Fully extending your arms at impact will ensure that you strike the ball consistently well and with maximum club head speed for your longest golf shots.
At address, you should begin your golf swing, as a right handed golfer, with your left arm straight and fully extended. As you make your backswing movement, you should maintain this straight left arm position to the top of your backswing and then throughout your downswing and back into impact. If you do this, you will return the club head to the position that it began in, at the same height as the golf ball. If you bend your left arm at any point, you are shortening the distance between the club head and yourself and as such you are pulling the club head up away from the golf ball. The result of this will be that you strike the upper part of the golf ball and mis-hit the shot.
Keeping your left arm straight also creates the widest possible swing arc for you to make the club head travel around whilst you are swinging. The wider the swing arc, the further the club head has to travel and the further the club head has to travel means you have more time to build up club head speed, so you will swing with the fastest swing speed and hit your furthest golf shots.
To fully extend your arms at impact, initially set up with your left arm straight at address. As you swing away from the golf ball, work on pushing your left hand away from your body to maintain its extension during your backswing. Your right arm will bend at the elbow during your backswing so that at the top of your backswing, your right elbow is pointing downwards and is directly under your hands.
On your downswing, pull your straight left arm back towards the ball. Your right arm will remain bent at the elbow until just before impact, when you will extend this arm like a lever through the shot, to explode the club head at maximum speed through the golf ball. The right arm then extends and straightens on your follow through as your left arm now bends at the elbow, downwards towards the floor. The right arm maintains this extended position throughout your follow through as your body rotates towards the target.
If you struggle to keep your left arm straight on your backswing, take a resistance band and place one end under your left foot. Wrap the band around and over the outside of your left foot and then hold the other end as you grip the handle of the golf club. As you swing away from the ball, work on stretching the band away from your left foot and this will keep your left arm extended on your backswing.
To encourage your left arm to extend on your downswing and through impact, try swinging the club away from the golf ball on your backswing and then swing back towards the golf ball. Just before you strike the ball, allow your right hand to let go of the club and the momentum of the swing will extend your left arm through the shot.
With some hard work on these drills, you will begin to extend your arms at impact and see your strike and shot distance massively improve.
Why Senior Golfers Should Fully Extend Arms at Impact
Golf is an incredibly popular game among those in their senior years, and for good reason. There is a lot to like about golf from a senior perspective, from the chance to get outside and get some exercise to the time spent with friends, the competition, and more. Of course, while golf is a great game for seniors, there are some challenges that come along with playing this game into your retirement years. Your physical capabilities are naturally going to decline over the years, so you will have to make sure you are using great technique in order to keep producing great shots even as your body is less and less willing to make the moves required to hit a golf ball.
One of the common complaints that comes from the average senior golfer is the fact that they can no longer hit the ball as far as they used to. This is far from a rare occurrence, as nearly every senior golfer will have experienced some loss in distance as the years have gone by. In fact, you can even see that phenomenon on the professional tour – the players on the Champions Tour no longer possess the distance that they had when playing the PGA Tour. While it might not be possible to recapture all of the yardage you have lost over the years, you can work on refining your technique to make sure you are getting as much distance as possible from your swing.
Among the many important keys in the golf swing is the act of extending your arms fully through the hitting area. This is actually a point that relates to golfers of all ages, but it is particularly important for senior players. If you fail to extend your arms through impact, you are going to be missing out on power that could have been generated otherwise. The act of extending your arms will serve to help the club accelerate through the ball, so you don't want to miss out on this chance in your swing. Players who make quality swings but fail to achieve full extension through impact will always be leaving some distance 'in the bag' – and as a senior player, you just can't afford to make that kind of mistake.
In the content below, we are going to take a closer look at exactly how you can refine your technique to make sure your arms are fully extended at impact. This is a topic that is a bit more complex than it might seem at first, as you will have to get all of your various fundamentals in order if you are going to hit on this point successfully. Having just one or two minor parts of your swing 'out of whack' in other areas could have a carryover effect that will prevent you from getting extended properly. As a senior player, you don't have the luxury of masking minor technical mistakes with raw power. Rather, you need to execute perfectly swing after swing to achieve optimal results.
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.
Cracking the Whip
You should always understand why you are trying to do something in your golf swing before you set about trying to make it happen, so we are first going to take a look at why it is important to extend your arms through the ball. Once you have a clear picture of what this kind of technique can do for your swing, we can then move on to actually putting this move into your swing.
