I was recently talking with an aspiring pro golfer (we’ll call her Sarah) about a swing coach she had worked with (we’ll call him Peter). Sarah started working with Peter because she heard he was very good, and he is. Peter works with some of the best women’s golfers in the world. Sarah told me she went to Peter in order to get more distance on her drivers and irons. She told me, “Peter gave me a very beautiful swing, perfect. But I didn’t get any extra distance so I stopped working with him.” Her statement made me start to analyze the role of a swing coach (Peter) vs. the role of a fitness professional (me) a little more.
It may sound obvious, but a swing coach is there to coach your swing. They are experts on every detail of the swing and have a very well trained eye for what is going wrong or right in your swing. Their primary role is to analyze your swing, find your mistakes, and help you overcome them with swing related drills and corrections. They can also help you with golf related issues such as course management, pace of play, specific techniques (putting, reading greens, sand), and situational questions. A good swing coach is extremely valuable.
In the case of Sarah, I think Peter did his job extremely well; he corrected her mistakes and gave her a bio-mechanically sound swing. If she didn’t gain any more distance, that isn’t Peter’s fault. Unless you have major flaws in your swing, a swing coach is mostly going to get you more consistency in your swing, not necessarily more distance.
To get more distance you need more strength and more power. If your swing is correct, the only way to get those is in the gym. Swing coaches are not fitness experts. While they are wizards at analyzing your swing and knowing what the body is doing within the swing, most of them don’t know why. That is where the fitness expert comes in.
My role is to know the muscular system, both apart from the swing and within the swing. What swing coaches may not understand is that there are movement dysfunctions that prevent people from having the perfect swing. This is why they tend to tell people the same thing over and over again:
“Get that arm back further in the takeaway.”
“Keep your elbow in tight to your body.”
“Stay down in your posture. Don’t stand up early.”
“Don’t let those hips move side to side, just rotate.”
“Let the hips turn more.”
My main goal is to give the swing coach a body that can do everything he will ask of it. I don’t fix swings, I fix bodies to give them everything required to have the perfect swing. You need to have the mobility to get into the correct positions at every phase of the swing, and the stability to move and transfer power throughout the swing without getting out of position. These will keep your swing more consistent and allow your swing coach to get more out of your swing. They also prevent “power leaks;” this will help you get more distance as well. Once we get those prerequisites trained, we continue to build more raw strength and power to hit the ball as far as possible while building more stability to match.
If you need help with your swing or have golf specific questions, see a swing coach. If you want to get the most out of your swing lessons, are having aches and pains, need more stability, or just need more distance, come see me.
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Ryan Blackburn is the owner of Orlando Golf Performance in Orlando, FL. He works with golfers on every major tour as well as college and amateur players. He holds multiple certifications in the field of functional movement and athletic performance.