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What is a golf fitness assessment?

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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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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.

Video of 90/90 Assessment

 

FitnessAssessment

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:

  1. Less than Spine Angle: The forearm does not externally rotate past the spine angle (usually less than 90 degrees). This is not good.
  2. Equal to Spine Angle: The forearm is parallel to the spine angle (usually 90 degrees). This is good, but not great.
  3. 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

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Dave is the owner of Pro Fitness Golf Performance in Walled Lake, Mich. He's certified Level 2 Titleist Performance Golf Fitness instructor, K-Vest 3D-TPI biomechanics specialist and a certified USA weightlifting Instructor. He's also a Wilson Golf Advisory Staff Member. As a specialist and leading provider of golf-performance conditioning, Davis takes pride in offering golf biomechanics assessments and strength and conditioning training. His philosophy focusing on two things: the uniqueness of each individual and creating a functional training environment that will be conducive and productive to enhance a positive change. He is dedicated to serving the needs of his customers each and every day. Website: www.pgfperformance.com Email: dave@pgfperformance.com

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sure, Analyze Your Swing, but If You Don’t Do This, You’re Wasting Your Time | Alberto Washington | Golf

  2. Josh

    Dec 21, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  3. Jeff Goble

    Dec 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Dave, great job explaining of the most critical tests in the screen and how it effects the swing. All of my students go through a screen, because I need to know what I’m working with. And as for Pat and Bogus, fitness in golf is here to stay and is only going to be a bigger part of it. People want to get better and for most players if they can improve movement and balance they can get better. You are only as strong as your weakest link. TRIAN, PRACTICE, PLAY AND BELIEVE!

    • Dave

      Dec 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks Jeff. you are so right, “your only as strong as your weakest link”

  4. Wendy

    Dec 15, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    interesting article. I know I am often more worried about making my shots then developing my body to enhance my performance. Good information.

  5. EJ. McDuffie

    Dec 15, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Wonderful well written article! Great information of improving my golf game.

  6. CB

    Dec 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Great article, and really good information. It’s always good to learn correct maintenance to ensure healthier levels of any sport! Leaning correctly is half the battle, implementing the correct techniques is always best with a skilled professional.

    • Dave

      Dec 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      CB, It takes mobility and stability, mental ability and skilled technique to be a great performer on the course. so you are so true in your assessment.
      thanks

  7. Dave

    Dec 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Here is a great post on the TPI Facebook page. Here is a tour pro who is young and just blew out the competition last week by 10 strokes! He is one who takes his golf fitness screenings serious.
    https://www.facebook.com/mytpi
    TPI Certified trainer Damon Goddard takes PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth through a TPI screen. If the best in the world don’t guess what their bodies are capable of, why would you? Know your body, know your swing.
    Learn the Torso Rotation Test here: http://www.mytpi.com/arti…/screening/the_torso_rotation_test

  8. Dave C.

    Dec 13, 2014 at 7:01 am

    The usual let’s find a way to take money from rich golfers. Better to go to a chiropractor for a few visits. Some will give assessments and initial X-rays free to attract new clients. Even if not, at least you have a doctor, instead of some guy who went to a 3 day seminar.

    If I’ve insulted anyone I apologise, but it’s how I see it.

    • Bluefan75

      Dec 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      In fairness, I’ve had the assessment done, and it actually shed some light on several things. I suppose I would quibble about the price a little but it wasn’t useless.

      I will say, though, that the “program” that was given was not terribly useful. I would have fixed many of the issues identified much quicker had I been introduced the barbell much sooner.

      Very little that is identified can’t be fixed by a good strength training program.

    • Brent Vanderloop

      Dec 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Dave

      If you have a look around your local area you will likely find that many of the TPI certfied practioners are actually Physical Therapists or Chiropractors as well. Look for a TPI level 2 or 3 Medical Professional.
      I am personally a golf physiotherapist in Perth Australia. See my website http://www.perthgolfphysio.com if you want more info.

      Cheers
      Brent

  9. Dr moretsky

    Dec 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I know it will help me play better golf.

