By: Dr. Brian P. Kinmartin, PT, DPT, MTC, OCS, STC, CWcHP, Cert. DN
In the aging population of golfers, one of the most common complaints off the tee is loss of driving distance. There are many factors that can cause a loss in driving distance, but the most common is loss of swing velocity. The physics of the golf swing and its relationship to driving distance are simple. It is great example of angular velocity. Angular velocity is the angular speed of an object along with the direction it is rotating. In other words, the faster your club head is going at the bottom of your swing, the greater the amount of energy that will be transferred from club head to the ball, and the farther the ball will go. Professional golfers on average generate a club head speed of 100 mph plus at the bottom of their swing. Loss of swing velocity equates to loss of club head speed, which results in loss of transference of energy from club head to ball with the end result being loss in driving distance.
There are many mechanical factors that can contribute to loss of swing velocity in golfers. Limitations in spinal mobility, especially in the thoracic spine (middle back) can limit your back and downswing which can severely affect swing velocity and therefore driving distance. The orientation of the joints in the thoracic spine are made primarily for rotational activities. When this is limited the rotational force of the golf swing is transferred into the lower back, where the orientation of the joints is primarily designed for bending and straightening. Excessive stress to the lower back caused by limited mobility in the thoracic spine is the most common cause of lower back pain in golfers.
Loss of hip mobility and strength is another mechanical factor that can contribute to loss of swing velocity limiting driving distance with golfers. The power of your golf swing is directly influenced by the strength and rotation of your hips. With increased hip strength and mobility your hips have more motion available and are allowed to turn faster in your swing. This generates more power and velocity which in turn increases club head speed transferring more energy to the ball which increases the length of your drives. The converse is also true. With limitations in hip mobility and strength your hips will turn slower and have less motion available, generating less power and speed, shortening your drive.
Shoulder mobility and rotator cuff strength is another mechanical factor that can contribute to a reduction in swing velocity and driving distance. It is obvious that both shoulders have to move during the golf swing. Loss of shoulder mobility will translate into less available motion for the back swing with less opportunity to generate club head speed and power during the downswing. Certain muscles of the shoulder are more active than others during the golf swing. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles designed to generate strength and torque and assist with lifting the arm overhead. The rotator cuffs of both shoulders are active during the golf swing. Deficits in rotator cuff strength which is very common in aging individuals can translate into less power and speed during the golf swing and loss of driving distance.
Sequencing of motion and transference of power is also extremely important during the golf swing to generate proper club velocity and driving distance. Strength is needed in the legs and hip musculature to generate driving power. The forces of the lower body then need to be transferred through a strong and conditioned trunk into the upper body where the chest, back, and shoulder muscles generate acceleration of the club while control is maintained through arms. Deviations in strength and mobility of any one of these key regions can cause abnormal sequencing of the golf swing and loss of driving distance.
Physical Therapists are licensed healthcare professionals trained in the evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal and movement dysfunctions. Many golfers are now seeking the skills of Physical Therapists for consultations on joint mobility, flexibility, strength and conditioning deficits that are affecting their swing dynamics and ultimately their game performance. While working with Physical Therapists golfers are getting individualized training programs addressing, balance, body mechanics, posture and fitness which is reducing their number of strokes, increasing their accuracy, increasing their driving distance and reducing the stress on their muscle and joints. This is increasing their performance on the course and keeping them in the game for a longer time.
In January 2010, Professional Rehabilitation Services released their Golf Performance Program. This program consists of a physical exam performed by a Physical Therapist in conjunction with a computerized golf swing analysis. This program allows the physical limitations identified by a Physical Therapist to be cross referenced with a computerized swing analysis of an individuals golf swing. It allows identification of exactly what musculoskeletal deficits are transferring into deficits in swing mechanics and affecting your game. Then through increasing mobility and strength of the identified musculoskeletal deficits we see improvements in golf swing mechanics which translates into improvements in accuracy, driving distance and score. Professional Rehabilitation Services is a group of Physical Therapist owned Private Outpatient Physical Therapy Practices specializing in orthopedic, balance and sports injuries with offices in Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, SC. For more information on this topic or to schedule a consultation or appointment with our Golf Performance Program please contact Brian P. Kinmartin PT, DPT, MTC, OCS, STC, CWcHP, Cert. DN, (Pawleys Island) (843) 235-0200, Richard A. Owens, PT, MS, OCS, Cert. SHT, CWcHP, Cert DN (Surfside) (843) 831-0163 at Professional Rehabilitation Services, Richard DeFalco, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CWcHP, Cert. DN (Myrtle Beach) (843) 839-1300, or visit us at: www.prsrehabservices.com