Well, spring has sprung and it is time to dust off the golf clubs and get ready to start grooving your swing. The game of golf can be a lot of fun and it certainly is a great form of exercise. You are bending and squatting to tee up the golf ball or remove that birdie putt from the hole. If you walk the course, you are pushing, pulling, or carrying that bag of golf clubs. Even if you are not walking the course, getting in and out of the golf cart is work for some folks. You stabilize your core while you grip a golf club and rotate your upper torso and arms in a turn with the intention of swinging the golf club back to its starting position and striking the golf ball right down the middle of the fairway. It should be pretty easy to hit a ball that is not moving, right? Well, you would certainly be surprised at the many directions a golf ball can take when it leaves the tee or the ground. Thus the word “FORE” (lookout, heads-up, I have no idea where that went) is heard throughout the day on the golf course. This is when the game is not so much fun for folks and the enjoyment of being outside and playing a game, is lost. If you are one that loves to play the game of golf (or looking to start), but struggle with being able to consistently keep the ball in play (or sight), then please keep reading because there is hope for your swing and your game.
In 2003, the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) was founded. They quickly became the world’s leading educational organization in the study of how the human body moves in relation to the golf swing. They have studied the golf swings of thousands of golfers from tour professionals to weekend warriors. Through these studies they determined that there was no one way to swing a golf club, but there was one efficient way for everyone to swing a club and it is based on what they can physically do. Using 3-D technology, TPI found that all great golf ball hitters had an identical sequence or pattern of loading the body to initiate club head speed. It all starts with the pelvis, which will pass off to the thorax, which passes off to the arms and finally moves to the golf club. To correctly unload, the sequence should happen in reverse order. If any of these are out of sequence, the golfer will compensate with other body movements to try and get the club face back to square when striking the golf ball. These compensations or golf swing breakdowns are also known as swing characteristics. Through the earlier mentioned studies, TPI has identified the characteristics seen the most and refers to them as the “Big Twelve”.
The “Big Twelve” are sometimes simply due to having poor equipment or mechanics. Getting some lessons and a club fitting from a golf teaching pro will help tremendously in getting you on the right swing path. However, allot of times these compensations are caused by range of motion (ROM) limitations around joints involved in the golf swing or muscle imbalances that result in swing breakdowns due to poor physical conditioning. If you believe that you suffer from one of the latter, a TPI trained and certified Fitness Professional will be able to help you. Using slow motion video, from a forward facing angle and a down the line angle, the client will go through setup and full swings to identify their particular swing characteristic(s). The client is also taken through the TPI Physical Screening process where ROM limitations and muscle imbalances are identified from head to toe, which will tie back directly to the swing characteristic(s) seen in the video. This leads to the development of a personalized conditioning program that is designed specifically for you based on the results of your screening test. To give you an idea of how the TPI Physical Screens work, let’s take a look at the findings from a hypothetical client test.
I have the client set-up in his/her hitting position using a 5 iron. I have the client take a few practice swings and then have them setup as if they had a ball on the ground in front of him/her. I instruct the client to go through their routine to address the ball and then to execute several swings for me so that I can capture the swing on video. Since the client has told me that they are a high handicapper and tend to hook the ball often, I suspect immediately that I will see the swing characteristic that is most common to this group of golfers. I set the camera up in a down the line view. This would be me standing in a position where I am behind the golf ball and looking down the fairway. The first swing reveals exactly what I thought I would see and clearly defines this swing characteristic as “Over the Top”. Take a look at the below picture and you can see where on the downswing the club has come out of and above what is called the “slot” shown by the white lines. This creates and outside in swing path and will hook the ball if the clubface is squared to the ball or slice it if the clubface is left open at impact.
This swing characteristic is due to do an overuse of the upper body when the golfer transitions to the downswing of the club. There are several screen tests that I perform to identify any physical issues that contribute to this swing characteristic. The primary issue I would be looking for is mobility through the hips and then mobility around the thoracic spine. It is important that the golfer be able to disassociate the upper and lower body parts. The TPI screening tests will show quickly if you are not able to. Based on the results of the screening test, a detailed conditioning program is put together that would consist of mobility, flexibility, strength and power movements to get your swing back into the slot and your shots straighter down the fairway. Again, “Over the Top” is just one of the Big Twelve swing characteristics out there. If you want some help in identifying what is going on with your swing (and whether it is physical or mechanical) look to have a TPI Certified Fitness Professional take you through a Physical Screening process. Let’s get that “FORE” changed into a FOUR on the Par 5’s. I wish you great health and hope that you have an amazing golfing season.