Getting great extension through the hitting area is a good way to draw as much power as possible out of your swing.

Senior Arm Extension Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

You might be making a nice swing overall currently, but if you aren’t doing a good job of getting extended through impact, you’ll be leaving something on the table. In this article, we are going to discuss why extension is important and what you can do to improve your performance in this area.

Before we get started, it should be said that extension is only one piece of a very complicated puzzle. Yes, you do want to make sure you get extended nicely at the bottom of the swing, but that extension alone isn’t going to allow you to produce great shots. You’ll also need to check off a number of other boxes, including things like balance, shoulder rotation, and more. So, be sure to set aside some time to work on your extension, but also remember that there is a bigger picture to keep in mind.

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.

What Can Be Gained?

Senior Arm Extension Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

It’s important to know what you stand to gain when you work on your extension through impact, as having that motivation in the back of your mind will allow you to stay focused during practice sessions. If there isn’t much to gain, you would be better off spending your time in other ways. Fortunately, there is, as you will see from the points listed below.

  • Distance. Who wouldn’t like to hit the ball farther? When you get good extension through the hitting area, you can expect to add distance to your shots. It may only be a few yards, or it might be even more, but you should see that the ball starts to travel farther down the fairway as you improve your ability to extend the arms at impact and beyond. This is particularly important as a senior golfer, since you may have noticed that you’ve been losing a little bit of distance in recent years. You might not get all the way back to the distances you used to produce when you were younger, but hitting the ball farther is going to help you in a number of ways. You will be able to set up shorter approach shots, you’ll be able to hit shorter clubs on those approaches, and you’ll probably produce more spin, which helps the ball to stop more quickly. In the end, extending your arms nicely through the ball should add speed, and that speed can pay off all over the course.
  • Accuracy. Believe it or not, you might be able to improve the accuracy of your shots right along with your distance. That might be a little hard to believe, since adding distance usually means sacrificing accuracy, but not in this case. When you extend your arms properly through the ball, you will move the club head down the line for longer than if you allowed your arms to collapse at the bottom. Chasing the ball toward the target with the club head is a great way to hit accurate shots, particularly with your irons. While you may become more accurate in time, it’s important to note that this improvement might not happen right away. Your ball flight is likely to change as your extension improves, so it will be necessary to make some other adjustments – such as changing your aim – as you work toward playing accurate shots. Nothing comes easily or quickly in golf, meaning you’ll need to be as patient as you can while waiting for the progress to come along.
  • Clean striking. If you are an experienced golfer, you already understand the importance of striking the ball cleanly. There is nothing that can replace the ability to hit the ball cleanly with the center of the face time after time. While you aren’t going to be perfect on this point – no one is – you should find that the consistency of your ball striking gets better as you improve your extension. The club will be moving down through impact, helping you contact the ball first before taking a divot (with your irons). If you typically struggle to strike the ball nicely, the feeling of contacting the ball on the sweet spot is something you will never get tired of experiencing.
  • Consistency. A swing without good extension is usually one which will rely on great timing to hit the ball cleanly and accurately. Sure, you might have your timing working quite well one day, but that doesn’t mean it will still be working just as well on subsequent days. Or, you might even have your timing come and go during the course of a round, hitting good shots for a few holes before losing track of your swing and struggling for a while. If you are tired of living such an up and down existence on the course, work on improving your extension to take some of the timing out of your swing. The club will travel further down the target line when you have good extension, meaning you won’t have to time up your release quite as precisely to hit good shots. Consistency is always hard to track down in this difficult game, so you should grab onto it whenever it’s available.

It should be clear at this point that you have a lot to gain if you can improve your extension in the golf swing. With any luck, you’ll notice improvement in all of the areas listed above. However, even if you only benefit in one or two of those areas, your game will come out ahead in the end. There will be some hard work required to get comfortable with your improved extension, but the reward could be some of the best golf you’ve ever played.

