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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
Headline
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
tournament.
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
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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
increases.
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.
Conclusion
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
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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
speed.
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.
References
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sportperfsci.com 3 SPSR - 2019 |May |61 |v1
... 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. ...
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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
  • C J Gatt
  • . K.M Galli
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  • R Hillman
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