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The 3 most important areas of your golf body

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This story is part of our new “GolfWRX Guides,” a how-to series created by our Featured Writers and Contributors — passionate golfers and golf professionals in search of answers to golf’s most-asked questions.

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What are the three most important areas of your body for golf? They are:

  • The Hips/Glutes
  • The Core/Pelvis
  • The Scapula (shoulder blades)/Upper Back

Why are they important?

We focus on these three parts of the body because they are key to you golf swing — no surprise there! The reason they are key to your swing is that they are the three areas that have the biggest influence over what the club does. If the three key areas work properly then we have a better chance of making a repeatable and bio-mechanically efficient swing. You know, the kind of swing that repeats time after time and doesn’t require a lot of timing and manipulation from the hands. That swing is more likely to produce a consistent strike and better control over the golf ball.

Each key area requires a certain amount of both mobility and stability — mobility from the joints, stability from the muscles. This means that we can achieve the required range of motion (mobility), but with complete control and awareness of how the key area is moving (stability).

Before we look at each area individually, it is a good idea to get comfortable with the idea that during the golf swing, each movement of the body has an influence over another part of body. It’s a domino effect and is sometimes referred to as the kinematic sequence or kinetic chain of the golf swing. This principle is especially relevant to the three key areas as they have a very large influence on the rest of the body and ultimately the club head and your golf ball.

Let’s examine each area and talk about how we want them to function and what effect they have on our swing.

Key Area No. 1: The Hips/Glutes

No.1

Mobility

The key to hip mobility is internal rotation; this is where your femur (thigh bone) rotates inwardly in your pelvis. If you are a right-handed golfer, then you make this movement in the right hip in the back swing and then in the left hip in your follow-through (see image 2). The opposite is true for lefties, of course.

We want a nice full range of motion in this movement so we can make a full hip turn both on the way back and on the way through. This hip turn is important because the amount of rotation we get affects the amount of trunk/shoulder turn, which also has domino-like effects further up the chain.

No.2

Stability

Our hips are stabilized by our glute (butt) muscles. If these muscles work properly, then we can control our hips and get them turning — not only to full range of motion, but also in the right direction and prevent non-efficient movements like lateral hip sway and slide (see figure 3). Good quality hip rotation will control where the hips are positioned in the golf swing and therefore where the trunk and shoulders are positioned and so on up the chain.

No.3

Key Area No. 2: The Core/Pelvis

No.4

Mobility

The range of motion in the pelvis is mainly relative to pelvic tilt, both forward and back (see figure 5). We want good range in this movement because our pelvis has to go into a degree of forward and backward tilt during the swing. Any restrictions here can lead to a poor spine position in the swing and the associated compensations having to be made by the arms and hands (see figure 6).

No.5

No.6

Stability

Good core stability is crucial to not only efficient movements during the swing, but also to the health of our lower back and spine. Our core muscles are essentially the support system for our spine and we need to get them to a good level of stability, strength and awareness. Then we will have some solid protection for our lower back during the golf swing, which imparts considerable load and strain on our bodies. With great core stability, we can also control the pelvic tilt we talked about earlier and maintain a good spinal posture throughout your swing.

Key Area No. 3: Scapula (shoulder blades)/Upper Back

No.7

Mobility

There are two things to cover here — rotational mobility in the upper back and mobility of the shoulder.

It’s no secret that we need to be able to rotate the upper back in order to make a decent shoulder turn. Without a good shoulder turn (between 75 and 100 degrees, depending on who you speak to) then you will either have a very short backswing, or you will make an inefficient movement somewhere else in the body to gain the required rotation (see image no. 8 for a typical lower body collapse compensation).

The key range of motion at the shoulder is external rotation (see image 9), we need good range here (more than 10 degrees) in order to set the club on plane.

No.8

No.9

Stability

The scapula has a huge influence on the movement and function of the shoulder, which affects the elbow, the wrist and ultimately the club. We can have fantastic range of motion in the shoulder, but if we are lacking control of the scapula then it is really difficult to get the club set in the right position and yep, you guessed it – we have to make an inefficient compensation somewhere else to do so.

With any luck, you now have a solid understanding as to why it is so important to have a combination of good mobility and solid stability in each segment. It might also be worth checking out the video summary below.

Video Summary

For a more in-depth guide to the common issues in these key parts of the body and some simple corrective exercises and videos, go to my website and sign up for the free ebook “3 Key Areas of Your Golf Body.”

