flipping the arms and hands as the shoulders slowed down.
Singh's extension ensures a square clubface and full release, resulting in accurate, powerful shots.
How it can work for you:You may not have Vijay's size or suppleness, but you can still learn from his swing.
Here's a drill that will ingrain a long extension of the arms past impact:
- Stick a tee in the ground about 8” beyond the ball, directly on the target line, so that less than an inch of the tee pokes up.
- Try to clip the top of the tee as you swing through the ball.
Remember to keep turning the shoulders in unison with the arms on the follow-through. If the shoulders stop, you'll most likely suffer hooks.
Vijay Singh Great Extension Through the Ball
If you follow professional golf, you already know that Vijay Singh is one of the best players in the history of the game. He holds three major championship titles, was ranked number one in the world for a period of time, and is already a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. By any measure of success in the game of golf, Vijay Singh is right near the top. Now into his 50's, Singh is still going strong on the PGA Tour, consistently posting quality results while playing against competition less than half his age.
One of the great things about following the professional golf tours is how watching the pros can help you with your own game. You don't have to copy the swing of any one specifically in order to benefit – rather, you can simply look for bits and pieces that can be added to your own game in order to help you improve. When it comes to Vijay Singh, one of the best things to watch is his incredible extension through the ball. Singh is a tall man, and he leverages his height beautifully by using a full release and impressive extension. When he was in his prime, Singh was consistently among the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, and it isn't hard to see why when you watch his swing in slow motion.
Unfortunately, many amateur golfers fail to get the kind of extension that Vijay Singh is able to produce within his golf swing. Rather than allowing the arms to extend through the shot as they rotate around the body, a large number of amateurs will hold them in close to their sides as they slide toward the target. The majority of your movement in the golf swing should be rotational, as it is the body rotation that you use which will unlock all of your potential power. Vijay Singh does an impressive job of rotating as he swings, which is the key to achieving the great extension that he unleashes through the ball time after time.
Again, it is important to emphasize the fact that you should not be trying to swing the club exactly like Vijay Singh. You have your own swing that you are working with, and building a new motion from the ground up to copy a professional is simply a bad idea. However, you can absolutely try to follow Singh's lead when it comes to extension in the swing. If you are able to add to the extension that you achieve through the ball with your driver as well as your irons, you should start to hit the ball farther almost immediately. Also, in addition to those power gains, you will likely notice an improvement in the quality of your ball striking as well. There is plenty to be gained by working on this point, but it isn't going to come easy – expect to put in some serious practice time before you are able to make this technique work for you.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Why is Extension Important?
Understanding your golf swing as thoroughly as possible is important for a number of reasons. First, when you understand your swing, you will be able to fix it on the fly if you start to struggle on the course. Also, those who understand how the swing works are usually better able to perform under pressure, as they know what parts of the swing they should focus on as they start to feel tight. With this in mind, we need to take a moment to discuss why it is that you want to extend the club through impact in the first place. By having a better understanding of the importance of this point, you will be more likely to emphasize it in your practice sessions.
The following points highlight exactly why it is so important to get great extension in your swing on the way through the ball –
- Power, power, power. This is the main point when it comes to extension. By turning the club loose and extending your arms fully through the hitting area, you are going to be maximizing your swing speed effectively. Players who fail to get good extension will always be 'leaving something in the bag' – meaning they will not be living up to their power potential. Getting good extension doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to blast 300 yard drives on a regular basis, but it does mean that you will be getting the most from your capabilities. Power doesn't solve all of the problems you may have on the course, but it certainly does address a number of them. By playing from closer to the green when hitting approach shots, you will have a better chance to set up birdie putts as you move around the course. Work on improving your extension to increase your swing speed and you will love the new found distance you add to your game.
