How many houses have you hit? Windows smashed? Ducks disturbed? You don’t have to know that number off the top of your head, but I am positive your GHIN does!
If that number is high, chances are that you have an accuracy issue. Walking up to each shot is a crap shoot for you and you can only hope that the ball ends up where you envision it.
Why? Why are you like this?
The answer most players lies in stiffness, more specifically, mental and/or physical stiffness!
To get to the heart of your issue, let’s go ahead and break down what makes a low handicapper’s swing so great by taking a look at everyone’s favorite shot, the drive.
In sport there are movements that require your body to be what we gonna call “being intentionally loose.” These movements include throwing a ball, kipping, clean & jerks, snatches, and a golf swing. In order to perform these movements correctly a great amount of technique is needed and the athlete has to trust it.
When we look at a pro like Dustin Johnson, we have the luxury of having a wealth of content online where we can watch his swing and see his statistics. The main stat everyone looks at is the 314 yard average drive. While this helps, the number we should really look at is fairways hit, this year to date it is just under 65% for the year (tour average is 59%).
To someone who is a slice master, these numbers seem like a pipe dream.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t swing as hard as possible and can relax the correct muscles during your swing, you will hit far more fairways. This will bring down your score and voila, a lower handicap.
(Most tour professionals, when they are really clocking a shot, only hit it with 90-95% of their full force).
Fixing What You Can
When a golfer sets up to swing as hard as they can, a number of things occur. Usually the hands grip harder, the left shoulder will lift, the chest gets tight, and the hips lock up. This makes for a truncated swing that will send the ball very far left or very far right depending on the angle of attack with the elbows.
(Golfers with a desk job may even be like this without trying so hard.)
How can you fix this regardless if you’re doing these tightening actions consciously or not? Create that mind-body bond we discussed in our last golf related blog post found HERE.
For now let’s focus on the two biggest things that amateur golfers tighten the most when they swing, their grip and their chest.
In order to loosen our wrists and hands on the course we have to perform a routine before going to swing. In order to get the wrists moving I would recommend doing something like the following routine:
Full Wrist Alphabet (each hand)
Then 2 Sets of:
5 Wrist Circles (each side)
If you are someone who’s hands hurt after hitting your driver, this routine is for you! Throughout this routine the focus should be placed on releasing tension in the wrist to allow the club to turn over. After doing this routine, take swings that you make sure that you let the club flow through the shot rather than trying to guide the golf club!
Nothing harms a golfer’s ability to swing freely than a tight chest. When throwing or swinging, the chest needs to relax to allow free movement. This free movement allows for higher accuracy and more power. A great way to open the chest on the golf course would be this routine here:
5 Wall Chest Stretch (Each side holding for 5 seconds each rep)
If your chest is tight your swing will be tight and you will most likely pull your shots. Taking the time to feel this routine open your chest is crucial to relating your effort to your golf swing. Take stock of what it feels like to relax you chest as you do the passthroughs and feel it stretch with the wall stretch. If you are relaxed at the start and feel that stretch at the top of your swing, you are swinging free and getting a much broader and controlled swing as a result.
These routines can show some instant results but the most important thing with teaching your body to relax is consistency. If you create a habit of working on your mobility, you will see results much faster than doing this work just when you feel you need it.
To really exaggerate the effects of your efforts, swing coaching is a great way to have a trained pair of eyes watch your swing and make adjustments as needed. You can always do these routines on your own and see results, but you can learn and apply more with an expert coach to help you along the way.
Which ever route you choose, remember that getting stronger isn’t always the solution. Focus on your mobility and your efforts will result in a better game with less daily stiffness. It’s an endless circle that leads to us doing what we all really wanna do; play better golf, more often!
Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation (Phil Page): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
Drive Accuracy 2021: https://www.pgatour.com/content/pgatour/stats/stat.102.y2021.eoff.t006.html