Why Flexibility is the Key to Improving Your Golf Game

May 22, 2019

Springtime is the start of golfing season, which is the time of year to pull out those clubs and take advantage of the warmer weather. In this article, I am going to talk specifics by explaining how flexibility helps you reduce injury and achieve a more powerful swing, as well as how to maintain that flexibility to ensure you have the most enjoyable experience.

We all know that flexibility is important. We throw the word around all the time, but often do not know why it is so important, specifically with golf. Flexibility as a whole refers to all the soft tissues within the body moving freely and without restriction. When this is sufficient, you are able to obtain full range of motion without having to compensate elsewhere. This is important for two main reasons; it avoids unnecessary injury and improves the power of your swing. Let us look at these points in more detail.

There is nothing more disappointing than getting out for the first golf game and walking away in pain, or even injured. Unfortunately, this is all too common because over the winter months, our muscles stiffen up with the lack of activity. This has some serious implications for proper posture, resulting in injuries to the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankles – the most common golf injuries that result from lack of flexibility.

To understand why unrestricted movement is so important, we need to first dissect the swing. As previously mentioned, posture is critical. To make successful contact, you must rotate your body while keeping your shoulders square and your eyes on the ball. If you have limited flexibility in any area, what starts happening is that you struggle to get the rotation (shoulder turn) you need to drive the ball. This shoulder turn not only keeps the club on the proper path, but is entirely responsible for the power behind your drive as well. Therefore, unrestricted movement allows for a wider and more controlled shoulder turn, greater core rotation, direct vision of the ball at all times, a direct path for your club, and ultimately more power and distance upon contact.

On the reverse side, when there is restriction in your torso, arms, hips, legs, etc., this interrupts the smooth coordination between these movements. Unfortunately, as a human, you are very smart and very stubborn, so you still find a way to hit the ball. In this circumstance, your body instantly starts figuring out a way to complete the task regardless of your restricted movements. So imagine this, with your eyes on the ball, you go to rotate your body backwards to wind up your swing. Unfortunately, at a certain point during that rotation, your body literally stops because of restrictions you have from tight muscles. From that point, in order to complete the task you now need to compensate using other parts of your body. So what happens? Well, you have reduced rotation in your core and your shoulders. Thus, the only other option is to use your arms instead of your trunk to complete the task. You are now driving your swing almost entirely by your arms as opposed to benefiting from proper posture, and the power of your core and shoulder rotation. In sum, you have significantly less power, a disappointing shot, and more often than not walk away with pain and/or injury from the overcompensation.

At this point, the importance of having proper flexibility when golfing should be clear. So let us touch on the proper way to work on this before diving into your game. First and foremost, always remember to warm up before you stretch. And no, this does not mean a walk from your car to the driving range. I am talking about a good, thorough warm up that gets your blood pumping.  Athletes everywhere call it a warm up for a reason – because of the overall sense of warmth you experience throughout your body. You should often feel a light sweat coming on as well. So, be sure to use these two bodily responses gauges to whether you have done it correctly.

As previously mentioned, walking from the car to the range does not tend to provide the proper warm up needed for the game. Therefore, here are some very simple options that are highly effective, quick, and require no equipment:

 

  1. Side steps 
  1. Marching in Place 

Once nicely warmed up, the next step is to start stretching. One very important thing to consider while doing so is that you always need to keep the stretch in a pain free range. Move gently with your body and do not try to force the stretch. If you find yourself going outside of that comfort zone, back off slightly, take a deep breath, relax, and let your body guide you.

If you are just starting and not sure what and/or how you should be stretching, these following stretches are by far a couple of the most amazing for golfers looking to improve their game. The Backswing Stretch touches on all the critical flexibility points necessary for a proper drive, and the Latissimus Dorsi Stretch really allows for that full rotation by stretching out the shoulders. Complete the following steps for incredible stretches that will loosen everything up in all the right places.

Backswing Stretch: 

  1. Take a wide grip on the golf club with one hand at either end.
  2. While holding onto both ends, rotate backwards in a slow, smooth, and controlled fashion (same motion as during your swing). Again, do not rotate so far as to cause pain.
  3. Come back to center.
  4. Slowly rotate to the other side.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 alternating from side-to-side until you feel little remaining restriction.

 

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch

  1. Stand your club upright in a vertical position.
  2. Place both hands on top of the club.
  3. Drive your hips back as you drop your head between your arms, feeling a nice stretch through your shoulders and down your sides.
  4. Hold for at least 15 seconds, release the stretch, and repeat.
  5. Increased stretch – while still bent over in the stretch, bend your left knee and very slightly rotate to the right (right should towards the sky) – this should increase the stretch in your left shoulder.
  6. Hold for 15 seconds, and then switch to your left side by slightly bending your right knee and slightly rotating to the left (left shoulder to the sky).
  7. Continue rotating from side-to-side, holding for 15 seconds each side until you feel your shoulders loosen up.

NOTE: You can also do this stretch one arm at a time if preferred. Simply place one hand on the club and follow the same steps.

   

Cory Boyd

Registered Massage Therapist
Personal Trainer
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized by Pat Moore