If you want to know why you need mobility training look no further than your monthly golf magazine.
While dusting (yes I do housework), I randomly picked up five golf magazines off my end table. While thumbed through them (yes, I was procrastinating) I found, at least, one example in each of the magazines where the lesson showed a body position that probably 85% of amateur golfers couldn’t attain if they wanted to.
I will show you a photo of those lessons later on, but I want to drive my point home first, most avid golfers know how to swing well enough to play better.
Well, why don’t they then?
A Couple of Reasons
One, they have very limited mobility, especially in the hips, upper back, and shoulders. Once corrected I believe that they naturally could put the club into much better positions allowing them to hit the ball farther and more consistently hit the ball on the sweet spot of the club.
Two, because they hear on television and read in the monthly magazines that they need to increase their turn, keep their hands wide on the backswing, and anything else that comes out of the announcer’s mouth during the swing analysis of professionals golfers (no less). they try to do it.
But when they try to do it the body doesn’t move in quite the same way or with the same range of motion.
Like all good students, golfers learn by watching swing videos of professionals.
Or they read tips in the magazines written by professionals or swing instructors that are used to teaching professionals or top-ranked amateurs.
We all play a game called golf, but the game the professionals’ play is much different.
I’m Not Blaming the Swing Instructors
Swing instructors and professionals were asked by the magazine editors to provide tips, and they did as they were asked. The tips are always good, well, at least, the non-complicated ones are good.
I have found that instructors (this includes fitness professionals too) who instruct professional clients end up teach at very sophisticated levels. So when you ask a professional golfer or an instructor to come up with a tip, you get a tip at that level of instruction. They are used to teaching golfers that have full range of motion.
So although their instruction is good, the average golfer can’t get their bodies into the same swing positions. Therefore, golfers show little improvement.
In this post, I will first explain why I entitled it “Golf Lesson Chimera’s.” Then I will present the five magazine articles I randomly came across and explain why I think they are Chimera’s. I will also add my perspective on how mobility training will take the beast out of each lesson.
Definition of Chimera (taken from the Oxford Dictionary)
- Chimera: (in Greek Mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.
- Any mythical animal with parts taken from various animals.
- A thing that is hoped or wished for but, in fact, is illusory or impossible to achieve.
Which Definition Do I Mean?
It’s not number 1, though, there are a couple of swing instructors I follow on Twitter that may qualify.
The second definition, similar to the first, is the most commonly drawn Chimera, but again, I don’t think swing instructors or their lessons are 3-headed monsters with mismatched parts that attack and kill golfers like the mythical ones do in the adventure stories.
However, if some amateur golfers did try to move their bodies into the positions shown in the magazines they might think they are being murdered.
That leaves definition number 3: A thing that is hoped or wished for but, in fact, is illusory or impossible to achieve.
Reason being, most amateur golfers, hope and wish they could get their bodies into those positions when in reality it is impossible and for now, illusionary.
Notice I said for now, because I do believe that most golfers would greatly improve their swing with a little mobility training. I’m not saying a 40- or 50-year old is going to be able to turn like Dustin Johnson.
But it is my experience that a little mobility training of the hips, upper back and shoulders, along with some core stability can have tremendous benefits on distance and maintaining posture throughout the golf swing.
Gary Woodland Flat Out
I took this photo from the December 2015 issues of Golf Digest. It is Gary Woodland telling you how to “Wind It Up and Pounce”.
Probably not a great idea for amateurs to begin with. Most wind up and pounce on every swing anyway.
Gary wants you to clear your body as soon as possible, the arms will lag behind, come from the inside and you will hit a powerful draw.
5% or Less of Amateurs
Can open up their hips as much as Gary is doing in the photo. His arms are at impact, and his hips are open 45-degrees already. Notice his left foot is perpendicular to the target line, making this even harder to do. The Chimera in the lesson is having good hip mobility and the ability to separate movement between the lower and upper body.
If you don’t have hip and torso mobility, you will most likely come over the top and slice the ball. If you are swinging for the fences, you will be looking for the ball in the woods or the adjacent fairway most of the time.
If you want to swing like Gary, you will have to increase your hip mobility and separate movement between your lower and upper body.
The best place to start is with a TPI mobility assessment to see how well different parts of your body move.
Loss of Posture
I took a photo of this December 2015 Golf Magazine article in the Private Golf Lessons section. The lesson is about staying down when the ball is below your feet. Great tip and since I play on a very hilly course I know all about it.
Now some may argue with me, but I’m telling you, if a golfer early extends, has a flat shoulder plane, or loses their posture, the instructor can yell until she is blue in the face to keep those angles the same, but it isn’t going to happen.
Not until the golfer has some mobility training and corrects the issues cause the swing faults.
