Junior Golfer Case Study

July 2017-July 2018

Handicap July 2017: 7

Handicap July 2018: 2

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate two things:

  1. How golf swing efficiency can improve when the areas of weakness in the body are addressed (improved body functionality)
  2. What hard work and dedication can produce.

It has been my long standing belief that the better the body functions the easier it can be to produce a more efficient motion. The body is very good at making compensations for weakness when we move. This is one reason why we see so many different swings and sequences. It is another reason why injury can occur easily.

Becoming efficient does not mean you need a text book golf swing. It will be different for everyone. What it means, in regards to the physical body, is that the more functional a person’s movement the more chance they have of producing a fluid motion. This is turn can limit potential injury especially as we age.

Gaining efficiency in movement has been the key to the full swing improvement my client has made over the past year.

Full Swing Analysis

  1. Ball flight
    • When struck and timed well the flight was a draw.
    • When mishit, the flight, was either a: low pull-draw, hook or push.
  2. Set up and Posture
    • Balance sometimes would move into the heels at address
    • The upper body would sometimes present with too much spine tilt and in a flexed position
    • Pelvic positioning at address would sometimes vary including too much posterior tilt.
  3. Swing Movement
    • Swayed off the ball in the takeaway causing him to be too far to the right of centre at the top of the backswing
    • Limited separation of upper and lower body and limited pelvic stability and control
    • Arm and body connection limited in the takeaway causing the club to move inside or behind the player. This was maintained throughout the entire movement
    • Impact position resulted in a flipping motion of the hands.

Summary: With a poor arm and body connection and sway off the ball the transition had become difficult to complete. The upper body was never able to be used effectively. Body rotation therefore stalled which led to the club face coming in too late. This could cause the club face to close down sending the ball left (right handed golfer).

July 2017 Before Video 

The Fixes

The main focus was to get the player to be able to stay centred over the golf ball while gaining better rotation around his spine. If he could achieve this it will be easier to keep the club, arms and body more connected. This in turn could make it easier for the club to stay on a better plane and control the clubface.

Initial Physical Screening Assessment August 2017

To gain a better understanding of his movement he had a full body screening with Golf Australia Physiotherapist, Matthew Green- at Precision Athletica, Sydney. Through the screening it was determined that this player had:

  • Poor mobility through the upper back which was restricted in rotation and extension
  • Poor extension and mobility in the lower back

This meant that the player wanted to adopt a flexed posture and was unable to rotate efficiently. Further to this the player presented with:

  • Poor control of the shoulder blade position and increased loading into the neck through the levator scapula muscles
  • Poor single leg control reflecting poor hip muscle strength and control
  • Poor abdominal control, especially during rotation
  • Overall poor postural awareness, control and endurance
  • Complained of lower back soreness when hitting golf balls in practice.

The initial assessment showed areas of weakness that directly related to the movement that was created during his full swing. With limited mobility and control of his upper spine (Thoracic) and hips the compensation was to move laterally during the takeaway. With poor abdominal control it became easier to disconnect the arms and body in the initial takeaway. Both of these areas set in motion a swing that would cause the arms and body to be out of sequence with an impact position that was predominantly controlled by flipping the hands.

Initial Focus

  • Improve upper back mobility and control of upper body posture
  • Improve control of single leg stance and abdominal control (especially in rotation)
  • Golf specific postural control and endurance

We committed to keeping the drills simple and easily repeatable with the focus being on the following areas:

  • Upper body control in rotation
  • Postural control in rotation
  • Abdominal endurance
  • Pelvic rotation
  • Balance and posterior chain activation

Exercises performed at home included: Thoracic (upper spine) mobility and stability, shoulder stability, rotational exercises, single leg balance, split stance control drills, lunge with rotation as well as a range of flexibility (stretching) exercises. Equipment included bands, tubing, golf clubs, foam roller, spikey ball, balance pads and body weight. The GravityFit system was also included and features in the “July 2018 After Video” below.

Below is a small sample of some of the golf specific drills used to help the player feel better balance, rotation and connection. The beauty of these drills is that they can be done at home and at the golf course. This was very helpful as this player is still in school and daylight hours are limited. This meant some of the work could be done at home during study breaks or while watching TV.

What did the improvement in these areas lead to?

By committing to working on the weaknesses in his body the movement has become much more efficient. In turn, the consistency of his ball striking has improved. The takeaway is more connected with the arms and the body and he is able to stay more centred. The downswing is better sequenced and controlled allowing for a better impact position with less flipping of the hands.

The ball flight is more controlled with the pull-draw and push tendencies reduced. The length of his shots has also improved which can also be related to the fact that he is growing and getting stronger.

The low back pain this player initially had has diminished and not been a problem since.

July 2018 After Video

Face On July 2017-2018 Comparison

Down The Line July 2017-2018 Comparison

  

Summary

With the advancement of training concepts in golf, we can find in many examples that if time is put into the right areas, improvement can be made. In the case of full swing improvement, for this player, we found that by changing the way his body functioned the movement became more efficient.

The running trend in golf swing improvement seems to be that players (including Touring Professionals) are making gains by working on body related weaknesses at home or in the gym. This is great news for the average golfer who does not have time to go to the driving range or golf course all the time.

In my opinion, knowing your body’s mobility and stability strengths and weaknesses can play a vital role in gaining a better understanding of your own golf swing movement. Improving the weaker areas can help with any swing change you wish to embark on and is also likely to reduce the risk of injury. Before making a swing change be sure to understand if your body is able to make the change you are seeking. Working with an instructor and a physiotherapist who understands this can help during the process.

Rachel is a former Tour player and a PGA of Australia certified Golf Coach. She works at Pennant Hills Golf Club in Sydney Australia where she coaches full time. She is also the Head coach of the Pennant Hills Junior Golf Academy.

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