As instructors, the first step to helping our students play their best is to understand how their body connects to their golf swing. As humans, we are all built differently with various degrees and limitations of mobility and stability; of which can be weakened or strengthened through factors such as injuries and fitness level. Because of this, from TPI, and a philosophy which I share; “we don’t believe there is one way to swing a club; we believe there are an infinite number of ways to swing a club. But we do believe that there is one efficient way for everyone to swing a club and it is based on what they can physically do.”
So basically, a player’s efficiency is much more important than their style. Therefore, to say all players must be in certain positions and to teach everyone the same technique would make no sense at all. Each player has a different body and mind and should be treated like an individual. Once we determine what they can physically perform, then we build a swing that fits their body the best.
Now, let me give you an example of how I would incorporate this philosophy into my lessons:
First, to determine what my student can physically perform, and without getting into too much detail, I would take them through a physical screen to identify any stability and mobility limitations they may have in their body. From this screen and information that I gather, I would be able to hypothesise some possible swing characteristics that the student may have. With regards to the full swing, there are 12 major swing characteristics that many of you will be able to recognize and most likely identify in your own golf swing:
Setup S-Posture (arch in lower back), Setup C-Posture (shoulders slumped forward), Loss of Posture, Flat Shoulder Plane, Early Extension, Over-the-Top, Sway, Slide, Hanging Back, Reverse Spine Angle, Casting/Scooping & Chicken Winging. Any of these sound familiar?…
Let’s use ‘Over-the-Top’ as an example as it is perhaps the most common swing fault among high handicap golfers. It occurs due to an overuse of the upper body on the downswing. As a result the club will be thrown on the outside of the intended swing plain with the club head approaching the ball from outside to in. This creates a pull if the clubface is square or a slice if the club face is open. In order to prevent the club from coming over Over-the-Top during the golf swing, it is paramount to develop a proper weight shift from your back foot to your front foot in order to start the downswing in the proper sequence. A proper weight shift requires several physical factors including good hip mobility, a strong core and lower body (glutes and abs) and the ability to disassociate the lower body from the upper body.
It’s really important with all of these swing characteristics to determine whether the problem is physical or technical; obviously it could be both. Some screens I would use to test whether your body is part of the problem would be the Pelvic Rotation Test (evaluate ability to separate the lower body from the upper body), Bridge w/ Leg Extention Test (evaluate core stability) and the Single Leg Balance Test (evaluate balance).
Lastly, for this specific example, if any of these screens have been failed by the student and we’ve identified that the Over-the-Top swing characteristic is a physical and technical problem, I would then implement some correctional exercises and drills that would help focus on good separation between the lower and upper body and develop a powerful lower body contribution to the golf swing. I would start with exercises for hip and spine mobility and then progress to weight shift sequencing drills.
I hope this gives all of you some insight to the Body Swing Connection and how we can build the most efficient swing that fits YOUR BODY the best!
Have fun, play well and never stop learning, Matt Truong