Physical training in the golfing world was frowned upon many years ago as it was viewed as being detrimental to the golfer’s performance. It has taken a huge amount of testing for this view to be changed. Traditionally it was believed by many golfers that there were only a few components to look at for building the “ultimate golfer”. These components were shot making, equipment, mental preparation and course management. It was not until 1996 when Tiger Woods burst onto the scene that physical conditioning was considered to play a major role in building the “ultimate golfer”. Nowadays golfers are training like athletes and are making use of programs that have been specifically and scientifically designed to improve the functioning of the human body.
Every day we perform physical tasks which can be as simple as walking or as complicated as swinging a golf club. Our muscles create force and tension across joints in a coordinated fashion in order to produce our desired movements. Ultimately biomechanics allows us to increase our performance while at the same time helping us to decrease potential injury.
Using biomechanics technology and techniques in the golf swing, we can start to gain and understanding of how the body creates clubhead speed.
For this client I used the following tests:
The Pelvic Tilt – these movements are good to see the what posture the golfer adopts at address. Restricted movement could result in either an S-Posture which is too much anterior tilt or a C-Posture which is too much posterior tilt. This can cause over rotation at the top of the back swing or a reverse pivot. It may also cause the player to have a short backswing, lifting up the club due to lack of rotation.
The Pelvic Rotation – this test is used to show the players ability to rotate one part of his body while keeping the other parts stable. Being able to do this is key for the ideal kinematic sequence without the loss of energy transfer.
The Torso Rotation – failing this test will show a lack of disassociation between the hips and the shoulders.
The Shoulder Rotation – this test shows the players ability to rotate their into the backswing. Players who struggle to get the full 90 degree rotation will encounter a increased vertical plane. This will encourage the player to swing from out to in and to experience a steeper angle of attack. Players who have a greater range of motion will generally swing the club on a much flatter plane causing them to swing it from in to out with shallow angle of attack.
The deep squat – this test is done first with the hands above the head and then next with the hands crossed on the chest. The player should be able to squat to 90 degrees or lower. With the hands above the head, a limited deep squat is when the player can’t go past 90 degrees, flexes their elbows or falls forward. People who struggle to do this will show a loss of posture during the downswing. This can cause a flat shoulder plane due to standing up in the golf swing.
Doing the deep squat with the arms crossed is to test if the Latissimus Dorsi is inhibiting the overhead deep squat. If the player can complete this test but was having a issue completing the previous test it is most likely because there is restriction in the Latissimus Dorsi and thoracic region.
Internal and external rotation – this test is to demonstrate the range of motion through the hips. Limited internal rotation in the right hip will cause problems in the backswing rotation leading swaying, lifting of the arms and possible a reverse spine angle. Limited internal rotation in the left hip will cause sliding of the pelvis due to a lack of rotation. It can also encourage loading of the right side during the downswing in order to produce some lateral movement instead of a rotation.
The screening test that the player failed was the deep squat. He could not completely perform the deep squat with his hands above his head. However he could complete it with his arms crossed over his chest which means that he has restrictions in the latissimus Dorsi. This will also not allow his upper half and lower half to move independently.
The latissimus Dorsi is the widest and most powerful muscle of the back. It consists of two large, flat, triangular muscles covering the lower back. To most people they are known as Lats. The latissimus dorsi draws the upper arm downwards and backwards and rotates it inwards, and plays a major role in the backswing and in powering the downswing. The Lats start from the lower half of the vertebral column and hipbone and taper to a rounded tendon attached to the front of the upper part of the humerus near its upper end just under the shoulder.
The importance of the Latissimus Dorsi in the golf swing is that when an efficient golf swing is made they play a big role in powering the golf swing. Towards the end of the backswing, you coil your body, stretching the left latissimus dorsi elongating them and building enormous potential power. The latissimus dorsi is capable of producing tremendous power. By stretching it in the backswing and then quickly shortening it in the downswing, the latissimus dorsi transfers and amplifies power up the kinetic chain from the hips to the upper body. If the range of motion of the Lats is limited, it will result in the club being out of position at the top of the swing. Having the club out of position means there will have to be compensations made in order to get the club in the correct position. This will result in a loss of power, an inconsistent ball strike and may also lead to potential injury.
In the downswing the left Lat also plays a big role in pulling you onto your left side, rotation the torso and helping balance the force generated by the pectoral muscles.
By maintaining proper posture and keeping your shoulder blades pulled in, towards your spine and away from your ear, your shoulder complex is positioned for proper functioning of the latissimus dorsi, enabling it to pull you over your left leg coming into impact. If you don’t control your left shoulder properly, it will lift towards your ear at the beginning of the downswing, which prevents you shifting onto your left side properly, this reduces efficiency and power a great deal, and puts enormous stress on your lower back as you “hang back” on your right side through impact.
In the slow motion video of the client, you can see how he hangs back a huge amount due to the fact that he cannot shift onto his left side proper due to the limitations in the Lats. It is also causing him to have limited hip rotation in the back swing. He also has a lack of separation between the upper body rotation and the lower body rotation.This results in a golf swing which is majority arms. You can see that his initial movement to start the downswing is with the upper body instead of starting the downswing with the lower half. It is this initial movement with the upper half that causes the client to swing the golf club from out to in.
An out to in golf swing can result in three different ball flights. The first ball flight could be a pull hook. This will happen is the club face is shut to the swing path. The next flight could be a pull which is an out to in swing path but the club face is square to the swing path. The last ball flight could be a pull fade. This ball flight will happen then the club face is open to the swing path.
Based on the fact that this client is a low handicap golfer, I would say that the majority of the time he would hit a pull fade. This kind of shot shape and golf swing encourages a steep angle of attack as well as the miss hits being more towards the heel of the golf club. It will also mean that his golf ball will generally have a lot more spin on it compared to someone who had an in to out golf swing. All of these things will result in a loss of distance.
The client can do a few things to help with these problems I have identified. Firstly he can do some stretches like the Band Lat stretch which is a simple stretch and only requires a resistance band and 60 – 120 seconds of your time. Anchor the resistance band to a fixed object below knee-height. Take the band in your right hand and step forward until you feel tension in the band. Face foeward with the band still in your right hand while you put your left foot in front of your right foot. Reach up with the right arm and feel like you are scratching the right hand side of your upper back. He can also do a squat Lat stretch. For this he will need to grad onto a fixed object that sits at about waist heigh, put his feet shoulder width apart. When you do the squat you need to keep your heels on the ground and allow your back to relax. Squat low enough so at the bottom of your squat your arms are above your head. Breather in through your nose and out through your mouth 5 times and allow your back to relax and round. With the actual swing he needs to really focus on starting his down swing with the lower half. He should really feel like the left hip rotating and exiting left. He can also hit balls on the range practicing making the club exit the impact zone right of the target. To stop him self from hanging back he can do the step in drill. This is when as he reaches the top of his back swing he takes a step forward with his left foot. This really encourages him to transfer his weight properly onto his left side.
In conclusion I think it is easy to see how complex this game of golf can be and how many different components there are in order to build the “ultimate golfer”. Understanding the body and the way it works has become a major part of golf and has a lot to do with a players ability to get the clubs in the right positions and in to this constantly under pressure. It can also help with reducing injuries. A great way to look at it is that looking after the body and using it to help your make the correct golf swing is a great way for you to spend many more years walking the fairways of your favourite golf courses.