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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.
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S&C for golf athletes:
biomechanics, common injuries
and physical requirements
Introduction
Golf is a highly skilled and technical
sport that requires players to complete
a round of 18 holes in as few shots as
possible. At the elite level for males, the
US Professional Golfers’ Association
(PGA) Tour and DP World Tour exist,
and for female players, the Ladies PGA
Tour and Ladies European Tour, all of
whom will compete professionally to
the par of the course being played. At
the amateur level, players are given a
handicap index, which provides them
with a shot allowance relative to their
skill or ability. Unlike team sports such
as rugby or American football, golf
is not traditionally a sport associated
with strength and conditioning
(S&C) training. Typically, a greater
emphasis has been placed on technical,
tactical and mental aspects of ball
striking and short game skills, rather
than the development of physical
fitness.78 However, with an increased
understanding of the physical demands
of the game, S&C has now become
an integral component of many elite
players’ routines.1
Elite golf has a long competitive
season (eg, the PGA Tour started on
16 September, 2021 and will finish
on 28 August, 2022), with the innate
nature of the sport (at the elite level)
making for a challenging lifestyle.
Players frequently travel to different
countries and time zones, playing
back-to-back tournaments each week,
often for many weeks in the season.
Previous literature has outlined that
over 2000 swings can be performed
by a tournament professional through
practice and competition each week.22,70
Spinal compressive forces over 7000
Newtons (N) and shear forces up to 600
N are also common for professional
players during full swings (when using
woods and long irons).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 al16 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.
When aiming to understand the
physical needs of golf, assessing the
biomechanical demands can help
guide exercise selection for players.
For example, electromyography (EMG)
analysis suggests that an elite level golf
swing recruits muscles in a proximal to
distal pattern, with the larger muscles of
the legs initiating the movement, before
progressing up through the trunk, and
then upper extremities.42,67 Improving
the ability to produce force and transfer
energy through the kinetic chain may
ABSTRACT
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, the common sites of injury and the physical requirements; we also
propose recommendations for testing and training the golf athlete.
By Chris Bishop and Alex Brennan, Faculty of Science and Technology, London Sport Institute,
Middlesex University, Alex Ehlert, Department of Exercise Science, North Carolina Wesleyan College,
North Carolina, USA, Jack Wells, The Professional Golfers’ Association, National Training Academy,
Simon Brearley and Daniel Coughlan, DP World Tour Performance Institute, Surrey
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
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result in higher club head speed (CHS)
and greater shot distance, which is
associated with better performance.14,39
Further to this, it is important to
develop force production capabilities
within the time constraints of the golf
swing. Previous research has timed the
duration of the downswing from the
point where the club is stationary at
the top of the backswing to the point
where the club hits the ball, which has
been shown to take less than 0.3 s in
professional players, whereas the entire
swing duration is 0.89 s.63 However,
it is important to note that changes
in ground reaction forces (GRF) will
start much sooner than the top of the
backswing in order to decelerate the
system mass in preparation for the
downswing.37 Furthermore, relative
to the backswing, the downswing
involves greater muscle activation in a
shorter duration of time. This suggests
that both force production (ie, strength)
and rate of force development (RFD)
are likely to be key physical qualities
to develop, so that golfers can reach
as close to their maximum force
production ability as possible in the
time constrained by the task. This
should in turn have a positive impact
on CHS and distance.25,71 The positive
implications of increased driving
distance are supported by Broadie,17
who showed that when a PGA Tour
player can drive the ball 20 yards
further, this should equate to 0.75
strokes saved per round. Furthermore,
the value of hitting the ball 20 yards
further exponentially increases as skill
level decreases. For example, a golfer
who shoots 80 shots per round should
save 1.3 strokes, whereas a golfer who
shoots 100 should save 2.3 strokes.17
Naturally, this links perfectly to the
importance of ball speed and CHS.
Sweeney et al81 showed that 75% of ball
speed was determined by CHS, with this
figure rising to 82% when centeredness
of impact was also included into
the analysis. When considering a
more longitudinal measure of golf
performance (ie, handicap index),
Betzler et al9 showed that greater CHS
was associated with lower handicaps
in both males (r2 = 0.34; r = 0.58) and
females (r2 = 0.67; r = 0.82). Relating
to S&C specifically, improvements in
both shot distance and CHS have been
shown in numerous strength and power
interventions.28 With these physical
capacities now being so critical in golf,71
this is an area that S&C practitioners
can directly impact: consequently,
elite players are now taking a multi-
dimensional approach to their physical
development.39,78 Thus, players are
becoming fitter, stronger and better
prepared to deal with increasing
demands on the distance and accuracy
of their shots, which is now more
important than ever, due to increases in
course length.22
The aim of this article is therefore to
provide an evidence-based approach
to training and testing for golfers. The
first section will provide an overview of
golf swing mechanics, the associated
GRF, centre of pressure (CoP) and
muscle activation during the swing.
An analysis of injury risk and the
key physical attributes will then be
discussed, before providing evidence-
based recommendations for testing and
training golf athletes.
The golf swing: the X-factor, ground
reaction forces, centre of pressure,
joint work and muscle activation
THE X-FACTOR
Figure 1 shows the golf swing broken
into eight key phases (referred to as the
‘P System’ by golf coaches), as defined
by Han et al,36) but with some slightly
amended wording:
• address position
• early backswing
• top of the swing
• club vertical (during the downswing)
• mid downswing
• impact with the ball
• early follow-through
• late follow-through.