Mobility Training is the Only Way
The Chimera in this lesson is keeping the angles between the lower leg and thigh and the thigh and spine. If you have limitations in any of those areas, including the upper back and shoulders no amount of instruction will help until the limitations are reduced or eliminated.
I agree that this lesson is more about staying down on the ball, but the graphic is all wrong for 65% of amateur golfers. The text has it right, wider stance, bend the knees more, grip the club at the end of the grip. They could also add another tip such as take a longer club and swing easier, but instead, they decided to show postural angles in the figure.
That is my beef. On TV and at times on the range, I hear keep your angles.
Instead of saying that to the client, the instructor should first assess the student for mobility limitations. The golfer can only do what its body will allow. It might not be physically possible to keep their posture during a full swing.
Cart Before the Horse
This photo was taken of a January 2016 Golf Digest article written by Jeff Flagg a World long-drive champion. Jeff makes no bones about it in his opening paragraph,
“This is not an article about making pars.”
It is about something way cooler, hitting the ball long! I want to add that Golf Digest’s fitness contributer, Ron Kaspriske helped Jeff with this article.
What is the Chimera?
The caption in the photo says,
Swing your arms as fast as you can without losing your balance.
The color in the text is their’s, not mine. So you might be saying to yourself,
Duh, no shit, if you want to hit the ball far you need to swing your arms faster.
I think the Chimera, in this case, is the logic in the article. Of course, a long drive champion says swing faster, he practices all the time and can hit the ball consistently square while doing it.
Wait, I take that back. Have you seen those long drive contests? What percentage of them hit in play? Maybe 20%?
My point is if you want to hit the ball far, and the way to do that is to swing your arms faster without losing your balance, then shouldn’t you be working to improve your balance so you can swing faster without losing balance? The color in the text this time, is mine.
The Chimera is that the logic. It’s backasswards. A better lesson would be teaching how to improve balance so you can swing faster and stay in control.
Don’t Spare the Sauce
This Private Lesson is so damn old school it isn’t funny. The first paragraph says golfers who slice spend a lifetime trying to fix their swing path. So far so good.
The article goes on to explain what the dreaded chicken wing is and how to correct the fault. In order to release the clubhead during the follow through you need to keep your lead elbow close to the body, and move it in unison with the torso rotation.
The way to do this is to “ingrain” the move by tuck the sleeve of your shirt under your lead arm at address and make slo-motion practice swings.
Old-School = Slo-motion practice to “ingrain” that feeling. With enough practice, you will be able to take that feeling to your full swing. If you fail, it is because you didn’t practice enough.
Ok, I know I said I wasn’t blaming swing instructors. Maybe I am a little. Only the one’s that think practice is the cure-all for everything.
I mean the article says that people who slice spend a lifetime trying to fix the swing path.
The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.
So a few slow-motion swings with your shirt sleeve tucked under your armpit is going to change that.
I’ll say it again if you’re not assessing you are guessing.
The lesson assumes too much. They would save people a lot of time if they started out saying stand up straight.
Raise your elbow to shoulder height, position your forearm 90-degrees to your upper arm and parallel to the floor. Keep your arm in that position and get into golf posture.
While keeping your upper arm in that same position, rotate your lower arm up. If you can rotate your arm equal to, or greater than, your spine angle keep reading the article. If you can’t get it parallel to your spine, read an article on increasing shoulder mobility.
If you can’t get it parallel to your spine, read an article on increasing shoulder mobility.
It would save people a lot of time on the range with their shirt sleeve tucked under their armpit.
The Chimera in this lesson is the slo-motion “ingraining” and that practice will cure all. That is not the case.
If you have the chicken wing swing characteristic, and you have shoulder mobility issues, you can practice until the cows come home and it isn’t going to help.
Ok, I Can’t, Now What?
This Private Lesson is from the October 2015 Golf Magazine and is so typical of a lot of instruction in golf magazines.
The article gives you a tip to see if you are in the correct swing position. Great idea, I like it so far.
I wonder how many people put shaving cream on their face? My guess is that everyone that did, also ended up with shaving cream on their shoulder. Hopefully not on their favorite golf shirt.
Why do I say this?
We All Want to Pass
Because TPI has a mobility screen called the cervical rotation test. It is a simple test, stand up tall, shoulders square and don’t move them, turn your head and touch your chin to your shoulder.
Everyone can do it.
They can do it because most people cheat. They hunch up their shoulder to touch their chin or they move the opposite shoulder forward to give them more rotation. They didn’t even realize they moved their shoulder. When asked to redo the test and they are told to keep their shoulders still, they fail the test.
We all want to pass the test, even if failing the test is better for us.
