It is not uncommon for golfers to come into the game from a fairly sporting background. However, only a few ever tap into their previously developed movement skills and realise their athletic ability in their golf swing.
In the modern golf era where strength and conditioning coaches and biomechanics have a prevalent place in the industry, we are ever more aware of the limitations that we move under. We construct beliefs that tell us that we can’t have the swing we want due to age and physical restrictions. While our physiology clearly plays a big role in our movement potential, there is another side to the story; most often golfers don’t move very well because they are getting in their own way.
The bottom line is that swinging a golf club well is not just about having good hand-eye coordination and a natural ‘flair’ for sports.
Nearly everybody I coach can demonstrate a highly developed sense of ‘kinematic sequencing’ (basic movement sequence) when throwing a ball or swinging a bat, so what makes it so difficult to transfer this athletic ability to a golf environment?
The club itself is a big issue. We would all move so much better if we could hit the ball with the side of the bat (as in baseball) but to hit the ball in anyway straight, we clearly need to return the clubface square to the ball and for most people, this is done by slowing down and hitting the ball with the body square on, as it is at the start of the swing.
If you look at most of the PGA Tour – especially the longer hitters – you will see that this is simply not how speed is generated. The modern swing has borrowed key movement concepts from more established power sports, in particular baseball.
Elite golfers know that pulling on the handle and trying to create speed through ‘linear force’ (brute force) alone is actually very limiting for speed, and comes at great cost to strike and direction. So now the emphasis is more around using the elastic qualities of your body and rotating hard in such a way that by the time the club gets to the ball, the body is considerably rotated toward the target. As it turns out, this ‘rotation based’ method has a number of other benefits that include; helping us stay down through the shot, reducing the loft on the club at impact (and so adding even more distance) and keeping the face more stable through the ball (increasing accuracy and consistency).
This is one of the most fundamental differences between the club golfer and the modern Pro swing: While the club player is anxiously trying to get the club back to the ball and hits with the body face-on and with too much loft on the club, the Pros have found a way to get the club square earlier and free up their movement to utilise their athletic ability.
Cameron Champ, currently the longest driver on the PGA Tour, is a great example:
So how can you create more speed in your swing?
It is far too easy to blame a lack of athletic movement in the swing on your physical makeup. You may find that you are a much more capable athlete than is currently being evidenced in your swing.
If we fail to generate a clear concept of what we are trying to do (or over-work dated ideas with our technique) then we can get ourselves in a bind that prevents us from ever utilising our sporting attributes.
For instance, if we are pulling on the handle (pulling the chain, ringing the bell etc) then we are immediately out of sequence and the club will get to the ball far too early and not allow time for the body to rotate before impact.
Equally, if we are trying to get the club on the inside in a traditional sense, then we are likely to ruin any chance of utilising the body and staying in posture through the ball becomes extremely challenging.
I can totally relate to this from my own experience: when I was in my early twenties, I was competing on the Europro Tour and I was a successful athlete in multiple sports. However, I was so bound by conflicting swing thoughts and flawed concepts that my coach told me in our first session that ‘you couldn’t be this bad if you tried’ and so stiff was my movement that he named me ‘Rigamortis Rousseau’ in every session thereafter!
I am now twenty years older, but by working on solid concepts that support fluid movement, I am finally realising my athletic ability in my golf swing. I am also 3 clubs longer than I was in my 20’s!
Golf is a game in which the power of information is utterly transformative. The concepts that you create in your mind have the potential to set you on a path of continual development or, as happened to me, tie you in knots and destroy your athletic ability.
To put it more eloquently:
“Concepts without Intuition are empty. Intuition without Concepts are blind” – Emmanuel Kant (1971)