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There are so many buzzwords in golf nowadays, a new one seems to come each week. Science has gradually crept into golf as people look to unlock the mysteries and myths of this great game, and biomechanics has come to the fore. We are able to use 3-D analysis machines now to look inside the body to see how our components are harmonizing to create and transfer energy. So if video analysis is an X-ray of your swing, 3D is the MRI.

Ground Force Reaction is based on Newton’s Laws: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So basically, if a player coils up on the way back and then pushes down into the ground in transition, the ground is pushing back with equal force. This stored energy can then be transferred to the ball with the action of the body through impact. As you will see, an athletic and springing action from the ground is needed to transfer the latent energy. This can be seen in all long drivers of the golf ball.

A word of warning to all teachers, however. Golf is not just about how far you hit it; it’s how straight you hit it, too! So be careful in spending so much time trying to rip it that you end up losing some of the key geometry and subsequent control of the ball. I do not agree with the doctrine of “smash it and find it.” Golf is an accuracy and finesse game most times, but it has a component of explosive hitting with the tee shot.

Watch the video, try the move and the ball will go much further. Science says so!

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Jonathan Yarwood is a proven tour and elite development golf coach with more than 24 years experience coaching winners at the highest level. He has had great success at both ends of the spectrum, ranging from taking students of 11 years old to the tour through many years of work to coaching Michael Campbell to his major championship victory at the 2005 U.S. Open. He has also coached two U.S. Amateur winners, two U.S. Girls Junior winners, three AJGA Players of the Year, and winners on the PGA, LPGA, European, Challenge, Asian and Australasian tours. His players have also recorded a slew of amateur victories. Jonathan was voted a UK PGA Master Professional in 2011, and he has also been recognized for his work by Golf Digest Magazine. In 2006, he was voted a Top-20 Teacher Under 40 and was voted a top teacher in the state of Florida for a decade. "Your swing needs to be good enough to control the ball, that's all," Jonathan says. "Your short game does the scoring; your mind glues it all together." Jonathan is currently a senior instructor at Bishopsgate Golf Academy in Orlando.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. martin

    Mar 30, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    if you accelerate the club head down then the equal and opposite force on your body will be upward and your weight (ie the downward force your feet exert on the earth) will decrease.

  2. Mr Poopoo

    Mar 20, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Hmm.. all this time I thought “ground force reaction” was the involuntary need to launch helicopters following me burying the bottom 4 grooves in the turf behind the ball from the middle of the fairway.

  3. Steve S

    Mar 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Interesting but basically not much use. “Hitting it miles” is a function of swing speed. Which is a function mostly of hands, wrists and forearms. Years ago Harvey Penick used to demonstrate this point by sitting in a ratty old lawn chair and hitting 230 yard drives..when he was in his 70’s.

  4. Philip

    Mar 19, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    So a golfer increases their effective weight by up to 100 pounds … can you explain how you proved this? Cause all of my attempts have not increased my effective weight one bit. Then again why would one’s weight change? If every action creates an opposite and equal reaction (assuming the object being pressed against does not move), then wouldn’t one’s weight remain constant as the forces are neutralizing each other. You wanna know my theory … how about the body is just reacting to a motion in such a way so that it keeps it’s balance and doesn’t fall over?

    • ROY

      Mar 20, 2017 at 10:01 am

      How did you prove that you did not increase your effective weight??

    • joey

      Mar 21, 2017 at 11:26 am

      It’s easy to measure with a swing catalyst force plate!

  5. Isaac Newton

    Mar 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Great video. From a physics perspective some of your terminology made the engineer in me cringe though.

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Instruction

A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

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One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

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Instruction

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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