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Use the new ball flight laws to understand your tendencies

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If you are a golfer over the age of 25, you were probably taught the old ball flight laws. You know, the one stating that club path determined the starting direction of the golf ball and that face controlled the curvature. If so, you were probably shown a ball flight law poster similar to the one shown below. Ignore it.

BallFlight

We now know, thanks to studies done on Doppler radar launch monitors like FlightScope and Trackman, that the old ball flight laws are invalid. The golf ball actually starts in the direction of the face angle at impact and it curves away from the club path provided a golfer has centered impact. With drivers, face angle controls about 85 percent of a ball’s starting direction.With irons, face angle accounts for about 75 percent of a golf balls starting direction. As loft is added, the ratio is reduced.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 2.51.57 PM
Note: For the sake of this article, we are going to assume that all your shots are a centered strike. When shots are hit off-center, something called “Gear Effect” applies, which changes the launch and spin of a shot.

The New Ball Flight Laws

  1. Curvature is created when the path of the club and the face angle of the club point in different directions at impact.
  2. When the path and the face are pointing in the same direction at impact, you can hit a pull, a straight shot, or a push depending on where the face and the path are pointing. The ball will not curve unless another force is acting upon it, such as wind, slopes, off-center hits, etc.
  3. The ball mostly starts in the direction of the face angle at IMPACT (green arrow).
  4. The clubface direction at ADDRESS does NOT control the face angle direction at impact, however, it can influence it.
  5. The ball curves away from your swing path (blue arrow).
  6. Divots do not tell you starting direction, true club path, angle of attack, curvature or exact lie angle. They are virtually worthless for you to use to determine what happened during impact.

How Doppler Radar Launch Monitors Show Golf Ball Curvature

  1. Club Path shows us if you are swinging in-to-out, down-the-line, or out-to-in. Negative numbers are out-to-in, while positive numbers show in-to-out.
  2. Face Angle tells you what direction the clubface was pointing at IMPACT. Negative numbers show that the face was pointing left of the target line, and vice versa for positive numbers.
  3. Face-to-Path Ratio is the difference between these two entities. With longer clubs, the bigger the face to path number, the more curvature you will see with a centered impact. Negative numbers show that the face was left of the path and positive numbers show the face right of the path.
  4. Launch Direction shows where the ball started relative to the target. Negative numbers will result if the ball begins to the left of your target, and positive numbers will result if the ball begins to the right of the target.
  5. Spin Axis shows us the curvature of the ball or tilting of its axis. Negative numbers result if the ball moves to the left and positive numbers result if the ball moves to the right.

You can see all these numbers at once in the ball flight screen below. Click the photo to enlarge the image.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 1.39.02 PM

Now, I’ll explain the numbers that create a “Pull Hook.”

  1. The club path is 4.5 degrees right of the TARGET.
  2. The club face is -8.5 degrees left of the TARGET.
  3. The face-to-path is -13 degrees.
  4. The launch direction is -6.1 degrees left of the TARGET.
  5. The spin axis is -18.8, showing the movement of the ball to the left.

This ball started a touch left of the target line and curved further away from the path, missing the target way left. Obviously it’s easy to see these actions when you have a FlightScope Trackman handy, but how do you best audit your ball’s flight when you are alone on the range?

Note: Remember, we are assuming a centered strike, because a toe hit can create a similar spin axis. 

  1. Build a practice station with sticks on the ground along your feet and your target line so you “know” you are lined up the way you feel best works for your game.
  2. Place a target ball in front of and in-line with your golf ball and the target as shown in this photo.
  3. Hit the ball and ask yourself a few questions:

Where did the ball begin relative to my target ball that I put down? What did the ball do at the apex of its flight?

  1. If your ball begins left of the target ball, your club face was pointed left of the target at impact.
  2. If your ball begins right of the target ball, your club face was pointed to the right of the target at impact

After you determine your starting direction, look at the curvature of the ball and ask yourself the following questions. 

  1. Did the ball curve right of where the ball started? If so, your path was left of your ball’s starting direction.
  2. Did the ball curve left of where the ball started? If so, your path was right of the ball’s starting direction.

When you know the answer to these questions, you have determined where your ball started and how it curved. Thus, you have backed into the impact alignments between your path and face at impact. We know this is not an exact science and Gear Effect can alter these curvatures, but this is a great way to at least get started understanding the new ball flight laws.