  10. Jim Eathorne

    Dec 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Dave has been an important partner along with my PGA teaching professional in keeping my swing in tune as I have aged into my late 50’s. Dave understands the limitations of a senior golfer yet trains very successfully Division 1 collegiate athletes not only in golf but also skill position football players and track athletes. I have worked with several trainers since I left college in 1977 and Dave is by far the most professional of any. If you are a golfer live or work in Southeastern Michigan do yourself a favor and contact Dave.

  11. Noah

    Dec 12, 2014 at 9:49 am

    My 2 year old is in the best golfing shape of his life;) I wish i was as flexible.
    Check him out on YouTube …
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IATJKCOBuE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Let me know what you think – this can’t be normal for a 2 yr old to be able to do this right? 🙂

    • Dave

      Dec 12, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Noah, your son has incredible hand eye coordination. He also has great mobility and stability. It was amazing to watch. The best thing for him is to let him continue to move natural and not provide him with instructions. We as adults tend to disrupt the natural process of movement with our theories instead of allowing the natural growth process to occur. Continue to let him “enjoy” what he is doing instead of “working” at what he is doing.

  12. Dave Davis

    Dec 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Pat, you are correct in the basic screenings. But for a low handicap golfer, more advance screens are needed by a professional who is trained and has the proper equipment to facilitate. Here is a link that will help those to understand more about all the screens that are available and how to perform them. http://Www.mytpi.com/improve-my-game
    Thanks

    • Sherm

      Dec 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Great article and thanks for the link. Mytpi has a ton of free information to help golfers.

  13. K. Sanford

    Dec 12, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Really good article and perfect timing for us northern golfers who need to get ready for the upcoming season.

  14. Tina

    Dec 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Dave, as a novice golfer I found your article to be informative in giving me appropriate, professional direction in how to improve my game. Thank you for writing this article in such as way that non-professionals can benefit as well as seasoned golfers.

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      Tina, now its time for you to pick up a club and give it a try. You will love it. Thanks again

  15. Cara

    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I think that people tend to forget about the funtional component needed for golf; this article was very insightful and informative! Great Job Dave!!!

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Cara, you hit it right on the nail when you said “functional component needed” people tend to think that you just pick up a club and hit it. Golfers are athletes

  16. Joe

    Dec 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    There is a lot more components to fitness for golf just like the the many components to a golf swing. A program should be all encompassing that attack weak areas as well as making strong areas stronger. Golf fitness is a lot more than just hitting th ball further. If you need to hit it farther use a different club. Obviously it can help you hit it off the tee further, hit it out of the rough, and help with club face control to name a couple of things. The main reason golf fitness should be undertaken is to decrease the risk of injury so you can enjoy a lifetime of fun.Look forward to reading more. Great article.

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks Joe, by decreasing injury we are able to enjoy the game.

  17. Bogus

    Dec 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Although fitness has it’s place in golf, it’s being blown out of proportion lately due to this trend follow society. Without getting into a rant, simply put, for some fitness will help their game to an extent, for some it will do nothing, for some it may even hinder their game (removing focus from the mental aspects and technique of the swing itself). We could name several players, who follow basic fitness routines, are not the most flexible/strong/agile, but they can play lights out. Many of the players before the 2000’s actually had no true fitness regimine, some played other sports. Hell, even Tiger followed unorthodox methods such as running 30 miles a week…but it worked for him! As we get more “science-based” with our training and research when it comes to fitness and even the swing, I won’t even get into launch monitors lol (Faldo played a spinny push cut under the gun in majors that would give horrific launch ratings, but under immense pressure it worked for him). We’re losing the essence that makes golf. I have trained my behind off for tennis and basketball because I had to, but golf fitness to me is a bit of a stretch. The 60 year olds at my golf course kicking the collegiate players a** daily is a testament to how much fitness is worth in golf. Yes you need a functional, pain-free, and somewhat athletic body to perform in golf but let’s not make it bigger than it is.

