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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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Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

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Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

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Let’s Talk Gear: Frequency and Shaft CPM

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When it comes to fine tuning a golf shaft and matching clubs within a set, frequency and CPM play a critical role in build quality and making sure what you were fit for is what gets built for you.

This video explains the purpose of a frequency machine, as well as how the information it gives us relates to both building and fitting your clubs.

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How to Deliver the Club Better With Your Trail Arm

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The vast majority of golfers want to be consistent. The reality is that they are… the consistency they have just doesn’t produce the outcome they want.

In this video, I share a simple drill that will improve the way you deliver the club with your trail arm and give you a more consistent delivery from the inside to promote more consistent outcomes.

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