The Tale of Two Pros

In order to illustrate the importance of proper movement screening and exercise progression, and the immediate impact they will have on your game, I’m going to compare two of my professional golf clients’ stories. Both of these clients were actually having the same miss (to the right), however, the causes were very different.

Pro 1:
Passed all mobility tests with ease, however, the Overhead Squat, Hurdle Step, In-Line Lunge, and Single Leg Balance tests all indicated that there was a stability problem on the golfer’s left (lead) leg. Her swing coach was trying to get her to stop hanging back and to get her weight on to her left at contact and follow through.

The body will perform any action you tell it to, but it will always avoid instability, weakness, and pain in order to avoid injury. Her body’s natural reaction was to keep her weight on the stable side (back on the trail leg) which was causing her to hang back. Hanging back caused her club face to open too much, and she would miss to the right.

Once I found this dysfunction in her body, we quickly started on a program to develop more stability on her left side. I also had to get her brain to recognize the added stability she had access to by utilizing athletic movements that required unilateral stability.

Within 2-4 weeks, she was hitting more consistently down the middle as well as getting an extra 10-15 yards per drive.

Pro 2:
Has amazing power and stability, however, the Overhead Squat, Shoulder Mobility, Lat Length, and 90/90 tests indicated a restriction in the golfer’s right (trail) shoulder.

This was greatly restricting his takeaway. Because his body knew it needed to get the club further back to generate the power he required to hit the ball far, he was early extending. This allowed his shoulders to turn back further and get the distance he needed. This early extending caused his arms and club to come under the plane on his downswing and slice the ball.

Once I found this restriction, I started using manual therapy to break up any adhesions and trigger points in the shoulder. I also used stretching techniques to quickly gain increased range of active mobility in his shoulder and thoracic spine, which allowed his greater shoulder turn.

Soon he was able to stay down in his posture throughout his swing, resulting in better accuracy and increased distance.

Both of these pros perform at a high level and take their training very seriously. Neither of them realized that these dysfunctions even existed until we screened all of their movement patterns. Cleaning up movement dysfunction is the absolute fastest way to improve your game. While swing coaches are an invaluable resource and should be consulted regularly, swing coaches aren’t trainers, and often don’t realize that there are physical limitations in the golfer’s body that make them compensate the way they do. You can’t fix hanging back by saying, “You’re hanging back, don’t hang back” or “You’re early extending, stay down longer.” You have to address the underlying problem within your body, otherwise you are fighting a battle you will never win.

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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.