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.
We’ve all spent countless hours hacking away on the range looking for a quick fix or band-aid. But for some golfers — and maybe most of them — it’s not their swing that’s holding them back, but their physical limitations.
That’s where fitness assessments come in to play. It tells golfers what they can be doing from a fitness perspective to rid their swing of nasty habits, and it can prevent injuries as well.
How an assessment works
A golf fitness assessment — such as those administered by TPI, an institute created by Dr. Greg Rose and Dave Phillips — is a screening that is based on golf biomechanics and fitness.
A compilation of normative data was created by testing a wide group of PGA and LPGA professionals and measuring their physical capabilities as they relate to the golf swing. The assessment will identify asymmetries, limitations and dysfunctional movement patterns — basically how good or bad you are moving in your golf swing.
From the assessment, an efficient fitness program can be created. It also gives you and your swing coach important information about your strength and flexibility that will help you make more informed decisions about your game. Dr. Rose says it best.
“If you don’t test, it’s just a guess.”
To paint a better picture of how an assessment can help, let’s look at a major swing flaw that most of us understand: coming “over the top” with a driver. This move has been responsible for more golf anguish than I care to quantify, but the problem usually stems from an issue with shoulder mobility, which causes a loss of posture.
There’s a lot of ways to try and fix coming over the top from a mechanical standpoint, but they’re often just band-aids. For long term improvement, you’ll need to get to the source of the problem.
One of the TPI assessments used to look at shoulder mobility is called the 90/90. With better shoulder mobility, golfers are generally more efficient with their longer clubs. It allows them to swing from the inside more easily and shallow their angle of attack.
To perform this test correctly, stand tall and hold your right arm out to your side with 90 degrees of flexion. Now, without letting your upper-body bend backward, try to externally rotate your right hand as far as possible (up and back). Only continue rotating as far as the body will allow with no compromises in your posture and never perform this test to the point of pain or discomfort.
Once the arm is fully externally rotated, grade the degrees of rotation. Your range of motion will fall into one of the following three categories:
- Less than Spine Angle: The forearm does not externally rotate past the spine angle (usually less than 90 degrees). This is not good.
- Equal to Spine Angle: The forearm is parallel to the spine angle (usually 90 degrees). This is good, but not great.
- More than Spine Angle: The forearm externally rotates past the spine angle (usually greater than 90 degrees). This is great.
Repeat the process with the other arm.
The next portion of this test will be to complete the same process with only one change — perform the test while you are in your golfing set-up posture with a 5 iron. Raise your elbow and arm to the 90/90 position and rotate the hand externally. Observe the forearm, spine-angle relationship in the same fashion as during the standing portion of the exam and repeat it on the opposite side.
This test is designed to highlight any limitations in mobility of the glenohumeral joint and/or stability of the scapulo-thoracic junction.
More specifically, the 90/90 test measures range of external rotation in the shoulder and a golfer’s ability to maintain scapular stability in a golf posture. We look at the amount of external rotation in each shoulder from a standing position and then compare that range to how the shoulder rotates in the golf posture.
Many golfers will lose range of motion in their golf posture due to a lack of scapular stability. This will cause them to lose their posture and stand up in their downswing, which can lead to coming over the top with the driver.
Other times the lack of scapular stability or poor posture causes the shoulder blade to elevate or flare, and this changes the orientation of the shoulder joint. This greatly reduce the amount of external rotation in the shoulder joint and causing a steep position in the downswing instead of the sweeping position that is preferred.
If you understand what your body can do (and not do), you can fix your physical limitations and address your swing mechanics with your teaching professional.
For more information on golf assessments: http://www.mytpi.com/articles/screening