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Overview Of Golf Swing Mechanics


The golf swing is a very complex movement involving very powerful muscles as they contract, creating acceleration through precise timing.  The golf swing is a very physically demanding athletic movement, especially when one drives the ball utilizing almost 90% of exertion of the major muscles.

Golfers use 90% of their peak muscle activity when driving a ball.  This 90% exertion equals to lifting a maximal weight that a multiple of four times before fatiguing.

Science contributed little to the discoveries made in golf. Science only confirms what is proven in trial and error experimentation.

The golf swing is completed in just over one-second duration. The goal of the golf swing is to strike the head of the club squarely on the ball while it is accelerating in order to drive the ball accurately and consistently. Scientific measurements show that the actual time of impact of club-head to ball is 5/10,000 of a second. The velocity or club head speed of the average golf swing approaches and exceeds 100 miles an hour and for elite players it can exceed 120 miles per hour. However, these few miles an hour could mean the difference of landing on the green or rolling off the green.

High-speed video camera analysis has helped in the scientific assessment of swing motion. These analysis have revealed that if the club face is 0.5 degrees less than square to the ball, the ball will deviate from its path by an average of 20 yards. Additionally, if the ball is struck ¼ of an inch too high, topspin will develop and the ball will dribble onto the fairway. Contrary, if the ball is struck ¼ inch too low, the loft would get to high and the ball will run short of the target.

Golf is interesting and proposes a challenge for precise mathematical modeling and equations that are rarely understood. There are many golf physics books that provide valuable data, unfortunately, most healthcare professionals and most golfers do not benefit from this due to lack of mathematical understanding. However, it should be pointed out that there are some important scientific principles that are worth noting which help the instructor as well as the golfer in optimizing golf performance.

Comparing the physics of a baseball pitcher and a golfer may shed some insight into how much force the muscles have to create to power a golf swing as well as throw a fast ball.

Starting with baseball, a pitcher needs to generate a force equal to three horsepower. To get the three horsepower, the pitcher must use 60 pounds of muscle to provide this force. A golfer requires two horsepower to generate a proper swing and reach velocity of approximately 100 miles an hour during his swing. This two horsepower requires only 32 pounds of muscle to get that force, which if analyzed only by the arms, shoulders, hands and fingers, these muscles do not sum up to a total of 32 pounds. Thus for a golfer, muscles of the hips , back and legs to be used in the motion to create the 32 pounds to create this two horsepower force.

An example to note is that a golfer will rarely shoot par if his driving distance is less than 230 yards. If all components and mechanics of the golf game were optimal for par with the exception of the driving distance, then for every ten yards short of 230 yards a golfer will lose two strokes.

The shoulder is one of the most complex joints and is a major factor to the mechanics of the golf swing. Shoulder injuries are second only to low back in their incidence for both men and women golfers. Interestingly, women are more affected than men for shoulder injuries. Only for men between the ages of 50-60 does shoulder injury incidence becomes more common than the low back injury.

Anatomically, women are slightly different than men especially in the elbow angle, which is called carrying-angle. Women have a slight angle outward at the elbow thus making it more difficult for them to throw overhand or swing through the ball.  As this elbow angle increases past ten degrees, these women are found to be more successful in throwing underarm. When women with larger elbow angles are taught golf instruction in the same manner as men, shoulder injuries and elbow injuries become more prevalent since this swing movement is unnatural with this larger carrying-angle and affect the biomechanics of the golf swing.

Muscles need full flexibility and balanced strength to support the joint during functional movement as well as injury prevention. In the shoulder there are four large muscles that are collectively known as the rotator cuff muscles. They give primary direction and movement of the shoulder, which can rotate around itself. These four muscles of the rotator cuff are more specifically called the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.

The aging process creates stiffness in muscles as well as dryness in the tendons as they attach to the bones. When the muscles are tight, the tendinous attachments to the bone will pull on the bone creating excessive bone growth more commonly known as bone spurring. When this bone spurring is adjacent to the joint then flexibility is lost as well as range of motion is lost. When the joint range of motion is lost then the muscles lose their potential of maximizing strength and endurance, which equates to weakness, fatigue and strains.

Older golfers due to aging and overuse develop bone spurring called osteophytes (medical term), which eventually decrease the joint space and adversely affect proper golf swing biomechanics.  .

Unless these bone spurs interfere with nerve function or with basic activities of daily living, surgery is not indicated. Utilizing muscle release techniques can optimize muscle function around the fixed structural obstacles.  Once improved flexibility is achieved, strength and conditioning programs are important in maintaining mobility of the joint as well as its functional use.


Should you have any further questions regarding this article, please direct your questions or comments to "Ask the Doctor" section.


Copyright © 2004 - 2012Taras V. Kochno, M.D.  All Rights Reserved
Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation










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