By Jon Wood, BSc, TPI, NG360 Certified, MASM
Golf Performance Specialist at St. George's Park and PGA Tutor
5 – Know your laws….and the floor!!
OK so a lot of people found physics at school boring, including me!!
I never understood how it had any relevance to daily life….but now I work with its principles every day!!
Remember Newton’s 3rd Law? For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. This law applies to Golf, specifically ground reaction forces and your ability to apply, and control them.
The amount of force that a golfer can apply to a tiny golf ball is pretty staggering really. Here I quote a paper by Wells, Elmi and Thomas….
‘Golf is a very demanding physical game, not only in terms of precision and complexity of the golf swing movement, but also in terms of creating explosive power through a wide range of motion. Researchers have described the golf swing as a complex movement of the whole body that transfers power to a golf ball to propel the ball great distances with accuracy. For example, a typical male player will maximally recruit 30 lbs of muscle to generate 4 horsepower during a golf swing using nearly every joint and limb in the body, a very high power output that translates into 900 kg of force being applied to the ball in little more than half a millisecond at impact. Typical club head speeds (the velocity at which a golf club impacts with a golf ball) during a golf swing can exceed 160 km/hour, and it takes only 0.2 seconds for the golfer to accelerate the club to this speed. This is done 30–40 times per round. Furthermore, elite golfers can produce these movements while maintaining consistent clubface alignment within 2 degrees from shot to shot.’
900kg of force!! That’s bonkers!! But a lot of that force (which is ultimately turned into distance) comes from what you put down into the floor during your swing.
Have a look at this video….
Now look at it again and compare how the feet of the two players differ. Both are BIG hitters, but Rory has much better control over his feet and the ground reaction forces that are shooting up through his body. This control is the same with all clubs for Rory, and he is way higher up the stats for greens in regulation than Bubba.
Want to know how much force you put down through the ground? Step on a force plate like the one we have at Perform. Swing your club. Look at the stats. Improve your game!!
We all, by now, know the benefits of improving fitness on health, the ageing process, mobility in later life, overall Wellness, and crucially injury prevention. But do you realise just how important this can be to your Golf game??
There have been many research papers written investigating the impact of fitness based interventions on statistics such as club head speed, ball velocity, distance etc. These have used various differing methods of intervention, many of which that have not been particularly Golf specific in nature.
However the one overriding fact to come from all of these papers with their differing protocols is that pretty much all of these interventions had a positive impact on Golfing performance!!
Improvements in flexibility, mobility and core strength all had a positive impact. Protocols that just used some really simple strength training techniques worked and improved club head speed significantly. Improving cardiovascular fitness aided in improving the players game too!!
You may be surprised to know that getting fitter for Golf is much easier than you think. It doesn’t have to involve expensive gym memberships. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of expensive and fancy equipment. When I work with a professional Golfer I have to be aware that they spend a lot of time travelling around, living out of a suitcase, and very often without a good gym at their disposal.
Having good quality advice and training from someone who understands your body and the game of Golf will not only help your game, but help your health too.
Why not pop and see me and get your game on track!!
I am often asked what the quickest way to reduce a Golfers handicap is. I have discussed this on many an occasion with my Sports Science and Golf Coaching colleagues at the PGA. We all agree that by far the quickest way to reduce your handicap is by becoming more consistent.
Imagine how much better you’d score if you could have a round where you can significantly decrease the number of erratic shots you play. You know, the fats, thins, shanks, tops, hooks and slices (or draws and fades as we like to pretend they are!), or if you could land the ball much nearer where you intended every time you hit it!!
There are ways in which you can do this. You cannot substitute good instruction from a quality coach. I am lucky enough to work with some excellent coaches at the PGA, and through my work with players. So if you are needing some instruction then why not see if I can recommend someone to help you. By the way, whilst we’re on the consistency theme, I am sure many of you will have seen the little gadgets that you can attach to your club that will tell you they can help you improve your consistency. But will they?? If you tell it to compare you to a shot you liked, but that shot actually wasn’t very technically good, then all it will do is help you reinforce bad technique!! Use it with a good Pro. Mark a good shot. And now it really will help you improve!!
It is crucial that your swing coach and your strength and conditioning/fitness coach work closely to ensure that what you are doing is going to give you the maximum bang for your buck. More on this in number 1. But this holds the key to really improving your swing, your consistency, and your game.
A great way to analyse this is to hop on the force plate again and to have a look at your Centre Of Pressure and how it moves during your swing. You will often hear people talk about weight shift during the swing. This can be a confusing term to use, and can cause people to overly sway or slide during their swing in an attempt to shift their weight from one side to the other as this is what the term suggests you should be doing.
