Extension = Power and Control

Power and control define a good swing. Unfortunately, you don’t often see these things together in a single swing. Judging by the weekend players who take golf lessons from me, you find one and not the other. Usually, weekend payers who belt the ball a mile don’t know where it’s going. While weekend players who hit precise drives, don’t exactly crush the ball.

So how do you combine power and control in a single swing in a way that will cuts scores and shave strokes off you golf handicap? Extension.

If you’ve played golf long enough, you’ve heard the old saying “Extension means power.” Well, it’s true. To generate power, you must get your arms fully extended. But there’ only one-way to achieve the kind of extension you need to produce great power and control. You must keep your arms from crossing past your chest as you swing. If let them cross your chest too soon, you’ll short-circuit power and minimize control.

The Chicken Wing
During my years of giving golf lessons I haven’t gone a single day without seeing at least one player folding his or her left wrist and arm at impact. This fatal flaw is known as the “chicken wing.” Collapsing your left arm and wrist at impact does two things, both of which are bad: It not only prevents you from making consistently solid contact, it also causes inhibits control. So what creates the chicken wing?

The root cause for most players is a weak grip. With a weak grip the V formed between a player’s right forefinger and thumb points up the golfer’s left arm, if he’s right handed. At the same time, the left arm is turned toward the target, so that the player can’t see the knuckles on his or her left hand.

A weak grip causes the clubface to open during the backswing and remain open in the downswing. So instead of the clubface being perpendicular to the ground as you move to the top of your swing, it points skyward. This is known as the “open” position. I see this fault in golf instruction sessions given to players just starting out and to those who’ve been playing for a while. So no one is immune from it.

Power Drain
The chicken wing drains power. If a player swings down from the open position, he must square the clubface at impact to hit the ball straight and with power. The most common way for a golfer to do this is simple. She stops turning her chest. Instead, she passes her hands past her belt buckle and folds her left arm and wrist. In short, her arms outrace her chest. This flaw short-circuits power and hinders accuracy.

The most obvious way of eliminating this fault is correcting your grip. With the proper grip, the V formed by the right forefinger and thumb points up the right shoulder, not the left, an fundamental I’ve discussed in my golf tips. You should be able to see the brand name on the back of his or her golf glove and at least two knuckles on the left hand. You can easily monitor both positions when you look down to your grip in the address position.

Using the correct grip keeps the clubface square during the backswing. As a result, the club’s toe-not the face-points skyward. A good way to practice finding this position is by looking at the club as you take it back. Finding the correct position puts you into a good situation at the top of the backswing to execute a good downswing.

Using a stronger grip helps you achieve better club position on the takeaway. That in turn eliminates the need to stall your body and employ the chicken wing to square the clubface through impact. All you have to do is turn your body through the ball. Your arms will extend and the club will release automatically, the key to longer, straighter drives.

The Body Drill
A good way to ingrain the chest turn and arm extension is to practice the body drill. Take the club back to a position where your wrists are cocked and your left arm is extended, parallel to the ground. Now just turn your body all the way through the ball and try to stop half way through your follow through, with your arms fully extended and the club’s butt pointing at your belly button. Centrifugal force automatically makes the club release properly.

If you want to shave strokes off your golf handicap, you must develop a swing that exhibits power and control. You can only achieve that by fully extending your arms through impact, a position hampered by a weak grip. Check your grip the next time you’re at the practice range. If it’s weak, correct it. And work on the body drill described above. With practice, you’ll hit the ball longer, straighter, and with more control.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse