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Herein we present a Probability of Performance-Impact Model (Figure 1) which underpins the strength and conditioning (S&C) service provided at the European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI). The aim herein is to add clarity as to how S&C can impact golf performance, and reassure that gym programmes need not be complicated. The authors hope this will encourage players of all levels to make that behaviour change towards a healthier lifestyle and compliment their golf training with a no-frills gym routine.
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Strength and Conditioning in Golf
Strength and Conditioning in Golf: Probability of
Performance Impact
Simon L. Brearley 1, Daniel A. Coughlan 1 2, Jack E.T. Wells 3 4
1European Tour Performance Institute, Surrey, UK,2School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK,3National Training Academy,
The Professional Golfers’ Association, Ping House, The Belfry, UK, and 4Institute for Sport and Physical Activity Research, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford, UK
Golf |Strength |Technical abilities
Whether you are a coach, a professional or an amateur
golfer, you are sure to have heard the phrase ‘golf fit-
ness’ and have more than likely been advised that you should
have a gym routine to help your golf. Given the somewhat
vogue status of ‘golf fitness’ at present, there is a large body of
information around the topic portraying a complexity which
for some creates a barrier to getting started. If you are a
professional you are sure to have a busy schedule, and the
typical amateur does not have the spare time to devote to
over-elaborate routines, so it is important allotted gym-time is
used wisely; abolishing components which are unlikely to offer
much return. Herein we present a Probability of Performance-
Impact Model (Figure 1) which underpins the strength and
conditioning (S&C) service provided at the European Tour
Performance Institute (ETPI). The aim herein is to add clar-
ity as to how S&C can impact golf performance, and reassure
that gym programmes need not be complicated. The authors
hope this will encourage players of all levels to make that be-
haviour change towards a healthier lifestyle and compliment
their golf training with a no-frills gym routine.
Driving Distance
Sceptics of weight training for golfers will be quick to point
out legends of the game who did not engage in such activi-
ties. Notwithstanding the evolution of the modern golf game
(longer courses and the advances in equipment), of course all
this tells us is that it is possible to be genetically blessed and
get away with not engaging in additional physical work. De-
spite this few golf coaches or analysts would contest the impor-
tance of club head speed (CHS) in modern day golf, research
has shown that the faster you swing the club the lower your
handicap (r=0.95) (1). Further, even subtle increases are asso-
ciated with significantly lower scores on par 4 and 5 holes (2).
Therefore, this is one avenue where a gym programme can have
a direct performance impact. Indeed, from Mark Broadie’s
revolutionary book ‘Every shot counts’, it is evidenced that a
20-yard increase in distance off the tee will incur 0.75 strokes
gained per round (3), equating to three shots over a four-day
As with most striking, hitting or throwing sports, the lower
body is the engine (force generation) for the motion of the golf
swing. This is why leg strength is a priority. This is now sup-
ported by research indicating significant relationships between
lower body strength, explosive strength and CHS (4,5). Most
amateurs (and many professionals) will benefit from increases
in driving distance secondary to strength training due to their
often ‘untapped’ strength potential. This is particularly true
for females and more senior players who generally speaking
are more likely to have lower pre-existing muscle mass and
strength levels than their younger, male counterparts. Once
the force has been generated by the lower body, this then
needs to be transmitted into the clubhead across the trunk
and through the arms in an appropriately sequenced pattern.
The trunk should therefore be developed to effectively trans-
mit force, thus enhancing the efficiency of the engine (lower
body). The latter is equally important, as otherwise the en-
ergy created by the lower body is leaked and not transferred
into the clubhead.
