Golf health – Prepare your body for success

The golfing body experiences pain, stiffness, restrictions, injury and loss of balance without us necessarily being aware. Your swing requires free moving body parts to become fluid, accurate and consistent.

Pain and restrictions fire messages to the brain during the swing, which upsets the intended action. Our problem areas in the body will only get worse if ignored and then start to affect other areas – so it is time to take action.

Golfers go to great extremes to improve their game – buying the latest equipment and taking expensive lessons – only to experience aching muscles and persistent, nagging injuries, often with very little improvement in performance. This happens because most golfers ignore the most important component behind successful golf and its enjoyment – the body.

Even the naturally able Tiger Woods and David Duval work at their bodies for several hours per day, in addition to their practice. Unfortunately, most golfers step up to the first tee, fling three or four clubs around as a warm-up, and then fire their first shot at 85 to 100mph. No wonder the body suffers!

We must prepare our bodies for golf. A warm-up routine is essential and regular rehabilitative attention must be paid to our restricted body parts. Remember: poor golf preparation is bad for the body; poor body preparation is bad for the golf.

All golfers share one goal: to get the ball in the cup with the least number of shots! This sounds simple, but we should examine the five factors that influence our game.

The course. Each course presents its own unique challenges, but try as we might, we cannot change its physical layout.

Acumen. This is our natural talent for something; it is in our genes and we are born with or without a high degree of it. Unfortunately, we cannot change it.

Equipment. Statistics have shown that, despite decades of equipment development and research and millions of dollars, the average score has reduced by just one stroke. Not a major factor in golfing performance.

Mental attitude. There are hundreds of books dedicated to improving a golfer’s mental game. This is an important factor and one that we can change (contact Veronica Conlan via The Resident for help in this area), but you cannot “think” nor “will” the ball into the hole alone – you have to actually hit it there.

Physical ability. This is the final and most important factor that influences your game, and the one least explored. If you cannot physically perform a task, then, no matter how well your other influential factors are, you will underachieve.

So let’s start to work out how to improve our physical ability for golf. There is no golf swing that is perfect for everyone. A 5ft 5inch, 240 pound, 55-year-old weekend player should not try to emulate the swing of a 6ft 3inch, 180 pound, 35-year-old professional. How we ensure the club head meets the ball squarely on impact depends on each individual’s unique experiences, traumas, injuries and habits, which cause particular restrictions to the biomechanical system. These restrictions will be in muscles and joints. Any part of the golf swing involves many muscles and joints. Some muscles have to be strong, some have to ‘give’, but they all need to work in a controlled manner. Let’s look at the seven-stage sequence of the swing:

1. Address

2. Take-away

3. Top of back swing

4. Down swing

5. Impact

6. Follow through

7. Finish

Tip: Regularly hold each position for two breaths as frequently as possible – this will reinforce the sequence in the brain and encourage tight muscles to ease, weak ones to strengthen and joints to become used to a wider range of movement. Follow this up with the use of a low resistance training band, held between hand and club, attached securely at the other end. Now assume the postures involved in all seven stages, for two breaths, with resistance. NB: There will be no resistance in the neutral, address position. Training bands can be obtained from the Golf Health Centre.

Take-away position using the resistive band

Any parts of the sequence can trigger musculo-skeletal restrictions and create ‘swing flaws’. A smooth sequence will only happen if your body is happy in these positions. Try holding each position for five breaths. Is it comfortable? Or does your body start to wobble, hurt or even shake?

A joint or muscle that has a problem will already be telling the brain that the intended action will hurt it and a compensation motion will occur in the swing. This can be compared to a bicycle chain smoothly moving through a sequence of cogs and gears. Now imagine if a couple of links have rusted together – you will hear a clunk and feel the reverberation throughout the bicycle.

The ‘golf move’ demands specific movements at specific planes and angles in different parts of the body. The brain needs to correlate all the muscles, bones and ligaments and make sure the movements do the following: a) occur at the same time, b) are accurate, c) can be made on a repeated basis, d) occur at a very high speed. All of these movements require a healthy bicycle chain.

The ‘Golf Move’ requires smooth, free flowing

movement – no rust!

I will include a general stretch in every article, each designed to free up general body areas and a golf ‘drill’, which is designed to be done before and during golf.

Next time, we will look at how you identify your specific problem areas and how to rectify them – what an effective warm-up should include, what balance is and how to improve it.

As always, it is wise to have an assessment from a qualified Golf Health Chiropractor for treatment advice before embarking on a golf fitness regime.


Cobra Stretch

Gently push up, keep the buttocks relaxed.

Hold for five full breaths.


Forward bend with club

Slowly move into position and allow tension to

be released in the body as you breathe five times.

• Dr Ford can be contacted by telephone at Vale do Lobo on 289 396 622, Lagos/Luz on 282 780 700 or Budens 282 690 086.