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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Instructor Tom Stickney

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GolfWRX Featured Writer Tom Stickney currently splits his time between Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., and the Promontory Club in Park City, Utah, as the Director of Instruction at both courses. Stickney, who has also worked in Florida and Colorado, is a native of Memphis, Tenn.

The Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher is also one of a handful of Trackman Masters and was recognized as one of the best Young Teachers Under 40 by Golf Digest from 2006 to 2011. 

How he got his start in teaching…

Stickney was playing mini tours when he was approached by a pro due to inherit a hefty sum. The pro, now financially secure, wanted to try his hand at making it to the big tour. Thus, he needed someone to give lessons at his 45-hole semi-private course.

How teaching has changed in the last 10-15 years…

“When I first started…the first 10-12 years of my career…golf instruction was a very closed shop. It was very proprietary as far as the information that was out there. You pretty much developed your own style based on what you could read.”

“It’s not like you had the Internet…all you did was read every book that was out. Now, the information is out there.”

“We’ve got a couple of kids…interns in the PGM Program…and they probably know 60 percent of what I know, as far as the mechanics…and they haven’t taught at all…They just dug around the internet and figured it all out. What they don’t have is 20,000 hours if lessons to hone their crafts, like I do.”

Signs of an increasingly competitive industry…

“When I first started, getting to $100 an hour was a goal…you look around and everybody at every main resort was charging $250 an hour. There were just so many people spending so much money on golf. There are very few $250 an hour jobs anymore.”

“If you want to make any money in the instruction business, you have to have all the awards, all the accolades and you have to spend a bunch of money on technology.”

How he got started writing for GolfWRX…

“When I get home, I don’t usually surf the Internet for swing theory…but I was surfing around one night looking for something and I came across GolfWRX.”

“I’d written a bunch of articles…I’ve always been a prolific writer. I called Zak and said, ‘Hey, look, I have a series of articles I’d be interested in putting on your blog, if you have any interest.’”

What it’s been like…

“As time has gone on, it’s been fun to watch my number of views grow. It’s been addictive…watching it grow”

“I still can’t believe I’ve had a million people click on my article”

Favorite stuff he’s written…

“In my articles, I’ve always been more of a niche person on the technology side.”

“Trackman is the hot thing, and it’s something I believe in very much…My favorite articles have been the Trackman stuff.”

“There’s a need for some deeper swing theory given the clientele [at GolfWRX].”

Stickney said his favorite article he’s written is “Impact location by handicap.” Regarding the piece, he said: “That something so basic could get so many responses…the golf business never ceases to amaze me.”

On his future writing for GolfWRX…

“I look at it as an obligation to continue to write, and I’ll continue to write. It’s been fun.”

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  1. tom stickney

    Apr 21, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Dr. Britt– loved the ping becu one iron you had back in the day…used to go by the bag room as a kid look at it only to wish I had one of my own!!! I hope you well…great to hear from you! Thanks!!!!

  2. tom stickney

    Apr 21, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Thanks Steven…glad you are enjoying the articles sir!

  3. Lou Britt

    Apr 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I had a lesson years ago in Florida great to aw you prospering I. Like your writing I’m an old friend of your dad from Colonial

  4. steven

    Apr 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Mr. Stickney is my favorite writer on golfwrx. I read his articles and try to absorb as much as my small brain allows. My favorite articles were his series The Swing in Pictures. In these articles he broke down positions of the swing from a beginner/intermediate/advanced and professional prospective.
    Tom, Thank You for sharing your knowledge and investing your time in writing great articles with this low double digit duffer.

  5. Tom Stickney

    Apr 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for your time! My pleasure

  6. Don OConnor

    Apr 19, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    I have enjoyed Tom’s articles so much that I recently took a lesson from while visiting California from Texas. First of all he was very accommodating when arranging the lesson on short notice. Secondly the lesson has helped me tremendously. He almost instantly noticed a flaw in my set-up that has caused inconsistency in my ball striking for the last 35 years. I have taken lessons from several well regarded pros and none of diagnosed my set-up as an issue. I am a 1 hdcp so I strike it fairly well, but now I am not searching for the bottom of my arc at impact. As you can imagine a set-up change after that many years feels uncomfortable and strange, but 2 days after the lesson I played in a So. Cal. Mid-am qualifier and made 7 birdies in the first 13 holes. If it was for a sloppy short game the 72 could have been a 67.perhaps I need to see Tom for a short game lesson. The set-up is now starting to feel more naturally and am thinking less about mechanics than I ever have. Thank you Tom, even at 51 I feel like my game can now be better than it has ever been.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Speed release patterns and restriction removals for the best golf of your life

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If you’ve been keeping your head or practicing to steer your golf club towards the target. Or worse, restricting your backswing because you feel a loss of control, you are setting yourself up for constant disappointment because your anatomy was designed to yield.

 

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Podcasts

On Spec: Club fitting isn’t magic! Also, Lydia Ko and Stewart Cink win again

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On this week’s episode, host Ryan Barath covers everything from Lydia Ko’s comeback win on the LPGA tour, to why club fittings aren’t some magical thing that’s going to instantly lower scores.

It also covers Stewart Cink’s win at the RBC Heritage and offers a sneak peek at the GolfWRX Best Iron list of 2021.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) here

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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