Video Golf Swing Analysis: The Missing Link
Despite its classic appeal, there are few sports that have seen the technological advancements surrounding the game as golf.
The progression of golf club and ball design alone has helped numerous golfers improve their game over the years. Each year, retailers release new equipment and devote vast amounts of time and money on commercial marketing and athlete-endorsement deals. As a result, golfers are inclined to rush to their local sporting goods store in attempts to be more like the pros. While approval by pro golfers would lead one to believe that these products are the reason for success, more significant improvements in performance come from what golf professionals and coaches are doing behind the scenes — video swing analysis.
Video swing analysis identifies faulty swing mechanics and helps a golfer make adjustments. Regardless of the endless list of products available to help improve their game, golfers can’t upgrade their way out of a poor swing.
KNOW YOUR FAULTS
Much to the dismay of golf enthusiasts across the country, nearly all amateur golfers have faults in their swing. Some of these are purely technical and require swing instruction, but many are caused by physical limitations that affect swing patterns. While golfers find a knack for compensating and finding ways to hit the ball soundly, inefficient swing patterns can cause problems with strike consistency, reduce swing power, and may even put golfers at risk for injury. As all golfers know, nothing is more frustrating than a missed hit.
A simple Google search of “how to fix your golf swing” will offer an abundance of solutions, but golfers often have a difficult time implementing those strategies with their own game. Because golfers can’t tell where and why their swing breaks down, they don’t know where to start making corrections. The inability to see what their swing looks like prevents them from even knowing if it is consistent. Furthermore, most do not recognize how a lack of flexibility and strength can keep them from achieving an “ideal swing” as well. This is why pro golfers turn to video swing analysis to identify inconsistencies with their swing mechanics and develop training to correct areas of inefficiency. Video also allows these golfers to correlate and address the effects of any strength and flexibility deficits that may hinder performance on the course. It is no wonder PGA Tour athletes are hiring physical therapists and strength coaches to work alongside their swing coaches in order to maximize their performance.
A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD GAME
The power of video analysis is in its diagnostic capability. In real time, even obvious swing faults can be missed by a trained eye. With the ability to slow down a swing on video and pick apart each aspect of the swing, the inconsistencies become much more obvious. Video allows for measurement of joint angles, marking of club paths, and accurate timing of swings in order to create a detailed report on a golfer’s swing characteristics that limit potential.
Although everyone who plays the game has a unique swing, there is a reason why the majority of PGA Tour golfers display common swing characteristics. These characteristics are what allow them to consistently replicate their swing with high efficiency, control, and power. For instance, nearly all PGA Tour golfers address the ball with a spine angle between 35 to 45 degrees and maintain this angle throughout their swing. In turn, this allows them to utilize full rotation of their trunk and produce more clubhead lag through their downswing. In other words, they produce more force while being more accurate — a perfect pairing, right? Utilizing video swing analysis to identify a golfer’s swing characteristics is an important first step to an all-encompassing approach to improved performance on the course.
WHY STRENGTH & FLEXIBILITY MATTER
Knowing that PGA Tour players have specific and measurable commonalities in their swings that allow them to be successful, the question becomes, “Am I able to accomplish this as well?” The golf swing is one of the most complicated athletic movements, and limitations in one area of the body can cause a ripple effect throughout the swing. Not only does this affect performance, it puts golfers at risk for injury. This is also why injured golfers have difficulty returning to the sport until they have regained 100 percent of their strength and flexibility. The key is finding the right health professional who can correlate impairments in strength and flexibility with the factors that limit a golfer’s performance or put them at risk for injury.
As movement experts, physical therapists conduct thorough testing of strength and flexibility, and have the knowledge and expertise to develop a systematic approach for correction. For instance, physical therapists are able to improve limitations in thoracic mobility in order to improve force production and reduce strain on the lower back during the golf swing. Or, they can help improve a golfer’s shoulder mobility to help stabilize the club during the backswing, reduce strain on the wrists and elbows, and improve ball striking accuracy. Having a physical therapist familiar with the physical requirements of a golf swing allows for correction of these physical limitations using targeted exercise and warm-up routines customized for the individual.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Let’s use an example of a swing fault known as “casting” to see how video swing analysis and physical testing come together. Casting is one of the most common faults for amateur golfers; it drastically reduces swing consistency and power. At the peak of the swing, the angle between the club and lead arm should be 90 degrees or less, and a golfer should ideally maintain this angle until the lead arm is parallel to the ground on the downswing. If this angle is not maintained, the early extension of the wrist places it in a weak position at impact and reduces the amount of lag created by the club head. Video swing analysis allows physical therapists to measure a golfer’s joint angle measurements throughout their swing. If casting is identified, examination of upper and lower body strength and flexibility can help identify the cause. If a physical exam reveals proper wrist mobility and casting is still present, a lack of lower body involvement during the swing may be causing an arm-dominant swing pattern that results in early throwing of the club.
It is these kinds of cause-and-effect relationships that are common and easily addressed when video swing analysis is combined with thorough flexibility and strength testing. With the amount of information this technology provides, every golfer has the potential to understand their swing mechanics well. Golfers who know their mechanics are able to incorporate specific exercise and swing drills, as well as make adjustments to their swing on the course. With successful implementation, golfers return to the course with a strategy in place to improve their swing mechanics, reduce the risk of injury, and perform at a higher level.
By Cody Lindsey, PT, DPT | Clinic Director | Edgebrook Physical Therapy