Have some fun at the range today!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

76 Comments

76 Comments

  1. Mark C

    May 5, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Tom,
    I am very late coming to this party, but for over 20 years I’ve been an old school thinker. Wow, this article does open my eyes. According to the monitors I swing 1-2 degrees out to in and 1-2 degrees with an open face, which produces a nice little fade that starts just left of the target. But I really struggle trying to draw the ball when I have to. I just close the club face at address which in hindsight, makes the ball start way left. Based upon this model, what should I be doing to try and draw the ball, open the face a little and swing more in to out?

    • Mark C

      May 9, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Update: I opened the face and swung out to the right resulting in the prettiest high draws that I have ever seen. For over 20 years I believed I couldn’t hit the that shot because I was making adjustments based upon the wrong “rules”. Thanks Tom, you’re the best!!!

  2. Pat

    Nov 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    My mishits are usually a push or hook. I do try to practice a slightly in to out swing. My good shots are usually a push draw. I’ve been taught that having a slightly in to out swing ever since I was 8 years old will always be better than a out to in swing. More distance, more ball speed and it’s a better player’s miss. Only hacks swing out to in therefore hitting weak banana slices or dead pulls that go nowhere. My divots usually are dead straight or slightly pointed right. When they start pointing left is when I know my swing is way off(over the top and not initiating enough hip rotation on the down swing) and that I need to practice more and incorporate the proper drills to get my swing path back on track.

  3. B-Haf

    Nov 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    read this article just recently and went to the range to work on my driver. hitting the ball straight never seemed so easy. i could previously hit target, but always with a curve and some extra spin than needed. now it’s closer to point and shoot. amazed at how i’ve not figured out these laws on my own. thanks for sharing.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      We were all fooled…glad to hear! Thanks for the note

  4. James

    Nov 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    I was told even back in the 1960s as a kid that the way you hit a draw is swing slightly inside to out and the face has to be square to just barely closed. Not sure how this was known without a launch monitor. I have always been told the face angle determines the initial direction.

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      Square or closed to what? The path…or the target? That’s the misconception.

  5. Andrew Cooper

    Nov 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Agreed the divot, usually, happens after impact so angle of attack will influence direction. But the big out to in path swing will still produce very leftward divots, especially if we add in excessive steepness- angle of attack and path will result in divots that are reflective of what was happening at impact-divots are not randomly created. Wouldn’t a golfer with a steep, over the top, out to in move see shallower and less leftward divots as they improve their swing to a shallower and less out to in move?

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Sure. Extremes are easy to correlate.

  6. privateclubpro

    Nov 6, 2014 at 10:06 am

    The old flight laws are still possible though, aren’t they Tom? I think that they are just a very conservative approach. They highlight 9 possible ball flights, where the possibilities are actually endless. If someone had a +4 path with a +3 face angle, that would create the push draw/hook, no? A +4 path with a +5 face would create the push fade/slice, no? Those 9 flights we used to rely on, but I think your data shows that they are just a starting point, when described properly. A 0 face and a +4 path wont create the push draw as we perhaps used to think…?

    • tom stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      The only point I was trying to get across was that under the old laws we assumed the ball began on the line of the path, not the face as we know now

      • privateclubpro

        Nov 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm

        I agree, bit it’s not the face exclusively…it’s the combination that gets you a launch direction. Face will account for more than we gave credit for perhaps, but the LD (which is what is being discussed) will neither start on the path nor the line, unless those two numbers are exactly the same.

        • Tom Stickney

          Nov 7, 2014 at 4:50 am

          Never said it was one or the other…launches mostly in the direction of the face.

          • privateclubpro

            Nov 7, 2014 at 9:58 am

            Really appreciate your work online, your articles, videos and instruction – thanks for the time taken to respond to everyone! Fun discussion!

          • Tom Stickney

            Nov 8, 2014 at 2:19 am

            Pri- all my pleasure!! Thx sir.

  7. Larry Armatage

    Nov 6, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Hi Tom; Great article, thank you. My only reaction is the statement that the “old Ball Flight Laws stated that club path determined the starting direction of the golf ball and that face controlled the curvature”….. and that your conclusion is that the ‘old’ Ball Flight Laws are invalid.

    A great friend, and great teacher, Dr. Gary Wiren wrote the ‘old invalid’ laws…. Gary was the author of “The PGA Teaching Manual” written in 1999.
    Here’s what it says, on Page 34, second paragraph, EXACT WORDS; “Face position has a greater potential to influence the flight of the ball than swing path; although the path of the swing does influence the ball’s starting direction, it is of lesser influence than the face. The ball’s starting path will always fall in between the face and path direction, favouring the face angle.”

    It seems to me that your article agrees with these old invalid ball flight laws, and differs only with statements that were never presented by Gary. To have this knowledge (of a lot years ago) validated by the very latest in diagnostic equipment is testament to the power of observation and careful thought on the subject by Wiren. I don’t think it’s reasonable to present statements that were never made by Gary.

    Thanks for the article…. my only question is could you please elaborate on the alignment station,’ as shown in this photo’. My computer doesn’t show this photo very well.

    Best regards,
    Larry Armatage, PGA of Canada

    • tom stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks for the note. Gary’s description was lost in translation…the only thing most people heard was path controlling the starting direction as it pertained to the masses

  8. Andrew Cooper

    Nov 6, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the article Tom. Regarding divots being “virtually worthless” when determining what happens at impact-wouldn’t a right hander with an out to in swing path not create leftward divots? Wouldn’t steep or shallow divots, or divots before or after the ball not give an indication of angle of attack and low point? or toe/ heel deep divots not suggest a swing/lie angle issue?
    Also when can we stop calling these the “new” ball flight laws? The ball essentially responds to the club exactly the same way now as it did 500 years ago-equipment aside.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      I can have a leftward divot and a rightward path due to the path being shifted by the downward angle of attack.

  9. marcel

    Nov 5, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    radar can do a fair bit to simulate your swing. but i did not have the same results on course than on radar… i can shape ball fairly well left and right where the radar was always biasing me to draw… i am working on my swing with AAA+ coach and that is way better to improve than radar… pass the swing speed and smash factor i dont think its any good.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      It could be an alignment issue on the golf course…take the trackman on the course with you to see why it happens that way. That’s what I do with all my students with the same problem

  10. snowman

    Nov 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I am Over 25; a reasonably competent player and never played with a lot of intentional curve on my shots, but until I understood these ‘new laws’ that came out a couple of years ago, I always struggled when trying to hit a recovery shot that had to curve around a tree (I always hit the tree because I aimed the face at the tree and trusted the path of the swing to determine the starting line of the shot…duh-“old ball flight laws” didn’t work).

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Thx snow. We’ve all done the same thing. 🙂

  11. Tin Whistle

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

    this made my limited amount of hair hurt

  12. Mike T

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Baffled by this article. You have a beautiful chart on ball flight that is wrong, but not one that shows the correct ball flight laws. You mention gear effect, but no explanation on how it effects ball flight. I’m old school, but I have instinctively known that the ball is going to start in the direction the club face is pointed and the swing path will determine if the ball curves left or right. Please take this article back to the drawing board.

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Mike– this article can’t do everything. My other articles have covered great effect.

  13. Dan Sueltz

    Nov 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    And the impact of the shaft on the face angle can be pretty huge based upon our testing. Too soft or stiff and face angle at impact can change by up to 2 degrees. Can also change attack angle and spin axis. Have you seen this?

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      100%

      • Kevin

        Nov 5, 2014 at 10:00 am

        What numbers are relevant to lefties here? Which ones do we think the opposite or are all these the same?

        • Tom Stickney

          Nov 5, 2014 at 10:19 am

          Sorry Kevin. This was written for the righty

  14. Lam.b

    Nov 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

    well, they are all wrong, my bad

  15. Lam.b

    Nov 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

    The push hook is wrong in the image. Cant push it with a closed to the target face.

    • Knobbywood

      Nov 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Lol reading comprehension my friend… Mr stickney clearly states that that image is incorrect

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  17. Todd

    Nov 4, 2014 at 8:52 am

    The golf research book, “Search For the Perfect Swing” showed that that the ball starts closer to the face than the path way back in 1968. This book was required reading for PGA apprentices for many years.

  18. birly-shirly

    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Tom – in the absence of measured club/ball data, how do you feel about the strategy of first dealing with clubface alignment relative to the path to get generally straight, albeit pushed or pulled, shots. And then tackling the issue of swing direction?

