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The simple exercises that fixed a complex golf swing problem

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I’m very lucky to work in a world class location; the combination of swing analysis technology, practice facilities, gym equipment and great weather here at the PGA Tour’s Performance Center at Sawgrass is hard to beat. The case study that I’m presenting to you today is interesting because it really could have happened anywhere. The improvements demonstrated are due to collaboration of coaches, an open-minded approach to self betterment and a bit of consistent effort.

The People

  • Our Hero: Nat Findlay, 63, CEO of Wellbox Inc, 9 handicap.
  • The Golf Coach: Andrew Lanahan, LSU Team, Mini Tour Pro, Short Game expert.
  • The Trainer: Alex Bennett (me), Flagler College Team, Mini Tour Pro, Corrective Exercise Specialist.

The Place

PGA Tour’s Performance Center at Sawgrass

The Problem

Nat initially came to Andrew for help with his game and presented with a very flat swing, hands way behind the body and lots of early extension.

Andrew quickly realized that Nat’s move wasn’t going to be easy to shake and that a muscle imbalance or limitation could be physically holding him back from improving his swing.

As the trainer, I work hand in hand with the instructors, watching what they are trying to achieve from a technical perspective. I also observe whether the student has the physical capabilities to perform what the the coach is asking of them. Being on-site full time meant that it was easy for Andrew to send Nat to see me for an assessment. During the golf specific physical screening, I found Nat had the following limitations:

  • Restricted T-Spine rotation
  • Limited upper back/scapula control
  • Restricted internal hip rotation range
  • Tight lats, restricting horizontal flexion at the shoulder (lead arm across the body)

This didn’t surprise me at all. After seeing Nat’s swing and hearing Andrew’s explanation, the assessment results made total sense. The combination of rotational restrictions and lack of scapula control went a long way to explaining what was holding Nat back.

The Solution

We had four key things to improve in Nat’s body in order to make improved swing mechanics possible, so we got straight to work and attacked each one with a combination of mobility and stability exercises:

Area 1: T-Spine Rotation

We are using light resistance and encouraging Nat to rotate from his mid/upper back and hips. This kind of dynamic movement encourages improved mobility under load and is also specific to golf posture.

Area 2: Upper Back/Scap Control in Rotation

Using the GravityFit TPro, we were able to deliver both postural awareness and stability stimulus to the upper back and shoulder girdle while rotating. This has been somewhat of a game changer for me and my clients. It helps produce amazingly quick improvements in postural control and rotation quality.

Area 3: Internal hip rotation range

The ball holds your ankles and feet in place, while the hands are pressing your knees inward. This helps to gain precious degrees of increased hip rotation — absolutely essential for allowing quality loading into the right side.

Area 4: Tight Lats

This move achieves two things. First, it stretches the muscles and connective tissue of the lats and back of the shoulder. Second, it helps improve upper and lower body disassociation by turning the hips away from the shoulders.

The Outcome

Fast forward a few months. Nat diligently applied himself to the simple, yet targeted exercise program. We were starting to see some really cool things happen in his golf swing.

“I’ve worked with Alex for the past year consistently, and I have seen a huge improvement in my strength, posture, swing speed, stability, and flexibility,” Nat says. “My handicap has also dropped from 15 to 9, which is no coincidence!”

To summarize, making small physical changes can have a big effect on your game. As you’ve seen with Nat, it doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated… or even very hard work. If you want to move better and hit it longer and less offline, then it’ll be well worth seeking out your nearest golf center with a collaborative team.

Editor’s Note: “This article was co-written with GolfWRX Featured Writer Nick Randall. Nick is a former PGA Tour trainer who now works for GravityFit in Australia. 

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PGA Tour's Performance Center Fitness Specialist, Alex Bennett, found a love for fitness and injury prevention after suffering various injuries throughout his college and professional golf career. Growing up in Michigan playing hockey, baseball and golf in high school, he quickly learned the importance of fitness specific to one’s sport. His goal is to help students get fit to perform their best on and off the golf course. Alex is a certified Athletics and Fitness Association of America Personal Fitness Trainer with a degree in Corrective Exercise Specialization from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He is a TPI Certified Fitness Level 3 and Junior Level 2 instructor.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. sid

    May 9, 2018 at 10:33 am

    You can’t swing a golf club if you are pregnant with fat…. lose 50+ lbs. and your swing will improve immeasurably.

    • Brad

      May 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

      It’s not ideal but it can certainly be done (see Champions Tour). I do agree that I can’t think of a single fat golfer who wouldn’t be helped by being more fit, some of them get fit and go back to fat and play just as well (see Jason Dufner). But fit golfers do have an advantage, IMHO.

  2. Louise doyle

    May 8, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Wonderful tips
    Look forward to applying them to help improve my game

  3. Rma

    May 8, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Never thought to work on golf specifics in the gym. Great food for thought to improve my game and swing.

    • ~j~

      May 9, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      makes a big difference. I’ve unfortunately been withdrawn from the gym due to work a life in general, golf games taken a hit because of it. When I DO go now I slide in a couple golf related cable moves, helps bring back the swing.

      Stopped by a Lifetime Fitness in Scottsdale while vacationing once, damn near ev ery guy in there was working on some golf-related motions…

  4. Hamachijohn

    May 8, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Good article to remind me to keep stretching and increase my ROM. Looks like the guy also lost considerable weight, which I’m sure also helped.

  5. ogo

    May 8, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    All of Nat’s “limitations are indicative of a sedentary lifestyle that creates a stiff torso, rigid legs and struggling arms. All he is capable of doing is sitting down and standing up and walking straight ahead only.
    Just look at his torso rotation … the hips and shoulders rotate in unison in both directions. The guy is a stiff duffer… sooo obvious

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