The importance of rotational ability
cannot be overstated, with a term
known as the ‘X-Factor’ commonly used
in golf. This refers to the rotation of the
thoracic spine relative to the pelvis at
the top of the backswing.18 Similarly, the
‘X-factor stretch’ is often referred to as
the maximal X-factor that occurs during
the start of the downswing, when the
pelvis begins to rotate back towards the
target, while the upper body remains
stationary (ie, creating a ‘stretch’).
Previous research has highlighted that
if the rotational gap between the pelvis
and upper body (X-factor stretch) can
be widened, then it can improve driving
distance.2,45 This research is supported
by Cheetham et al,19 who reported that
higher skilled golfers exhibited a larger
X-factor stretch than less skilled players
(57° vs 50°, respectively), especially at
the start of the downswing. Essentially,
this indicates that more highly skilled
players tend to have a greater capacity
to separate their pelvis from their
thoracic spine region during the
swing, which ultimately creates a more
effective stretch-shortening cycle (SSC)
action. The importance of the X-factor
is also shown through associative
analysis, where Meister et al63 reported
very strong relationships between peak
X-factor and CHS (r = 0.9) and the
X-factor at impact and CHS (r = 0.94).
There are several potential reasons for
the association between X-factor and
CHS. Firstly, Hume et al42 state that
elite players can generate more
efficient SSC mechanics during the
swing (X-factor stretch) than amateurs,
resulting in greater CHS.52 It is
proposed that this separation of the
pelvis and thoracic region increases
the elastic energy due to the stretch
reflex, increasing the velocity of the
upper body as it rotates towards the
ball.19 Secondly, a recent study found
that the length of the hand path
during the golf swing is positively
associated with CHS.55 The authors
suggested that greater torso rotation
could increase the hand path length,
allowing for more time to apply force and
perform greater levels of work during
the downswing.55 Thirdly, large X-factor
stretch values are generally achieved by
initiating the downswing with rotation
of the hips prior to any movement in
the torso. This not only creates that
desired separation, but also promotes
a proximal to distal sequencing of joint
actions during the downswing, which
is commonly considered advantageous
for achieving greater CHS.48,54 Taken
together, X-factor and X-factor stretch
may be positively associated with CHS
due to:
• greater utilisation of the SSC
more efficient proximal to distal
sequencing
the golfer’s ability to rotate the trunk
and create a longer hand path, or
some combination of these factors.
These potential explanations provide a
natural transition to a discussion of the
importance of GRF and changes in CoP
during the golf swing.
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5
2
6
3
7
4
8
Ground reaction forces (GRF)
The production of force is required to
transfer energy through the kinetic
chain, with movement progressing from
the ground up, transferring through
the trunk, and ending in the club head.
Specific investigations measuring GRF
during the golf swing are perhaps more
common than some may expect. For
example, Hur et al43 reported GRF data
in three semi-professional players and
one professional, using a driver, 4-iron,
7-iron and pitching wedge. Although
the authors’ conclusion was that force
did not differ between club types, this
was probably a consequence of only
recruiting four players in to the study.
Furthermore, individual differences
between clubs were apparent (eg, 700 N
for a 4-iron vs 501 N for a 7-iron, in one
subject), highlighting the limitations of
group mean data in this regard.
Given the individual nature of golf,
group mean data can be questioned
unless sample sizes are particularly
large. With that in mind, Chu et al20
used 308 golfers with a mean handicap
of 8.4 to assess the relationship between
biomechanical variables and driving
performance (defined as ball speed).
Vertical GRF was expressed as a % of
bodyweight for the lead and trail legs,
with the swing broken down into four
phases: top of the swing, acceleration,
40 milliseconds prior to impact and
impact – which the reader should note is
not how we have defined the phases of
the swing. Results can be seen in Table 1.
When analysing the data, the most
stand-out point is that during what they
describe as the acceleration phase (ie,
the entire downswing), there is a clear
transition where GRF shifts from the
trail leg to the lead leg, highlighting the
importance of increasing vertical GRF
to the lead leg early in the downswing.20
Finally, an additional important
consideration is the interaction
between GRF and CHS. Han et al37
used 63 golfers with a handicap 3
and reported significant correlations
between CHS and combined vertical
GRF using a driver, 5-iron and pitching
wedge (r = 0.33-0.35) and vertical GRF
in the lead leg alone (r = 0.33-0.44).
These data indicate that although the
relationship between GRF and CHS is
only moderate, it is relatively consistent
between different clubs.
CENTRE OF PRESSURE (COP)
The CoP is a single point representing
the average location of the vertical GRF,
and has been extensively analysed
within research. Additionally, this
is also utilised by golf coaches when
seeking to assess and understand the
golf swing. Ball and Best3 analysed
simulated drives in 62 professional
or high handicap (11 ± 8) golfers,
performed on twin force plates. Two
common styles relating to CoP were
evident: front foot and reverse style
swings. Both styles started with an
even CoP, which moved to the trail foot
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Figure 1. Description of the phases of the golf swing. Image definitions going from left to right, starting on the top row are as
follows: Image 1 = Address position. Image 2 = Early backswing. Image 3 = Top of the backswing. Image 4 = Club vertical (during
downswing). Image 5 = Mid downswing. Image 6 = Impact. Image 7 = Early follow-through. Image 8 = Late follow-through. Note:
definitions are aligned with recent suggestions by Han et al,36 but with some amended wording
Table 1: Mean ± standard deviation (SD) data for vertical ground reaction force (GRF) expressed as a percentage of body
weight (adapted from Chu et al20)
GRF AS A % OF BW TOP ACCELERATION 40 MS IMPACT
Leading foot (% BW) 29.0 ± 12.1 93.9 ± 28.5 95.1 ± 30.5 74.7 ± 29.7
Trailing foot (% BW) 64.5 ± 14.3 46.4 ± 17.3 41.0 ± 21.2 35.5 ± 21.0
BW = body weight; ms = milliseconds
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during the backswing and then shifted
to the lead foot during the downswing.
