Golf is all about your swing. Get that right, and the battle for the perfect shot and a pain free game is almost won. Of course, there’s the small matter of aim as well, but that’s more of a skill thing than a physical posture and movement thing!
I used to use Tiger Woods as an example of a really good golf swing to all my patients, but somehow that lost some of its impact when he had to take time off from playing with a back injury. It really wasn’t helpful, Tiger. But still, however that injury happened, he still has the sort of swing we should all aspire to. And the main reason behind that is the way he twists. If you watch an amateur golfer just knocking around with a few balls, the majority of the rotation which gives their swing power comes from their lower back. Quite often they leave their feet planted on the ground as well, which just has me cringing in anticipation of their knees giving a loud “pop” and them collapsing to the floor in agony, but we will come to that in a minute!
First, the rotation. When a good professional golfer swings, you can see that their back hardly moves to twist. Oh sure, they may lean back a bit, but the actual rotational force comes from their hips twisting around. If there is one thing guaranteed to cause a painful problem with the muscles and joints of the back, it is twisting; your spine may be able to technically achieve it, but that doesn’t mean it is going to enjoy it. So the first thing I often work on with my golfing patients is getting them to learn to move their body in a whole block.
At the same time, I will be working on what they are doing with their feet. Knees don’t enjoy twisting any more than backs do, and one of the ways to get a really good wrenching force through your knee is to leave your foot planted flat on the floor and move the rest of your body in a swinging motion, as you do for your golf swing. That’s when the various ligaments of your knee scream and run away – or rather more literally, tear or sprain with a pop that leaves you clutching your knee in agony. So while you are learning to move your body in a block, you are also going to need to learn to do it with your back foot raising up onto the toes so that it can twist on the floor, thereby taking the pressure off your knee.
So much for the body part of your swing, but naturally your arms and shoulders are pretty involved as well. Once we have you able to pivot in a minimally stressful way, we can start work on making sure you have the necessary strength and flexibility in the shoulder joints to get a really good whack at the ball. This usually involves repeatedly going through different stages of the movement against varying levels of resistance to make sure the right muscles are being worked, and combining this with different stretches makes sure you also have the freedom of movement to achieve your full range. This isn’t limited to your upper body either – if you are tight through your lower back, then you will hit a block in your movement before you have had a chance to really get everything going.
Once you have the strength, suppleness and skill of moving as a whole, you are free to go off and wow every single person at your local golf club. Who knows – maybe you will even win a place at the next Open!