Your Golf Swing Isn't Soft. Your Training Shouldn’t be Either.
This one is for all my fellow golfers out there. With the Masters taking place this weekend, spring finally here, and myself heading out for my first range session later today, it just feels right to break some stereotypes revolving around the game of golf...
Spring is here.
Finally, that white stuff has disappeared and gave way to the beauty that is green.
I can picture it now, the smell of freshly cut grass and a little dew still on the practice green.
Put yourself there.
It’s time for your first round of the year. Expectations are high and you’re hopeful to pick up right where you left off last fall. The first tee shot is as nerve wracking as they come, no breakfast balls today… you tell yourself.
You stop putting to take a minute and self-reflect on all of the things that you did to improve your game this past offseason....
Maybe you hit up one of those cool simulator shops.
Maybe you trained hard in the weight room.
Maybe you discovered yoga.
Maybe you upgraded your clubs.
Or, maybe you did nothing.
Pretend with me for a second that you are a professional baseball player, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, and ask yourself, given the level of effort you gave this past offseason, are you going to see performance improvements?
Now pretend you play for the Green Bay Packers…
Now pretend you play for the Milwaukee Bucks… I’m a Wisconsin sports fan if you couldn't tell.
The reason I want you to put yourself in all of these positions is because, that is exactly where you are going to find yourself this coming spring when you take the course.
Golf, while it gives off the appearance of differing greatly from all of these other sports, the bodily impact and preparation necessary doesn’t.
Your golf swing isn’t soft. Your training shouldn't be either.
Let’s dive deep…
One study published in 2005 found that a 116 mph golf swing produced a max force output of 125% of bodyweight. It also found that peak power was 3875 Watts and peak torque was 42.1 Nm (1).
A 2018 study (3) measured bodily segment rotational velocity of the golf swing and noted the following:
Peak upper torso rotational velocity took place after impact and averaged 929 degrees/sec
Peak hip rotational velocity occurred during the downswing and averaged 415 degrees/sec
The lead arm moves at upwards of 1100 degrees/sec (10).
For some references, the lead foot of a baseball batter creates a force production total of about 123% of body weight (compared to the golfers 125%). Peak shoulder rotational velocity for a baseball player is roughly 937 degrees/sec (compared to the golfers 1100 degrees/sec) (2).
Further, if we look solely at the spinal load during the golf swing we see extreme loads in the form of shear, torsional, and compressive. One study reported that the compressive forces on the spine can total greater than 6 times your body weight, and some studies have reported 8 times your body weight. Anterior and medial shear loads are estimated to be upwards of 1.6 times your body weight (4).
A 2006 study found that peak angular velocity of the hip during a soccer kick was roughly 150 degrees/sec while the knee was 1040 degrees/second (compared to the golfers 1100 degrees/sec) (8).
One study found that professional quarterbacks, when throwing a football for maximal velocity, reached an elbow extension velocity of ~1700 degrees/second and torso rotational velocity of 950 degrees/second (11).
All of this to say, the golf swing is not soft.
It competes in all of these metrics with sports and movements that we call “physically demanding.”
While it is true golf is a sport we can play for a lifetime due to the lower levels of aerobic demand, reactivity and simply the availability of it, the physical impact it has on the body is no less than that of baseball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and basketball. Even parts of sports like football (if we remove the contact element), track and field, etc. could be viewed as having an arguably similar level of physical demand.
The golf swing impacts the body. Proper physical preparedness is necessary to elicit injury resilience as well as your highest performance potential.
Physical Preparation to Boost your Golf Health
From a health perspective, proper physical preparation will increase joint and tissue health, strength levels as well as cardiovascular health. Put simply, stronger muscles and tendons won’t break as frequently compared to weaker ones. Strength and physical fitness levels will also boost the recovery process both in-between shots and in-between rounds.
Physical preparedness also includes maintaining proper mobility and stability throughout the body, creating freedom of joint movement and allowing you to reach the positions that your golf swing calls for.
As we discussed above, the golf swing can produce roughly 250 Newtons of force (if you weigh 200 lbs.) and 1100 degrees/second of lead arm angular velocity. If your body obtains the ability to produce 500 Newtons of force and move at 1200 degrees/second, all the sudden your golf swing is much less demanding on the body and its impact will be limited.
