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 player, you just can't afford to make that kind of mistake.

Extension Lesson Chart

Great extension is essential to a quality golf swing. You might not think much about extension during your normal practice sessions, but we hope to change that focus with this article. Once you understand just how important it is to get extension in your swing, and how much it can help you strike the ball accurately and with authority, you’ll be sure to work on it consistently moving forward.

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In this article, we are going to discuss the topic of extension from a number of angles. We’ll first explain what it can do for you and why it is important. Then, we’ll move on to important issues such as how to judge your current extension and how you can make any improvements that might be needed. Also, we’ll touch on how extension relates to the short game, as you might be surprised that this topic has influence in that area, as well.

All of the content 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 Does Golf Swing Extension Matter?

It’s important to have motivation for everything you do in the game of golf. If you don’t know why you are doing something, you are likely to just give up on it when the going gets tough. By taking some time at the start to learn about why it’s important and how it can benefit you down the line, you’ll be more likely to take it seriously and see it through.

With all of that said, we are going to use this section to hopefully provide you with the motivation necessary to work on your swing extension. Once you see how much you can gain through improving your extension, the decision to work on this part of your technique will be a no-brainer.

Extension Lesson Chart

  • Added distance. We might as well start here, since this is the bullet point most likely to get your attention. If you extend your arms nicely through impact and let the club ‘chase’ the ball down the line and out toward the target, you are likely to hit the ball further. This increase in distance is going to come as a result of both added speed through the hitting area and improved quality of contact. Even if you already hit the ball a good distance, who doesn’t like picking up a few extra yards? Whether it is with your driver or irons, those extra yards are sure to come in handy on the course. Take the time to improve your extension and don’t be surprised if you start to hit the ball farther than ever before.
  • Control over your ball flight. At its core, this is a game of control. You need to control the ball in order to score, because you have to hit targets accurately both in terms of distance and direction. If you aren’t accurate in golf, you simply don’t stand a chance. By getting better extension, you should find it easier to repeat your ball flight over and over again, which is a huge step toward hitting more targets. It doesn’t really matter if your preferred ball flight is a draw or a fade, as long as you can do it time after time. Better extension usually means you are using your hands less-actively in the golf swing, and that’s good news for consistency. No golfer is perfectly consistent but getting better extension should move you in the right direction on this point.
  • Repeatable strike. We’ve kind of touched on this piece in the points above, but it is worth its own discussion here. In golf, using your big muscles effectively is the best way to make your swing repeatable. If you use your hands and wrists too actively, it will always be hard to repeat your motion in a consistent manner – especially under pressure. A golf swing with great body rotation and good extension is going to be easier to repeat than a swing which relies on sudden hand movements at the bottom to square up the clubface. That kind of swing can lead to good results once in a while, but it will be hard to find steady ball striking that can last for a whole round. It’s a powerful feeling to stand over the ball and know deep down that you are going to strike it cleanly almost every time.
  • Add variety to your game. Using a swing with good extension should help you develop a greater variety of shots over the long run. For instance, if you want to be able to hit a low punch shot from time to time – whether the avoid a tree or keep the ball out of the wind – good extension is going to help make that possible. Does that mean it will be easy to learn different types of shots? No, but it will give you a chance. During some of your practice sessions, work on experimenting with various shots so you can have more options at your disposal when on the course.

Extension in your swing is good for your golf game. You may already have pretty good extension in your swing, or you might be keeping the club and your arms in pretty tight through the hitting area and up to the finish. In the next section, we’ll offer some advice on how you can evaluate the way your swing extension is currently working.

— Evaluating Your Current Extension

Have you ever made the mistake of working on something that you thought was a problem in your golf swing, only to later realize that you weren’t really making a mistake in that area? Not only can you waste a lot of time trying to fix something that isn’t broken, but you can actually make yourself worse in the process.

So, before you get to work on bettering your extension through the hitting area, you want to first confirm that this is, in fact, a weakness. Let’s look at some points which may indicate you are struggling to extend your arms through impact and into the finish.