Despite these similarities, notable
differences were still evident between
styles. Front foot players continued to
move their CoP to the front foot through
to impact with the ball, whereas the
reverse group shifted their CoP towards
the trail foot for ball impact and follow-
through.3 Interestingly, both weight
distribution styles were evident across
professional and higher handicap
players, suggesting that neither should
be considered a technical fault; rather
just a specific style that players may
prefer.
In a separate study, Ball and Best4
investigated the association between
CHS and CoP in the front and reverse
foot groups, respectively. For the front
foot group, an increased range of CoP
movement and the rate at which that
CoP shifted towards the front foot were
associated with increased CHS at ball
contact (r = 0.53 and 0.46, respectively).
For the reverse group, CoP being
positioned closer to the mid-stance
position (as opposed to the trail foot),
coupled with a larger rate of movement
towards the trail foot were associated
with increased CHS at ball contact
(r = 0.75 and 0.69, respectively). Finally,
Smith et al76 recruited 22 high-level
golfers (handicap: +3 to 4) and showed
that 74% of CHS could be explained by
three key components:
timing of medio-lateral changes in
CoP
rate of change in medio-lateral
changes in CoP
the timing of the medio-lateral
changes in the centre of gravity
during late backswing.
The key message from this research
– which is in agreement with the
aforementioned information from Ball
and Best3 – was that golfers who exhibit
earlier movement of their CoP towards
the front foot prior to the downswing,
may be able to generate greater CHS.
JOINT WORK AND MUSCLE ACTIVATION
Nesbit and Serrano67 undertook a
biomechanical analysis of the golf
swing in four right-handed players:
a male professional, a male with a
handicap of 5, a male with a handicap
of 13 and a female with a handicap of
18. The top three regions of the body
which performed the most work, was
consistent across all players, with the
forthcoming values expressed as a
percentage of total work:
• lumbar spine (21.3–26.5%)
• right hip (17.2–20.5%)
• thoracic spine (17.8–19.5%).
No other region of the body provided
a contribution >10%, except for the
female player who showed that 11.9
and 11.5% was performed by the left hip
and right elbow, respectively.67 Despite
the inherent differences between
individuals during the golf swing,33
these data provide some indication of
joints in the body that are commonly
exposed to high amounts of work.
From a programming perspective
around the spinal column, practitioners
should look to emphasise exercises
which concurrently focus on hip and
thoracic mobility, while retaining
lumbar spine stability. The mobility
emphasis in the hips and thoracic
regions may potentially reduce the
stress placed on the lumbar region,
by providing greater opportunity to
increase the X-factor stretch, without
using the lumbar region more than
required. Where hip extension is
concerned, greater strength and power
should provide players with greater
capacity to produce force ballistically,
during the downswing and follow-
through, which in turn, should help to
improve CHS.
From a muscle activation perspective,
Cole and Grimshaw21 provided a review
of the biomechanics of the golf swing,
with an overview of muscle activation
during different phases of the swing
(although specific muscle activation
values relative to maximal voluntary
isometric contractions was not
provided).
Throughout the backswing, multiple
studies have shown that both internal
and external oblique muscles help
facilitate rotation of the trunk,40,70,86
while the erector spinae aid in
stabilisation of the trunk as well.70,86
Importantly, though, the hamstrings
also show moderate levels of
activation,6,60 as they resist knee
extension. This is suggested to be
important during the swing, to: i) allow
greater range of motion at the trunk
and ii) to help to dissipate loads across
the joints in the lower body.21
During the downswing, forceful
contractions of the gluteus maximus,
gluteus medius and hamstrings occur
in the trail leg, which act to push the
hip into extension in that rotational
movement of the swing.6,60,86 This is
coupled with a concurrent activation
of the adductor magnus in the lead
leg,6 which serves to assist rotation
of the pelvis by pulling the lead leg
backwards.21 For the upper body, the
obliques work in an opposing fashion
to the backswing and the pectoralis
major reaches maximal activation on
both sides, just prior to impact.57
During the follow-through, gluteus
medius activation remains high,6,60
although as this phase of the swing
nears completion, activation naturally
starts to decrease. In contrast,
hamstring activation remains high
throughout the follow-through as
they continue to provide stabilisation
to the pelvis and knee joints during
the continued rotation of the swing.
In addition, only small reductions
in oblique86 and pectoralis muscle
activity46 have been shown during the
follow-through.
When considering this information
practically, it is clear that it supports
the notion that exercises which develop
strength and ballistic force production
capabilities in the gluteus complex,
hamstrings, obliques and pectoralis
major muscles should be prioritised.