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Bogus, you are correct about the players prior to 2000. But golf fitness is about injury prevention in my program. If a muscle is weak, then compensation takes place and eventually injury follows. On the tour, golf was a 6 month game. Now its 10 months and if players are not in shape, the chance of injury is high. Yes, like any other sport fitness can provide stronger muscles. But if you ask any professional strength and conditioning coach that works with high level athletes like i do, they will tell you that the focus is on strengthening for injury prevention. An athlete can not get better performance if their sidelined with injuries

    • Pat

      Dec 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      I don’t think you realize that golf fitness isn’t necessarily going to lower one’s handicap like you are stating. That part of golf is talent and practice based. It’s main purpose is injury prevention and strengthening and activating fast twitch muscle fibers so that everything fires faster hence more distance. My driver swing went from 110mph to 133mph at one point(former Japanese long drive competitor)and now I can still crank it up to 122mph because of my bodybuilding backround and my incorporation of sports fitness in general. What has slowed me down is numerous injuries throughout the years and age.

  18. LaTrelle

    Dec 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Awesome article!

  19. Matt

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    This was an amazingly informative article, coming from a coaching ha kronur is often hard to figure out why our bodies do certain things even though we’ve put in countless hours of repetition. I’ll be checking back for other articles explaining the origin of the flaws in our swing. I enjoyed the way The author stated his information it was refreshing to have a writer explain a subject with clarity and experience be hind it. Great job! Keep it up!

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks Matt, check back later for my next article. You will like it.

  20. Mary

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Wonderful article Dave, very informative.

  21. stephanie

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Great article, definitely something for anyone trying to improve their game to consider!

  22. Amber

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Awesome article! Need more like this. Keep it coming Dave!

  23. Sara Graham

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Great article !!!!

  24. Andrew

    Dec 11, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Wondered how long it would be before somebody made a negative comment!

    A TPI screening and exercise program is one of the best things I’ve done for my golf game. Over the last 10 months my swing has improved along with scoring and so has my fitness handicap…+3 at my last re screen down from 19 when I started.

    Keep preaching Dave…hopefully people will realise it’ll do more for their games than shiny new 46″ driver ever will!

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks Andrew, will keep bringing the knowledge

  25. Ctmason98

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I know the answer, its “a way to make money.”

    • Pat

      Dec 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      All these golf “fitness” institutes are great, however only people that have money can afford to go to these places. Acquiring enough knowledge to incorporate at the gym is quite simple, yet I’m shocked at how lazy golfers in general are in regards to golf fitness. I’m in the golf and fitness industry(ACE cert.) and have a bodybuilding backround. Started working out since I was 19 years old. I’m in my mid 30’s. Currently 5’7, 160 pounds, 9% bodyfat, very flexible and I my swing speed is 120+mph. I have been 205, 8% bodyfat before in my bodybuilding days. I have learned more reading books, internet and talking to well respected people in the fitness/bodybuilding industry for sports exercise in general compared to anyone I’ve talked to in the golf fitness industry or these golf fitness institutes and seminars I’ve been to. If you people would take a little time out of your day to look up sport specific exercises on the internet and do a little research, it would save a ton of money compared to going to these golf fitness facilities which charge ridiculous amounts of money for their programs.

      • Dave Davis

        Dec 11, 2014 at 10:51 pm

        Pat, there is some great information on the web with great exercises. Yes, golf fitness is expensive just like golf. Thats why its best to at least invest in an assessment to know what to work on. Like Dr. Rose stated “if you don’t test, its just a guess”

        • Pat

          Dec 12, 2014 at 6:25 am

          Dave, you realize that you can perform these flexibility tests on yourself right? No need to pay a fitness instructor or personal trainer for this. I understand you’re trying to help golfers but at the same time, you are also promoting your business(nothing wrong with that).

          • Dave Davis

            Dec 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

            Pat, you are correct in the basic screenings. But for a low handicap golfer, more advance screens are needed by a professional who is trained and has the proper equipment to facilitate. Here is a link that will help those to understand more about all the screens that are available and how to perform them. http://Www.mytpi.com/improve-my-game
            Thanks

  26. B

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    This is the most enlightening piece of information I’ve seen in a long, long time (maybe ever) pertaining to an individual’s physical ‘ability’ to accomplish a first-class golf swing. If an amateur golfer really wants to improve his or her golf swing this should be an area that receives their #1 attention from a physical standpoint.

    • Dave Davis

      Dec 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      B,you are so correct. If a person is only strengthening the areas that are strong, then you don’t get better overall. Just better in the areas that are strong.

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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