Extension Lesson Chart

  • Lack of a follow through. When you watch golf on TV, pay close attention to how the players finish their swings. You’ll quickly notice that almost all of them pose at the end of the swing, holding a balanced finish while they watch the ball fly through the air. Are you able to do the same thing? Do you wrap the club around your back in the follow through, with your chest facing the target? If not, you may be struggling with extension. It is good extension which will effectively pull you through the shot and lead you to this beautiful balanced finish. Next time you visit the driving range pay attention to the finish of your swing and see if you are able to mimic a pro follow through. If you struggle to do so, some improvement in your extension may be in order.
  • Lack of distance compared to your peers. You probably don’t hit the ball as far off the tee as the top professionals like Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson. And that’s to be expected – but how does your distance compare to your playing partners? If you play with a group of golfers who are similar to you in terms of age and physical ability, and you are well behind those players off the tee, something might be wrong with your extension. This is not the only possible explanation, of course, but since extension has such a big impact on distance overall, it is a good place to start. By improving your extension, you should be able to pick up some speed through the hitting area, and your shots should travel farther in the end.
  • Struggle to turn the ball from right to left. There is nothing at all wrong with using a fade as your go-to ball flight. If you seem to play best by turning the ball to the right in the air, that game plan can be very effective. However, if you have a hard time turning the ball over for a draw even if you are trying hard to do so, that might be a sign that your extension is lacking. Players who are narrow through the hitting area and don’t turn effectively tend to hit a fade or a slice, and typically have a very hard time producing any other shape. If it seems to be impossible to turn the ball over, no matter what you try, a lack of extension could be the underlying problem.

The signs listed above could all point to a problem with your extension, but they don’t necessarily prove that this is an issue you need to address. For solid proof, it’s wise to turn to video. Ask a friend to record your swing on video at the driving range so you can watch it back for yourself. With the camera that is likely built into your cell phone, you should be able to get a great video that can easily be paused and slowed down as necessary for you to evaluate your extension.

One key point in the swing to check is just a couple of frames after impact. If you pause the video shortly after the ball has left the club, what do you see? Do you see that both of your arms are nicely extended, and that the clubhead seems to be chasing the ball out into the distance? Or is your left arm already collapsing while the club pulls up and away from the hitting area quickly? The moments immediately after impact will tell you everything you need to know about your swing extension and capturing them on video is the best way to perform an accurate and honest evaluation.

— Making Some Improvements

In this section, we are going to assume that you have determine that your extension does, in fact, need some work. That’s okay! Don’t get too down on yourself just because there are some issues in your swing that need to be addressed. Virtually every golfer has areas that could be improved, so take on this challenge with an open mind and a positive attitude.

Extension Lesson Chart

  • Every golfer is different, and every swing is unique, so it’s impossible to provide tips that will apply equally to everyone. However, the tips we have listed below should offer you a good starting point in your quest for better extension and improved ball striking.
  • Practice your turn. The topics of extension and rotation are inevitably linked in the golf swing. You really can’t have one without the other. So, it’s a great idea to work on improving your turn if you would like to find your way into some better extension. One great way to work on your turn is a very simple drill that requires nothing more than a club and somewhere safe to make some practice swings. You don’t even need to be at the driving range for this drill, since you won’t be hitting any shots. To get started, take your club of choice and settle in to a comfortable stance. Then, rather than starting your swing from that point, take the club up and run it across your shoulders from side to side. Your arms should be crossed in front of your chest, so each hand can hold onto the club shaft – your right hand will be by your left shoulder and your left hand will be by your right shoulder. The purpose of this placement of the club is to give yourself a visual representation of the position of your shoulders. With the club across your chest, now make some practice ‘swings’, which will just consist of turning back and then turning through. Use the club to judge how well you are turning in these swings. If you can get the end of the club to point roughly to where the ball would be when you make your backswing, you are doing a good job of turning. It’s not only about the backswing, however – make sure you are turning aggressively toward the imaginary target in your downswing phase. Once you have done a few repetitions with this drill, put the handle of the club back in your hands and make some normal swings while keeping in mind the feeling of making a great turn.
  • Work backwards. Another excellent drill for learning how to feel extension in your swing is to work backwards from an extended position and go through the swing in reverse. Start by posing yourself in a position where your arms are extended, and the club is out in front of you, pointing toward an imaginary target. This position should be similar to one you would reach if you made a great swing and the club had just moved through the hitting area. From this pose, start by moving backwards and take the club down to what would be the impact position, and then on up to what would normally be the top of the backswing. From there, go back down again and arrive at an address position. Reversing the process of a normal swing should help you feel what it’s like to have good extension, and how the movements previous to that extension play a role. Once you go back to making regular swings and hitting shots, strive for that feeling of extension that you started with in this drill.

