In this paper, a systematic procedure for controller design is proposed for a class of nonlinear underactuated systems (UAS), which are non-feedback linearizable but exhibit a controllable (flat) tangent linearization around an equilibrium point. Linear extended state observer (LESO)-based active disturbance rejection control (ADRC) is shown to allow for trajectory tracking tasks involving significantly far excursions from the equilibrium point. This is due to local approximate estimation and compensation of the nonlinearities neglected by the linearization process. The approach is typically robust with respect to other endogenous and exogenous uncertainties and disturbances. The flatness of the tangent model provides a unique structural property that results in an advantageous low-order cascade decomposition of the LESO design, vastly improving the attenuation of noisy and peaking components found in the traditional full order, high gain, observer design. The popular ball and beam system (BBS) is taken as an application example. Experimental results show the effectiveness of the proposed approach in stabilization, as well as in perturbed trajectory tracking tasks.