Injury and Illness Risk-Reduction
Inherently as CHS increases so does injury risk, as the player
has to sustain the increased forces associated with swinging
faster. To counter this when we plan to upgrade the engine
size we also need to build a well-balanced chassis. This means
increasing the ability of the relevant tissues (i.e. muscles and
tendons) and structures (i.e. bones) to tolerate load. The
force magnitude at the lumbar spine alone is worthy justifica-
tion for the inclusion of strength training. Forces of 7500N
(equivalent to 750 Kg) have been reported from elite play-
ers swinging with a driver (6). It is therefore unsurprising
that in a published injury audit from the PGA European Tour
the lower back, along with the neck and wrist, were the most
prevalent injury sites (7). The same report showed that 80%
of these injuries were related to overuse, which according to
a large meta-analysis and systematic review could be reduced
substantially through engaging in strength training (8). Many
injury resilience strength exercises may actually be the same
as the performance enhancement solutions. By way of exam-
ple, the deadlift will not only increase leg strength to facilitate
longer drives but it will also increase the tolerance of the back,
trunk and wrist musculature, with particular supporting evi-
dence that it is useful in the rehabilitation of lower back pain
(9). This is a real bonus as it makes for efficient program-
ming. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the neck which is
insufficiently exposed in traditional compound strength exer-
cises (i.e. deadlifts), so some additional, isolated neck specific
conditioning is recommended.
Improving or maintaining mobility is another side effect of
good quality strength training. Contrary to common belief,
the lengthening phase of muscle activity in strength training
exercises increase muscle length and overall mobility (10). Like
cardio-respiratory and mobility development, strength train-
ing offers an array of health-related benefits which are well
documented. Indeed, the American College of Sports Medicine
(ACSM) now include (twice weekly) strength training as part
of their recommendations for general health. Exercise is now
often described as a vaccine to illness given its protective ef-
fects against an array of both acute and chronic conditions.
Injury or illness means time away from practice, and given
that golf is a highly technical sport this is very likely to have
a large negative impact on performance over time. Consider-
ing the significance of this, it becomes clear that perhaps the
largest (albeit indirect) accumulative performance impact we
can have is long-term injury avoidance. Unlike with determi-
nants of performance (CHS) where we can only suggest S&C
may help, we are probably safe to insist that avoiding injury
and illness will help performance. If we enable the player to 1 SPSR - 2019 |May |61 |v1
Strength and Conditioning in Golf
Figure 1. Probability of Performance-Impact Model: Probability of impact is deemed highest
at the bottom.
Transfer to technical abilitydriving a
change in a physical capacity may help in the
acquisition of a swing change which in turn
has the potential to impact the below.
club head speedlarge, direct
performance impact even with minimal
Long-term injury & illness
avoidancelarge indirect, accumulative
impact on performance through maximising
availability to practice; insuring that they can
continue to swing at high speeds frequently.
Fig. 1. Probability of Performance-Impact Model: Probability of impact is deemed highest at the bottom.
take to the course, range or putting green as often as they
like and miss very few practice days or tournaments, this is
likely to accumulate into a large positive performance impact.
This is a long process and not a sell that is likely to excite a
player, but for the reasons discussed this is the primary goal
of the S&C service we provide at the European Tour Per-
formance Institute (ETPI) as reflected by our Probability of
Performance-Impact Pyramid (Figure 1).
Transfer to Technical Ability
It is commonly accepted that a change in technique is a prod-
uct of a particular activity, drill, practice design, or pedagog-
ical strategy – this underpins the golf coaching process and
anyone who has had lessons will be familiar with it. However,
it is perhaps underappreciated how altering a physical capacity
(i.e. strength, stability, mobility or control) can over time in-
fluence technique. It is important for players and coaches alike
to understand that although ‘golf fitness’ can certainly play an
important part in helping a player make a swing change, the
gym is not the place to rehearse the aspired movement pat-
tern. Rather, the gym should be used to drive changes in
physical capacities (identified through a discussion with the
swing coach) that may impact on the players ability to make
the shapes their coach wants from them.