Injury analysis
As with any injury analysis, providing
clear definitions is critical to determine
prevalence and duration away from the
sport, and there has been a large volume
of literature that has investigated
the prevalence of lower back injuries
in golf.34,51,61,62 However, it is worth
highlighting that there is a distinct lack
of prospective epidemiological studies
in golf, which has been acknowledged
in a recent international consensus
statement on the reporting of injuries
and illnesses in the sport.66 McHardy et
al62 undertook a survey of golf injuries in
588 players (473 males, 115 females) from
eight different clubs and defined injury
as any that: i) occurred during practice
or competition that prevented further
play; ii) impeded normal performance
or, iii) required any medical treatment.
When considering location of injury,
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the lower back was most commonly
reported (18.3%), followed by the elbow
and forearm (17.2%), foot and ankle
(12.9%), and shoulder or upper arm
(11.8%).62 When aiming to define the
self-reported mechanism of injury, the
golf swing accounted for 46.2% and
overuse in the sport for another 23.7%
of cases, meaning that just over 30%
of injuries were unrelated to the golf
swing.
In a similar study design, Gosheger
et al34 interviewed 703 golfers (643
amateurs and 60 professionals), and
reported 82.6% of injuries as overuse
and 17.4% as single traumatic events.
However, it is worth noting here that
the aforementioned mechanisms in
these two studies were self-identified
and although a player is probably able
to inform when and how an injury
occurred, this does not necessarily
make it the underlying cause. Instead,
this is one of the primary purposes
of undertaking a screening and
fitness testing battery, so players and
practitioners can understand the
strengths and weaknesses of their
physical fitness and injury history. When
establishing when injuries occurred,
McHardy et al62 reported 23.7% occurred
at ball impact, 21.5% during the follow-
through phase, with only 8.6% during
the backswing. When considering
location of injury, these trends largely
follow previous guidelines by McHardy
et al,61 who reported the three most
common injury sites for both amateur
and professional players to be: i) lower
back (professional = 22-24%; amateur
= 15-34%), ii) wrist (professional = 20-
27%; amateur = 13-20%), and iii) elbow
(professional = 7-10%; amateur = 25-33%).
This is further supported by Fradkin
et al,29 who undertook a survey of golf
injuries in ~500 players in Australia. A
total of 185 injuries were recorded, with
58 (31%) reported for the lower back, 31
(17%) for the shoulder and 19 (10%) for
the elbow.
More recently however, Robinson et
al73 undertook a systematic review of
musculoskeletal injuries in professional
golfers and reported injury location as a
percentage of the total injuries reported
in each empirical investigation (of
which there were five). Four out of five
studies reported the lumbar spine as the
most common area of injury, ranging
from 24-34%,34,35,58,80 with only one
reporting the cervical spine as having
a higher percentage of injury (25%)
compared to the lumbar region (22%).77
As such, although some differences
exist in common areas of injury,
there does seem to be overwhelming
evidence supporting the lower back
as being one of the primary areas
of concern. When coupled with the
understanding of the X-factor stretch, it
is clear that optimising range of motion
in the hips and thoracic regions is not
only important for golf performance,
but also long-term health in the sport.65
Consequently, these data reinforce the
need for a holistic approach to testing
and programming all-year round for
golfers.
Furthermore, it is worth acknowledging
that, to the authors’ knowledge, there
are no studies which have shown that
improved physical capacities reduce
the risk of injury in golf specifically.
However, given the associated health65
and performance benefits28 of S&C
training for the sport, integrating such
training methods are likely to produce
a more robust player, enhancing their
overall health and potential ability to
withstand overuse injuries. That said,
further research in the area of training
interventions and their ability to reduce
injury risk in golfers is definitely
required.
Relationships with club head speed
and effects of S&C training
Previous literature has acknowledged
the importance of strength and power
for improving golf performance, such as
CHS, ball speed and, ultimately, driving
distance.71 This view is supported in
a systematic review by Ehlert,27 who
investigated the associations between
CHS and different physical attributes;
the reader should refer to this work
for a more detailed outline of these
relationships. Pooled correlations
were reported between CHS and lower
body strength (r = 0.46-0.63), upper
body strength (r = 0.41), lower body
power (r = 0.38-0.55), and upper body
power (r = 0.51-0.60). Collectively, these
findings suggest moderate to strong
relationships whereby greater levels
of strength and power are associated
with greater CHS. Although they
are useful, some studies included
recreational or ‘less skilled’ golfers with
a handicap 10,49,53,75 which does affect
the homogeneity of the sample being
studied. Consequently, this can impact
the magnitude of the correlations
when pooled together. Further to this,
correlations do not imply causation
and therefore intervention studies are
likely to be more effective at improving
our understanding of the efficacy of
strength and power training for golf.
In a separate systematic review, Ehlert28
also investigated the effects of S&C
training interventions on golfing
measures of performance, such as:
CHS, ball speed, carry distance and
total driving distance. Although nearly
all training studies focused on strength
and power exercises, some also included
trunk exercises. Isometric mid-thigh
pull (IMTP) ES data were divided into
skilled vs less skilled players (handicap
= < 10 and 10, respectively) and short vs
long duration ( 8 weeks and > 8 weeks,
respectively), with data presented in
Table 2. Results show that strength and
power training has only a small effect
on increasing CHS, regardless of skill
level. However, when assessing changes
in ball speed and distance metrics,
skilled players exhibit noticeably larger
improvements than less skilled players
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
‘although a player is probably able to inform when and how
an injury occurred, this does not necessarily make it the
underlying cause’
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for the other three golf metrics (Table
2). When interpreting these differences
between groups, it seems logical to
suggest that if less skilled players are
unable to demonstrate comparable
improvements, then other factors such
as ‘centre of strike’ (ie, connecting
with the ball in the centre of the club-
face) may be an important factor which
translates to increased distance and ball
speed.8
When considering the duration of
strength and power interventions, CHS
again shows the smallest improvements
out of the four included metrics.
