Golf Performance – Physical Preparation is Everything
For golf and exercise professionals
There is information available widely through the web, PGA courses and magazine articles that bring you up to date with the latest thinking in golf. They teach you the latest on how to swing each club correctly, how to putt, how to analyse your swing, how to get mentally ‘tough’, how to improve your core, your flexibility and how to get fitter and stronger for golf.
There is a plethora of information being offered about golf today. Some of it correct, all of it interesting, but how much of it is relevant to your players? And how do you know which of these generic exercise tips is going to help? Even if you trained one of your players using each one for 6 weeks and then took the results onto the course and tried them – how do you then know whether the performance is ‘that exercise’ or you just had a good day? Even video/digital analysis, although interesting from a coaches point of view to measure the movement discrepancies in a golfer's swing, doesn't tell us why they are performing any movement aberrations. Knowing what you're doing wrong, but not knowing why you’re doing it is sometimes worse than not knowing what you're doing wrong in the first place.
What is needed is a simple system of analysis that can be used in conjunction with your coaching techniques to find out why your players perform that particular swing. Although there are fundamental similarities to all good swings, each swing is like a finger-print and unique to that individual. Why is it unique? It’s because we are all biomechanically different and unless you understand what those differences are, it is very difficult to identify whether your player’s swing is due to poor technique or something that they have to do to compensate for a mechanical problem. The variety of golf swings that exists represents the many ways that the human body can compensate for its biomechanical problems.
For example, lets take a typical mid-handicapper’s slice. There are classic causes of a slice and you all have things that you normally work on with them, bearing in mind the individual and their particular problems. At the same time we also know that these ways don’t always work. There may be a number of reasons for this, the player may not be practicing, it may take some time to work out which is the best method of teaching that person, or quite simply it may be that the person doesn’t have it in them to do what is necessary. Alternatively, it is likely that the player just physically can’t do it.
Lets take a closer look at one of the common biomechanical causes of a slice: a longer right leg. With this mechanical problem, assuming you are a right handed golfer, then you will have a tendency towards a more upright back swing. We know this because of the way spine and pelvis work biomechanically. A longer right leg compresses the joints in the spine on that side and so they can’t rotate easily. They therefore have to side bend to gap the joints to initiate movement, which causes an upright backswing. We also know that this then can lead to a more out-to-in downswing and therefore a slice (depending upon grip and ball position). So you could work all day on preventing this upright backswing, which you know is leading to a slice, but it will not change until you’ve addressed the leg length discrepancy.
HOWEVER, invariably these leg length discrepancies are caused by a dysfunctional pelvis and are not hereditary or due to a previous fracture. They often don’t cause symptoms, so you won’t even know it exists. If this is the case then doing some simple exercises can help re-align the pelvis, reduce the leg length discrepancy and allow you to teach the player to flatten that back swing to a more mechanically appropriate position.
There are many more of these examples. As well as leg length discrepancies, other biomechanical issues can include, poor motor programming strategy (the way the muscles link together in movement patterns), poor control between the pelvis and shoulders, nerve adhesions or stiffness, faulty core muscle control, immobility around the hips, pelvis and spine as well as simple lack of flexibility. Some of these issues sound quite technical and complex, but they’re actually very simple to test and eradicate.
Biomechanics is split into 2 areas of study: Extrinsic and Intrinsic. As a PGA pro you already have expertise in the extrinsic – how the body moves (in the context of a golf swing) and how to change that movement to be more efficient. Intrinsic is why the body moves as it does. The two work ‘hand in glove’ and understanding what the player is doing in their swing may not be as relevant as knowing why they’re doing it, when it comes to swing changes.