Hit some punch shots. If you’d like to actually hit some balls while working on your extension, a great way to do that is through the use of a few punch shots. Head to the range and take one of your mid-irons from the bag. Pick out a target that is well-within your distance capabilities with the club you have chosen and attempt to hit some low punch shots toward that target. To hit a punch shot, you’ll want to choke down slightly on the club, move the ball a bit back in your stance, and swing down through impact and into a low finish. This can help you work on extension because you have to stay down through a punch shot nicely if you are going to get the desired trajectory. If you shorten your follow through and come up out of the shot a bit, the ball will sail higher than you want – and you might not make very good contact. Hit a few punch shots and then go back to hitting a few regular shots, while keeping in mind that aggressive downward action that helped you punch the ball nicely.

Don’t expect to fix your extension in a single practice session, or even within a few sessions. This is going to take time, but all meaningful progress in this difficult game does take some time to achieve. Stick with it and be proud of yourself when you start to extend the club much better through the hitting area.

— Staying Extended in the Short Game

To wrap up, let’s talk quickly about how extension works in the short game. Quite obviously, this is a different conversation than the one we have been having so far regarding the full swing, since the short game doesn’t feature the big body turn present when hitting full shots. So, extension might not be as much of a factor here, but it is still worth noting as your practice.

Extension Lesson Chart

When putting, being extended means to keep your hands out of the stroke while you let your shoulders do all the work. If you use your hands and wrists too actively, the putter head will come up and away from the ball at impact, and your stroke will be ‘narrow’ as a result. Don’t let that happen. Work on the practice green to learn how to roll the ball toward the hole without involving your hands or wrists. Since you don’t need much power when hitting putts, it should be pretty easy to send the ball to the target only by rocking your shoulders.

Off the green, the key to getting extension is to avoid crowding the ball at address. If you are hitting a standard chip shot from a reasonably comfortable lie, don’t stand so close to the ball that you can’t make a smooth swing comfortably. Some people tend to crowd up to the ball on short shots, thinking that will make it easier to achieve clean contact. It won’t, and you’ll only be making life harder on yourself than it needs to be. Make sure you have plenty of room for your hands to swing freely through the hitting area without interruption – it is that free swing through impact that makes great chip shots possible.

Finally, we actually want to talk you out of extension in one area of the short game – bunker shots. When hitting a greenside bunker explosion shot, you don’t want a particularly wide or extended swing, especially on the follow through. Since you are trying to gouge the ball out of the sand and loft it up onto the green, it’s okay to use your hands actively through the hitting area. Aim for the sand, rather than the ball, and try to splash it out. If you hinge your wrists significantly on the way back, and then unhinge them as you swing through, what you’ll create is a narrow swing that is particularly effective for getting the ball out of the traps in a single swing. Bunker shots are the exception to many golf technique rules, and this is certainly one of those cases.

Learning to get great extension in your golf swing can take you to a new level on the course. Extension, when used properly, makes everything better, from the quality of your ball striking to the speed of your swing and beyond. We hope the content of this article will help you get the most out of upcoming practice sessions, and hopefully that practice will lead to improved play in the near future. Good luck!