Although it is the most commonly
reported measure in the golfing
literature,27,28 the current evidence
indicates that greater improvements
can be seen in other measures of golf
performance. As a final point, the use of
confidence intervals or ranges in data
is important to emphasise here. For
example, the ES value for total distance
in studies conducted 8 weeks was
1.42. However, with an ES range of 0.14
to 4.26 (noting that true confidence
intervals were not actually calculated in
this review), this demonstrates that the
true effect could be anywhere between
trivial (0.14) trivial) to very large.4,26
Such variation is indicative of the
individualised responses that players
may show from training interventions
and how that translates to enhancing
golf performance. This notion is
also supported by Bliss et al,13 who
investigated the effects of an eight-
week plyometric programme on golf
swing performance in adolescent male
players (mean handicap = 4.7 ± 3.0 for
the intervention group and 5.2 ± 2.5
for the control group). Mean changes
in CHS were 3.01% and -0.78% for
the intervention and control groups,
respectively. However, individual
changes for the intervention group
ranged from minor reductions in
CHS (just under 0%) to notably larger
improvements (>8%). Thus, with golf
being an individual sport, practitioners
are advised to undertake routine testing
to determine the efficacy of their training
interventions on the physical capacities
for each player. Doing so will enable
a deeper understanding of what may
have worked for one player, and may not
for another: this will subsequently help
to individualise training programmes
when they are being reviewed.
Practical applications: testing and
training
TESTING
Lower body strength
Table 3 provides an overview of the
selected tests and metrics for the
golf athlete, with the forthcoming
information providing a justification
for their selection. When considering
lower body strength, Oranchuk et
al68 reported a moderate correlation
between back squat 1RM and CHS
(r = 0.64) in 12 NCAA collegiate golfers.
However, stronger associations have
been reported (r = 0.81) between CHS
and load lifted during the 1RM back
squat relative to body mass – this time
in 25 NCAA Division 1 golfers.69
When considering isometric strength
assessments, Sanders et al74 recently
reported very strong correlations
between the IMTP peak force and
driver carry distance (r = 0.91) and
6-iron carry distance (r = 0.91) in 13
high level youth players (mean age:
15.6). Wells et al88 also investigated the
relationship between CHS and peak
force during the IMTP in 27 high level
male adult players (handicap 5),
with significant moderate associations
evident (r = 0.48). It is worth noting that
the magnitude of these relationships
differs quite substantially between
the work by Sanders et al74 and that
by Wells et al,88 which may potentially
be explained by the differences in
age and sample size. Wells et al88 also
investigated the associations between
RFD (at 0-50, 0-100, 0-150 and 0-200 ms)
and CHS. However, the use of RFD was
not recommended owing to the large
coefficient of variation (CV) scores,
which were > 15% at every time integral.
However, although the magnitude of
these relationships with CHS appears
to be test-specific, the relevance of
strength for the golf athlete seems
hard to dispute. In addition, it seems
prudent to suggest that given we know
the duration of a golf swing (ie, 0.89s),63
peak force could be monitored at
that given time point on the force-
time curve, and then expressed as a
percentage of their overall peak force
value. Such information would enable
practitioners to have an understanding
of how much of their maximal force
production capability can be expressed
relative to the time constraints of a golf
swing.
Anecdotally as well, the position of the
IMTP is not too dissimilar to the address
position in golf; thus, our experience is
that this has helped players buy in to the
concept of strength testing. Finally, if
practitioners do not have access to force
platforms, a dynamic assessment of
strength (eg, back squat depending on
training age) may be a viable alternative
to the IMTP test. However, 1RM testing
can be easily questioned, given the time
it takes to undertake in the field, which
is a luxury many practitioners do not
have. Thus, given the vast methods of
measuring barbell velocity (eg, linear
position transducer, Push Band or even
a smartphone app), this may be a more
time-efficient and appropriate measure
of monitoring lower body strength in
the field, if the IMTP cannot be used.
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
Table 2: Effect size data with 95% confidence intervals showing the magnitude of change in golfing performance after S&C
training interventions (adapted from Ehlert28)
CLUB HEAD SPEED BALL SPEED CARRY DISTANCE TOTAL DISTANCE
Skilled golfers 0.38 (0.18, 0.63) 1.39 (0.29, 2.95) 0.90 (0.36, 1.80) 1.54 (0.38, 4.26)
Less skilled golfers 0.50 (0.15, 1.60) 0.63 (0.38, 0.87) 0.28 (0.11, 0.52) 0.50 (0.24, 0.96)
Short duration 0.54 (0.18, 1.60) 1.20 (0.29, 2.95) 0.91 (0.36, 1.80) 1.42 (0.14, 4.26)
Long duration 0.37 (0.15, 0.63) 1.06 (0.38, 1.94) 0.40 (0.11, 0.89) 0.34 (0.24, 0.96)
Effect size scale as used by Ehlert28: < 0.35 = trivial; 0.35-0.80 = small; 0.81-1.50 = moderate; > 1.50 = large.
