What’s your favorite shot? I mean other than the tap-in for birdie?
“A big drive, out past everyone I’m playing with,” said Eddie, who’d out-driven me all day. He’s from British Columbia and we were on the 14th hole at Indian Wells Celebrity course.
“That’s why he plays with me,” said his friend Brandon who was 5 over through 13. “He’s always longer than me off the tee. Doesn’t mean I don’t beat him though.”
Brandon’s favorite shot is a wedge from around the green, and he’d demonstrated it earlier with a couple of good up-and-downs for par. “I just feel confident I can figure out where to land the ball so it will get near the hole and that I can hit that spot — or nearby.”
“Any shot that doesn’t have water in play is fine with me,” said Garett, a long-hitting though erratic 20-something (age, not handicap) playing at Sierra Lakes. His buddy Daniel, who clearly had made the transformation from college athlete to good golfer, said his favorite shot was a birdie putt from anywhere.
[quote_box_center]“I’d love an 8- to 15-foot birdie putt, but really, anytime I have a birdie putt, even if it’s 35 feet, I’m happy,” he said. “First, it means I hit a good or maybe even great approach shot, and second, now I’ve got my putter, my favorite club in the bag, in my hands.”[/quote_box_center]
Me, I just get more nervous when I’ve got a chance to turn a three-putt birdie into bogey.
“No, you can’t worry about that,” Daniel said. And I had the feeling he meant it.
[quote_box_center]“I love a short par-4 where you can hit a 3-wood or hybrid off the tee and then have a wedge or 9-iron into the green,” Alec told me at San Dimas Canyon. “They’re the two easiest shots for me to hit, maybe because I’m not trying to kill the ball.”[/quote_box_center]
Playing in the threesome with Alec, Jonathan, a physically unimposing guy a little taller than average, maybe a stroke under 6 feet, disagreed.
[quote_box_center]“I love to kill the ball,” he said. “To watch it take off from the tee and in that instant I already know I crushed it. Man, that’s the best feeling.”[/quote_box_center]
And I wondered what it feels like, not ever having hit a drive over 260 myself — and that probably required some combination of downhill and tailwind.
“You know it at contact,” he said, and I remembered the drive he hit on No. 3 earlier; it hung in the air high against the mountain backdrop for a long time until it disappeared over the hillside past the big pond.
“In your follow through your brain is going, ‘Wow, yeah, all right, move just a little left,’ and you see the ball take-off like a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier and it’s just a rocket shot.” And I suppose I would mix metaphors, too, if I ever hit one like that.
“A wedge from 110, third shot on a par-5,” said Sam who likes to play at Desert Willow where he gets the resident-rate savings even though he was born and raised and lives most of the year 3,000 miles away. “I play the white tees here at Firecliff, from the blues, I never get to 110 on the par-5s.”
“What shot do I want if I could choose any shot to hit?” asked Dillon, a high single-digit, early-40s guy who did indeed correctly understand my question.
[quote_box_center]“What shot don’t I want? Anything I could chili-dip or shank. Nothing that has to carry over water. Not a drive, those are problematic.”[/quote_box_center]
He was really giving this some thought.
“I love a 130-yard to 150-yard downhill shot to a green. An 8- or 9-iron, especially when the ball is sitting up in the fairway: a perfect lie, on nice firm, springy turf and the green is right in front, below you, and you see the flag more than you see the traps surrounding the green,” Dillon was on a roll.
[quote_box_center]“The mountains are in the background behind the green, or maybe it’s the ocean, or just some trees, or the desert like here. It’s still all green and beautiful. And I’m here with my dad or good friends and we’re drinking beers and smoking cigars. It’s noon on a weekday; a light, comfortable breeze is blowing, it’s nearly 80 degrees outside and we’re only a few over par with some birdie holes coming up.”[/quote_box_center]
I was aware as he spoke that the answer I’d thought was about one anticipated result was instead much grander. When I’d considered the one shot that’s my favorite to hit — with my solitary focus on a club meeting a ball to produce an outcome — the playing of the stroke overwhelmed the essence of the game.
In the end, I realize, it doesn’t really make a difference if the ball ends up tight to the flag, or 300 yards off the tee. Since I’m not getting paid to play, golf is actually about so much more than just the score.
Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab
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 2 – Early Stage Rehab
Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns
Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury
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:
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:
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:
A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)
Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.
As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.
Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)
No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.
Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.
No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.
In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.
Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.
Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.
They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.
Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.
How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?
(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)
Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.
(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)
If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?
It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.
Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.
They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.
Artwork by JaeB
Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!
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