Have you ever worked with a golf instructor on improving your swing, and no matter how hard you tried and regardless of how many lessons you took, you just couldn’t seem to make the change that your instructor was recommending?
For example, your instructor mentioned that you needed to turn your upper body 90 degrees to the target line on the backswing, and no matter what you did you could not coax your body to get into that particular position. You grunted, gritted your teeth and contorted yourself but you still could not get there? I think many of us have been there, including me.
I went through this same situation when I was working on my game around 12 years ago with one of the top instructors in the world at the time. He had came to the conclusion that the reason I was prone to hitting the snap hook with my driver was because my hips were not rotating through impact. He said they were sliding, and he was 100 percent correct. I could see it and he could see it, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get my pelvis and lower body to rotate through impact correctly. After much frustration and many untimely hooks, I went in search for my own answers as to why I could not make this move. It was at this time I began by learning more about the body and its connection to the golf swing.
The more I read and learned about this subject, the more I started to feel that my problems were likely caused by a problem with my body, not my technique. To confirm my feelings, I sought out a fitness professional who specialized in dealing with golfers. This led me to a local trainer in my area who was TPI certified. After a quick warm-up and a number of physical screens, I waited with anticipation as the trainer assessed my results. I’ll never forget the next thing that came out of his mouth: “Your hips are shot…they don’t work. The reason you are unable to rotate through impact is that internal rotation of your left hip is extremely limited.”
You cannot imagine the relief that I felt knowing this information. Instead of being upset that I had a physical restriction, I was actually happy that I now had a reason why I struggled so much with my turn through impact.
The trainer gave me some stretches and a dynamic warm up to attack my problem areas and sent me on my way. I immediately went to work on the stretches and within a week started to feel like my left hip mobility was improving. The next week I went for a lesson and my instructor (and myself) were both shocked to see the pelvis moving and rotating through impact in a much improved manner.
“You got it!” he said with excitement. “Those drills I gave you are working great.”
When I explained to him that the stretches I had been doing had made it much easier for me to rotate, he dismissed it and and was ready to move on to the next “problem” in my swing…I was ready to move on to a new instructor.
Because of my experience, when I began my teaching career I made it my mission to understand the body and how it relates to the swing. I knew that I could help many more golfers reach their potential by not only better understanding the origin of many swing faults, but also by reducing injury potential.
That was over 10 years ago. From that point forward, I immersed myself with TPI, as they were and still are now at the forefront of this aspect of the industry. The knowledge I have gained from them and other sources that are focused on the body/swing connection has allowed me to make faster improvements in my students’ games and also understand what they can and cannot do with their swings.
When a student first comes to me for a lesson or coaching, I will not work with him or her until I physically assess them. I sometimes get perplexed looks from them when I tell them this, but 100 percent of the time they thank me for taking the time to understand them more and creating a custom plan based on what their body can physically do.
For example, let’s say the student comes to me complaining about an over-the-top swing plane. One of the main causes of this particular swing fault is that the student has an inability to separate or disassociate his or her lower body from the upper body during the transition of the swing. Once I give them exercises and stretches that improve separation, along with swing drills and motor skills training, the swing changes happen much quicker. Instead of a “Band-Aid” fix, I have given them a swing pattern improvement that will last.
So what exactly is a TPI movement screen? It is a comprehensive head to toe appraisal of movement patterns related to golf. The assessment identifies movement deficiencies that are highly correlated to the most common golf swing flaws.
By using the movement screen, I am able to quickly identify breakdowns in one’s level of mobility, stability, flexibility, strength and power. This information can then be utilized to determine if physical dysfunctions are impeding the golf swing. I use this information to build a swing for the student that is most efficient them based on what they can physically do.
The basic screens are as follows:
- Pelvic tilt
- Pelvic Rotation
- Torso Rotation
- Overhead deep squat
- Toe Touch
- Lying Bridge
- Seated Rotation
- 90/90 Shoulder Rotation
- Lower Quarter Rotation
- Lat Test
- Single Leg Balance
The other important aspect of the screen is that it ultimately identifies issues in the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement. This important principle indicates that efficient movement in golf swing requires the body to operate in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments.
If this pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns and losses in swing efficiency will occur. In addition, the ability to execute each phase of the golf swing, generate speed and transfer this speed to the golf club will be impeded.
Once the physical screens have been completed the next step is selecting the appropriate exercises along with swing drills and movement preparation to develop the required movement patterns in the swing.
Once the student begins working on his training/exercise program and also implements the prescribed swing drills for changing motor patterns (if necessary) it’s astounding how fast the improvement in ball-striking takes place.
So how can I as an instructor try to help a student with his swing without even knowing what his body can do? I liken this to golf instructor malpractice.
If your instructor starts making changes to your swing right away without first giving you even the most basic physical screen and asking questions about injuries, you may want to consider seeking out a TPI physical trainer to fill this void in your training program.
If you do not have a golf fitness professional in your area, please feel free to contact me. On a limited basis, I have a remote physical screening program whereby I can guide you to understanding if you have physical issues/limitations that may be holding you back and also design a custom training program for you.
I know that once you better understand what your body can and cannot do in a golf swing and you have a plan to attack your physical limitations, you will be on your way to playing your best (injury-free) golf. Now go have some fun.