If youve read some of my articles in the past, we focused a lot on training the body to help you provide more power, consistency and accuracy to your golf swing.
Today, we are going to get a little more scientific. So hang with me.
I am going to explain the biomechanics of golf. Biomechanics is the study of human movement.
Using this definition in golf, it is essentially studying how the body moves when swinging a golf club. Biomechanics is the study what the skeleton, muscles, and nerves of the body do when hitting a golf ball. There are actually folks out there that make a living studying these movements, they are called Biomechanists. And the great thing about golf is that there have been a ton of scientific studies on the golf swing. In addition, this research has allowed biomechanists to create a model of the optimal swing in the sport of golf.
All of this research has been beneficial to the golf industry. It has provided club manufacturers, swing coaches, trainers, and players with an abundant amount of knowledge to improve the game in many areas.
Biomechanics of the Golf Swing Stage by Stage
Most biomechanists break the golf swing down into phases.
We will talk about the swing into the following phases: 1) address, 2) back swing, 3) transition, 4) down swing, 4) contact, 5) follow through, 6) finish. I will also relate what the body does during each of these phases, which muscles are active, and any additional information applicable to biomechanical study of the golf swing.
The golf swing begins in the address stage. The address stage is the position that the golfer places their body in to begin the swing. According to Glenn Fleisig MD, the address position is a functional body position which includes the proper grip and body position. A balanced, athletic address position, which is consistent swing to swing, will provide the golfer with the correct starting position for the swing. Inconsistency in either how the body is set up or with the grip leads to inconsistency on shot to shot. The body in terms of muscle activity is fairly low at address. The muscles of the body are supporting the body in a specific anatomical position and preparing it to swing a club.
The back swing (take away) is when the body begins to move the club. The back swing is the portion of the swing that places the body in the correct position to begin the downswing. During the entire back swing the body begins the recruitment of energy that will be transitioned at the top of the back swing towards the ball. Key points from a biomechanical analysis of the back swing are: as the club moves backwards shear force is applied to anterior portion of the right foot, at the same time a posterior shear force is applied to the left foot (Fleisig, Biomechanics of Golf). This is the beginning of torque development in the body that will be transitioned into the club head at impact. Rotation of the knees, hips, spine, and shoulders continues during the back swing creating additional torque to be translated into the club head in later stages of the swing. The important point to remember in the back swing is that the entire rotation of these body parts occurs around an imaginary axis of the body. EMG activity is moderate during this stage of the swing as a result that the body during this portion of the swing is essentially creating/storing energy that will be released towards the end of the swing.
The completion of the back swing is what is termed the transition stage of the swing. The transition point of the swing is where the body finishes its backward movement and begins the forward movement of the swing. The best reference point of when the transition stage of the swing begins is when weight shift onto the inside of the right foot (right-handed golfer) is completed and movement back towards the left foot begins. The transition in terms of a time frame is very short and is completed when weight transfer begins to move forward, and the club completes its movement backwards. Research states that the transition of the swing is where additional elastic energy is stored within the body. This is a result of the lower body moving forward and the upper body still coiling backward. Studies show that at the completion of the transition (top of the back swing) the hips are closed to approximately 45 degrees and the shoulders are closed to about 100 degrees (Fleisig, Biomechanics of Golf).
After completion of the transition, the down swing into impact begins. Weight shift continues during the down swing. The generation of torque is created in the lower body and then transitioned up through the body into the club and eventually the club head. According to Fleisig, the majority of torque in the swing is generated by the lower body muscle groups of the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core region (low back, abdominals, obliques). The torque created in the lower body creates acceleration in the upper body as energy is transferred into the club head. EMG studies indicate that there is moderate activity of the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and rotator cuff muscles (Geisler, Kinesiology of the Full Golf Swing) during the downswing. The downswing is complete at the point in which impact occurs with the golf ball.
Impact with the ball occurs for approximately half a milli-second (Fleisig, Biomechanics of Golf). The purpose of impact is to hit the ball in the correct direction with the chosen amount of force by the golfer. At impact the weight transfer is complete. Shear force from both feet are towards the intended target. Research indicates that at impact the left foot (right-handed golfer) is supporting 80% to 95% of the golfers weight (Fleisig, Biomechanics of Golf). Impact again occurs for a very short amount of time (.0005 seconds). Impact is the point at which the potential energy created by the body during the back swing, transition, and down swing is transferred into the club and club head. The potential energy created by the body is then transferred into kinetic energy as club head comes into contact with the ball.
After contact, the impact stage of the swing is complete and the follow through stage begins. The follow through is essentially the deceleration of the body after contact with the ball has been made. This is completed through the body rotating to a completion point where the club head is behind the golfer. Deceleration by the body occurs as a result of the absorption of energy back up through the kinetic chain of the body. Follow through is where the body slows itself back down and dissipates all the kinetic energy create by it, which was not delivered into the ball.
As you can see, the golf swing is directly connected to the body. And it is the body that generates, directs, and delivers energy to the golf ball. Limitations in the body in terms of flexibility, muscular strength, endurance, or power can create limitations in the swing from a biomechanical perspective. In addition, mechanical inefficiencies in the swing itself limit the potential and kinetic energy outputs of the body.
About the Author
Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly with 2004 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. He has made many of his golf tips, golf instruction and golf swing improvement techniques available to amateur golfers on the web.
1. Fleisig, Glenn MS: The Biomechanics of Golf
2. Geisler, Paul MA: The Kinesiology of the Full Golf Swing