Have you ever been to a professional golf tournament? Or have seen a collegiate or high-level scratch golfer hit balls on the range? One of the most apparent things you’ll notice in better players is their ability to swing the club at high speeds and then stick and hold their finish comfortably https://www.youtube.com/shorts/k1iuY_7yu7o. Think about it…those pros and collegiate players on average swing 15-25 mph faster than the average amateur golfer, yet they’re able to strike the ball and hold their finish with relative ease.
No, it’s not some random phenomenon with no reasonable explanation. While those players on the pro or collegiate tours might be a few years younger or played more golf than the average player, reaching a maximized, balanced, and athletic swing isn’t out of reach for us mere mortals.
First, let’s break down what a golf swing really is: a high-speed, 2-direction, torquing action that involves a significant weight shift all while swinging a weighted club in a specific manner. With that in mind, when you think of working on becoming a better player, it may be mostly beneficial to become a better athlete. But don’t worry, I’m not implying you spend your whole day in the gym and cut out your favorite desserts.
A prerequisite for all great athletes is a considerable amount of postural awareness and strength, which creates a substantial level of stability. Whether, you’re a running back in the NFL https://www.youtube.com/shorts/K5Cw6BRTG7k, an NBA point guard https://www.youtube.com/shorts/CtSpQE4nAJM (this one mayyyyy be fake), or a PGA tour player, balance training can be just as important as working on mobility or power. It sounds simple. Just balance! But the type of balance that will help you become a better golfer requires a well-detailed, scaled program that effectively challenges you.
For example, training yourself to maintain a single leg stance for 1-minute may be less applicable or have less effect on your swing as practicing full swings in a narrow base of support stance stance against resistance. Balance exercises need to be challenging and sport-specific for real, noticeable improvements to be made.
We rely on 4 things to maintain balance:
First, we use our vision to give us information of where we are in space.
Second, our vestibular system in the inner ear helps detect gravity, which further provides feedback on where we are.
Third, our somatosensory system gives us information on pressure and stretch, which allows us to detect the ground with our feet and have an understanding where the head is on our frame.
And finally, strength gives us the framework to support ourselves despite external forces acting on the body.
As physical therapists, we have the tools and the knowledge to identify if you are underutilizing or over utilizing any of these systems. Golf in particular has its unique challenges to balance. Oftentimes we tend to over rely on our vision to remain steady. But this reliance is less advantageous in the golf swing where your eyes are solely fixed on the golf ball for most of the swing. So, making sure the other systems are firing on all cylinders is critical for playing good golf long-term. As I alluded to, specific types of strength training are generally most effective in working on these systems as it teaches the body to maintain a position or a certain movement despite an added resistance. But not all balance is created equal. Ironic!
Balance is broken down into 2 categories. First, static balance is the ability to maintain a position despite any conditions that may be working against you, here’s an example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4pFdLJmG7M. On the other hand, dynamic balance is the ability to maintain continuity with a desired movement despite external forces, here is an example https://www.youtube.com/shorts/49dvlza5Snw.
In golf, static balance is being utilized when a golfer is able to stay stable in a setup position despite fighting windy conditions or having an uneven lie. On the other hand, dynamic balance is when a player makes an effective move on the golf ball despite the conditions of the shot. With that being said, having sufficient dynamic balance will be more essential to making good, consistent golf swings allowing you to shoot better scores.
Long story short, sport-specific strength training that challenges your dynamic balance is the most effective way to improve this aspect of golf fitness. At Florida Physio we’ve specifically designed our in-house balance programming and 8-week at Home Balance Program to address those exact needs. Finally, once you learn this program, balance training should be incorporated in your weekly maintenance programs and should be assessed and reassessed often. This becomes even more important as you progress through strengthening and power training blocks for improvements with swing speed. Increases in speed are much less effective if you cannot maintain consistent stability in your golf swing.
-Dr. Donald Wasoff, PT DPT TPI Certified