Jennifer Fritts, DPT, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Integrated Rehabilitation Services in Ellington, Connecticut, as well as Northeast Performance Institute, with several locations in the state of Connecticut.
As golfers are referred to me by the PGA Professionals at Northeast Performance Institute, I consider what aspect of their body might be inhibiting their golf swing. It could be stiffness or weakness, or a plethora of other deficiencies, but I ask the question in my evaluation, “What is making it difficult for the golfer to make the swing he or she was born to swing?”
After all, everyone is different, and when the golf instructors send clients my way, it’s inevitably because they are having difficulty obtaining and/or maintaining certain postures and positions advantageous to an efficient and repeatable golf swing. The “what” of it may be the same across many golfers, but the “why” is often different for each client I see. Is it their strength? Do they have limited hip, ankle or thoracic mobility? There are an array of questions and possibilities through which my professional knowledge and years of experience guide me.
As we experience progress or improved mobility, I send the student back to the golf instructor for continued coaching. We may go back and forth with the student as needed until the golf instructor has met his goals with the client, ideally seeing steady progress with each visit to my office.
There are a lot of opinions about the golf swing and golf exercises. I believe those clients who do not get consistent results with exercise may not be doing what is right for their body and are not listening to what their body is telling them. Consistent results require consistent progression of learning movement patterns necessary to improve the neurological control centers in the body that communicate with the brain.
An example of this is when people feel tight, they stretch – seems reasonable, but what if they have underlying instability that is creating the need for the body to tighten itself to give the player stability? This is artificial stability, and it requires certain strengthening exercises to allow the body to access the nervous system appropriately to provide the strength and stability needed for a good golf swing. If you keep stretching, then you keep making the system unstable and tighter, and it becomes a never-ending battle from which people get frustrated and think exercise does not work. In each session that I’m working with a client, my goal is for us to learn something about the body that will enable us to improve and restore more natural movement. An optimal session would be to identify exercises, postures and activities that may be inhibiting the players ability to move into and out of postures needed to perform their most optimal golf swing.
Our bodies move in the path of least resistance, and if we do not train them to move better, they will not move better. Having fitness and/or PT professionals onsite to educate and work with these individuals first-hand adds a valuable component to your player development programming.