Improve your golf score by improving your balance
For most recreational golfers out there, this time of year ends up being relatively slow in Colorado. Of course, we do have our intermittent 60+ degree days where the course is clear enough to get out and play a quick 9 but, realistically, there is not enough good weather during the winter months to achieve enough repetitions to really refine your swing. If you are looking to improve your handicap and gain some bragging rights against some of your golf buddies, this is a great time of the year to work some important aspects of the golf game that do not require going to the range or playing a round. In fact, they do not even require you to pick up a club!
Over the next couple of months, it is my goal to provide readers of the CIM blog with some really important strategies that have been demonstrated through scientific research and tested by the pros to improve various aspects of the golf game. Rather than propose ways to change your swing, my goal is to focus on the fitness portion of the game. While almost all professional golfers include strength and conditioning into their training program, it is well known that us amateurs often do not work on this piece. This is a big mistake because it is actually much easier to improve strength, balance, and mobility than it is to appropriately adjust your golf swing.
With this in mind, let us begin by discussing the first component of our training program: BALANCE. I have always believed balance plays an integral role control and stability during the golf swing, and, recently, some research articles have begun to reiterate that point. These articles objectively measured the ability to balance for both professional and amateur golfers and found that those who performed better on specific balance tests demonstrated significantly superior accuracy and distance on their shots.
In a very basic sense, distance is going to come from how well force developed during the swing is translated through to ball contact. This force will be lost as we try to accommodate for balance disturbances during the swing. And, considering how dynamic the golf swing is, most of us are going to have some difficulty with this piece.
One component of a straight or accurate shot involves how you distribute weight through your feet. From a heel-toe perspective, the golfer should work toward keeping weight evenly distributed throughout their foot. Weight distributed at the front or back of the feel will often result in a slice or a hook.
The good news is balance is very easy to work on and adaptations typically come quickly. I have provided short videos of two of my favorite golf specific balance exercises.
- 1. Single Leg Mini Step Down – this exercise is meant to help you keep proper weight distribution through the foot while moving. Try to pay attention to how your foot feels and do not let the weight move to the back or front of the foot as the opposite leg is lowered! This can be done off of a stair at home.
2. Single Leg Balance with Rotation – this exercise is meant to challenge your balance system while adding some golf-like motion. Again, be sure to keep your weight distribution even throughout your foot.
Both of these exercises can be done on a daily basis with about 2 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions per side. As it becomes easier to balance, begin to challenge yourself by putting a pillow or cushion underneath your foot.
Good luck with initiating your fitness program! If you have any golf related questions, please feel free to contact me!
Dr. Michael Johnson is a physical therapist specializing in orthopedics and golf performance.