My Golf Instructor

Flexibility - Protect, Preserve and Improve Your Golf Swing
Why Flexibility is So Important for Your Swing and Your Body

Prepare Your Body for the Force of the Golf Swing
Flexibility helps you to get into desired positions in your swing, increase your distance and protect your body from injury. Flexibility Enhances Your Swing

I don't know that I've ever had a golfer come to me and not say, "I need to be more flexible." And with the exception of a few of them, they have all been right. Flexibility is such an important piece in putting together a quality swing, that it should be included to some degree in every golfer's weekly (and preferably daily) routine. Some of us need it more than others, and some are naturally gifted with more limber body parts, but the fact of the matter is that when an area of your body is not flexible enough to achieve the desired position or movement in the golf swing, another area of your body will compensate in an effort to get there. While this adaptability can get you through a round, or even years of playing without repercussion, in the long run, these compensations will lead to imbalances, bad habits, missed shots, and worst of all, injuries that force you to miss future rounds of golf.

In my eyes, that is simply unacceptable. By adding some simple flexibility work to your practice regimen, and to your workouts, your body will be much more prepared to handle the forces placed on it. When you think about it, the golf swing is a pretty violent movement for the body to perform with all of the rotation and torque that is generated. If you're not prepared for it, it's not a question of whether your body will break down, it's a question of WHEN will it break down. As always though, we have ways to get you prepared and play at your best. But before giving you some "To Do's," I would like to clarify a few things about flexibility that I have found some people are often unaware.

There are 2 types of flexibility: Active and Passive

  • Active flexibility: This refers to the amount of motion you can generate with your own internal strength; for instance reaching down to touch your toes.
  • Passive flexibility: This refers to how much motion you have at a joint or in a direction of movement when another force is pushing/pulling you; for instance, if you were lying on the ground and I was trying to push your leg toward your head as far as I could.

While this may seem trivial, it is important to know the difference between the 2 because it will give you a better idea of how you should be working on your flexibility. For example, let's say you have trouble reaching a full turn in your backswing. You might think that it would help if someone stretched you every day in that motion, right? But what if I was to sit you down and rotate your shoulders and see no significant limitation in that motion? The problem is not that your joints and muscles won't go that far, the problem is that you need my help to get there. Or said another way, you just aren't strong enough in that motion. So your PASSIVE flexibility is OK, but your ACTIVE flexibility is lacking. In this example, I would focus more on strengthening exercises that would work on your active flexibility in that direction as opposed to passive stretching.

How flexible Should I be?

One would think the logical answer would be that the more flexible you are in all areas the better off you are, but that's not necessarily the case. Because of the violent nature of the golf swing and the fact that we must generate and control a lot of force throughout the motion, we also need a lot of stability at many of our joints. (We will get into the Mobility/Stability discussion at another time.) So rather than look specifically at each joint and what the ranges of motion should be, there are a few simple movements that involve multiple joints that I like to see if a client can do. If I see a limitation in these, I know that we have some work to do either actively or passively. Here are 3 things you can do to test your overall motion (FYI, these are all ACTIVE tests):

  • Deep Squat: With your feet shoulder width apart and toes straight ahead, put your thumbs on your collar bone and get your elbows up high. Squat down as low as you can. Can you get your butt below your knees while 1.) keeping your toes straight, 2.) Keeping your heels on the ground, and 3.) keeping your chest up?
  • Toe Touch: With your feet together, put one hand over the other, keep your knees straight and touch your toes. Can you touch them? Are your knees totally straight?
  • Seated Rotation: Sit on the edge of a chair. Put a club across your shoulders and rotate right or left. Can you turn at least 45 degrees in both directions?

If you can't perform all 3 of these tests and pass with flying colors, you have some work to do. Without the flexibility to pass these tests, there are certain body restrictions that are definitely impacting your ability to swing the club properly. So, whether you are 20 years old or 80 years old, it's time to get to work.

The Situation:

You are an avid golfer looking to get your handicap as low as possible. You have been taking lessons for years, but just can't get in the positions, or make the moves in your swing that your instructor is trying to get you to do.

The Solution:

You need to figure out if you have physical limitations in flexibility or strength that are restricting your swing. Perform the 3 tests above to determine which, if any of these you struggle with. Once you have an idea of your limitations, you now have a movement pattern that you can focus on improving.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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