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How gymnastics helped my golf game

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Chelsea Adams is a former competitive gymnast turned junior tournament golfer. She resides in sunny Florida where she works tirelessly on her game.

The slogan for USA Gymnastics is “Begin here. Go anywhere.” Whoever came up with that phrase is absolutely right. My background in gymnastics helped turn me into the golfer and overall athlete that I am today.

I was five years old when I had my first gymnastics class. It started with a recreational class and transitioned into competitive team practice. For the next eight years, the gym was literally my home away from home. I practiced five days a week for four hours per day. I grew up in an environment where discipline and hard work were expected from children.

I had Olympic dreams and only missed practice when I was sick or injured. I never complained about the conditioning because I knew that my body had to be strong enough to withstand the difficult skills and routines. Gymnastics is one of the greatest sports to develop speed, coordination, flexibility, agility, power, strength and grace. In my opinion, it’s better than any traditional workout regimen because the exercises revolve around lifting your own body weight. The movements gave me a great sense of body and air awareness.

When I started training the higher-level skills, I sustained some injuries and decided it was time for a fresh start. I have a passion for sports and needed to find a new outlet to channel my athleticism. Golf came as a suggestion from my mom, whose father was an avid golfer. The golf swing requires a lot of core and upper-body strength and I thought it would be a good fit. I decided to take the plunge and get a lesson with the local pro. I fell in love with golf after I hit my first ball. I knew that this was the sport for me and I was determined to become a great golfer.

My years of gymnastics training taught me how to focus and practice with a purpose. I always make sure I go to the range, putting green or chipping area with a plan. It’s never advisable to go to the range or short game area and hit golf balls without a target. You will benefit a lot more from having a practice agenda for the day.

My understanding of lag in the golf swing was enhanced because of a skill I performed on the uneven bars. While doing giant swings on the bars, one of the things you have to do toward the bottom of the swing is called a tap. This is when you arch your back and then quickly kick your feet over your head in order to gain momentum. To me, that is exactly what lag in the golf swing is. It’s a whipping motion that is performed in an effort to gain speed near the impact zone. I don’t think I would have understood lag as well as I did without making that connection.
Golf Driving Range

Finally, one of the biggest benefits of playing golf as a former gymnast is the ability to drive the ball far. This is a huge advantage especially amongst girls. Having shorter approach shots into greens provides a better opportunity to get closer to the pin and make more putts. What can be better than that?

Golf is a great sport because it can be played throughout your entire life. There’s always something different to work on and it provides a constant challenge. That’s the beauty of the sport.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. 8thehardway

    Feb 22, 2013 at 7:06 am

    “Begin here. Go anywhere.” that is a great slogan. Any advice for a senior needing flexibility, power and grace?

    • Chelsea Adams

      Feb 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Thanks for the comment! The first suggestion I would make it to enroll in an adult gymnastics class. If that’s not your thing, consider yoga or Pilates. Those are great for building flexibility, power and grace.

      • Chelsea Adams

        Feb 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

        Thanks for the comment! The first suggestion I would make is to enroll in an adult gymnastics class. If that’s not your thing, consider yoga or Pilates. Those are great for building flexibility, power and grace.

  2. Shari Wasser

    Feb 22, 2013 at 6:57 am

    I am so impressed with your dedication to hard work, and I love that you transferred your skills to another sport. You have real tenacity that will carry you anywhere you want to go!!!

  3. Kadin Mahmet

    Feb 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Nice article Chelsea! My daughter is in gymnastics class as a 3 and a half year old. I think it’s great for her core strengthening, balanance and body awarenss. I was actually going to write about this in my series as well!

    • Chelsea Adams

      Feb 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Thank you. I would be interested in reading about your thoughts on the impact gymnastics has had on your daughter.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know

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Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…

Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?

Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!

So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.

“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”

According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”

For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!

Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.

When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.

Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!

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Opinion & Analysis

Jason Day’s shoulder: More concerning than it seems?

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If you watched The Players Championship last weekend, you probably saw Jason Day tweak his shoulder on the 16th hole on Sunday. He addressed the injury in his post-round press conference and it caught my attention. Check out this video of the press conference to hear the entire clip.

A few things about what he said stuck out to me:

  • “Every now and then it happens where my shoulder feels like it pops out, but it’s like more of a sting”
  • Feeling a “pop” and “sting” in his lead (left) shoulder
  • Pain is usually during the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing
  • He’s been doing shoulder exercises to “stay loose”

Just by watching Jason Day’s swing, it seems pretty evident that he is a hypermobile athlete. This simply means that his joints tend to be naturally looser, enabling him to achieve the tremendous positions he does in his swing. This can become problematic, however, when hypermobility becomes instability. Instability of the shoulder can lead to recurrent and frequent subluxations and/or dislocations of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.

Shoulder Injuries in Golfers

Photo Credit: Arrow PT

Shoulder injuries account for 8-18 percent of all golf-related injuries. The most common shoulder injuries to the lead shoulder are posterior instability and acromioclavicual (AC) joint injury. Both of these injuries tend to be painful at the top of the backswing when the lead arm is in near-maximal horizontal adduction (reaching across your body). This position creates a compressive force through the AC Joint, which may cause pain.

Maximal horizontal adduction also places stress on the posterior capsule of the shoulder. During the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing, the hips and trunk begin to rotate towards the target. In elite golfers, the arms tend to lag behind, creating a tremendous amount of torque. This can lead to something termed the “adduction stretch” in the swing when the arm bone contacts the rib cage and the humeral head exerts a posterior force. Repeated over thousands of times, this can lead to posterior instability of the shoulder (especially in a naturally hypermobile person).

