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The 3 most important areas of your golf body

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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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What are the three most important areas of your body for golf? They are:

  • The Hips/Glutes
  • The Core/Pelvis
  • The Scapula (shoulder blades)/Upper Back

Why are they important?

We focus on these three parts of the body because they are key to you golf swing — no surprise there! The reason they are key to your swing is that they are the three areas that have the biggest influence over what the club does. If the three key areas work properly then we have a better chance of making a repeatable and bio-mechanically efficient swing. You know, the kind of swing that repeats time after time and doesn’t require a lot of timing and manipulation from the hands. That swing is more likely to produce a consistent strike and better control over the golf ball.

Each key area requires a certain amount of both mobility and stability — mobility from the joints, stability from the muscles. This means that we can achieve the required range of motion (mobility), but with complete control and awareness of how the key area is moving (stability).

Before we look at each area individually, it is a good idea to get comfortable with the idea that during the golf swing, each movement of the body has an influence over another part of body. It’s a domino effect and is sometimes referred to as the kinematic sequence or kinetic chain of the golf swing. This principle is especially relevant to the three key areas as they have a very large influence on the rest of the body and ultimately the club head and your golf ball.

Let’s examine each area and talk about how we want them to function and what effect they have on our swing.

Key Area No. 1: The Hips/Glutes

No.1

Mobility

The key to hip mobility is internal rotation; this is where your femur (thigh bone) rotates inwardly in your pelvis. If you are a right-handed golfer, then you make this movement in the right hip in the back swing and then in the left hip in your follow-through (see image 2). The opposite is true for lefties, of course.

We want a nice full range of motion in this movement so we can make a full hip turn both on the way back and on the way through. This hip turn is important because the amount of rotation we get affects the amount of trunk/shoulder turn, which also has domino-like effects further up the chain.

No.2

Stability

Our hips are stabilized by our glute (butt) muscles. If these muscles work properly, then we can control our hips and get them turning — not only to full range of motion, but also in the right direction and prevent non-efficient movements like lateral hip sway and slide (see figure 3). Good quality hip rotation will control where the hips are positioned in the golf swing and therefore where the trunk and shoulders are positioned and so on up the chain.

No.3

Key Area No. 2: The Core/Pelvis

No.4

Mobility

The range of motion in the pelvis is mainly relative to pelvic tilt, both forward and back (see figure 5). We want good range in this movement because our pelvis has to go into a degree of forward and backward tilt during the swing. Any restrictions here can lead to a poor spine position in the swing and the associated compensations having to be made by the arms and hands (see figure 6).

No.5

No.6

Stability

Good core stability is crucial to not only efficient movements during the swing, but also to the health of our lower back and spine. Our core muscles are essentially the support system for our spine and we need to get them to a good level of stability, strength and awareness. Then we will have some solid protection for our lower back during the golf swing, which imparts considerable load and strain on our bodies. With great core stability, we can also control the pelvic tilt we talked about earlier and maintain a good spinal posture throughout your swing.

Key Area No. 3: Scapula (shoulder blades)/Upper Back

No.7

Mobility

There are two things to cover here — rotational mobility in the upper back and mobility of the shoulder.

It’s no secret that we need to be able to rotate the upper back in order to make a decent shoulder turn. Without a good shoulder turn (between 75 and 100 degrees, depending on who you speak to) then you will either have a very short backswing, or you will make an inefficient movement somewhere else in the body to gain the required rotation (see image no. 8 for a typical lower body collapse compensation).

The key range of motion at the shoulder is external rotation (see image 9), we need good range here (more than 10 degrees) in order to set the club on plane.

No.8

No.9

Stability

The scapula has a huge influence on the movement and function of the shoulder, which affects the elbow, the wrist and ultimately the club. We can have fantastic range of motion in the shoulder, but if we are lacking control of the scapula then it is really difficult to get the club set in the right position and yep, you guessed it – we have to make an inefficient compensation somewhere else to do so.

With any luck, you now have a solid understanding as to why it is so important to have a combination of good mobility and solid stability in each segment. It might also be worth checking out the video summary below.

Video Summary

For a more in-depth guide to the common issues in these key parts of the body and some simple corrective exercises and videos, go to my website and sign up for the free ebook “3 Key Areas of Your Golf Body.”

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Pingback: Hip To Be Squared (Shoulders) - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  2. Steve

    Nov 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Could you comment on what fault you might think results in a right handed golfer having pain in the right side (mid back below scapula – rib cage area)? Is it lack of hip mobility? Swing speed around 105 mph

    • Nick Randall

      Nov 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Really difficult to say without an assessment sorry. If you can get a medical or fitness professional to check your hip, thoracic and shoulder mobility that is a good start.