Note: skilled = handicap < 10; less skilled = handicap 10; short duration = 8 weeks; long duration = > 8 weeks.
13
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ISSUE 63 / MARCH 2022
Upper body strength
For upper body strength, less
information appears to be available;
however, Keogh et al47 reported
a moderate correlation (r = 0.50)
between CHS and bench press 1RM.
Torres-Ronda et al83 reported slightly
stronger relationships between bench
press 1RM – but this time with both
peak (r = 0.61) and average ball speed
(r = 0.62) – in 44 Spanish players with
a mean handicap of 1.5 ± 5.5. Further
to this, given the high amounts of
muscle activation in the pectoralis
muscles during the downswing
(93% relative to maximal voluntary
isometric contraction [MVIC]) and
follow-through (74% MVIC) phases
of the swing,60 it stands to reason that
practitioners may wish to measure
pushing strength. However, similar
to practitioners using the back squat,
the most appropriate way of gathering
actionable data in the field may be
measuring barbell velocity during the
bench press. When pulling strength
is considered, a weaker correlation (r
= 0.30) has been previously reported
between pull-up strength (in kg)
and CHS in professional players.39
Despite this weaker relationship for
pulling strength, there should still be
an emphasis on programming upper
body pulling exercises, to ensure some
level of strength equilibrium in the
upper body, even if this is not assessed
routinely.
Lower body power
For lower body power, jump testing is
commonly used to assess an athlete’s
lower body ballistic force production
capabilities and golf is no exception.
For example, Wells et al88 showed
CMJ propulsive impulse to have
a large relationship with CHS (r =
0.79). Hellstrom39 reported significant
correlations between CMJ peak power
and CHS (r = 0.61), indicating the
importance of power as a key physical
component to develop. Finally, Wells
et al87 and Oranchuk et al68 also found
significant correlations between CHS
and CMJ height (r = 0.50 and 0.73,
respectively). Thus, if practitioners do
not have the ability to measure any form
of jump strategy metrics (eg, propulsive
impulse) via force plates, monitoring
metrics such as jump height and
peak power may be viable options of
indicating whether improvements are
evident from training interventions,
which can easily be done via
smartphone applications now.5
However, an additional factor that
practitioners must consider for golfers
is whether changes in jump
performance also occur alongside
changes in body mass. Essentially,
increases in body mass may be desirable
to help enhance measures such as
CHS and ultimately, shot distance;28,83
however, it is of course possible that
such increases would have a negative
effect on jump height. Thus, it is our
suggestion that the use of jump height
should be reserved for when no other
monitoring options are available. In
addition, a recent article has underlined
that it is hard to contextualise changes
in ratio data, unless the component
parts are concurrently monitored.11 With
impulse also being a ratio (calculated
as net force multiplied by time), net
peak force and phase duration should
also be monitored alongside impulse,
to contextualise any changes that
occur between test sessions. Finally,
and again somewhat anecdotally, as
previously mentioned, the duration of
the golf swing takes 0.89s,63 which is
not dissimilar to that of a CMJ prior to
take-off.11
Upper body power
For upper body power, a couple of
studies have utilised medicine ball
throws for distance as an outcome
measure. For example, Lewis et al50
used a sample of PGA professional
players, reporting moderate (r = 0.57)
and strong (r = 0.71) correlations
with CHS, for rotational and seated
medicine ball throws, respectively.
Comparable results are also evident
in male and female youth players by
Coughlan et al.24 In males, moderate
to strong relationships with CHS were
evident for the seated medicine ball
throw to the left (r = 0.67) and right (r =
0.61), plus the rotational medicine ball
throw to the left (r = 0.71) and right (r
= 0.62). In females, comparable results
were evident but only for the rotational
medicine ball throw to the left (r = 0.57)
and right (r = 0.56).
Further to this, the use of rotational
medicine ball throws likely holds some
notion of specificity for golfers, given
the similarity in movement pattern.15
Given this similarity, as well as the
consistency in relationships between
CHS and upper body power measures
in both professional and youth
players, and previously reported high
reliability for these tests (ICC = 0.97-
0.99),7 it seems prudent to suggest
the integration into a golfer’s physical
test battery of medicine ball throws for
distance.
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
Table 3: Proposed fitness testing battery for the golf athlete
PHYSICAL QUALITY TEST METRICS
Lower body strength Isometric mid-thigh pull Peak force, peak force measured at the equivalent time
of the duration of a golf swing
Upper body strength Bench press Mean velocity
Lower body power Countermovement jump Propulsive impulse, peak force, propulsive phase
duration, peak power* and jump height*
Upper body power Seated and rotational medicine ball throw Distance
Range of motion Seated trunk rotation (divided into Degrees
backswing and follow-through directions)
* Peak power and jump height can be monitored via the My Jump 2 app, when force plates are not accessible
14 PROFESSIONAL STRENGTH & CONDITIONING / WWW.UKSCA.ORG.UK
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Range of motion
Range of motion testing is also an area
that has received notable attention
in the golf literature. Doan et al25
positioned a camera directly above the
players’ heads, who were seated with
their legs and hips secured by Velcro
straps. Players then positioned a dowel
behind their head (as per where a barbell
would rest) and rotated their torso three
times in each direction. Computer
software was then used to measure the
angle of rotation in the backswing and
follow-through directions. Mean values
range from 74-85° for the backswing and
73-81° for the follow-through.25 Keogh
et al47 also used the same methods of
analysis and reported weak correlations
between CHS and backswing rotation
(r = 0.34) and follow-through rotation (r
= 0.29). Finally, Marshall and Llewelyn56
assessed range of motion at the
shoulders, hips and trunk, but then
reported the results as a total range of
motion. Relationships with CHS were
small for both males (r = -0.40) and
females (r = 0.28); the amalgamation of
eight range of motion assessments into
a single cumulative total, however, must
be questioned. Although the evidence
does not show the relationships to
be as strong as measures of strength
and power, perhaps range of motion
assessments should be included
initially in testing batteries to determine
whether any obvious deficits exist,
relative to the aforementioned values.