Keys to Better Extension

Senior Arm Extension Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

So, now that we have covered some of the many reasons why it is worthwhile to pursue better extension, let’s move on to figuring out how we can make it happen. If you aren’t going a good job of extending your arms through impact currently, it’s obvious that some kind of mechanical change will be required to improve in this area. But what will that look like? How can you add extension without tearing down your whole swing and starting again from scratch? Fortunately, while this isn’t an easy task, it might not be quite as tough as you would expect.

  • Rotation and extension are connected. Without a doubt, one of the best things you can do for your ability to extend your arms is do a good job of turning all the way through the ball in the downswing. Countless amateur golfers fall short on this point, as it is more common to see a poor turn than a good one on the average golf course. In terms of rotation, you can think about your swing in two segments – the backswing, which is controlled by the shoulders, and the downswing, which is controlled by the hips. If you let your shoulders turn away from the target on the way back, and your hips turn toward the target on the way through, you’ll be in excellent shape. Good rotation can help produce good extension because of the forces created as you turn. You won’t need to use your hands and wrists as actively to whip the club through the ball, since your body rotation will be doing that job, so you can let your arms extend as the club chases the ball out toward the target.
  • Left arm wide in the backswing. As you swing back, your right arm has to fold up – if it didn’t, there would be no way to make a reasonable swing. However, your left arm can stay straight, and it probably should if you want to achieve good extension at the bottom of the swing. It’s possible to make a quality swing with a bent left arm at the top, and some pros even swing this way, but most players will be better served to keep the left arm straight until the follow through. Maintaining a straight left arm on the way back will simplify the swing, and it will make it less likely that your arm will fold up prematurely as you get down toward impact. It’s virtually impossible to maintain a straight left arm without a good shoulder turn, however, so make your turn a top priority and you should find that your left arm behaves nicely as a result.
  • Head down through impact. This is a big one. There is a tendency among many golfers to look up early in an effort to see where the ball is going to go. That temptation is understandable, but it can also tear your swing apart at the seams. You need to make sure you are keeping your head and eyes down through impact to give yourself the best possible chance at a clean strike. With your head down and your rotation going strong toward the target, achieving good extension with your arms will be almost inevitable. We should note that ‘keeping your head down’ doesn’t mean that your head needs to be pushed down awkwardly toward your chest at address or during the swing. In fact, you would be better off to keep your chin up away from your chest. Basically, when we say ‘keep your head down’, what we mean is don’t pull your head up out of the shot prematurely. Try to keep it where it is as the club whips through the ball, only allowing your head to come up as it is pulled along by the overall momentum of your swing.
  • Swing hard. That’s right – if you want to extend your arms nicely through impact, you are going to need to go ahead and swing aggressively through the ball. Golf might look like a pretty civilized game from the outside, but the way the club should tear through the ball at impact is anything but. Don’t hold back as you swing down, as doing so can lead to a long list of problems. Once you have picked out the shot you are going to hit, and settled on a club to produce that shot, give it everything you have and let the club swing freely through impact. Of course, while swinging hard is a good idea, you don’t want to go so far as to force yourself to fall off balance. Losing your balance is going to make it hard to strike the ball cleanly, so you always want to be walking the line between an aggressive swing and going too far. Stay balanced but let it rip so you can extend your arms and produce the power you are capable of creating.

The list above should provide you with plenty to work on during your next practice session. You never want to overload your mind with too many thoughts during practice – or while you are on the course – so go through these ideas one at a time and be patient with your progress.

Understanding Golf Practice

Senior Arm Extension Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Unfortunately, it seems that many amateur golfers don’t quite understand what it means to practice golf properly. The typical golfer walks out onto the range aimlessly, swinging away over and over, hoping to make a little bit of progress almost by accident. Needless to say, this kind of practice is rarely productive, and it is often frustrating. If you want to actually get better at this challenging game, you’ll first need to understand how to practice in a way that is likely to lead to meaningful changes.