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 4, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Depends on the player and the severity of their misses.

  19. darrell

    Nov 3, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Many PGA teachers have known this information for years…….we just couldn’t prove it. I have a question for you: Based on this information, many of the top putting guru’s promote a “stroke” that is directly opposite of this data. Specifically, a curved putting stroke, while opening and closing the putter face. This has to be the worst way to square the putter face. A straight back and through stroke should be the easiest way to start the ball on the intended line. Your thoughts?

    • tom stickney

      Nov 4, 2014 at 12:10 am

      S t S strokes require an artificial manipulation of the lead forearm to hold the putterface square to the line on the backswing and vice versa on the way back through from a biomechanical standpoint. However, if you feel that a StS stroke works better for you then go for it..

    • Pudder

      Nov 4, 2014 at 2:58 am

      The difference between the irons/woods versus putter is….. SPEED & LIFT.

      Physically, you’re not imparting enough speed in putting to make it spin enough, and there is also not enough off the ground as the ball strikes the ground immediately (as compared to an iron or wood), that the friction of the green and the grass will also effect the roll of the ball. Mostly, and I say again – mostly – if you can square up the putter face at moment of impact in the direction you’re intending to roll the ball with the right amount of speed in that direction – the flatness of the impact should be your primary focus of attention, not how you take it back or push it through.

      • Tom Stickney

        Nov 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

        Face accounts for 87% of the ball’s starting direction in putting.

    • Stretch

      Nov 5, 2014 at 11:57 am

      As usual a great post on ball flight laws.

      As for putting a curved putting stroke does not have opening or closing unless there is supination and pronation or extension and flexion. Nor does a S t S stroke need an artificial manipulation of the lead forearm.

      A straight back and through stroke is easy if the shaft is vertical. Steve Stricker a great example. High hands give a near vertical shaft and thus more square to the line through out the stroke. As a putter gets flatter the stroke will curve more off the line in both the back swing and forward swing. Ben Crenshaw a good example of the curving stroke. In both cases neither player had supination/pronation or flexion/extension.

      The ball roll laws to give a putting stroke the most accuracy are; face square at impact,3-4 degrees of loft at impact, the ball struck at the bottom of the putting stroke arc and least important is having the putter going down the line at impact.

    • jon

      Nov 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      straight back and thru is manipulative and an arched path is more natural in my opinion.

  20. nikky d

    Nov 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I tell you what tom, I find it ironic you wrote this article. the posts on the new ball flight laws that were coming out this summer, really helped my game a lot. there is no guessing involved anymore when my ball isn’t flying the way I intended it. now I know what I did wrong almost instantly. im glad you mentioned spin axis too. all too often does Michael Breed say stuff about having 3,000 rpms of backspin and 2,300 rpms of sidespin (or something like that) well guess what? you cannot have both! unless your golf ball is built like a gyroscope!

    • tom stickney

      Nov 4, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Thank you….many people don’t realize you only tilt the ball’s spin axis to curve it as you said

      • Blake Barrilleaux

        Nov 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm

        Tom, I’ve always wondered if ball speed could overcome ball curvature. I saw a video of Tiger, maybe 8 yrs ago doing demonstrations on hooks and slices. His hook looked as if it went straight really fast then started to really curve left farther out. I’ve tried to hit similar shots, but the ball starts curving waaayy earlier, maybe 20 yards out. I think the vid was on the golf channel for a military group outing Tiger was doing.Do you recall the vid and what do the monitors say? ( Could have been camera angle that gave the impression of straight to left flight.)Thanks

        • Tom Stickney

          Nov 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

          Blake– not sure sorry.

        • Kurt

          Nov 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm

          @Blake: I’m definitely no expert or physicist, buy it makes sense that the faster a ball is hit, it would curve less in the beginning stages of flight. The launch ball speed is definitely NOT the same speed the ball is going at the half-way point in flight. Friction from air slows the ball considerably as the ball flight progresses. So at the beginning part of the flight while the ball is going faster, it will curve less because the air hasn’t “grabbed” it yet to impart forces on it.
          Since I have improved my swing speed and ball striking, I have definitely noticed that the majority of curvature happens during the last 2/3 of ball flight.

          • Kurt

            Nov 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm

            Just to add in case I was difficult to understand: this is much the same principal as how a putt that is hit harder along the same line will break less.