If they do not, then it is questionable
whether such measures are consistently
needed when testing golfers.
Using testing data in practice
Although the evidence in golf has
provided justification for the tests and
metrics to consider, a final thought
for practitioners is to determine their
usability in practice. A recent article
on jump testing highlighted that, once
tests have been chosen, practitioners
should determine their sensitivity to
change – that is, to determine whether
change is real or greater than the error
in the test.11 Thus, it is our suggestion
that as part of the routine monitoring
process or when assessing the
efficacy of our training interventions,
practitioners set target scores for each
golfer. A recent article by Turner et al84
provides a detailed overview for how to
do this at both the group and individual
level. However, with golf being an
individual sport, practitioners could
consider using the CV that is gathered
from multiple trials of a given test, to
set the minimum target score needed
that is deemed real. For example, if a
golfer records 2000 N of peak force in
an IMTP, with this metric showing a CV
value of 3.6%, the calculation would be:
2000 x 0.036, which equals 72 N. Thus,
any improvement or reduction greater
than 72 N (either side of 2000), would be
considered a real change. The benefits
of this method are that each player will
exhibit their own CV value; thus, target
scores or real change are individualised
relative to their own variability. In
addition, monitoring the CV enables us
to determine the absolute reliability of
a test or metric, and therefore, whether
further data analysis is even warranted.
Finally, when tracking change over time,
percentage change in performance
scores can also be compared to baseline
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
Table 4: Example training programmes for the golf athlete with a concurrent emphasis on strength and power development
For the warm-up, dynamic stretches to consist of one set of 8 repetitions for: bodyweight squats, forward and lateral lunges,
inchworms, world’s greatest stretch and push-up with rotation + sufficient warm-up sets on all key lifts below (A1, B1 and C1)
LIFT/EXERCISE SETS REPETITIONS LOAD REST
A1. Trap bar deadlift 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
A2. Countermovement jump 3 3-6 - Do in rest
B1. DB chest press 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
B2. Rotational medicine ball throw 3 3-6 each side Up to 10% BM Do in rest
C1. Bent over row 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
C2. Cable pallof press 3 3 x 20-s each side DoT Do in rest
BM = body mass; DoT = dependent on technique
Table 5: Example training programmes for the golf athlete with a concurrent emphasis on strength and power development
For the warm-up, dynamic stretches to consist of one set of 8 repetitions for: bodyweight squats, forward and lateral lunges,
inchworms, world’s greatest stretch and push-up with rotation + sufficient warm-up sets on all key lifts below (A1, A2 and B1)
LIFT/EXERCISE SETS REPETITIONS LOAD REST
A1. Back squat 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
A2. Jump squat 3 3-6 20-30% Do in rest
B1. Push press 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
B2. Standing medicine ball throw 3 3-6 Up to 10% BM Do in rest
C1. Neutral grip pull up 3 3-6 80-90% 4 minutes
C2. Kneeling cable chop 3 6 each side DoT Do in rest
BM = body mass; DoT = dependent on technique
15
PROFESSIONAL STRENGTH & CONDITIONING / WWW.UKSCA.ORG.UK
ISSUE 63 / MARCH 2022
CV values, in order to determine
whether improvement is also greater
than the measurement error of the test.11
TRAINING REQUIREMENTS
Warming up for golf
Physical warm-ups are activities
designed to prepare the body for
a subsequent activity or event.59
Although exact protocols and
approaches differ, most warm-ups
aim to improve performance and
reduce risk of injury by raising body
and muscle temperature, and by
activating, mobilising, and potentiating
relevant musculature.30,44 A recent
systematic review highlighted several
considerations for developing warm-up
protocols for golfers.26 Firstly, warm-ups
that prioritise static stretching should
not be prioritised before golf, as studies
have demonstrated that intensive
static stretching can reduce metrics of
golf performance.31,32 Static stretching
is typically outperformed by warm-
up conditions that focus on dynamic
stretching or activity.64,79 In contrast,
several studies have reported beneficial
effects from various dynamic warm-
up protocols, compared to control or
comparison conditions.23,64 For example,
Moran et al64 asked golfers to perform a
series of full range of motion dynamic
stretches targeting key muscles (eg,
quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids) and
movement patterns (eg, trunk rotation)
of the golf swing. This warm-up
resulted in straighter swing paths and
greater CHS and ball speed, compared
to static stretching and a control
condition. Adding resistance exercise
or potentiation methods to a dynamic
warm-up may also be beneficial. For
example, several studies have reported
positive changes in golf performance
measures after golfers performed
barbell resistance exercises,82 resistance
band exercises,82 and countermovement
jumps.12,72
From a practical standpoint, there
are several factors that should be
considered when designing warm-up
protocols for golfers.12 Firstly, dynamic
exercises should ideally target muscles
and movement patterns that are
relevant to the golf swing. The golf
swing is a whole-body dynamic activity
involving significant contributions from
muscles such as the pectoralis major
and the hip extensors.60 Furthermore,
the generation of GRF, rapid shifts
in CoP, and greater separation of the
pelvis and torso (X-factor stretch) are
all considered important to effective
swinging.42 As such, including dynamic
exercises like squat variations, lunges,
and torso rotations is likely to be
beneficial. Secondly, many golf facilities
have limited equipment availability,
which may restrict the use of barbells
or other resistance training equipment
as part of a pre-golf warm-up routine.