So that is the first problem with the lesson, it should say have someone watch you swing to make sure you aren’t taking an abnormal swing.
Even though that doesn’t have anything to do with mobility, I thought it was important to bring up because people will make their bodies do whatever it needs to accomplish a goal (this is what injuries people).
It is the second point I want to bring up that is the issue.
The lesson says “if you don’t have shaving cream on your shoulder you either didn’t turn the shoulder enough or you tucked it under your chin. To solve this swing back on a flatter plane and turn your back so it faces the target.”
If you have the mobility to do that, it’s a brilliant tip. It would work great, you will have more coil and hit the ball farther, no doubt.
However, what if you don’t have the mobility?
Well, to flatten your swing plane you will come up out of your stance and lose posture, or stand up and have a flat shoulder plane, or sway back to get more turn.
What do I do if I can’t turn my back any further to face the target?
I’m a Believer
I’m a believer that most golfers who take the time to read golf magazines for tips and lessons know the basics of the golf swing. If they could turn their back to the target, they would. I honestly believe that.
Like with the cervical test, readers become fixated on turning their back to the target that they will make other swing errors to do so. They wouldn’t even realize they messed up their swing to do it.
So the Chimera of this lesson is leaving the student in the void. I know editors are always trying to cut words and save space. But one more sentence would be so helpful in this lesson.
If you can’t turn your back to the target without losing your posture, you should go through a mobility assessment and mobility training to increase your range of motion.
If swing instructors and print media companies are providing swing instruction, they also need to give people options in case those tips and cues don’t work.
Swing Instruction & Mobility Training
I’m not anti-swing instruction.
Not at all. Even though I believe most people (who want to improve) know the basics of the golf swing, syncing it all together can be confusing. Being shown how to put it all together is beneficial to the golfer.
What I’m saying is swing instructors and golf fitness professionals should work together with students.
It would benefit the student most of all. A swing instructor can improve the swing of a person who can put their body into the correct positions over a student who has to work around physical limitations.
A swing instructor that has a student with more mobility & stability after going through mobility training is going to have a happier student. Happy students sing the praises of their instructor. Nothing brings more clients than word of mouth.
The same goes for the golf fitness professional that provides the mobility training, most clients realize that they can move better, but when working in unison with a swing instructor and the client’s golf scores go down, the progress seems triple as effective.
Benefits of Mobility Training for Golfers
I think it goes without saying how important it is for the body to move freely during the golf swing.
If you don’t think so, watch the slow-motion video of Rory McIlory hit a golf ball from the front. Watch how many times his pelvis tilts up, down, right high to left high and rotates. Let’s not overlook how his hip hinges, and how his ankles compress and extend. Then look at the rotation of his upper back and how many times his shoulder moves. Oh yeah, and how much speed is generated in the last milliseconds by his wrist action.
Don’t forget, it isn’t all about mobility, his other joints, feet, knees, lower back, parts of his shoulder, and elbows have to be stable for the mobile joints to move. Stability is also important in a good golf swing.
Notice how still his head is? That is because his neck is free to turn so it can stay still.
There Are a Lot of Moving Parts in a Golf Swing
Not many people are blessed to have good mobility in all of their joints. Almost everyone, including professional golfers, needs to improve mobility somewhere in their body.
If you haven’t thought about how important mobility is in a golf swing, you should read some of my articles on mobility. You can access them by clicking the button below. All the swing characteristics will come up, read some of them and you will notice that all of the common swing characteristics can be caused by mobility issues.
Click and scroll to see all 12 swing characteristics (multiple pages).
I also have created a free 6-page guide on the swing characteristics. It lists each of the 12 most common swing characteristics, what ball flights are caused by the fault, and which part of the body could be causing the swing fault.
You can download by clicking below and I will deliver it to your inbox.
If you couldn’t tell by the text in this article I believe most if not all golfers could improve their game by increasing their mobility.
Many (not all by far) swing instructors would have an easier time with their students if they teamed up with a golf fitness professional.
Golf media provide Chimeras to golfers by showing and suggesting that “simple” swing changes can improve their game.
Maybe that is a little harsh, but at a minimum, magazines could offer alternatives to swing lessons if a person is having problems getting their body into the positions that the lessons suggest.
There needs to be more education by the media on the importance of mobility. They have no problem showing strength and stretching exercises, so why not include more mobility screens and corrections?
Golfers looking to improve their golf swing should be looking for both a swing instructor and golf fitness professional. The golfer would see more improvement at a quicker rate with the instructor and fitness professional as a team.
If you want more information you can reach out to me at Todd@ToddMarshFitness.com.
If you want help with your mobility click the button below to see my on-line programs and courses.
Copyright: kzenon / 123RF Stock Photo