On this point, it is helpful to think about your golf swing as you would think about a whip. When someone 'cracks' a whip, they swing it in such a way that the entire length of the whip extends out at the perfect time to snap at the end and make a loud sound. In many ways, this is exactly what you are trying to do with your golf swing. Rather than thinking about just the club itself as being the whip in this case, you should instead be thinking about the combination of your arms and the club coming together to create the whip you are going to use to hit the ball. The comparison is not perfect, of course, because the technique is different and your arms do not move like a rope, however the idea still stands. If you can get the whip of your swing to crack right at impact, you are sure to deliver a powerful blow into the back of the ball.
So, as you are swinging the club down toward impact, you want to be thinking about the extension of your arms as the last piece that needs to come into place in order for the 'whip' to crack effectively. The club will already be accelerating toward impact thanks to the rotation of your body, so the only thing left for you to do is make sure you achieve full extension on the way through the shot. When that happens, the club head will be gaining speed quickly at the moment of impact, which is the best way to strike powerful and accurate shots. There is nothing quite like the feeling of catching the ball perfectly on the face with a powerful swing, and great arm extension is a big part of doing just that.
Beyond the physical advantages of extending your arms through impact, there is a subtle mental advantage as well that should be highlighted. When you are thinking about extending your arms through the ball, you are naturally putting yourself in an aggressive and positive state of mind during the swing. This is a state of mind that many amateur golfers fail to find while they are on the course. Instead of thinking positively, many average golfers think about everything that could go wrong in the swing and with the shot – and they swing 'scared' as a result. As you would imagine, scared swings rarely lead to good results. In order to get the results you desire, you are going to need to accelerate confidently through the hitting area, and full extension will allow you to do just that.
There should be no doubt in your mind at this point as to the importance of great extension through impact in the golf swing. However, if you are still holding on to a bit of doubt on this point, take a few moments to review some swing videos of the best players in the world. When watching some of the top golfers move through the ball, you will notice one thing right away – they all achieve great extension. There is nothing being held back when a professional golfer hits a shot, and you should be following that lead. Sure, you probably won't ever achieve the kind of ball striking that the pros are capable of, but you can still play excellent golf well into your senior years as long as you focus on proper extension.
Cause and Effect
In order to be able to hit your shots with great extension, the first thing you need to do is put the rest of your body in a position to succeed so that the arms can do their job when the time comes. If your body is out of position during the swing – especially at impact – you aren't going to be able to extend your arms properly no matter how hard you try. The golf swing has to be a coordinated effort with contributions from nearly every part of the body. If just one or two parts of your body aren't cooperating during the backswing or downswing, you will find that full extension is simply impossible.
So what parts of the swing are crucial for the senior golfer to get just right in order to be able to successfully extend the arms through the shot? The following three points should be watched carefully during your next practice session –
- Balance. If you aren't balanced as you approach impact, nothing else will matter. You aren't going to be able to extend your arms and hit a quality shot without having balance on your side, so this is a point that should be first and foremost in your mind. It is important to be nicely balanced at address when getting ready to swing, and you want to maintain that balance all the way through the shot. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your feet, and it should only begin to move to the left (toward the target) as you rotate through the downswing. You would be hard pressed to find even one professional golfer who doesn't possess great balance – which is a testament to just how important this point is to quality ball striking. If you feel like balance is holding you back currently in your game, work on cleaning up this point before you move on to anything else.
- Lower body leads the way. One of the traps that you can fall into when thinking about extending your arms through impact is trying to force the arm action on the way down before the lower body has had a chance to do its job. In a proper swing, the lower body will lead the way, clearing the majority of the body through the hitting area before the arms and club eventually swing through. As you start down from the top, you want to make sure that the initial action you take is a rotation of the lower body toward the target. Turn hard to the left with your hips and allow your upper body – specifically your arms – to hang back and 'wait for their turn'. Only when the lower body has moved through can you feel free to swing your arms through the ball aggressively. Doing things in this proper order will make it far easier to achieve great extension, and you will tap into all of your potential power as well.
- Head stays back. This is a point that is easy to miss with all of the focus on using your lower body to get through the shot, but it remains extremely important. As you swing down through the ball, you should be keeping your head back in position while the rest of your body moves hard to the left. It is a common amateur mistake to allow the head to get pulled up past the ball in the downswing – and this is a mistake that will cost you both distance and accuracy. When the head passes the ball prior to impact, it will be nearly impossible to achieve great extension, meaning your shots will be weak and usually off-line. Do your best to hold your head relatively still while you swing down in order to hit the shot with maximum power.
