Golf Swing Faults & The Body

22 Oct Golf Swing Faults & The Body

“Execution of an mechanically efficient golf swing where each phase of the swing remains intact and speed is generated into the impact position does require a physical foundation supporting the mechanics of the golf swing. If physical dysfunctions exist within the kinetic chain, execution of a proficient golf swing will most likely be impeded.” – Sean Cochran

Q: Sean, in your opening statement you state it is necessary for the golfer to have a physical foundation in order to execute a proficient golf swing. Can you explain this concept in more detail?

A: Research indicates in order to execute a proficient golf swing, the kinetic chain (i.e. body) must have certain levels of joint mobility, flexibility, segmental stabilization, muscular strength, endurance, and power. This allows the golfer to maintain the postural positions required of the swing, execute the athletic actions found in each phase, and perform the sequencing of the swing with the correct timing. If the body is lacking in any of the aforementioned physical parameters, the ability to execute the biomechanics of the golf swing will most likely be limited.

Q: What are the common issues that arise with the golfer if he or she does not have a physical foundation able to support the mechanics of the golf swing?

A: A number of scenarios can arise. First and foremost if the body is unable to support a proficient golf swing, the ability to perform an efficient golf swing is most likely not going to occur. In these situations the golfer will typically create compensatory actions within the swing in attempt to overcome the physical dysfunctions impeding the golf swing. The compensatory patterns typically lead to swing faults. I like to call these swing faults body faults as the root of the problem lies within the body and not the actual golf swing. After this scenario arises the only “fix” for the golfer is to correct the physical dysfunctions impeding golf swing as they are the underlying problem in the swing.

Q: I understand completely. Do you find any other situations arising outside of these faults occurring when the body is unable to support the golf swing?

A: Absolutely and it is all connected. If the body has physical dysfunctions impeding the execution of a proficient golf swing, not only do compensatory patterns result in attempt to hit the golf ball, the body itself is commonly overstressed. When I say overstressed, an inefficient golf swing asks a great deal more out of the body than a proficient golf swing. In such situations, joints and muscles are stressed at a much higher level than ideal from the athletic actions of the swing. Over time this leads to a break down of the body and eventually results in an injury.

A great example is a lower back injury to the golfer. the golf swing requires the hips to be very mobile. This allows the golfer to perform the rotary actions of the swing very efficiently. If the hips of the golfer are “tight” and immobile, the hips will not rotate properly in the swing. In this type of situation the body will typically recruit the lumbar spine to assist in the rotary actions of the swing. Unfortunately the lumbar spine is not anatomically intended to rotate a large number of degrees and when it is asked to continually rotate over and over again a injury will eventually occurs.

Q: Sean that makes complete sense. Now tell me as I know you work with both amateur and professional golfers, what do you see as the common problem areas physically with the amateur player?

A: Again, each person is an individual and will most likely have a different set physical dysfunctions impeding the swing but I do see some common themes. Typically in the recreational golfer I find three problem areas much of the time. The first is the hips where the golfer lacks joint mobility. The hips are a ball and socket joint with a very large intended range of motion. As we discussed previously in order to perform the rotary actions of the golf swing the hips must be very mobile. Many amateur players are limited in terms of hip mobility thus impeding their ability to perform the rotary actions associated with the swing.

A second area commonly dysfunctional in the amateur player is the thoracic spine (T-Spine). The T-Spine is the portion of the spine located in between the shoulder blades. The thoracic spine is very mobile and just as the hips is needed to complete the rotary actions of the backswing. Again, I see a immobile T-Spine in many amateurs which limits their ability to rotate properly in the backswing. This typically leads to a “lifting of the arms” or “reverse-C” position, both of which create difficulties in the downswing.

The final “problem area” I see with many amateur players is the core. The core is a buzzword in the sport of golf as a result of the importance this area of the body plays in executing the swing. I often refer to the core as the engine of the swing because of the importance it plays in generating speed, transferring speed, and maintaining the postural positions required of the swing.

The core is simply a reference to an anatomical area of the body. This anatomical area contains all the skeletal, neural, and musculature structures from just above the knees to slightly below the chest on the front, sides, and back of the body. Muscle groups included in the core are the glutes, abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles.

Often times the core is weak in the amateur player thus resulting in an inability to maintain the postural positions of the swing, create separation, and generate speed. This situation again leads to the development of compensatory patterns in the swing in an attempt to overcome this “weak” link in the body.

Q: Knowing the hips, thoracic spine, and core are common problem areas for the amateur golfer what do you suggest to correct these issues?

A: What the amateur player must first recognize is physical dysfunctions will not be corrected through instruction and practice. If the body has physical dysfunctions impeding the golf swing, the only way to “fix” these issues is to address them with corrective exercises. These corrective exercises would be in the form of mobility, flexibility, and strengthening exercises to address the hips, t-spine, and core. Over time the inclusion of these types of exercise would increase joint mobility and strengthen the core. Allowing the amateur player an opportunity to execute a proficient golf swing.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy provides Sean a proven track record of success.  He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renowned Titleist Performance Institute.