The second part of our golf fitness series with Sam Mellor PGA focuses on the importance of swing flexibility for improving your overall performance on the golf course.
Swing Flexibility | Golf Fitness Series
It goes without saying that an efficient golf swing requires the body to have a significant range of motion. However, what many golfers don't realise is that a higher degree of joint mobility and muscular flexibility are both key factors for consistently obtaining the most optimal and effective body positions, without causing injury.
Some of the very best golfers in the world are now swinging with a clubhead speed of 130 mph and, while this will be unattainable for most, improved swing flexibility and increased clubhead speed are in direct correlation with one another. We just need to look at the positions which Dustin Johnson gets himself into at the top of the backswing to better understand this, while I have also had the chance to feel Rory McIlroy's swing sequence on a mechanical swing robot at the Nike Golf Club LDN event this Summer and, my word, that was impressive.
In order to achieve a more effective swing which provides more consistency with more natural movement, golfers should really be paying attention to their overall swing flexibility. Failing to do so means it will become harder and harder to draw the club on the expected swing path every time, while we will also most likely see an element of compensation as we try to neutralize any physical limitations affecting the golf swing. Improving your swing flexibility will not only help the fundamentals of your swing sequence, but it will also help further prevent those niggling injuries which hinder our performance every season.
Swing Flexibility | A Case Study
One of the best methods for identifying your own physical limitations is to get a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) screening with any TPI certified instructor, of which there are hopefully many in your area. During the session, they will take you through a number of physical checks to help identify any mobility or stability issues which you may be experiencing - before recommending a range of golf exercises to help you improve upon your limitations.
Taking an expert's advice is one of the best things you can do for your game, as I found out myself. In recent months, I have had some agony in the right shoulder which has seriously hampered my season and, during my recent GEARS session with TPI certified instructor Oliver Morton, we managed to identify one of the root causes for my injury. Of course, you guessed it - one of the key reasons for my injury troubles stems from a lack of flexibility.
Swing Flexibility | GEARS at Archerfield
Oli Morton is permanently based at Archerfield Links, East Lothian, which boasts one of the most advanced golf performance centres in the whole of Europe. I was invited to take part in a 2 hour GEARS session - an acronym for Golf Evaluation And Research System - to fully measure and analyse every nuance of my golf swing using full 3D imaging techniques.
Built using the same technology used in biomechanics and even film-making, the GEARS system makes use of a 360° setup with cameras and sensors which take over 600 images for every swing sequence, running at 360 frames per second. To give that some perspective, the 3D video which is captured on screen offers a tolerance of 0.2mm - the thickness of a piece of paper. That means that we could view every movement I made, from any angle, with exceptional accuracy.
Along with the phenomenal wealth of data which was captured from just seven swings of the club (full review of the GEARS system coming soon), Oli also analysed my overall body movement and applied his expertise to identify some of the key reasons for my ongoing shoulder injury.
Looking more closely, we could see that there was a trigger move with my right leg whenever I initiate my backswing. Furthermore, I then move laterally off the ball by around 2.3 inches away from the target, such is the accuracy of the GEARS technology. This, in turn, prevented me from loading my right hip correctly and consequently pushed my upper body into an abduction with a very slight reverse spine.
This lack of flexibility in my right hip then caused my pelvis and torso to be off line, with my spine also pushing towards the target by 2 or 3 degrees. Ultimately, this was all putting undue pressure on my right shoulder - the area in which I have most pain. Oli then talked me through a series of drills which will help my load my backswing correctly with a view to a more consistent, efficient and pain-free golf swing.
Swing Flexibility | Stay Injury Free
Now, although my kinetic sequence isn't perfect in my swing, I do have the flexibility and mobility in other areas of my body that can adjust and compensate in order to produce a reasonably high standard of golf.
What my GEARS session with Oli has further proven to me is that, regardless of how good a player you may be, it's important to know which specific areas of our body's flexibility could be improved upon - rather than compensated for. It's not just about playing good golf, but prolonging our golfing careers too.
Read next: Golf Fitness Series Part One
Coming Soon: Archerfield GEARS Performance Tracking Review