A good golf swing can take a lifetime to perfect, and it takes more than practice. Physical fitness helps eliminate faults in your swing, keeping you out of pain and out of the rough.
Physical therapists Nicole Davis and Scott Peppel, with the OhioHealth Sports Medicine Golf Clinic, walk us through a proper golf swing, as well as a few common errors you may be making in your form. They also share some easy bodyweight exercises you can use to improve your performance.
Getting into the swing of things
Davis says that a good golf swing involves stability and a correct sequence of moves. “Your swing should not be all arms. Your whole body should move in sequence. In your backswing, your hips should turn first, followed quickly by your torso, then your arms. The same sequence applies to your downswing: hips, then shoulders, then arms.”
She says once golfers get into the proper position for their swing, it helps to imagine invisible planes on either side and behind them. “As you swing, your hips should not break these planes and your backside should not come off the plane behind you. You should have the strength and flexibility to stay down in position until you strike the ball.”
Common golf swing problems
Davis explains some of the physical limitations that lead to poor performance and pain.
1. Leading hip slides forward on downswing: gluteus weakness
“When you slide your leading hip forward in your downswing, rather than rotating through your swing, it can cause hip and back pain. Without strong gluteal muscles, it’s difficult to complete a smooth hip rotation, and can make your swing inconsistent.”
2. Early extension: core weakness, hip tightness
“Extending the spine too early and moving your hips toward the ball is one of the most common causes of back pain in golf. This is a mix of a lack of core strength and hip flexibility. When you extend too early, your body moves forward toward the ball and interferes with the power of your swing. We see this swing fault more often in men than women because women generally have fewer issues with flexibility.”
3. Back hip slides back on backswing: hip instability, poor separation of upper and lower spine movements
“Golfers whose back hips swing out or over-rotate on the backswing generally have a hip stability issue, and that creates problems with maintaining control over your body movement as you swing.”
To address these swing faults, Peppel recommends the following exercises. Complete two sets of 10 reps for each exercise at least four times each week.
1. Pelvic and thoracic rotations
These exercises should be performed in the starting, or address, position of your swing. You can use a golf club if it helps to get into the right position, then let it drop to the ground as you cross your hands over your shoulders. First, rotate your hips without moving your shoulders. Next, rotate your shoulders without moving your hips. Having the ability to move your hips and shoulders independently of each other will help you develop the flexibility you need for a proper swing.
2. Glute Bridges
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. From this position, lift your pelvis off the floor until your back is flat, then return to a neutral position. Once you get the hang of bridging with two feet, try extending one leg and bridging with one leg at a time. The glute strength you develop with this exercise will help you control your rotation in your swing.
Lie on your side with your shoulders, hips and legs stacked, and your knees bent. In this exercise, you want to keep your feet touching while lifting your top knee and opening your legs like a clamshell. You can put a hand on your hip to keep it from rocking backward; you don’t want to let your hips open up. Keep your abdominals engaged, too. This exercise will help strengthen your hips and glutes.
4. Overhead club stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a club near both ends and rest it across your thighs. Keeping your arms straight, simply raise the club above your head until your arms touch the floor, then return. This exercise can help improve the flexibility and range of motion of your shoulders.
Need more support? Consultations with the team at the OhioHealth Sports Medicine Golf Clinic include Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) screenings, golf swing analysis, sports psychology sessions and nutrition counseling. We build personalized plans that improve your mental and physical approach to the game.