Why is golf so difficult? Lets put golf in perspective.
You have a small stationary white ball on the ground. You are required to hit it with a small angular and lofted object on the end of a stick. The goal is to hit it with as much speed as controllable.
An imperceptible 0ne-degree of clubface error can send the dozens of yards offline. And that’s just the goal. Now here is the hard part.
To control the club, you are using an amazingly complicated yet sophisticated machine – the human body. You own one but you probably don’t know much about it. Did you know that you have over 680 skeletal muscles and 206 bones? To strike a golf ball you must activate some muscles, sequence others and stabilize parts of the body to produce an ideal golf swing motion. Wow, this seems like an overwhelmingly complicated task.
The good news is that in our lifetimes, we have learned to do many things with the body such as riding bicycles, driving cars, walking and running. The problem is that many of the things we have learned are linear – in one direction. When you ride a bicycle you move the upper body and lower body in the same direction. Same with running. Golf tends to be more difficult because your body is moving in two directions in the backswing and then in the downswing. It requires symmetry and a rotational separation between the upper body and lower body.
This separation is new and unfamiliar to many people. Their lifestyles haven’t required them to turn much. This includes things like sitting at a desk or driving a car where very little upper body and lower body rotation is required. As a matter of fact, as we age our rotational ability declines. Twisting our bodies becomes more difficult. This might be the reason so many of us purchase SUV’s.
So what can we do?
We must be vigilant to increase our rotational mobility as we age. This includes a very important set of muscles around the pelvis called the hip flexors. Maintaining mobility and flexibility in these muscles is critical to rotational health. One of the main muscles that contribute to the rotation is the Psoas Major. The Psoas Major attaches to lower back. This is why many people experience back pain when they try to turn their lower body.
The Psoas Major and the group of muscles around the back and hip joints become rigid. This tightness is hard to detect until we try to swing a golf club.
Personally, my body has never felt better than when I practiced martial arts – specifically Tae Kwon Do where it requires you to learn many kicks. Kicking helps the hip flexors stay flexible because it requires that you move your legs in a circular motion stretching the muscles in the leg. Kicking my legs are rotation them a few times a week loosened my hips and helped me stay flexible.
Keeping the legs and hip joints moving through the exercise that requires a full range of rotation and motion also helps circulation and fluidity.
The biomechanical data of golf swing rotation also tells us that good player have a 40 degree of separation between the hip rotation and shoulder rotation. Good swings have 80 to 90 degrees of shoulder turn. If you didn’t turn your hips, you could only reach about 40 degrees of shoulder turn – not enough to produce speed and power. You must have a hip rotation to produce the proper shoulder turn.
If you asked “Todd, what is the most important thing I can do to improve my golf swing”, I would say “do whatever you can to improve your body’s rotational ability and the ability to separate upper body from lower”.
This is the major structural weakness we see in our students. Their bodies are inflexible and rigid, especially in the hips and back.
The most important moment in the golf swing is impacted. Getting to this moment requires what I call the most important move in golf – the transition between the backswing and downswing where the lower body moves before the upper body. This movement that I call “separation” is where the hips turn a few degrees toward the target (forward) before the shoulders begin their turn. The hips turn first, separating from the shoulders.
When the hips begin their turn your body moves into the lead knee, increasing the spine tilt – stabilizing the lead hip. When the lead hip is stable the hips can keep rotating. Then the shoulders rotate pulling the lead arm.
This is why Moe said the downswing starts with the lower body which pulls the arms.
The key – rotate more. Swing More. That doesn’t mean hit more golf balls. You can swing in your backyard. As long as you swinging and rotating it will help.