Keys to great ball striking

Physical Requirements of Correct Swing Sequencing

Clint Shum

With the Majors and the PGA Tour season drawing to a close, I reflect on what has been a historic year for golf in 2015. If we take a look at the two prominent golfers in the world at the moment, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, their swings couldn’t be more different, and yet they have won 10 events between them this year on the PGA Tour, of which three were Majors. Which begs the question, how can two completely different swings, produce such exceptional results?

There are a number of unorthodox swings on the PGA Tour, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, JB Holmes to name a few, yet they all manage to get the job done.  The answer lies in the efficiency of their swing.

All great ball strikers have one thing in common, their kinematic sequence. This refers to the efficiency of these players to transfer energy through their bodies into the clubhead. This transfer of energy is evident when one begins the downswing. The key to success regarding this transfer of energy is dependent on what is called the order of sequence initiation.

There is an identical sequence of energy initiation and subsequent to that, an identical order of energy transfer. Simply put, certain segments in the body need to move back towards the ball in a certain sequence, in order to attain maximum speed and consistency of strike. The lower body initiates the downswing, followed by the torso, then the arms, and finally the clubhead arrives last. In many amateurs this sequence is flawed in that often it is the upper body that starts the downswing, leading to inconsistent ball striking and limited distance.

Each segment of the body builds in speed on the previous segment, that is, the torso builds on the lower body, the arms build on the torso, and the club head builds on the arms.

Thus, maximum speed is reached as the clubhead reaches impact. Each segment of the chain decelerates as the next segment accelerates. This creates a slingshot effect, where each segment slingshots off the previous segment.

So if you think about it, deceleration is as important as acceleration. You can only accelerate as fast as the previous segment decelerates. In order to effectively decelerate, one requires a degree of stability. This segmental stabilisation is the key to producing power, whilst the correct sequencing is vital for consistency of ball striking.

This leads me to the physical requirements that need to be met in order successfully sequence your swing.

Stability: As previously discussed, stabilisation of each segment, in particular the lower body and/or pelvis, is paramount in the deceleration sequence and in creating that slingshot effect.

Dissociation: In order to obtain the correct sequence on the downswing, one must be able to rotate the lower body independently from the upper body. How can one start the downswing with the lower body if you cannot separate the lower body from the upper body? This separation requires good hip and pelvic mobility, as well as torso stability.

Take a look at these simple exercises to help improve your pelvic stability and pelvic rotation:

Cats and Dogs:

This exercise will help with pelvic control as well as to increase the mobility in your lumbar spine, which links the torso to the lower body, therefore a mobile lumbar spine is vital for dissociation between upper and lower body.

Begin in a quadruped position, with your arms and thighs perpendicular to the floor (Figure 1).

Without bending your elbows, cave you lower back in to create the dog position (Figure 2).

Contract the abs and the glutes to arch the spine thus creating the cat position (Figure 3). Perform this exercise for four sets of eight repetitions.

PG26 - Figure 1

Stork Turns Supported:

This is a great exercise for dissociating your lower body from your upper body, as well as improving hip mobility and lower body stability.

Get hold of your driver, a broomstick or even balance against your golf cart, anything that is going to stabilise your upper body will do. Hook one leg behind the opposite knee (Figure 4).

Whilst keeping the upper body stable and facing forward, try to rotate the pelvis back and forth (Figure 5 and 6).

Figure 4 - 6

Think of rotating your belt buckle from ten o’ clock to two o’clock. This exercise is very much quality over quantity, that is, rather focus on the separation between upper and lower body first, then look to increase your range of motion subsequent to that. Note that the upper body must not move at any stage during this exercise. Perform for four  sets of 15 repetitions on each side.

Clinton Shum
Cell: 072 784 8698
Twitter: @shum711
Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Expert
In Association with the Logical Golf Lab, Durban Country Club

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