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Pingback: Hip To Be Squared (Shoulders) - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  2. Steve

    Nov 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Could you comment on what fault you might think results in a right handed golfer having pain in the right side (mid back below scapula – rib cage area)? Is it lack of hip mobility? Swing speed around 105 mph

    • Nick Randall

      Nov 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Really difficult to say without an assessment sorry. If you can get a medical or fitness professional to check your hip, thoracic and shoulder mobility that is a good start.

  3. Dr. Frankenstick

    Nov 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Nick, can you please send me specific recovery exercises for a rotator cuff surgery? Extensive damage means serious rehab to be ready for next spring.

    • Nick Randall

      Nov 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Dr. Frankenstick,

      I would be happy to continue this conversation via email. I would need more information from you to do due diligence to the exercise program. Feel free to contact me at nick@golffitapp.com

  4. Jeff

    Nov 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Hey Nick I’ve had 2 Piriformis surgerys I the last five years. Could this be why I have no hip rotation. What should I do to strengthen my hips.

  5. rockflightxl1000

    Oct 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Hey Nick, would immobility in the scapula be a huge cause for “lifting” up as your club approaches the top of your backswing?

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Hi rockflighttxl1000,

      If it’s the body lifting up then it’s more likely lack of mobility in the hips and/or thoracic spine.

      If it’s the arms lifting up then either lack scapula mobility or stability/control could well be the cause.

      Difficult to say for sure without swing video AND a physical assessment

  6. Alex

    Oct 31, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Can you demonstrate or somehow convey what happens if you have too much anterior pelvic tilt? I’m wondering if/when it would become an issue.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Alex,

      Too much anterior pelvic tilt has a couple of different negative effects:

      1) A lot of strain in the lower back. The lumbar spine is being put into a position where it’s not being supported by the muscles that are supposed to be holding it in place. Not good for long term spinal health.

      2) It puts the pelvis into a position that makes it hard for the hips to rotate, causing compensation from the rest of the body to get the club into a decent position.

      3) It also puts the spine in a position that makes it hard to rotate from the upper back, again you’ll see compensations from either legs or arms to manipulate either the torso or the club (or both).

      Hope this helps!

      • Alex

        Oct 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm

        So one of the things that leads to better striking for myself is the feeling that the butt is pushed out, what seems like a lot. It does add tension in my lower back, but my thighs and pelvis seem to be more supported.

        I just notice that some pros seem to have their pelvis more tucked under their upper bodies than others. But someone like Adam Scott seems to have a bit more of it..almost S posture. But, just because his shape looks that way, doesn’t mean it’s actually too far, right? Some people have more lower back curvature?

        • RogerinNZ

          Nov 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

          Alex, Nick,
          I have spent over 18 months using a Chiropractor to
          straighten me up from this type of back.Had a Huge Arch.
          Plus my neck was bent over, one thigh twisted.
          What i have now is a lovely smooth flow in a swing!
          Spine issues gone, less stress on the body.Happiness!

  7. Ronald

    Oct 30, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Stop overthinking the swing. This article is a absolutely rediculous

    • birly-shirly

      Oct 31, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Could not agree less with this comment. The subject of the article is physical capability. If you don’t have the physical capability to make a good swing, then you’re destined to introduce compensation moves. That’s where over-thinking starts.

      • Nick

        Oct 31, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        Thank you for replying in my behalf birly-shirly. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

  8. Cankles

    Oct 30, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Yeah…… but you know what they say about “feet of clay”?

    If you don’t have good feet and ankles, none of the above matters. It’s amazing how flexible Adam’s ankles and feet are. That’s what facilitates this whole thing. If he was stiff in his ankles, he would not be able to swing like he does.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Cankles,

      I agree, ankle mobility is important. It just didn’t quite make it into my top 3.

      Thank you for the input though.

  9. Pingback: The 3 Most Important Areas Of Your Body For Golf | Golf Gear Select

  10. TR1PTIK

    Oct 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Well written with good information that can help the average golfer understand more about a) their body, and b) their swing. Any specific tips for working on those areas somewhere down the pipe?

    • Ronald

      Oct 30, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      The average golfer doesn’t need to know about the scapula. This is the biggest joke

      • HitEmTrue

        Oct 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

        Most average golfers make no real effort to improve. Not real sure that is his target audience…

        • Nick

          Oct 31, 2014 at 3:43 pm

          Spot on HitEmTrue, this article isn’t aimed at your average golfer – it’s far too technical! The information that would get delivered to the player is put much more simply, without the use of technical jargon.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Hi TR1TIK,

      Yes absolutely, I’ll write some articles on how to target each area with some simple exercises. Is there an area you are looking at in particular for yourself?

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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