This is best achieved with de-contextualised exercises that
do not resemble the swing pattern, but carry the potential
to remove physical barriers that are preventing a player from
moving a certain way without loss of posture or compensa-
tions. Changes in technique could then obviously have a whole
host of secondary effects on CHS and injury risk. For this rea-
son transfer to technical ability should not be overlooked, but
there is currently little empirical evidence that supports or
refutes the transfer to technical skills. The exercises used to
impact technical ability will obviously be specific to the in-
dividual, but specialist input will be required to identify and
implement this. Even then, the true impact on technique is
often unpredictable. It is therefore important that players do
not become perturbed by this area, and let this dominate their
allotted-gym time. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend
no more than 10-20% of the exercises in a gym programme
should be designed with this in mind.
Prior to starting a gym programme, players are advised to
seek the help of an accredited strength and conditioning
coach (ASCC) or certified strength and conditioning special-
ist (CSCS). One or two coaching sessions under such qualified
supervision would be sufficient to establish a gym programme
which has a high probability of performance-impact through
facilitating longer drives, promoting health and wellbeing, and 2 SPSR - 2019 |May |61 |v1
Strength and Conditioning in Golf
increasing resilience to known injury sites. Many golfer’s lives
are complicated, gym programmes do not need to be.
Key Points
Appropriate strength and conditioning in golf will most
probably reduce injury risk, followed by increase clubhead
Appropriate strength and conditioning in golf MAY trans-
fer to improved technical ability, but less predictably.
As a result, we should focus on developing physical qualities
which will improve these areas in order of priority, and not
overcomplicate training or become obsessed with achieving
technical transfer.
Appropriately qualified strength and conditioning coaches
are well placed to support players and technical coaches
navigation of the ‘golf fitness’ landscape.
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... 41 Enduring these repetitive forces makes it necessary for elite players to become increasingly robust, so that they can withstand the volume of stress placed on their bodies, 61 while also being concurrently prepared to optimise their physical performance. According to their 'probability of performance-impact model', Brearley et al 16 suggest that avoiding injury and illness can be seen as the most likely positive impact on the golfer from regular S&C training, which in turn, provides golfers with greater time availability to practise and compete. ...
Full-text available
Historically, golf is not a sport that has a strong tradition of strength and conditioning (S&C). However, a greater understanding of the health and performance-related benefits of S&C training has resulted in players starting to take their physical fitness much more seriously. As a result, professional players are hitting the ball much further than 20 years ago, primarily due to increases in club head speed (CHS). Owing to the unique nature of the sport, it is not always entirely obvious how S&C practitioners can impact golf performance. This article aims to provide practitioners with an overview of the biomechanics associated with golf, common sites of injury, required physical capacities and proposed recommendations for testing and training the golf athlete.
Full-text available
Whilst previous research has highlighted significant relationships between golfers’ clubhead velocity (CHV) and their vertical jump height and maximum strength, these field-based protocols were unable to measure the actual vertical ground reaction force (vGRF) variables that may correlate to performance. The aim of this study was to investigate relationships between isometric mid-thigh pull (IMTP), countermovement jump (CMJ), squat jump (SJ) and drop jump (DJ) vGRF variables and CHV in highly skilled golfers. Twenty-seven male category 1 golfers performed IMTP, CMJ, SJ and DJ on a dual force platform. The vertical jumps were used to measure positive impulse during different stretch-shortening cycle velocities, with the IMTP assessing peak force (PF) and rate of force development (RFD). Clubhead velocity was measured using a TrackMan launch monitor at a golf driving range. Pearsons correlation coefficient analyses revealed significant relationships between peak CHV and CMJ positive impulse (r = 0.788, p < 0.001), SJ positive impulse (r = 0.692; p < 0.001), DJ positive impulse (r = 0.561, p < 0.01), PF (r = 0.482, p < 0.01), RFD from 0–150 ms (r = 0.343, p < 0.05) and RFD from 0–200 ms (r = 0.398, p < 0.05). The findings from this investigation indicate strong relationships between vertical ground reaction force variables and clubhead velocity.
