Can physiotherapy help my golf game?
Let me start off by answering - almost definitely....I’ll tell you why.
I often hear golfers swooning over the effortless-looking swings of pros and low amateurs. You hear the go-to phrases often wistfully uttered after a long drive, or a dialled in a wedge.
“They make it look so easy”
“Wouldn’t you love to be able to hit the ball like that?”
“I’d hurt myself if I tried to do that”
This is then, in the majority of cases, followed up by a wild slice and a pattern of footprints on the tee box that would confuse a Russian ballerina.
A quiet curse.
Pick up the tee.
Shrug your shoulders.
Off to hit the next one.
If your part of this demographic then my question is: why not do something about it?
First of all, let's just start with an obvious disclaimer: Golf is hard. It’s a symphony of mental and physical events that need to coordinate in an instant each time you hit the ball. What you are essentially doing by ‘getting better’ at golf is reducing your margin for error.
I can’t help you with the mental aspect but I can shed light on some physical requirements that are often ignored and, in most cases, essential for a long and healthy golf career. Whether your physical limitations are causing pain and discomfort or just hindering your quest for a consistent swing, these are some of the most important things to watch out for and work on.
Shoulder pain can be caused by you trying to force your arms into the correct plane during your backswing. Back pain can be caused by your back trying to absorb the torsion produced during the follow-through, especially if you have a tendency to transfer weight into your back leg and ‘come up off it’ at impact, putting undue stress on your lower back muscles.
Back rotation and mobility at the pelvis are essential both to prevent shoulder pain and back pain, but also for power transfer during the swing.
Being able to ‘coil’ at the hips, shift your weight, and transfer that energy into the clubhead is your no. 1 way of getting a consistent distance.
How I can help:
Work with me to increase pelvic stability, gluteal strength and improve the mobility of your hips and lower back can have an almost immediate impact on your game and back health. Learning to hinge properly at the hip and begin achieving rotation at the hip can be done in as little as one session. You can even experience back pain from putting without a proper hip hinge and gluteal activation.
SHOULDER AND SCAPULAR CONTROL
Experiencing neck and shoulder pain can be a result of poor biomechanics at the upper back and neck region during the swing. Without stability at the scapula (shoulder blade), putting and chipping becomes more inconsistent, with duffing and chunking becoming more probable. Without the ability to lengthen your spine and keep a high chin posture it's almost impossible to perform a full shoulder turn and full backswing and can lead to neck pain from overstretching the small neck extensors.
How I can help:
Regaining mobility at the neck and shoulders, coupled with scapular strengthening and stability exercises can improve posture and introduce consistency into your game. Rotation drills and acceleration/deceleration exercises can improve energy transfer and power production.
HIP AND PELVIC CONTROL
This one is fairly obvious to some and a mystery to others. If you’re sitting and reading this there’s an obvious example I can describe to you.
Put your hands on the top of your hips, with your thumbs around the back and fingers around the front of your hip bone. Then, as if your pelvis was a bowl of water, tilt your hips back and forwards, as if your trying to pour out the water. Your back will lengthen and arch as you do this. Some of you may not be able to do it at all, but for those of you that can you may notice your head bob up and down in response to your change in posture, and your spine will go from straight to curved.
This head-on-neck control is essential to a consistent swing. Without a stable pelvis and good head-on-neck control, it is much more difficult to cleanly strike the ball. If you look at a slow-motion video of a professional golfer, you will find that their head stays relatively still, to ensure hand-eye coordination is maintained.
How I can help:
Working with me to help control your pelvic tilt and core activation is relatively easy to start, with exercises in lying and kneeling manageable in most cases, no matter what your fitness level. The benefits extend to much more than just golf. Whether you stand all day as a chef or sit in an office, maintaining an aligned pelvis can save you a lot of trouble down the line when avoiding back pain.
BALANCE AND POSITIONAL AWARENESS (PROPRIOCEPTION)
Last but not least of all, the ability to maintain your balance and swing, within your own limitations, is the defining factor of a lot of beautiful golf swings. That being said, they don’t just look pretty they function well too. That controlled follow-through and finishing pose of a lot of low handicap/professional golfers come from being stable and balanced throughout the swing and after impact. The consistency this affords them ensures that very little energy is wasted when it comes to hitting golf balls.
Slowing down the swing is an obvious start for many golfers, but the long term solution is ensuring that you have a stable base of support and that you can maintain balance and an awareness of your swing throughout your round.
How I can help:
Balance practice in a safe and controlled environment with just the right amount of difficulty can drastically change how much effort you put into your swing. There are multitudes of ways to achieve this and I will know at what level to begin after assessing you. Adding in tasks that raise your awareness of where your limbs are in space and how fast and slow they are moving can have an especially good effect on wedge play, where accuracy and control is everything.
When it comes to golf, practice is the obvious key here, but arming yourself with the correct tools and physical skills through working on your weak points me can give you a huge advantage, and make swing changes and rounds of golf much easier.
After all, you can buy a new club, but you have to work with the body you have.