So you don’t think that golfers are athletes? – Think again
Golf is a sport, just like any other, where it’s a case of being “the Indian, not the arrow”. People think that it’s very difficult to play any sport with substandard equipment, but in spite of the technological advancement in golf over the last 20 or so years, the average handicap of the Australian male golfer in 2011 was 19.36 - about the same as what it was 30 years ago! Wouldn’t this thought on substandard equipment also apply to the most important equipment in your bag - your body? So many people play golf with their bodies being in no shape to play the game effectively. Doing some simple stretches may be enough to reduce your handicap by a few shots.
Often flexibility, poor posture and strength imbalances will create inefficient movement patterns producing swing mechanics that are more likely to cause injury, and less likely to allow you to swing correctly. Trying to change your swing without addressing these physiological factors makes the process of improving your game much more difficult. A flexibility and stability and program addressing these deficiencies will help to allow your body to get into the positions that a teacher needs it to in order to help improve your swing and therefore your game, while at the same time reducing your chance of injury. Add to that a strength and power program designed specifically for golfers and you set yourself up for the best chance at lower scores.
Having the right amount of flexibility is the most important physiological factor that allows for a good golf swing. Without it, many swing inconsistencies surface. The biggest problem tends to come with stiffness through the upper back. This stiffness doesn’t allow for a good turn, which then narrows your swing arc and can create a lateral shift over the ball (among many other things). This compensation can recreate itself throughout many parts of the body.
Not only does this lack of flexibility create a poor swing, but they are also more likely to cause injuries. Every compensation that the body makes puts extra stress somewhere else. This tightness through the upper back mentioned above can put extra stress on the lower back to rotate more (which it shouldn’t) and stresses the shoulder joint because it prevents movement of the shoulder blade. Again, this can happen over and over in different places around the body.
Going to get lessons without addressing these flexibility deficiencies puts the Pro in a position where he/she is doing their best to teach you how to compensate with a body that can’t swing a club properly. David Leadbetter, Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, or any other of the superstar coaches could not help you swing properly if your body was unable to get into the positions that they would try to teach you.
Then there’s strength…
Mathematical models have shown that driving a golf ball can use up to 90% of one’s maximal muscle contraction. This represents a force that allows you to lift your maximal weight only 4 times before fatiguing. This rivals sports more traditionally known as power sports like martial arts and rugby – sports which many more people associate with strengthening programs. Whether you like it or not, golf is an athletic pursuit.
Mathematical models have also shown this force to be enough to rip the ligaments off your spine if it weren’t for the muscular system. When you consider a 90% contraction can cause this damage, also consider that with a “fat” shot, it is possible to reach 100% of maximal muscle contraction. Even if it is for a millisecond, that force is enough to inflict some serious damage on the body.
For any athlete or enthusiast, a training and conditioning program should help them with their sport of choice. In order to create strength for the golf swing, the muscle and movement patterns of the golf swing need to be trained. The dominant movement in the golf swing is rotation, so it should be the dominant movement in a training program. You also swing a golf club while standing on your feet, so lying down or sitting on a machine won’t have much benefit to a golfer. Many of the exercises that are prescribed to gym-goers in generic programs have been developed over the years as bodybuilding exercises. Simple exercises that most people know, like pull downs and a bench press for example may be useful for some, but they have no relevance to the golf swing. This, unfortunately, has been the trend with golf conditioning in recent years.
The steps involved in improving your golf should be addressing the following…
Flexibility: to allow the body to get into the correct positions in the swing without resistance.
Stability: to help prevent injury and keep the body on plane throughout the swing.
Strength and Power: to increase swing speed and hit the ball further.
The most important equipment in your bag is your body. Spend some time and effort looking after it and watch your game improve. Make an appointment to improve your game.