Does your golf swing have you zig zagging all over the course? Do you get pain either as a result of your golf swing or that pain that inhibits your swing? In this article we are going to run through how at Elite Health and Performance we can assess your swing and help these issues for you, the golfer.
If we simplify golf right down, what makes a better player compared to others? Easy, they hit better shots, more often. We’ve all hit a good shot from time to time but what the best in the world do is they hit that shot pretty much every time.
There are many different variations in swings across the world and not exactly one swing pattern determines if you will turn pro. What we do know however is that for each individual there is a swing pattern that is the most efficient and most reproducible for them. Having an efficient and reproducible swing will not only improve the consistency of your shot making but also reduce your risk of injury.
It is unrealistic to think that everyone should model their swing pattern on let’s say Rory McIlroy, one of the most glorious and athletic swings on the pro tour. For example let’s use a golfer named Jane. Jane is an officer worker, sitting at her desk typing on her computer for six hours a day. Jane naturally through this work posture for many years has developed a limited amount of thoracic extension. Even with some mobility exercises she is still limited but continues to play golf every weekend. Jane has consistency issues in her ball flight patterns. What we can expect out of Jane and her golf swing is not the same as that of Rory McIlroy who has presumably great thoracic mobility testing, allowing him to open up his backswing a lot more. What we can achieve with Jane is an optimal swing pattern around this issue that is reproducible for her, increasing the consistency in her swing and hence portrays onto her scorecard.
With this in mind let’s talk about the kinematic sequence of the golf swing. Kinematic sequence refers to the ability to transfer energy from the body to speed at the club head during the down swing. We can show this on a graph whereby the Y axis is speed and the X axis is time. Below the X axis is the backswing, above the X axis is the downswing. Four segments in particular are analysed. These being the pelvis, thorax, arm and club.
What we at Elite HP have noticed through using the Titleist Performance Institute’s knowledge and with observing and treating many golfers ourselves, is that those who strike the ball the best, have good kinematic sequencing. The best players in the world all have incredibly similar kinematic sequences when it comes to striking the ball.
So what is the kinematic sequence secret to the best ball striking? It’s rather simple and obvious once we break it down. The key point to look at on the graph is the ‘firing sequence’ whereby each segment begins to accelerate from stationary at the very moment of the top of the backswing to begin the downswing. The firing sequence as shown indicates the pelvis should begin to actively rotate first before the thorax, the lead arm and then finally the club. This progressive sequencing starts from a stand still at the very top of the swing and through the progressive outlay of mechanics rapidly increases energy transfer down the line to gain maximal club head speed at the impact of the ball.
It’s easy to understand that if the kinematic sequencing is out of place then the club head speed will be affected and conversely the swing efficiency and reproducibility that we discussed before will be affected.
For most of us golfers, the kinematic sequence is timely or acceptable, but we’re still not piping it down the middle as consistently as Tiger. This brings us to the swing. Unlike the kinematic sequence, the variation in swing planes and patterns in golfers around the world is infinite.
Through a TPI swing video analysis we look for the most common faults that may be causing you trouble with pain associated with the swing or just as to why you may not be striking the ball as consistently as you’d hoped. We look at a typical swing from two angles which are from directly behind or down the line and also from the side, face on the golfer. There’s a collective of 12 swing fault characteristics that are the most common across the golfing population that look at posture in the set-up and dynamic posture throughout the swing. Both which can affect your ability to strike the ball in a consistent fashion.
The Big 12
- Loss of posture: This is loss of any significant alteration of the body’s angles from set up during the swing.
- Casting/early release/scooping: all refer to any premature release of the wrist angles during the downswing. Angle loss results in a weaker wrist position at the ball strike giving the wrist a cupping look position.
- Hanging back: when the golfer does not shift their weight correctly again back over their lead leg during the downswing.
- Reverse spine angle: any excessive upper body backward bend or trunk lateral tilt over the lead hip during the backswing.
- S – Posture: Too much arch in a player’s lower back at set-up. This excessive posture can put abnormal stress on the muscles in the lower back affecting the core stability during the back swing leading into sequencing issues in the downswing.
- Over the top: Maybe the most common fault among high handicap golfers. Usually occurs because of over dominance of the upper body during the downswing. Because of this the club is thrown outside of the intended swing plane, or ‘the slot’ and the clubhead approaches the ball from an out-to-in motion.