- Cleaner ball striking. Power is great, but it isn't going to do you much good if you are unable to strike the ball in the middle of the club face. Fortunately, getting extension through the ball will help you make clean contact on a regular basis. Since you set up to the ball with your arms extended down from your shoulders, it only makes sense that good extension would be necessary at impact to find the sweet spot. If you are holding something back as you swing through the ball, your extension will be lacking and you will frequently catch the ball either thin or fat (depending on the movement of the rest of your body). One of the things that has allowed Vijay Singh to be such a consistent professional for so long is his consistent ball striking. Not only does Singh provide power at impact, but he regularly finds the sweet spot – leading to shots that find their target with regularity.
- Promotes rotation. As was mentioned earlier, rotation is a crucial part of the golf swing. Many amateurs fail to rotate effectively in the swing, and they pay the price for that lack of rotation at impact. Focusing on extension in your swing is a good way to encourage yourself to rotate properly, as good rotation is going to make it far easier to extend the club through the ball. In fact, if you are rotating well both in the backswing and the downswing, the extension that you are looking for should mostly take care of itself. Vijay Singh has one of the great turns in the game of golf, and while you might not ever be able to turn that effectively, you can certainly strive to improve your own rotation.
There are likely more than the three benefits above to getting good extension in your swing, but these are the main points. Any golfer would love to find added power in their swing, especially if it comes along with improved ball striking, so it should be an easy choice to work on this part of your game.
Start Small to Build Extension
To work on improving your extension, one of the best things you can do is head to the short game practice area at your local course. This is an area where you should probably be spending more time anyway, for the short game benefits, but this time it is going to serve as a starting point for your extension work. By starting small and building your way up, you should be able to understand the feeling that you are looking for in the swing before turning it loose with a driver or another long club.
To get started working on your extension, take one of your wedges from your bag and set a few golf balls down on the ground. You should be standing around 30 yards or so from your target, and you should have given yourself a clean lie on some fairway-length grass. The idea here is that you are going to hit some short pitch shots while holding your follow through to make sure you are getting nice extension all the way through the shot. After you pitch the ball, hold your follow through and check the position of your arms. Are they fully extended, or has one of your arms bent slightly already? Since you are hitting such a short shot, it should be relatively easy to keep your arms extended through impact and into your finish. The club should be pointing down the target line when you are finished, and you should still be nicely balanced in your stance.
At first, this is going to feel a bit uncomfortable or awkward. You will want to break your arms as you go through the ball, as this is likely what you are used to doing on most of your shots. Stick with it until you can hold your extension nicely all the way through the shot. You will only need to make a short backswing to pitch the ball some 30 yards or so, meaning your arms should be mostly straight throughout this entire swing. If anything, there may be a slight bend in your right elbow during the backswing, but that should be about it. From there, you should be able to swing forward with each arm straight, and they should stay straight through impact and beyond.
If you have room in the short game area, work on gradually increase the size of your swings and the distance of the shots. If there isn't space to hit longer shots in this area, move over to the full driving range in order to start adding speed and length to your swing. Nothing really changes from the pitch shots to the full swings, with the exception of the length of the swing in either direction. As you swing back, your right arm is going to fold up as you keep turning, and then the left arm will fold up in the follow through. However, between those two sides of the swing, both arms should be nicely extended through the hitting area, leading to solid and powerful contact.
Starting small is a great way to work on a number of the parts of your swing, as it will reinforce fundamentals without the pressure that comes along with trying to hit the ball hard. Take your time working up to longer swings, as rushing through this process is going to lead to disappointing results. Even if you have to spend several practice sessions on short shots before you start to move up, that's okay – the important thing is being able to get comfortable with the idea of using full extension through impact to strike the ball with authority.
Taking Out the Slide
As has been mentioned throughout the content above, rotation is crucial when it comes to getting extension. Players who fail to rotate are almost certain to come up short as far as extension is concerned. If you watch a video of Vijay Singh's swing, you can see a great example of what rotation can do for the golf swing. Unfortunately, a lateral slide is a common sight in the golf swings of many amateur players, and that slide is harmful because it is usually in the place of good body rotation. A lateral slide is a move to the right or left during the swing – often, a player with poor extension will slide to the right in the backswing and to the left in the downswing. That kind of swing will struggle to develop any power, and it will frequently create a slice as well.