Understanding how your Centre of Pressure changes both side to side and forwards and backwards during your swing can help you to understand what is happening to your club and how it is interacting with the ball. It can also show how stable, or otherwise, you are. The more stable you are, the more consistent you can be. Again good quality training and instruction can help with this.
So we’re at number 2 of my top 5. At this point I am not telling you to put an extra jumper on, or helping you to justify going out and purchasing more Golf clothing!! I am talking about warming up properly prior to playing.
I am constantly amazed at how many people, including Golf Pro’s will say to me ‘Jon I only seem to start hitting the ball well after about the 5th tee’. My answer is always the same….what do you do for your warm up before playing?
Now the answers to this vary from the ‘I hit a few balls on the range’ to the ‘I have a cup of tea in the clubhouse’!! Neither of these are really the best way to prepare yourself for a round of Golf.
It’s no surprise that things only start to click into place after a few holes…and dropped shots for many of us…if you are not preparing your body properly.
I am sure many of you out there have seen the camera’s focus on Jimenez and the commentators laughing about the routine he does prior to playing…have a look at the video below.
Now this isn’t absolutely ideal as a warm up and there’s a lot more he could do. But it’s good to see him actually doing something other than just hitting balls prior to playing. By the way I am glad he’d put down the huge cigar by the end of the video…that should not be part of your warm up!!
Now have a look at this video. He moves well for a 50yr old I think you’ll agree, all be it with a very upper body dominant backswing.
Some of my colleagues at the PGA are in the process of having a research paper published in which they have investigated various dynamic warm up routines and their impact on club head speed, ball velocity, smash factor etc….So watch this space!
The key is the term dynamic warm up!! Having a good quality dynamic warm up to carry out prior to playing will help your game no end.
OK so here we are…hopefully you’re still reading…My number 1 top tip for improving your game……..
Know YOUR body and know how YOU move.
Let me paint a picture for you and see if any of you find this a familiar scenario…..
You turn up at your Golf club to have a lesson with a Golf Pro. During the lesson the Pro is trying to get you to improve your swing by telling you that you need to do X,Y and Z. You’re struggling to get it. No matter how hard you try you just don’t seem to be able to do what he’s asking. This leads to frustration on your part as you feel like you’ll never be any good at this stupid game…you feel like you’re wasting your money and the coaches time…the Pro is getting frustrated because he dearly wants you to ‘swing like Tiger’ but you’re just not doing it. You go away and keep trying, but no matter what you do you just can’t replicate that dam X, Y and Z!!
So here’s the thing. What if you have a physical limitation that means that there is no way on this earth, no matter how hard you try, that your body can actually DO X,Y and Z…never mind with a club in your hands that needs to make a clean impact with a tiny white ball?!?!
How much better and more productive for all involved would that lesson have been had both you and the Pro known at the start that X, Y and Z were not in your ‘bag’!?
This is what I aim to help with. This is one of the many things that I teach to the up and coming Golf Teaching Professionals at the PGA European Centre of Excellence at the Belfry. Understanding the wide variances in the human body, and people’s ability to move, will lead to a much better understanding of why people swing in the way they do, and ultimately lead to better and more productive lessons.
I work closely with Golf Coaches to help them and their clients to find the best and most efficient swing for THEM. Traditionally people have always aimed at mimicking the ‘perfect swing’. But it is now being widely accepted that there is no real perfect swing. Just take the time to compare a few on tour. I have heard Jim Furyk’s swing described as being like ‘An Octopus falling out of a tree’, and I am pretty sure most Golf Pro’s would not teach a new young player how to swing like this. However I am sure we’d all be happy with the money he has won in his career!! The take home from that is that he swings in the most efficient way for HIM…not in the most efficient way for Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickleson.
Through a extensive Golf Specific Movement Analysis (as used by players with the Titleist Performance Institute) I can help you and your pro understand your body and your limitations. This can lead to them making simple swing changes that can make a BIG difference to your game.
If you’re injured then this system can work extremely well to keep you playing, alleviate pain, prevent further injury…or re injury…and improve you game too. Many clients are referred to me by surgeons or Sports Medicine Dr’s, or by Golf Pros who want me to help them and their clients have more productive lessons.
Trust me, this analysis can provide many ‘light bulb’ moments for you during the session that will really help you understand why you swing the way you do.
Don’t buy a new club that MAY give you a few yards on one shot in your bag. Do something that WILL help you add yards to EVERY club in your bag!!