  21. Brian

    Nov 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you Tom for this. Believe it or not this was timely. I have an old Lee Trevino book that has been my guide in this area for a long time. Almost exactly the same as the poster you showed. I have not been golfing as much latey and also have struggled really controlling the ball when it came time. I normally do not work the ball so figured my lack of accuracy and execution was due to lack of practice. This gave me something to work on!

    Secondly, I admire your resolve. The more technical of an article you write, the more “experts” chime in in the comments. I am not talking about this one per say, this is just my first comment on any of your articles. Some of the commenters frustrate me and it isn’t even my work, time, research, and editing. I understand they are trying to make sure there is accuracy but there is no courteousy. Thanks for pressing on.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 4, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Appreciate it sir…good luck. People often criticize things they don’t fully understand…I’m not always 100% right but I try as best as I can.

    • Large chris

      Nov 4, 2014 at 8:00 am

      I’m sure you are not referring to my post Brian, which is a perfectly fair technical comment on a technical article. I do appreciate the effort Tom puts into this sort of instruction.

  22. Dave S

    Nov 3, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    The ball flight laws have changed, but somehow players still knew how to shape shots prior to this Doppler radar revolution…

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Many understood how to curve it but did not truly understand how they curved it; thus when things went off they spent time working on the incorrect things…

  23. Daniel

    Nov 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Tom, what is the best method to draw and fade the ball without changing swing path? Thnx

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Hard to do without changing path…easiest way to change your path is to alter your aim

      • Brian

        Nov 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        Do you mean instead of swinging in to out, just aim right (along the path you want to swing)?

        • tom stickney

          Nov 4, 2014 at 12:14 am

          The more you aim right or left the more you will skew your swing’s direction in that manner…TOO A POINT…but be careful too much or anything is a bad thing. If you want to move the ball left to right then the face must be right of the path at impact. If you wan to move the ball left then the face must be left of the path at impact. With centered contact that is….

  24. SoConfussed

    Nov 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I think the majority of golfers that swing over the top with the club face open and hit a slice…
    they already know “ball flight laws”.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      You’d be surprised…

      • other paul

        Nov 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

        Agreed. Most people don’t know them. I fixed a friends slice in 3 minutes at the range and he couldn’t understand why. And he is a smart athlete.

        • tom stickney

          Nov 4, 2014 at 12:15 am

          golf is tough to understand…very counterintuitive

    • Alex

      Nov 3, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Nearly 99% of them don’t.

      Most think they need to rotate the face harder to get it to stop…all the while they’re staying it 10* left of the target line.

      When they hit pull hooks they think they’re doing it worse instead of realizing they’re starting to make progress by changing the path.

      Just yesterday I heard a father telling his daughter to stop coming over the top when she was starting the ball straight and hooking it.

      It’s bad.

  25. Largechris

    Nov 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I do wonder a little bit about Doppler radar alone proving this, I was under the impression only systems like GC2 HMT with dots on the club head could see and measure face angle.

    I’m surmising that Trackman etc. have algorithms based on their own previous R+D using high speed cameras etc. that are then used to calculate all the face numbers shown.

    • wineyax

      Nov 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      I wondered the same thing…. how much is actual captured date and how much is calculated.

      i believe a hybrid system with basically both a GC2-HMT + Trackman in 1 system would be the most accurate system.

      • tom stickney

        Nov 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

        Gears Golf has merged the trackman coupled with vertical and horizontal impact points

    • Saevel25

      Nov 3, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Doppler radar measures the movement of mass. Basically once the clubhead enters the field of influence of the radar it is being tracked. Does it create a plane to measure face angle, no. Trackman can measure swing path, angle of attack, and other swing characteristics. Radar does track movement in all 3 dimensions.

      Given that, Trackman states they are able to figure out face angle to half a degree accuracy that is repeatable 95% of the time.

      I don’t know about you, but I think that is good enough. Really, I don’t think anyone will be able to visually tell the difference a half a degree has in ball flight by visually looking at the ball travel down range.

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      A question for Trackman…

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      I’m still not convinced that the GC2 is 100% accurate with their impact point measurements but at least it’s a start.

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TXG: 8 handicap fairway wood & hybrid fitting

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Finishing the full bag fitting for our Mizuno contest winner by dialing in a fairway wood and hybrid!

