[Before we begin, I sincerely hope you and your families are staying in good health during this pandemic. This article was originally posted on 5/25/2020.]
As many states are in the process of re-opening, golf is expanding its reach as one of a limited number of outdoor activities sanctioned by health and government officials. In Maryland, for example, most golf courses are already booked for weeks! And many golf courses are seeing not just avid golfers, but also golfers who have not played in a while, youth golfers, and even new golfers and families.
Whether you are an avid golfer, someone getting back into the game after many years, or someone who’s completely new to the sport, there’s one thing that will always be on your mind - how can I improve my game?
Full disclosure - I am not a pro golfer by any means. However, as a human movement professional, I love solving problems involving movement health, movement competency, and movement capacity. So, the question now is, how do we approach golf from a human movement perspective?
Do we look at movement for golf, or golf movement?
There are a lot of good movements that underpin a good golf swing. Or we can fast forward right to the swing and try to over coach you in the swing, not having checked your hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility, shoulders, ankles, or balance.
So, let’s dive a little deeper than that in our discussion.
There are certain movements that golf likes, and there are golf-like movements. Which should you pursue first? We are gonna go with movements that golf likes. Let me explain why.
When we look at people who’ve had long productive careers in golf, there are two movement patterns that you will not see on the golf course that most golfers who have really good performance and a really good durability do not have much of a problem with - that’s squatting and planking (or doing a push up). They have enough hip mobility to get their hips below their knees, and still have an organized spine, and they have enough core stability to plank when needed. So, these are movements golf likes. And therefore, they should be part of general physical preparedness for golf before we get into the specifics of the golf swing.
For example, early extension (defined as any forward movement of the lower body towards the golf ball during the downswing) is one of the most common golf swing characteristics that can cause the block to the right and the hook to the left. According to the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), 70% of all golfers have this, whereas 99% of PGA pros don’t. Interestingly, a golfer’s overhead deep squat competency is correlated with the early extension swing characteristic.
But why? The overhead deep squat involves the mobility and motor control (i.e. the sequencing of muscle activation and stabilizing of joints through a range of movement or at end range postures) in the hips, ankles, thoracic spine, and the shoulders, and the postural control of the core so that the upper body and lower body can move efficiently. If this pattern is not at efficient levels, the golfer could have limited power from the lower body, loss of posture in their golf swing and, most likely, early extension in their golf swing.
Well, then, if you have a difficult time with the deep squat, couldn’t you just train the squat? It's not that simple. As discussed, the overhead deep squat is a complex movement pattern that involves multiple areas working in a coordinated way. One may have difficulty keeping the torso upright as he lowers his center of mass down during the squat due to thoracic spine and/or shoulder mobility, whereas another may have restricted ankle mobility, hip mobility, and/or asymmetries of hamstring flexibility, etc., and still another may not be coordinating the movements and stabilizing properly to control the mobility to execute the movement cleanly. Therefore, a systematic way to look at all of the functional movement patterns is needed in order to capture any “missing link” in your foundational movement competency.
And we have an answer - the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS looks at 7 fundamental/functional movement patterns that are based on developmental milestones. With this screen, a golfer’s movement competency can be screened to identify areas of asymmetry, restricted mobility, or inefficient motor control, as well as the presence of any pain that could limit his/her capacity to learn or improve his golf-specific skills and power.
As a FMS-certified Doctor of Physical Therapy, I am ready to help you dive deeper into your movement competency and program an individualized exercise regiment to solidify your movement foundation upon which you can continue to build your golf-specific skills, power, and agility. Also, as a certified Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) clinician, if you have been dealing with a golf injury or pain when playing golf, I can evaluate the true cause of the pain and provide the most effective treatments for your specific condition using a combination of manual therapy, manipulation, trigger point dry needling, and corrective exercise prescription.
Thank you for reading this blog. Once again, I hope you continue to stay in good physical health during this pandemic. If you want to learn more about how I help people like you achieve and optimize movement health and competency to enjoy golf even more, do not hesitate to reach me. I’m here to help you continue enjoying your active lifestyle!
Check out this video from the FMS founder Gray Cook explaining how FMS can provide insights on movement competency:
Dr. Brandon Lim, PT, DPT, CMTPT, SFMA, FMSC is the owner of Limitless Physiotherapy - a premium personalized physiotherapy clinic for treating various musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions such as neck, shoulder, low back, sciatica, hip, and knee pain. He strongly believes in the "First move well. Then move often" principle to help clients return to their meaningful activities of life with an uninterrupted, one-on-one care experience from the beginning until they achieve their movement health goals.