By Karen Harrison, Director of Health and Athletic Development
The fitness goals for our young golf athletes at BGGA are numerous. We improve our student’s fundamental movement skills, prepare them for a college program, reduce the risk of injury and link the physical with the technical to ultimately improve performance.
It sounds ambitious and it is. The age-old question of motivating athletes to follow the “program” is key. One of the critical factors in educating students as to the importance of developing stability and strength or becoming more flexible or more powerful, is in elucidating the link between their physical status and the technical progression that takes place on the practice tee with their golf coach.
One of our most powerful tools is the Physical Competence Assessment (PCA) or Test (PCT). An athletic screening protocol, powered by Movement Dynamics, is used to examine the physical status of our young, developing golf athletes. Conducted three times per year, firstly to establish a baseline and then to examine progress, it allows us to assess fundamental movement skills with a test battery subtly weighted toward those attributes specifically required for golf (posture, co-ordination, flexibility, stability, strength, power and endurance). The results provide our coaching team with valuable information concerning the athlete’s ability to progress along the desired technical pathway. The big question, often asked, is “Can the athlete physically do what the coach is asking them to do?”
Let’s take the example of a young golfer who exhibits a restriction in internal rotation at both hip joints (one of our screening tests). For most golfers, a good range of motion at the hips is critical for developing optimal loading patterns in the golf swing. At the top of the backswing, as the body rotates away from the target, weight is shifted to the trail side, and the hip moves into an internally rotated position relative to the trunk or upper body. With limited range of motion into internal hip rotation (on the trail side) a compensatory motion will likely creep into the golf swing. Thus, the physical make-up of the golfer can highly influence their swing mechanics. In this case one may observe the compensatory backswing movement as:
- A “hip sway” or movement of the hips away from the target; or
- A “reverse” of the hips or movement of the hips towards the target; or
- A short hip turn; or
- An overturn with a straightening of the trail leg.
It can create a frustrating situation for both the golfer and the coach. Conceptually the technical change recommended by the coach is understood, however the student is not able to create the correct movement patterns or move into the right position. That is, changing the movement pattern is hard!
Can we assist the golfer and the coach to speed up the technical change? Yes, we can! Well-aimed and well-timed physical intervention in the form of trigger point work and/or foam rolling, in combination with stretching (static, dynamic, etc.), movement drills and/or strengthening exercises can be very effective tools in eliciting a change in the hip range of motion. Improve internal hip rotation immediately before practice sessions, and it may make the desired movement pattern a much easier task to achieve for our young golfer. While the change in mobility is often only temporary, it can allow for a better-quality practice.
Hence, performing the correct exercises/drills immediately prior to practice on the range, can accelerate the technical progress if it allows the athlete to repeat the correct movement pattern rather than repeating the “old” patterns. Educating the athlete as to how their physical status can influence their swing mechanics is critical to creating the “buy-in” and therefore compliance. It all starts with a good physical assessment, a sound swing analysis and an integrated approach to performance enhancement by the coaching staff.