As physiotherapist and a keen golfer I am often asked by patients “What can I do to my swing to help me hit the ball further?” or “I’ve got this pain in my shoulder during my back swing; what can I do to make it go away”?
The biomechanics of a golf swing can often seem quite complicated to understand. You will often see from watching the pros on the television that no swing is ever the same, either. Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are all major winners, yet their swings could not be more different. The key is finding the swing that is right for you and is comfortable for your body. Whilst power is an important factor in being able to hit the ball further, having a good technique and timing is equally as important. Having a good technique is all about optimising the body’s own biomechanical chain. Having a good understanding of this will also help to reduce the risk of injury.
With many golf courses now becoming much longer, players have had to adapt their swings in order to be able to hit the ball further. This involves them having to generate greater torsion through the entire body – not just the arms. Modern day golfers therefore tend to work much harder on becoming more flexible and energy efficient in order to generate more rotation between the pelvis and shoulders during the back swing and follow through.
Lets look at the swing more closely by breaking it down into stages:
This starts as the player positions his body in order to address the ball. How far apart a player’s feet are and where the ball is positioned within the stance is vital in allowing the golfer to manipulate the ball the way he or she wants. Having the correct shoulder and head position as well as a good grip are also key factors before the swing even begins. Very little muscle activity is involved in this and it is important for the body to be relaxed.
The back swing
This is when body begins to move. Having good flexibility and fluidity of movement is key here in order for the body to generate torque, which will then subsequently then be transferred into the club head on impact. This involves optimal weight transference, rotation of the knees, hips, spine, and shoulders. This actually requires very little muscle activity but instead creates tension through lots of key muscle groups effectively creating ‘stored energy’, which can then be released to create power and speed on the downswing.
The completion of the back swing is what is termed the “transition” stage. This is where the body finishes its backward movement and begins the forward movement down onto the ball. This period is very short but timing and correct weight transference onto the front leg is crucial, particularly for the body to generate as much power as possible in an ‘energy efficient’ way.
Weight transference continues during the down swing phase. The generation of torque is created in the lower body and then transitioned into the upper body. This allows greater acceleration through the trunk and arms and eventually into the golf club itself. Most of this torque is generated by the glutes, hamstrings, quads, abdominals and core muscles. The torque created in the lower body creates acceleration in the upper body and this energy is then transferred into the club head.
The downswing is complete at the point in which impact occurs with the golf ball. Timing is again crucial here as it enables the golfer to hit the ball in the correct direction with the chosen amount of force. A key point to note at this stage is that front foot should be supporting 80% to 95% of the golfer’s weight (Fleisig, Biomechanics of Golf). It is at this point that all the potential energy created by the body during the back swing, transition, and down swing is transferred into the club head. The potential energy created by the body is then transferred into kinetic energy as the club head comes into contact with the ball.
After contact with the golf ball the follow through stage begins and involves the deceleration of the body. This movement still involves a significant amount of rotation through the trunk, hips and knees but this time the energy is absorbed back up through the body, which eventually allows it to slow itself down.
Hopefully by reading this you will be able to see that having poor biomechanics, a lack of flexibility and muscular imbalances can impact upon a golfer’s game significantly. With an average of 100 swings per round it is also easy to see how this could eventually lead to injury.
If you want to learn more, why not make an appointment to come in and see us at Richmond Physiotherapy. A comprehensive Biomechanical screening will enable us to determine any physical and postural limitations you may have, which could be directly impacting on your game. We can then provide you with a bespoke exercise and conditioning program which will not only enable you stay injury free but could also see your handicap coming down in no time!