If you can execute correctly on the three points listed above, you will stand a great chance to achieve good extension in your arms at impact. None of these three points should be particularly difficult to master, as long as you are willing to put in some practice time along the way. Work on your balance first and foremost, and then move on to the other two points once you feel like you have balance under control.
A Gradual Progression
When you decide to head out to the driving range to work on your extension in the golf swing, you might find that this task is a bit more challenging that you expected. It may seem easy to simply extend your arms out when hitting the ball, but that move will feel quite foreign if you are used to hitting shots with poor extension. In order to have your practice sessions be successful each time you go to the range, you need to have a specific plan in place – and that plan should include a gradual progression of shots from short to long.
Anytime you are learning a new skill in the golf swing, it is always a good idea to get started by building up from slow, small swings into bigger and faster ones. This approach takes some patience, as you probably want to just head out to the range and start swinging as hard as you can, but being patient and learning the right feelings and movements is key to your long-term success. It isn't easy to change from a swing with poor extension to a swing with full extension, so you are going to have to be patient and willing to work if you want to make this transformation a good one.
To get started, head to the range and take one of your wedges out of your bag. Set five golf balls down in front of you and pick out a target on the range that is no more than 50 yards away. If there are no actual targets set up that close to the tee line, pick out something like a discolored patch of grass or a bare spot that you can use as your target. For these first five shots, you are going to pitch the ball toward your selected target while being sure to achieve great extension at impact. Since you aren't trying to hit the ball very far with these swings, you don't need to go up into a full finish – you can hold your arms out straight in front of you as the ball flies to confirm that you had great extension. It helps to have good extension in the backswing when you are trying to create good extension going through, so focus on keeping your swing wide in both directions during these initial short shots.
Once this first round of swings has been completed, you are going to move on to hitting the ball 100 yards. Most driving ranges have a target set up at 100 yards, so picking out a target for these shots should be simple. You are again going to hit five shots, and you are going to be using whatever club it is that you would use on the course from this distance. The big difference with these shots, however, is the fact that you are going to be making a full swing and you will be going up into a full finish. Remember the feelings that you had during the first set of five swings and try to replicate those sensations while simply making a slightly longer swing.
It is at this point where the work you are doing is likely to get challenging. However, you can rise to the challenge simply by focusing on the fundamentals that were outlined above. My maintaining your balance, keeping your head behind the ball, and turning your lower body through the shot, you should be able to achieve extension and a solid hit. Also, since you are still only hitting the ball 100 yards, it should be easier to execute these fundamentals than when making a big swing with a driver. Hit five (or more) shots at this stage and make adjustments to your swing as necessary until you get into a groove of consistently achieving quality extension.
As you might expect, the last stop in this process is to take your driver from the bag to make some full, powerful swings. Although the swing will be faster and longer, it is important to remember that your basic fundamentals to not need to change. Keep the swing wide in both directions, focus on the three key fundamentals (balance, head position, lower body turn), and resist the temptation to over swing. You don't have to swing at absolutely maximum effort in order to hit long drives – you only have to have good technique and consistent execution which puts the ball on the sweet spot of the driver time after time.
Resist the Distance Obsession
The modern game of golf has become obsessed with distance, and that is something of a shame. While it certainly is fun to hit the ball hundreds of yards in the air, golf is a game that was meant to be played with precision and control rather than simply raw power. When power and control come together the game can be beautiful to watch, but that combination is rare – and if you are only going to have one or the other, you would always prefer to have control over your ball as opposed to the ability to hit it forever (and have no idea where it is going).
This is an especially important point for senior golfers to understand. The average senior player worries too much about the distance that they have lost while failing to focus on the things that they can still do well. Sure, it is helpful to make sure you are achieving good extension in the golf swing in order to keep as much distance as you can, but you also should be focused on your short game, your course management, your iron shots, and more. You don't have to be a long hitter to shoot low scores and have tons of fun on the course – but you do need to have a variety of other skills in place to do so. In the end, the point is simple – avoid the temptation to focus solely on the distance of your shots while neglecting the rest of your game completely. If you build up a great short game and plenty of accuracy and consistency in your full swing, it will hardly matter that you have lost a few yards over the years.
For senior golfers who are determined to continuing playing quality golf well into their retirement years, achieving extension at impact is a key ingredient to quality swings. In reality, this is an important point for all golfers, but it is particularly applicable to seniors who want to hold on to as much of their ball striking ability as possible as the years go by. Use the tips included in the content above to work on your extension at impact and your game should serve you well for many years to come.