Guest post by: Lindsay Becker, PT, DPT, SCS, CGFI-M3, Director, Sports Performance-Golf, OSU Sports Medicine
With the colder weather quickly approaching it is a good time to reflect back on your performance this golf season. How was your distance off the tee? Fairway accuracy? Putts per round? How was your stamina by the 18th hole? Any nagging aches or pains? One of the most common faults we see which can contribute to all these parameters is posture or more specifically POOR posture.
We all know our posture during our daily life could be better. We sit too much during the day, hunch over computers, and don’t stand up as tall as we should when we are walking. But what is a good golf posture? And why does it even matter?
Golf is a rotational sport, and your body’s two major points of rotation are the thoracic spine and hips. Therefore, the goal of a golf set-up posture is to maximize the available range of motion of these segments. Normal thoracic spine rotation is 50 degrees in each direction. However, if the spine is flexed, or rounded, this available range of motion can be dramatically reduced. Reduced thoracic rotation in the golf swing means less backswing turn and/or coming out of your original set-up posture in an effort to mimic more turn. This translates to poor ball contact or reduced power and distance in your golf game.
Perhaps worse than a suffering golf game, this reduced motion may be causing aches or pains. If the normal rotary segment of the body is dysfunctional, the body will compensate by forcing other segments to try and rotate. The most common area of compensation is the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine anatomically is not designed to rotate, limited to only about 5-10 degrees of total rotation range of motion. However, if thoracic mobility is reduced, the body senses this limitation and will force more mobility from the lumbar spine in order to perform the golf swing. Over time this excessive lumbar motion can causes breakdowns in the spine and lead to pain.
Test it: How do you test if your set-up posture is good? The easiest way is to get in your set-up posture next to a mirror. Look to the side- you should be able to draw a straight line down your back from your head to your rear-end. If your line is more of a “C” or “S” shape rather than a straight line, your posture could use some work.
What if your posture looks more like the third picture, the “S-posture”? Why is it considered bad, and how does it affect the golf swing?
In the S-posture, your lumbar spine has too much arch, or excessive lordosis. This posture can be detrimental to your power in your golf swing as well as to the health of your lower back. Excessive lordosis deactivates, or turns off, your core muscles- mainly abdominals and gluteals-the same muscles that should generate rotational power in your golf swing. Therefore, just from a poor set-up posture, even the strongest core muscles are placed in a position where they cannot work. Besides producing power, these are the same muscles that protect your lumbar spine from the torque generated by the golf swing. Without this inherent protection, the lumbar spine is at great risk for injury. Correcting this excessive arch and getting your back in a more neutral position primes and readies the core muscles to produce optimal power and protect the spine.
Quick Tip: The best way to practice a good set-up golf posture requires only a golf club and a mirror. Hold the club behind your back, one end touching your upper back, the other touching your rear-end. Now bend over as if you were addressing the ball. The golf club should be touching your upper back, lower back, and rear-end.
In order to address the ball and still maintain these contact points, note that the hips must bend, or hinge, sticking the rear-end out while keeping the chest up.
If you are continuing to have difficulty achieving this posture, you may have deficits in your strength or range of motion. You would benefit from an assessment from OSU Sports Performance Golf to determine these specific limitations. Visit OSU Sports Performance – Golf to schedule an assessment, or for more information go to www.sportsmedicine.osu.edu or call 614-293-2422.