As the golf industry continues to evolve in advancements in 3D swing analysis and training aides, as well as club and golf balls technology, amateur and professional players alike are looking to achieve the most effective, efficient and safely repeatable swing they can. Players all want more distance and to play well, without hurting themselves and sacrificing form.
Titleist alone sells over 42 million golf balls worldwide per month. That is correct, per month. As impressive as that number sounds, it also means that golfers worldwide are also using and losing 42 million Titleist golf balls per month. How many of those lost balls were caused by faulty swing mechanics or painful swings?
Titleist recognized this and tried to develop an answer to the question in the title. The answer is all of the above, which became the focal point for the Titleist Performance Institute based in California. Featured on the Golf Channel weekly, this center combines multidisciplinary approaches from golf professionals, medical professionals, fitness trainers and equipment gurus to help tour and amateur players find the best performance possible. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the role of the medical screening examination that TPI utilizes for its athletes and tour players.
During a golf swing, there are several parts that the body must move together during the backswing through impact. In addition to having mobility requirements to allow these movements, there needs to be stable areas throughout to produce a strong base to rotate around. Much like an engine in a car, each individual part needs to do its job, but also sequentially communicate with each other in order to perform the task. When one part, or several parts, does not do their timely job effectively, then there is bound to be trouble firing the engine efficiently. The job of the medical professional is to know the requirements of what the body should do, then effectively screen and evaluate what your body is doing. TPI has developed a comprehensive medical screening process that looks for the golf related requirements of the swing and determine which area or areas that need focus. This can be accomplished indoors or outdoors and the player is put through a series of repeatable movement patterns that helps the medical professional determine areas of concern.
It is important to correctly identify which part or parts need to be addressed as they relate to the biomechanics of the swing versus just randomly selecting areas to stretch or strengthen. The golf swing happens quickly. Tweaking the wrong areas is just as harmful to performance than not addressing the correct areas. Stretching the lower spine and hamstrings are generally good things to do, but if the underlying swing fault is caused by a lack of dissociating the lower trunk from the upper back, then stability training for the lower spine may be needed and the stretching will not help. Likewise, if a player’s swing faults are caused by hypomobile tight hip joint on the lead leg, then strengthening the abdominals will not help that player.
It is also important to note that the medical professional screening and intervention plan needs to coordinate with the swing faults that the golf professional instructor is working on. These team members need to communicate to ensure that the teaching lessons and screening findings make sense for the swing faults the player is exhibiting. There is always a reason why players have mechanical swing faults, but not every fault needs to be corrected for a variety of reasons. If these team members do not communicate common goals, then the player may get conflicting treatments – which will not yield optimal performance and prevention of injury.
Michael Dow MSPT received his degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. In addition to being the founder of Amity Physical Therapy 10 years ago, he has been recognized by the US Dept of Health and Human Services for his work with the National MS society. Michael also received his certification through the Titleist Performance Institute and works with golfers of all ages and skill levels to achieve optimal performance and prevent injury. Now with three offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford, Dow’s practice is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in Southern Connecticut. He can be reached at 203-389-4593.