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6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 2

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

Following on from Part 1 of this article, we examine reasons 4, 5 and 6 for why golfers suffer from low back pain.

Reason 4: Weak Core Muscles

Before we make start making exercise recommendations for this complicated area of the body, it’s worth asking—what is the core exactly? There is considerable debate about this often misunderstood region. Back pain expert Professor Stuart McGill, explains it as follows:

‘The core is composed of the lumbar spine, the muscles of the abdominal wall, the back extensors, and quadratus lumborum. Also included are the multijoint muscles, namely, latissimus dorsi and psoas that pass through the core, linking it to the pelvis, legs, shoulders, and arms. Given the anatomic and biomechanical synergy with the pelvis, the gluteal muscles may also be considered to be essential components as primary power generators’

In a golf context, there is a common myth that the core muscles are our main source of power in the swing. In reality, the main role of the core is to provide stiffness and stable support for force/power transfer from our legs to our upper body

If we can create stiffness and stability in our core, we can help protect our spine and surrounding structures from unnecessary strain whilst also improving swing efficiency—pretty sweet combo!

Due to a combination of perpetual sitting, poor posture and other detrimental lifestyle factors, our cores tend to lose this ability to provide stiffness and stability. We can combat and correct this with a solid core conditioning program. Below are examples of some of our favorite exercises.

Dead Bug with Fitball – the combination of squeezing the fitball whilst extending arm and leg delivers all sorts of great stimulus for the core muscles.

Bird Dog – great for glute, core and back strength

Pallof Press – fantastic anti-rotation exercise. Good for strengthening the core whilst using the ground efficiently

Reason 5 – Not Warming up Properly/Not Warming up at All!

As we’ve explained above, mechanical back pain arises from too much stress and strain placed on the back. During the game of golf, we treat our spines terribly—expecting them to twist, turn and contort with the aim of producing decent golf shots!

If we don’t prepare our bodies for an activity like golf and just go out cold, we significantly increase the chances for strain and stress being placed on the lumbar area.

I’m sure many of you have had the experience of throwing a ball or a stick hard without warming up, and received a nasty sharp pain in your shoulder. Now, if you were to warm up before doing that; stretching your shoulder, making a few practice throws etc, you’d likely avoid strain altogether. Same goes for the low back and the golf swing – without a decent warm-up, there’s every possibility of a strain when trying to rip driver down the first!

By incorporating a warm-up into your pre-golf routine, you can significantly reduce the risk for injury AND help avoid that card wrecking double-double start! As a side bonus, warming up regularly can help your general health, fitness, and wellbeing too.

We know that most amateurs don’t warm up; a study done by Fradkin et. al showed that around 70 percent of amateur golfers seldom warm-up, with only 3.8% reporting warming up on every occasion!

A decent warm isn’t hard and doesn’t have to take ages to complete; research shows that a warm-up of 10-20 minutes is sufficient. In the video below, Marnus gives a thorough guide to a solid warm up sequence.

Reason 6 – Swing Faults

Let’s not forget the golf swing. One of the most common reasons I see golfers struggle with low back pain is that they are unable to “get to their lead side” and “get stuck” on the downswing. This causes the aforementioned excessive side bend and rotation from the low back, which we need to avoid! 

“Getting stuck” on the trail side

Now we aren’t golf coaches and therefore don’t deliver swing advice. However, there are some fundamental movement patterns that most golfers could benefit from practicing. In the videos below, one of our favorite body orientated swing coaches, Richard Woodhouse, is using one of our favorite training tools, the GravityFit TPro, to help teach an efficient movement pattern. The aim is to develop a strong connection between arms and body, using the hips and thorax to rotate, thereby helping to avoid “getting stuck.”

Summary

The absolute best practice for a healthy golfing lower back is working with a golf swing instructor and also a health/fitness professional that understands the body and swing connection. As a team, they would be able to identify and improve your individual swing faults, movement pattern dysfunctions, range of motion deficiencies, muscle weakness, imbalances, and alignment issues.

If you don’t have access to such expertise locally, you may want to check out the online services offered by Marnus and Nick here:

Marnus – https://www.marnusmarais.com

Nick – https://www.golffitpro.net/

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Instruction

50 Second Fix: Chunking your pitch shots

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Want to fix your chunked pitch shots? Watch this!

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19th Hole

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