- C – Posture: When the shoulders and thoracic spine are arched excessively at set-up. This posture can affect the player’s thoracic motion and ability to rotate.
- Early extension: is apparent when the hips or spine of the golfer start to go into extension, or straighten up too early in the downswing.
- Sway: any excessive lateral movement backward of the trail hip, away from the target during the backswing.
- Chicken winging: loss of extension or breakdown of the lead elbow during the downswing.
- Flat shoulder plane: Describes the angle of the shoulders as the golfer goes into their backswing. The angle from set up position flattens out or becomes more horizontal.
- Slide: Any excessive lateral movement forward of the lead hip, toward the target during the downswing.
Here at Elite Health and Performance we use the training and methodology of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and one of our TPI certified practitioners to help you, the golfer of any ability, to help get the best out of your game. Of course we aren’t golf professionals, we’re health practitioners. We can’t tell you how to turn that right angled slice into a perfectly controlled draw. What we are equipped to do however is either an examination to determine whether your golf swing is causing you pain, rehab you from an injury back to an efficient golf swing or just to give you an assessment to see if there are any mobility or stability issues that we could improve to help your swing.
We use the swing analysis to gauge how your swing looks compared to how you present in your history. This more importantly with a physical screen is how we as the practitioner can help your golf game. The physical component of the assessment encompasses a movement screen. Gross movement screening allows us to identify not only imperfect stability patterns but also mobility issues specific to you and your golf swing.
The Screening Method
Our TPI certified practitioners use is designed to give a well-rounded look at how you move, along with the quality of your movement and link this is to what we can see with your golf swing characteristics. Put both of these analyses together and we get a really good picture as to why you may be struggling with some movements purely from a mechanical stand point and/or more importantly an injury rehab or prevention stand point.
The whole movement screen can be broken down into five categories looking at:
- Core control
- Lower body disassociation ability
- Upper body disassociation ability
- Overhead posture
- Ability to set and release the golf club
We won’t go fully in-depth with every little movement screen but instead watch the video on one of the most critical screens, the overhead squat. Learn how it breaks down from a gross movement that a large percentage of the population fails, into narrowing it down to which body segment may be an issue affecting the overall movement quality.
Using the video above as an example let’s make relevant the findings we received from Creagh and relate them to potential issues in his golf swing. We could see Creagh failed the overhead squat test as a whole. During the breakdown we found that Creagh struggled mainly with thoracic extension through his mid back. A lack of thoracic extension makes Creagh more susceptible to a C-posture during swing set-up. A C-posture can directly affect Creagh’s ability to rotate during the back swing and we may see his swing characteristics present as being susceptible to a loss of dynamic posture or show a flat shoulder plane during it.
Now Creagh doesn’t have any pain during his golf swing but we can notice that to help improve the efficiency of his swing there a few factors to work on to help his body meet the demands of a golf swing. In this example from the overhead deep squat we used, his thoracic extension namely is the issue. Even though Creagh doesn’t get pain from playing golf, this dysfunction could in future lead him to overcompensate for his lack of extension in his mid-back by over extending through his low back. This puts an abnormal stress on the low back area potentially creating issues in the future.
To help improve his thoracic mobility we can use musculoskeletal techniques such as muscle release, dry needling and mobilisations or adjustments. These along with progressing Creagh through thoracic extension rehab exercises such as in the next video to help him address this dysfunction.
If Creagh does his homework we should see a change in his testing and hence a direct correlation into his swing efficiency, consistency and get better results onto the scorecard.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, all of our golf swings could use some refining in some which way. Getting lessons from a golf pro is a great idea but if we also look at your body, we can address deficits that may be what are holding you back from improving your game. Whether it be that you have pain or an injury inhibiting the efficiency of your swing or you just want to improve your mobility. Come in to Elite HP and see one of our TPI certified practitioners to help you get the best out of your game.
What will your appointment with us look like? Our experienced practitioners will go through a video analysis of your swing with you before progressing into a full body physical screening to highlight any areas that need addressing or improving. From the two of these combined you will then get a specialist program individually tailored for you to enhance your rehab or movement patterns, whatever the goal is for you.
Call us here at Elite Health and Performance to kickstart your journey to a pain free golf swing. To help start you off, if you mention TPI SWING you will receive 25% off your initial consult with a TPI certified practitioner.