Full-text available
Background Reduced flexibility has been documented in athletes with lower limb injury, however stretching has limited evidence of effectiveness in preventing injury or reducing the risk of recurrence. In contrast, it has been proposed that eccentric training can not only improve strength and reduce the risk of injury, but also facilitate increased muscle flexibility via sarcomerogenesis. Objective This systematic review was undertaken to examine the evidence that eccentric training has demonstrated effectiveness as a means of improving lower limb flexibility. Design Systematic Review. 6 electronic databases were systematically searched by two independent reviewers to identify randomised clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of eccentric training to either a different intervention, or a no-intervention control group. Studies evaluating flexibility using both joint range of motion (ROM) and muscle fascicle length (FL) were included. 6 studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, and were appraised using the PEDro scale. Differences in the muscles studied, and the outcome measures used, did not allow for pooled data analysis. Results There was consistent, strong evidence from all six trials in three different muscle groups that eccentric training can improve lower limb flexibility, as assessed using either joint ROM or muscle FL. Conclusions The results support the hypothesis that eccentric training is an effective method of increasing lower limb flexibility. Therefore eccentric training is associated with improved flexibility, and not only with gains in strength, performance and injury reduction. Further research is required to compare the increased flexibility obtained after eccentric training to that obtained with static stretching and other exercise interventions.
Full-text available
Background Low back pain is one of the most prevalent musculoskeletal conditions in the world. Many exercise treatment options exist but few interventions have utilised free-weight resistance training. To investigate the effects of a free-weight-based resistance training intervention on pain and lumbar fat infiltration in those with chronic low back pain. Methods Thirty participants entered the study, 11 females (age=39.6±12.4 years, height=164 cm±5.3 cm, body mass=70.9±8.2 kg,) and 19 males (age=39.7±9.7 years, height=179±5.9 cm, body mass=86.6±15.9 kg). A 16-week, progressive, free-weight-based resistance training intervention was used. Participants completed three training sessions per week. Participants completed a Visual Analogue Pain Scale, Oswestry Disability Index and Euro-Qol V2 quality of life measure at baseline and every 4 weeks throughout the study. Three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic measures were used for biomechanical analysis of a bodyweight squat movement. Maximum strength was measured using an isometric mid-thigh pull, and lumbar paraspinal endurance was measured using a Biering-Sorensen test. Lumbar paraspinal fat infiltration was measured preintervention and postintervention using MRIs. Results Postintervention pain, disability and quality of life were all significantly improved. In addition, there was a significant reduction in fat infiltration at the L3L4 and L4L5 levels and increase in lumbar extension time to exhaustion of 18%. Conclusions A free-weight-based resistance training intervention can be successfully utilised to improve pain, disability and quality of life in those with low back pain.
Full-text available
Physical activity is important in both prevention and treatment of many common diseases, but sports injuries can pose serious problems. To determine whether physical activity exercises can reduce sports injuries and perform stratified analyses of strength training, stretching, proprioception and combinations of these, and provide separate acute and overuse injury estimates. PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science and SPORTDiscus were searched and yielded 3462 results. Two independent authors selected relevant randomised, controlled trials and quality assessments were conducted by all authors of this paper using the Cochrane collaboration domain-based quality assessment tool. Twelve studies that neglected to account for clustering effects were adjusted. Quantitative analyses were performed in STATA V.12 and sensitivity analysed by intention-to-treat. Heterogeneity (I(2)) and publication bias (Harbord's small-study effects) were formally tested. 25 trials, including 26 610 participants with 3464 injuries, were analysed. The overall effect estimate on injury prevention was heterogeneous. Stratified exposure analyses proved no beneficial effect for stretching (RR 0.963 (0.846-1.095)), whereas studies with multiple exposures (RR 0.655 (0.520-0.826)), proprioception training (RR 0.550 (0.347-0.869)), and strength training (RR 0.315 (0.207-0.480)) showed a tendency towards increasing effect. Both acute injuries (RR 0.647 (0.502-0.836)) and overuse injuries (RR 0.527 (0.373-0.746)) could be reduced by physical activity programmes. Intention-to-treat sensitivity analyses consistently revealed even more robust effect estimates. Despite a few outlying studies, consistently favourable estimates were obtained for all injury prevention measures except for stretching. Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved.
