Better Understanding the Risks of the Modern Golf Swing
In February there was an article in the WSJ about how pro golfers are losing their longevity. It said that back in the day, golfers were still winning championships in their 40’s. But today, as demonstrated by Tiger Woods, their swing has taken a physical toll on their body. They are peaking earlier and flaming out early, as are pro athletes in other physically demanding sports.
The article describes how golf has turned into a power sport: “The modern swing is shorter, with more restrictive lower body movement. That requires a more violent turn to initiate the downswing, which takes more of a physical toll than swings that are longer and more rhythmic.” An explosive swing with a longer drive might win tournaments in the short term, but long term, it is taking players out of the game at younger ages with lifelong consequences.
As a movement professional, there are several factors that will improve your golf swing without contributing to injuries like the modern swing:
Learn to move your joints (the correct ones)
Many golfers have tight hips. They may have desk jobs and their hip mobility is limited because they spend much of their day sitting. What can often happen is when we have tight hips, the low back will over mobilize when generating a really powerful swing. The pelvis and hips get kicked out, and the low back is asked to compensate by rotating more than it should.
The same is true when we have a stiff thoracic spine (mid/upper back). Our thoracic spine needs to move freely in all planes of motion, otherwise the shoulders and low back try to do more work than they should.
Don’t forget about the importance of feet and ankle mobility, along with hands and wrists.The knees and elbows are only too happy to help you generate the force needed (even though they shouldn’t), so having full range of motion at your feet, ankles, hands, and wrists is hugely important for generating power as well as keeping other joints healthy.
The bottom line is that when we don’t own good movement, we tend to use brute force and compensation to power that drive instead of using the power from movement.
Arcs vs. Angles
Golf, as with most sports, is better played when we think about fluidity throughout the entire body vs. generating power from a lever and pulley perspective. If you think about any sport, imagine you are standing in the middle of a small half dome. If you follow the lines of the dome, whether you are throwing a football, doing a pirouette, or swinging a golf club, you will generate more power, strength, and fluidity when you are able to follow the lines of the dome, which means creating an arc vs. belting out power with your arms. Owning more joint movement helps you move more fluidly and effortlessly, ultimately generating more power.
Lack of good breathing skills will affect everything from your posture to your focus.
Simply practicing good inhalations and exhalations during your week will help to keep the rib cage and thoracic spine more flexible.
Finally, get a coach
It’s impossible to correct things when we don’t have good information. We live in our bodies, so understanding small nuances can make all the difference in enhancing your game. Perhaps your coach is your spouse filming you so you can see what you look like. Maybe it’s a local golf pro like Betsy Larey, or perhaps it’s a movement expert to bring your attention to what is and isn’t moving well. Any way you go, you can’t change things of which you aren’t aware. If you want to get better at anything, you need a coach to facilitate that process.
Learn what your body is doing. Educate yourself. Understand how you are moving, and then slow it down and work on that, one small bit at a time. Really good players work on the small stuff, always looking for that extra edge. Just be sure that what you are working on will help you keep playing your sport as long as you want and not cut you short with injury due to poor movement.