The first key to quality golf practice sessions is being sure that you are focused on a specific task at all times. Most players know the feeling of just walking out to the range for a practice session without any goal in mind. If you just want to ‘get better’, but don’t really know what you are working on, it’s unlikely that you’ll make any progress. Each session should have a specific goal, or if you have plenty of time to when practicing, perhaps more than one goal.

So, as it relates to this article, you could go out for practice with the goal of improving your extension, right? Not necessarily. It would probably be a better plan to work on some of the underlying keys that can lead you to better extension. Those would be the points we mentioned earlier, such as keeping your head down through impact or your left arm wide in the backswing. By improving on those points, you should be able to find improved performance in the area of extension through the ball.

Another important element of golf practice is remembering that you are going to struggle – and that the struggle is actually a good thing. If you don’t struggle while practicing, it’s likely that you really aren’t changing anything at all. To make progress, you’ll need to make changes, and those changes aren’t going to be comfortable or natural at first. In other words, you have to get worse before you can get better. Countless golfers give up on making improvements because they don’t see immediate results. It would be a shame to fall short of your potential just because you lack the patience in practice to see things through. Understand that it’s normal to have some trouble early in the process and tell yourself that it will be worth it when your efforts start to pay off.

One other point we would like to make about practice is that it needs to be as consistent as possible. Unlike a professional golfer, you probably don’t have time in your schedule to practice every day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. The key is to do your best to practice at consistent intervals, so you don’t go too long between sessions. For instance, maybe you can find time in your schedule to practice twice per week – once on a weekday and once on a weekend afternoon (or whatever works for your schedule). By taking a consistent approach, each session can build on the last, and hopefully you’ll start to see progress sooner rather than later.

Practicing correctly will pay off no matter what kind of improvements you are trying to make in your game. From the driver all the way down to the putter, having your mind in the right place while you work on your game is going to lead to good things.

Extension in the Short Game?

Senior Arm Extension Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

The extension we have been talking about so far in this article has related to the full swing. But what about the short game? We all know that the short game is critical to having success on the links, but does that mean you need to pay attention to extension? Let’s discuss this topic in the final section of this article.

For starters, you aren’t going to need to extend your arms through the ball in the short game like you do with the full swing. There simply aren’t the forces involved in the short game that are present with long shots, so your arms don’t need to extend out through the hitting area in the same way. With that said, there is one important concept related to this topic that does translate – the idea of moving the club head down the line toward the target.

When your short game is working well, you’ll find that the club head is confidently chasing the ball toward the target, rather than pulling up and away quickly. This is easiest to see when on the greens, although it is true around the greens as well. When putting, pay attention to how your putter head behaves once the ball leaves the blade. Is it pulling up away from the green and back toward your body? Or is it staying low and on the line as the ball rolls away? You want it to be doing the latter. Basically, this is the short game version of getting good extension. It doesn’t involve straightening your arms out through impact, but the idea of keeping the club on the line is still the same.

The difficulty in keeping the club down the line in the short game isn’t so much physical as it is mental. You might be tempted to look up early to see where your ball is going, and that mistake will cost you the ability to keep the club moving in the right direction. During practice, train yourself to focus only on the task of striking the ball cleanly and sending it in the right direction. Looking up early isn’t going to help anything anyway, so you might as well keep your head down and give yourself the best possible chance for success.

One other point that will help you with the type of ‘extension’ needed in the short game is light grip pressure. By holding the club lightly in your fingers and palms, you will allow it to swing more freely than it would if you were squeezing the handle tightly. Light grip pressure is one of those things that can be hard for golfers to trust and get used to on the course, so yet again, the value of practice is going to be seen clearly here. Work on using light grip pressure in your short game and you’ll love how your performance improves.

Thank you for taking the time to review this article on arm extension in the golf swing for senior players. By extending your arms nicely through the hitting area, you should find that you gain in important ways, such as adding distance and improving your accuracy. It’s not going to be easy to make strides in this important category, but the results can be dramatic when you finally break through. Good luck!