A number of field-based investigations have evidenced practically significant relationships between clubhead velocity (CHV), vertical jump performance and maximum strength. Unfortunately, whilst these investigations provide a great deal of external validity, they are unable to ascertain vertical ground reaction force (vGRF) variables that may relate to golfers' CHVs. This investigation aimed to assess if the variance in European Challenge Tour golfers' CHVs could be predicted by countermovement jump (CMJ) positive impulse (PI), isometric mid-thigh pull (IMTP) peak force (PF) and rate of force development (RFD) from 0-50 ms, 0-100 ms, 0-150 ms and 0-200 ms. Thirty-one elite level European Challenge Tour golfers performed a CMJ and IMTP on dual force plates at a tournament venue, with CHV measured on a driving range. Hierarchical multiple regression results indicated that the variance in CHV was significantly predicted by all four models (model one R 2 = 0.379; model two R 2 = 0.392, model three R 2 = 0.422, model four R 2 = 0.480), with Akaike's information criterion indicating that model one was the best fit. Individual standardised beta coefficients revealed that CMJ PI was the only significant variable, accounting for 37.9% of the variance in European Challenge Tour Golfers' CHVs.
A player's ability to score low is critical to the tournament outcome in golf. The relationships of round scores to fairways hit in regulation or striking distance on two holes per round have been investigated before with some disagreement. The purpose is therefore to examine the relationships of par-4 and par-5 hole scores to tee shot functional accuracy and distance, measured as lie of the ball and penalty, and striking distance or distance to the pin for the second shot. Such information is possible to collect without interviewing players. The best US Professional Golfers' Association Tour players' statistics during a season are used, provided by the Professional Golfers' Association Tour and ShotLink. Distance was measured with laser equipment. The results include significant (P < 0.05) correlations between score and striking distance or distance to pin, when hitting rough but not fairway on par-4s and when hitting fairway and rough on par-5s. It is therefore relevant, for performance, to consider the type of fairway miss as well as the striking distance in relation to the par and length of the hole. The findings can be considered when making gap and needs profiles, and when making tactical decisions for tee shots on different types of holes.
The velocity at which a golf club impacts with a golf ball is known as club head speed. Although club head speed has been used to measure performance changes in a number of golf studies, it has not been validated as a golf performance measure. As handicap is the usual measure of performance, the purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between club head speed and handicap, and to determine whether club head speed at impact is a valid measure of golfing performance. Forty-five male golfers aged 18-80 years, all with registered golfing handicaps (2-27), participated in this study. Each golfer performed 10 golf swings captured by a high-speed camera. Golfers' club head speeds were determined using Video Expert 2, a biomechanical computer program. Golfers with a lower handicap (i.e., a better skill level) had faster club head speeds than higher handicap golfers. Linear regression analysis found club head speed to be highly correlated with handicap (r = 0.950). This relationship was described by the equation: In (club head speed)= 4.065 - 0.0214 x handicap. In conclusion, this study has shown that club head speed is a valid indicator of performance in golfers and may therefore be a useful performance measure in future laboratory-based studies.
Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve your Golf Performance and Strategy. USA: Penguin Random House
  • M Broadie
Broadie, M. (2014) Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve your Golf Performance and Strategy. USA: Penguin Random House.
A retrospective service audit of a mobile physiotherapy unit on the PGA European Golf Tour
  • T M Hosea
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  • . K.M Galli
  • Langrana N A J P Zawadsky
  • R Hillman
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