Returning to an impact position where you fully extend your arms at impact will allow you to hit golf shots with both consistency and power.
At set up, before you swing the golf club, you address the ball with your left arm straight, or extended. Maintaining this position of an extended left arm throughout the backswing then allows you to return back down to the ball with your left arm still extended. If you return your left arm back to the position that it started in at address, straight and extended, you will return the club head back to the position that it started in, next to the golf ball, allowing you to make a clean strike. Bending your elbows as you move through impact would result in you shortening the distance between your shoulders and the club head and effectively pull the club head up from the ground, returning it to the upper part of the ball and causing you to top the shot.
Keeping the left arm extension from set up, through the backswing, then back to impact and just into the follow through, where the right arm then extends and straightens, also allows you to create the widest possible swing arc with the club head. A wide swing arc results in more time being available to swing the club and this allows you to create more club head speed during the swing. Keeping the left arm extended during your golf swing will allow you to not only create a good strike but also allow you to generate club head speed which is vital for creating distance.
To create fully extended arms at impact, work on setting your left arm straight at address. Maintain this throughout the backswing and lead down with the extended left arm pulling the club into the downswing.
Both arms straighten just following impact, when the right arm straightens and acts like an explosive lever through the impact position and then takes over from the left and extends into the follow through.
To get a feeling of a full arm extension at impact, take some resistance tubing and tie it in a loop around your elbows at set up. Swing back and then down through impact into the follow through.
If you are bending your left elbow through impact it will want to move apart from your right elbow and you will feel this as the resistance tubing will tighten as you try to pull your elbows apart. Work on keeping the tubing loose around your elbows by extending your arms through impact.
You can also try the Trail Hand Off drill to help you achieve a straighter left arm at impact.
Set up and make an easy backswing to just above waist height. Now swing back down and let your right hand off the club when you feel you are at impact. This will also allow the left arm to straighten at impact rather than bend at the elbow.
Try both of these drills without the ball initially and then introduce the ball back into the swing once you are feeling more confident and successful with the drill.
Why and How to Create Fully Extended Arms at Impact
When it comes to maximizing your distance potential and striking the ball cleanly, there are few fundamentals as important as full extension at impact. Full extension means that both of your arms have straightened completely in order to allow all of the energy from within your swing to be released. If either arm is bent at impact, you will be limited in the amount of speed that you can create. By learning how to reach a point of full extension at the exact moment that the club contacts the back of the ball, you will find yardage within your swing that you may not have known was there to be used.
In golf, the length of your swing is directly correlated to the amount of power that you can create in the swing. Of course, there are more factors than just the length of your swing when figuring out how far you can hit the ball, but this is one of the important points. Therefore, it is important to reach full extension at impact because you will be making your swing as long as possible. You can think of your arms as levers in this case. When you have long levers, you are capable of doing more work (such as hitting the ball farther). Shortening your arms at impact will shorten the effective length of your levers, and it will limit how much power you can supply at the same time.
It is one thing to understand that you need to create extension in your swing – it is another thing entirely to actually create that extension successfully. In order to do so, you need to have the mechanics of your swing in place all the way from the start through to the finish. You can't get down toward impact and then try to sort things out at the last second – that kind of approach will never work because the swing happens too quickly. By getting every single part of your swing whipped into shape, you can keep the club (and your arms) in the right positions to arrive at a fully-extended impact when the moment of truth arrives.
If you are currently striking the ball with your arms at least a little bit bent, you might be surprised to find how much power is waiting within your swing once you get extended properly. The ball will feel like it is rocketing off of the club face, and you should have both more distance and a higher trajectory. The best golfers in the world regularly find a fully extended position at impact, and you can get a little bit closer to their standard if you are able to follow that lead.
Any instruction that is 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.
Setting the Stage Correctly
In order to find an extended position with your arms at impact, everything has to be going well leading up to that point. That means that all of the various pieces of your swing have to be doing their job appropriately both in the backswing and the downswing to arrive at an extended strike at the bottom. In many ways, working on your extension in the swing is somewhat of a cause-and-effect process. By working on other mechanics, you can effectively force yourself to wind up with full extension. If you were to ignore the rest of your swing and simply try to force your arms to extend out when you strike the ball, the results would always be disappointing.
With that in mind, the following list includes some of the most important keys for you to focus on when searching for great extension.
Each of the four points above can help you to improve your extension and strike the ball with more authority. Of course, each of those four points above is also a major fundamental within the swing, whether you are talking about extension of just about anything else. Hitting good golf shots requires a combination of proper fundamentals to be put together in just the right order. Make sure each of these four points can be found in your swing and you will have little trouble getting extended at impact.
Chasing the Line
Power isn't the only reason that you should be worried about finding good extension in your swing. In addition to allowing you to max out your swing speed, getting your arms fully extended will also help you keep the club head moving down the target line for as long as possible through the hitting area. When the club head 'chases' the ball toward the target, you will have a much better chance at hitting the shot where you intended. If, on the other hand, your right arm never gets extended, the club head will only trace the target line for a very short period of time.
This is a good thought to keep in mind while you are hitting your shots. If you are looking for a 'swing thought' that you can use to focus your mind while swinging the club, consider narrowing your focus in on making sure that you move the club head down the line as long as possible through impact. As you stand over the ball, picture the club head coming down into impact and then following the ball out for as long as possible. Of course, at some point the club head is going to come in off of that line and begin to wrap around your body, but at that point the ball will be well on its way and you will have achieved full extension successfully. Try using this swing thought on the driving range and take note of how it improves your performance.