Physical prep creates a holistic and robust movement system that will transfer to your overall health levels as well as your golf game.
Health underlies all athletic performance. If higher performance is the goal, the first place to look is heath.
Physical Preparation to Boost your Golf Performance
From a performance perspective, proper physical prep will boost your ability to play the game and perform at a high level. A 2011 meta-analysis showed that higher clubhead speed and better golf performance is linked to greater strength levels (5). One study even showed that simply strength training once per week can have large impacts on clubhead speed (6).
Further, not only will greater physical abilities have the potential of boosting clubhead speed, but your consistency will increase greatly. A more well rounded movement system that is adaptable and robust will create more consistent energy levels and a better functioning neuromotor system.
Too often we talk about the physical side of training and performance without mentioning the driver of all movement - the nervous system (and I am as guilty of this as anybody). A more physically prepared movement system will create neuromotor efficiency and boost motor control, allowing your swing to be more functional and adaptable, producing consistent results.
Let’s wrap it up…
From a physical viewpoint, your golf swing is as demanding as the baseball player trying to hit a 95 mph fastball or the quarterback launching a hail mary down the field.
Why do we treat it differently from a training perspective?
Why don’t we give it the energy and effort it deserves?
Why don't we prioritize creating an athletic foundation and physical preparedness levels?
The golf swing is not soft. Your training shouldn’t be either.
Let’s go low.
About the Author:
I graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2019 with a business degree and a minor in exercise science. While there, I played football (as long as we consider being a kicker, playing football) and found two of the deepest passions in life - learning and human performance. Since then, I have become a certified strength coach and have had the opportunity to train hundreds of athletes ranging from the middle school to the professional level.
I believe in building humans first, athletes second.
I believe that everybody has extraordinarily high amounts of value to offer.
I believe that the pursuit of improvement will lead to growth, no matter the outcomes.
Within my writing, I strive to breakdown and apply complex ideas in order to boost understanding, draw comparisons from seemingly separated and opposing topics, and empower growth in my readers. Knowledge and understanding are power, and they create the foundation of improvement. Moving forward, I plan on continuing to seek the betterment of my athletes, myself and my community, empowering growth along the way.
Be sure to head over and check out my Instagram and other blog posts at the links below:
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/coach_carter_schmitz/
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2. Welch CM, Banks SA, Cook FF, Draovitch P. Hitting a baseball: a biomechanical description. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1995 Nov;22(5):193-201. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1922.214.171.124. PMID: 8580946.
3. Steele, Katherine M et al. “Golf Swing Rotational Velocity: The Essential Follow-Through.” Annals of rehabilitation medicine vol. 42,5 (2018): 713-721. doi:10.5535/arm.2018.42.5.713
4. Lim YT, Chow JW, Chae WS. Lumbar spinal loads and muscle activity during a golf swing. Sports Biomech. 2012 Jun;11(2):197-211. doi: 10.1080/14763141.2012.670662. PMID: 22900401.
5. Torres-Ronda, Lorena et al. “Muscle strength and golf performance: a critical review.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 10,1 9-18. 1 Mar. 2011
6. Coughlan, D., Taylor, M. J. D., Wayland, W., Brooks, D., & Jackson, J. (2019). The effect of a 12-week strength and conditioning programme on youth golf performance. International Journal of Golf Science, 8(1).
7. Not used.
8. Kellis E., Katis A., Vrabas I.S. (2006) Effects of an intermittent exercise fatigue protocol on biomechanics of soccer kick performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports 16, 334-344
9. Not used.
10. Cheetham, P. J., Rose, G. A., Hinrichs, R. N., Neal, R. J., Mottram, R. E., Hurrion, P. D. and Vint, P. F. 2008. “Comparison of kinematic sequence parameters between amateur and professional golfers”. In Science and Golf V: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf, Edited by: Crews, D. and Lutz, R. 30–36. Mesa, AZ: Energy in Motion.
11. Bohnert, Kyle. (2016). A COMPLETE KINEMATIC, KINETIC, AND ELECTROMYOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS OF THE FOOTBALL THROW IN COLLEGIATE QUARTERBACKS. 10.13023/ETD.2016.273.