  3. Dr. Frankenstick

    Nov 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Nick, can you please send me specific recovery exercises for a rotator cuff surgery? Extensive damage means serious rehab to be ready for next spring.

    • Nick Randall

      Nov 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Dr. Frankenstick,

      I would be happy to continue this conversation via email. I would need more information from you to do due diligence to the exercise program. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

  4. Jeff

    Nov 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Hey Nick I’ve had 2 Piriformis surgerys I the last five years. Could this be why I have no hip rotation. What should I do to strengthen my hips.

  5. rockflightxl1000

    Oct 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Hey Nick, would immobility in the scapula be a huge cause for “lifting” up as your club approaches the top of your backswing?

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Hi rockflighttxl1000,

      If it’s the body lifting up then it’s more likely lack of mobility in the hips and/or thoracic spine.

      If it’s the arms lifting up then either lack scapula mobility or stability/control could well be the cause.

      Difficult to say for sure without swing video AND a physical assessment

  6. Alex

    Oct 31, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Can you demonstrate or somehow convey what happens if you have too much anterior pelvic tilt? I’m wondering if/when it would become an issue.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Alex,

      Too much anterior pelvic tilt has a couple of different negative effects:

      1) A lot of strain in the lower back. The lumbar spine is being put into a position where it’s not being supported by the muscles that are supposed to be holding it in place. Not good for long term spinal health.

      2) It puts the pelvis into a position that makes it hard for the hips to rotate, causing compensation from the rest of the body to get the club into a decent position.

      3) It also puts the spine in a position that makes it hard to rotate from the upper back, again you’ll see compensations from either legs or arms to manipulate either the torso or the club (or both).

      Hope this helps!

      • Alex

        Oct 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm

        So one of the things that leads to better striking for myself is the feeling that the butt is pushed out, what seems like a lot. It does add tension in my lower back, but my thighs and pelvis seem to be more supported.

        I just notice that some pros seem to have their pelvis more tucked under their upper bodies than others. But someone like Adam Scott seems to have a bit more of it..almost S posture. But, just because his shape looks that way, doesn’t mean it’s actually too far, right? Some people have more lower back curvature?

        • RogerinNZ

          Nov 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

          Alex, Nick,
          I have spent over 18 months using a Chiropractor to
          straighten me up from this type of back.Had a Huge Arch.
          Plus my neck was bent over, one thigh twisted.
          What i have now is a lovely smooth flow in a swing!
          Spine issues gone, less stress on the body.Happiness!

  7. Ronald

    Oct 30, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Stop overthinking the swing. This article is a absolutely rediculous

    • birly-shirly

      Oct 31, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Could not agree less with this comment. The subject of the article is physical capability. If you don’t have the physical capability to make a good swing, then you’re destined to introduce compensation moves. That’s where over-thinking starts.

      • Nick

        Oct 31, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        Thank you for replying in my behalf birly-shirly. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

  8. Cankles

    Oct 30, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Yeah…… but you know what they say about “feet of clay”?

    If you don’t have good feet and ankles, none of the above matters. It’s amazing how flexible Adam’s ankles and feet are. That’s what facilitates this whole thing. If he was stiff in his ankles, he would not be able to swing like he does.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Cankles,

      I agree, ankle mobility is important. It just didn’t quite make it into my top 3.

      Thank you for the input though.

  9. Pingback: The 3 Most Important Areas Of Your Body For Golf | Golf Gear Select

  10. TR1PTIK

    Oct 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Well written with good information that can help the average golfer understand more about a) their body, and b) their swing. Any specific tips for working on those areas somewhere down the pipe?

    • Ronald

      Oct 30, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      The average golfer doesn’t need to know about the scapula. This is the biggest joke

      • HitEmTrue

        Oct 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

        Most average golfers make no real effort to improve. Not real sure that is his target audience…

        • Nick

          Oct 31, 2014 at 3:43 pm

          Spot on HitEmTrue, this article isn’t aimed at your average golfer – it’s far too technical! The information that would get delivered to the player is put much more simply, without the use of technical jargon.

    • Nick

      Oct 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Hi TR1TIK,

      Yes absolutely, I’ll write some articles on how to target each area with some simple exercises. Is there an area you are looking at in particular for yourself?

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What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure

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How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.

@peterthomson

When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

www.kelleygolf.com

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What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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