To take the slide out of your swing, pay close attention to the tips below.
- Focus on the right knee. As far as the slide is concerned, it is the right knee that holds all of the keys. If you can manage your right knee successfully going back, you will be in great shape for the rest of your swing. That right knee is a great indicator of how you are doing with your balance, so it is a helpful point to use when evaluating your performance. By keeping your right knee mostly stable as your swing back, you can be sure you are staying centered – meaning you should be able to rotate nicely. However, if that right knee slides away from the target, you should be concerned that your entire body is moving that direction as well. As you practice, work on holding the position of your right knee from address all the way to the top of the swing. If you can do that successfully, the slide should quickly become a problem of the past.
- Keep your swing under control. Many golfers are pulled off balance when they swing back too far – usually in an effort to hit the ball harder. You don't need a super-long swing to hit the ball good distances. Instead, you simply need solid mechanics and the ability to strike the ball on the center of the club face time after time. So, with that in mind, control the length of your backswing and stop the club before it has a chance to pull you off balance. An overly long backswing can cause you to lean to one side or the other, which will lead to a slide and a poor shot in the end. Tighten things up going back and the game will get much easier – and you will find it easier to extend your arms through impact as well.
- Wide base. When you use a wide base at address it will become easier to stay stable during the swing. If you were to stand with your feet too close together, it would be easy to wind up sliding from one side to the other because you wouldn't have enough stability to maintain your balance while turning. Players with narrow stances usually either make a poor turn or lose their balance – or both. If you look at Vijay Singh's swing, you will notice that he has a great address position which creates a solid base. Placing your feet roughly shoulder width apart is a good place to start, although many players will succeed by moving even a little bit wider.
- Turn your back to the target. This last point is extremely simple, but it is one of the most effective tips you can get in the entire game. As you stand over the ball at address, keep one specific thought in your mind – turning your back to the target. That's it. If you can successfully turn your back to the target at the top of your swing, many of the other points we have made in this article will fall into place. You will know you have made a great turn if your back is to the target, and you will likely have avoided the slide thanks to that turn. Basically every good golfer you find will have their back to the target at the top, and you should do the same.
Sliding from side to side is never a good thing for your golf game. Golf is meant to be a rotational game, and you will strike your best shots if you are able to rotate around your center of gravity instead of moving from right to left dramatically. Use the tips in the list above to work on getting rid of your slide, and you will quickly see how your extension improves when you begin to rotate properly.
Dealing with a Variety of Lies
One of the great things about getting extension in your swing is the fact that the extension you achieve will help you to deal with a variety of different lies you may face on the course. As you know, you don't always get to play your shots from a beautiful fairway lie – often, the ball will be on a slope, or in some rough, or maybe down in the sand. Players who extend nicely through impact usually are able to deal with these various lies better than the players who don't.
Why is that? Well, for one thing, the extension that is achieved leads to power, and power is always helpful when coming out of a bad lie. You need to have speed in your swing to work the club through the sand or the rough, so getting great extension through impact will help you ramp up the speed as necessary. Also, that extension usually keeps the player nicely down through the ball – another point that is key from a bad lie.
It is possible to pick the ball off of a good lie without actually making a great golf swing, but those positive results can be a bit deceiving. To really feel good about your swing and your game, you should be able to produce quality shots even when the ball isn't in a great spot on the course. Obviously, Vijay Singh has had to create many great shots from tough spots throughout his long professional career, and his extension through the ball has certainly played a part in that success. Although you aren't going to have to face the same kind of challenges that Vijay Singh deals with on the PGA Tour, you will still find your ball in bad spots from time to time, and your newfound extension should help get you out of those spots nicely.
Working on the extension that you get in your swing is just like anything else in golf – it is going to take time, patience, and plenty of hard work. You can be sure that Vijay Singh had to work incredibly hard to build up his impressive swing and game, so you can expect to be in for the same kind of process. It is worth it in the end, however, when you improve your extension and the ball begins to fly farther and truer than ever before.