If you are having trouble feeling the right way to chase the ball down the line with the club head, it might be helpful to hit some shorter shots while working on this concept. Anytime you are trying to learn a new swing technique or method, it is a good idea to slow things down and shorten everything up in order to get a handle on the new move. Once you can repeat it properly within a short swing, you can then work your way back up to taking a full cut at the ball.
To practice this way, head to the chipping area at your local course with a wedge and a handful of golf balls. Pick out a target and give yourself a good lie in the short grass. On each shot, picture the club head chasing the ball toward the target. Since you are only hitting chip shots, you don't have to worry about any trajectory issues (draw or fade) so you can aim right at the hole and give it your best shot. With just a short period of practice, you should notice that your chip shots start to hold their line better and you will probably make better contact as well.
Once progress is made and you are feeling more comfortable, move the ball back and hit pitch shots from the 30 - 40-yard range. At this distance, you still won't be swinging very hard, so you can continue to focus on having the club head trace down the target line through impact. However, since you will be swinging a bit harder, you will probably start to feel your right arm extend a little more through impact. This is a good thing. Keeping working at this range until your confidence has developed further, and then move back to 50 or 60 yards (you might have to head over to the actual driving range at this point). This distance will be your last step until you start hitting full shots.
As long as your fundamentals are in decent shape, you should be able to get better at moving the club head down the target line just by making it a point of emphasis. With your focus placed on the way the club head is moving through impact, you won't even have to think about extending your arms – it will just happen as a result of where you are trying to put the club head. Take your time on the short shots and hopefully this concept will work its way into your full swing sooner rather than later.
Nothing is Forced
One of the keys that needs to be mentioned when it comes to extending your arms through the hitting area is that the action cannot be forced. If you feel like you are doing everything you can to stretch your arms out through impact, you are doing something wrong. Instead, the arms should be extending somewhat 'automatically' in response to the rest of your swing. This might seem like a subtle difference, but it is extremely important.
When you watch golf on TV, do you see anything within the swings of the best players in the world that looks forced? Not really. More often than not, the top players have beautifully smooth swings that gradually gain speed all the way until impact. This is the goal that you should be hoping to accomplish in your swing. Rather than having to use your arms to force the club down through the ball, you should be using your rotation and your tempo to have the club release naturally at impact. Not only is it easier to play consistent golf this way, but you will also find that your swing holds up better under pressure when you don't have to force your arms to extend at impact.
Freedom is a word that should be closely associated with your arm swing. There should be plenty of freedom in your swing on the way down, with no parts of your body tensing up or restricting how the club can move. Many amateur golfers struggle with this point, as they are unable to relax enough to let the club tear through the hitting area aggressively. Work on relaxing and trusting your mechanics, and more freedom should soon be present in your game.
If you can learn how to let your downswing and impact happen naturally without having to force the extension of your arms, that overall approach to the game should carry over to everything else that you do on the course. Golf is a game that requires patience, as you can never really force the action. In a game like football, for example, the players can force the action by running fast and hitting the other team as hard as they can. It doesn't work that way in golf. This is a skill game – not an effort game. In order to lower your scores, you don't need to try harder. Instead, you simply need to execute your fundamentals better shot after shot, round after round.
It isn't easy to just let your swing happen, but it is possible. The key to getting into this frame of mind is to practice your swing as much as you can on the driving range where there is no pressure to produce good results. You won't have other groups waiting on you to finish when hitting range balls, and you won't have to worry about what other players in your group are thinking. Time spent on the range is usually highly rewarding when you go back to the course, as you will often have a new sense of confidence and purpose in your swing. Unlock the keys to staying relaxed with your swing on the range and then reap the benefits out on the course.
Hold It Off
There is always a catch, it seems, when it comes to the golf swing. Just when you think everything is straightforward and you know exactly what you need to do to improve, you are thrown a curve ball. In this case, the curve ball is this – you don't necessarily want to reach full extension on all of the shots that you hit. Sometimes, cutting your swing off slightly and staying 'soft' through impact is going to be the best way to produce the right ball flight.
As mentioned early in this article, full extension is going to help you hit the ball hard and high – both of which are good things most of the time. However, those aren't always good things, as getting your ball around the course requires plenty of creativity and a variety of shot styles. Sometimes, you will want to hit the ball low and under control in order to avoid the wind, hold a line, or simply avoid the limbs of a tree. Whatever the case, you will want to retain the ability to use soft arms through impact in order to produce a low shot on command.
When it is a low shot that is called for, focus on keeping your right arm soft through the impact area. Without the aggressive extension of the left arm, the ball will lack speed and it won't take on as much backspin. Those two changes will combine to bring the ball down lower in the air, and they will shorten the overall flight as well. Of course, in addition to softening your right arm through the hit, you should also move the ball back slightly in your stance at address.
Just like anything else, it will take practice to fine tune your performance on these altered shots. Now that you have learned how to achieve full extension, you will need to work backwards in some ways in order to take that extension away from time to time. However, that doesn't mean that you should work away from your good fundamentals in the process. Keep all of the other fundamentals that you have learned in place – you don't want those to come in and out from shot to shot. Instead, make your adjustments on the fly by keeping a softer right arm and using less aggression through the shot. After some time spent practicing on the range, you should be able to produce a low shot on demand while still keeping your high and powerful flight for the majority of your swings.
By and large, full extension is a great thing in the golf swing. Unfortunately, most amateurs don't know what it feels like to get extended through the ball, and they lack distance and accuracy as a result. This article should give you a roadmap for working toward better extension, so the next step is up to you. Get out to the range to work on your golf swing, and specifically focus on the points that are going to help you get extended. With hard work and attention to detail, your impact position should include fully extended arms after just a few practice sessions.