 

Notice that Day’s hips have fired towards the target, but his shoulders are lagging behind. This is a move that creates tremendous torque and clubhead speed but also stresses the shoulder joint and capsule.

Golfers with posterior instability may suffer from posterior subluxations. A subluxation is when the shoulder slides out of the joint and immediately slides back in. This is different from a dislocation, where the joint remains separated until it is physically put back into place.

Photo Credit: Back And Body Clinic

Symptoms of a subluxation include:

  • A feeling of the shoulder moving out and in of the joint
  • A feeling of looseness in the shoulder
  • Pain, weakness, or numbness of the arm

Should Jason Day Be Concerned?

I’m not here to diagnose Jason Day with any medical condition. I have not evaluated his shoulder, and I do not have enough information to make any kind of an informed diagnosis. But, if it barks like a dog…

Is Day’s shoulder injury something that could negatively impact him in the foreseeable future? I would argue yes. If he does indeed have posterior instability of his lead shoulder with recurrent subluxations during his golf swing, this may be a problem that nags him for a while to come.

Conservative treatment for posterior instability typically features physical therapy focusing on improving rotator strength and stability. The rotator cuff can help stabilize the shoulder during the golf swing and prevent excessive motion of the humeral head within the socket when it is functioning properly. Medical research shows that conservative treatment of posterior instability is often successful, but not for every person. One study reports only 25 percent that golfers with posterior instability were able to return to golf after undergoing physical therapy. This study is old and has a few issues, but still, this is a pretty low percentage.

Surgical treatment of posterior instability is an option. The surgery includes tightening the capsule to prevent further subluxations. One of the major drawbacks of this surgery is that it may be tough to get full cross-body range of motion back after the capsule is tightened. This can make it difficult for golfers to get back to their old swing style after surgery.

Surgical repair of the capsule showing the tightening of the capsule.

 

Overall, shoulder injuries, particularly to the lead shoulder, can be problematic for golfers of all ability levels. I sincerely hope that Jason Day is able to overcome his shoulder pain and continue to play at his current level.

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Opinion & Analysis

Starting from Scratch (Episode 1): GolfWRX Editor switches to lefty

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As a right-handed Division I (Rutgers University) golfer, I underwent spine surgery at 20-years old, which effected the lower right portion of my back. Eight years later, I’m a trending-up-2-handicap who deals with back spasms after nearly every round of golf or practice session, and a lingering left wrist injury — neither of which are very good for a right-handed golfer. Extremely frustrated with golf and my body, I’m officially announcing my retirement as a right-handed golfer. BUT, I’m not retiring from the sport I love.

Going forward, I will be switching to playing golf as a left-hander. The left-handed swing puts significantly less pressure on the lower right side of my back and my left wrist. Therefore, I’ll be able to continue playing golf by switching sides, and get back the passion to practice and improve.

The problem? I’ve never played golf lefty and I’m not ambidextrous. I write, throw, bat, swing, play pool, play darts, everything as a righty. For 28 years, I’ve played golf righty.

As your fearless GolfWRX Editor, I’ll be documenting the entire process through written articles, photos, podcast updates, video and social media posts (@tg2wrx on Instagram). I’ll explain what it’s like to start the game as a beginning golfer, and the process I take to improve. I’ll document lessons, club fittings, performance assessments, rounds of golf, and practice sessions on my quest. Hopefully, I’ll be writing the blueprint for how to go from a terrible golfer to a nineties shooter. Hopefully.

My goal is to break 100 (on a regulation golf course from the “white” tees) before Labor Day. My co-host on Two Guys Talking Golf has bet against me for a publicly undisclosed sum, and I’ve also been taking many side bets, as well. My mission for the summer is to prove everyone wrong.

Watch Episode 1 of the series to see my first swings as a lefty.

Starting from Scratch: Episode 1

 

Week 1 and 2 highlights

  • Whiffed once while attempting to hit a 6-iron. I’m just happy it only happened once.
  • Went to a big box store to buy used golf clubs. Wow, buying equipment as a lefty is just as difficult as left-handers have been telling righties their entire lives. I bought a 64-degree SureOut wedge — I need the most forgiveness I can get
  • Purchased the rest of my set online for less than $500! We will be posting a “What’s in the bag” video in the coming weeks. Spoiler alert: I got some VERY forgiving stuff.
  • Watched a video from Shawn Clement — who is scratch as both a lefty and a righty — saying right-hand dominant golfers playing lefty should feel the club pulling with their right arm. It feels like a backhand stroke in tennis, and I’m thinking this will be a good swing thought moving forward
  • Grinded at the short game area almost every night until the rest of my clubs came in. Short game is feeling really good. Just working on hitting down on the golf ball and making consistent contact near the center of the face.
  • One night after work, I went to the short game area at my local course, and realized no one was playing. Although I didn’t feel ready to take my game to the course, I decided to play 9 holes. And I shot… 50!! (Par 35; 2,810 yards.) Very encouraging.
  • Check out @tg2wrx for a ridiculous flop shot I hit over the trees during my first round as a lefty
  • Shot 44 on a mini golf course putting lefty… yikes. Gotta reduce those three putts.

Thoughts from a left-hander

Overall, the most work is going to be getting mid-to-long irons in the air, and reducing slices/top/shanks off the tee. If I can simply get the ball in the air and hit it somewhere around the center of the face, I believe I can plot my way around a golf course to break 100. Bunker play is a huge concern still, so I’ll want to avoid bunkers at all costs. Other than that, I need to practice more. More range balls, more chip shots, more pitch shots and more putts. I need to continue getting comfortable hitting golf balls from the “wrong” side.

Tune in next time to see my WITB and how I’m faring as a south paw.

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