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Published on August 17, 2015

Want a better golf game? Work on your body firstWant a better golf game? Work on your body first

In the past, you’ve probably dusted off your golf clubs after the winter, hit a couple of balls on the range, maybe did a few trunk rotations and then hit the golf course.

Stop the madness. Times have changed.

The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) has reinvented the way you play golf, and more importantly, the way you prepare your body for it.

Injuries to the average amateur golfer are most commonly a result of physical limitations that affect mobility and stability. Golfers who want to improve their games don’t hesitate to take a lesson from a swing coach, so why not pay attention to the most important piece of golf equipment—your body?

A TPI evaluation is a 16-step screening process that identifies any physical limitations in your body that affect your golf swing. A personalized fitness program can address those physical limitations and help you move more efficiently.

Once you develop proper movement patterns and retrain your muscles to fire properly, you can build strength and stability.

And after that, anything’s possible. You’ll play better, more consistent, pain free golf.  Then you can go see your golf pro and develop better swing mechanics using a body—yours—that moves properly.

Before you play, get in the habit of warming up your muscles and stretching. Make that part of your routine off the course, too. Focus on the lower back, hips, legs and shoulders:

Your back    

The twisting motion of the golf swing, the movement of the spine and repeated bending to putt all contribute to back pain. Golfers are also likely to have muscular imbalances since most of the stress is on one side of their bodies.

Many back problems can be prevented with strong trunk muscles (abdominal muscles and back muscles), which control the twisting mechanism, and good flexibility, which helps prevent overstretching of back muscles. If you want to strengthen your lower back muscles, you may want to try rowing, yoga or pilates.

Your hips    

As you rotate your body, you risk pulled muscles in your hips. Make sure to stretch your hip muscles well after warming up. Most golfers lack both mobility and stability in the hips.

Mobility is essential to properly rotate into the backswing as well as the follow through. Lateral hip stability is key in any rotational sport for proper pelvic stabilization and power throughout the swing.

Your shoulders    

You engage your shoulder in both the take-away and follow-through of your swing. This is an area at risk for strains and sprains. Try lateral shoulder raises with dumbbells or rotator cuff exercises (such as internal and external rotations with a dumbbell).

A lack of mobility in the shoulder prevents us from getting the golf club into the top position during the back swing. Without proper mobility, strength training only reinforces a dysfunctional movement pattern.

Your elbows    

The shock at impact—between the club and the ball or the ground—is largely absorbed by the elbow muscles and tendons. Tendinopathy at the elbow is a risk that increases if your technique is incorrect.

Your wrists    

Like  tennis players, golfers sometimes suffer from tendonitis of the wrist as a result of repeatedly extending and flexing the joint. And if you miss the ball and hit the ground, the muscles and tendons of your wrist absorb much of that impact.

Your hands    

There are several bones in your hand—the hamate bone and the navicular (or scaphoid) bone, for example—that are susceptible to chipping or breaking when playing golf.

Good technique and solid ball contact will prevent most of these injuries.

Some players experience arthritic changes in knuckle bones, which affect the way they hold the club. If arthritis pain is creating problems for you, see your doctor to discuss treatment options.

Your hamstrings    

Even the fairly simple putting motion can cause injury. You need good flexibility and strength in your hamstrings to avoid pulling them when you’re putting.

Lower body flexibility is key for proper swing mechanics.  If you cannot perform a body weight deep squat, then you have a physical limitation.

Contributing: EBSCO Information Services

Daniel O’Keefe, ATC, TPI, is an athletic trainer who runs Cape Cod Healthcare’s Golf Performance Program and works with outpatients. For an appointment, call 508-771-9600.