However, external resistance provided
by resistance bands has had positive
effects in several studies,82 and
resistance bands have the advantage of
being easy to transport and feasible to
use at nearly any facility. Bodyweight
countermovement jumps are also a
feasible option to add to a dynamic
warm-up, given the lack of equipment
requirements and the positive findings
reported in previous studies on CHS.12,72
Finally, it is currently unknown how
long the effects from a warm-up persist.
Given that golf rounds last many hours,
it may be useful to implement brief
‘re-warming’ protocols that a golfer
can use on the course. For example, an
abbreviated dynamic stretching routine
could potentially be used to stay loose
during slow periods of play (ie, waiting
on the group ahead to complete a hole).
In addition, when players experience
delays in competition (eg, due to bad
weather), warming up again is likely
to be one of the most effective uses of
time, so that they are as physically and
mentally ready as possible when play
resumes.
Programming
Planning training for the elite golf
athlete is challenging as the season
typically runs for most of the year.
Although the highest level players (ie,,
PGA and DP World Tours) may choose
which events to enter, enabling some
time off at different stages throughout
the season, events typically run all
year round. Current evidence on S&C
periodisation for golf is very limited
and with a lack of clarity around obvious
down-time for golfers, the goal for many
athletes is simply to train consistently
throughout the year (which is what the
majority of professional players seem to
do).
That said, there are a couple of
logical suggestions we would make
for practitioners. Firstly, if a player is
playing tournaments weekly (which
take place from Thursday to Sunday),
practitioners may wish to front load
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
16 PROFESSIONAL STRENGTH & CONDITIONING / WWW.UKSCA.ORG.UK
ISSUE 63 / MARCH 2022STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR GOLF ATHLETES
AUTHORS’ BIOGRAPHIES
CHRIS BISHOP, PhD
Chris is a senior lecturer in strength and
conditioning at the London Sport Institute,
Middlesex University, where he is the
programme leader for the MSc in strength and
conditioning.
JACK WELLS, PhD
Jack is a sport scientist at the PGA and a
strength and conditioning coach for England
Golf.
ALEX BRENNAN, MSc
Alex is a PhD student at the London Sport
Institute at Middlesex University, investigating
the usability of different testing protocols in
professional golfers.
ALEX EHLERT, PhD
Alex is an assistant professor of exercise
science at North Carolina Wesleyan College.
SIMON BREARLEY, MSc
Simon is a strength and conditioning coach on
the DP World Tour and with England Golf.
DAN COUGHLAN, PhD
Dan is the head of strength and conditioning
on the DP World Tour, the sports science
and medicine lead for England Golf and a
consultant with the Ladies European Tour and
medical and science department at the R&A.
a golfer’s training at the start of the
week (eg, more volume on a Monday).
Secondly, if players are happy to
continue training through tournaments,
simple strategies during competitions
such as reducing the eccentric focus on
exercises may help to minimise fatigue.
Such an example relating to strength
could be to replace a back squat with
a box squat or trap bar deadlift. The
latter two exercises still help to develop
strength, but range of motion is reduced
and they are both more concentric-
dominant in their focus. Tables 4
and 5 provide two example training
programmes for the golf athlete that
we have used in practice: they are a
representation of the aforementioned
information in this article.
Although the evidence in this article
provides guidance for which physical
characteristics to test and train (ie,
both upper and lower body strength
and power), practitioners are advised
to understand a little more about
the individual requirements for their
golfers as well. This would enable more
targeted and individualised training
interventions, which ensure a high
degree of specificity to the sport –
noting that this can be challenging to
accomplish.15
Although Tables 4 and 5 provide
example programmes for golf athletes,
there are a multitude of methods by
which to gain adaptation for enhanced
strength and power. For example, if a
golfer is struggling to perform a back
squat with the desired technique (as
defined by the practitioner’s coaching),
alternatives such as front or box squats
may serve as viable alternatives, which
help to drive improvements in lower
body strength while simultaneously
working on developing the desired back
squat technique.10 Thus, each player’s
individual movement characteristics
must be considered when designing
training programmes, within the
context of improving strength and
power for enhanced CHS.
Conclusion
In summary, practitioners working in
golf should have an understanding of
some of the key factors associated with
the golf swing (eg, X-factor stretch, GRF,
CoP and personal injury history), as this
will help offer guidance on both testing
and training prescription. Specifically,
and perhaps surprisingly to some,
strength and ballistic force production
capabilities in both the lower and upper
body should be a priority for golfers,
with many professionals training
consistently all year round to drive
continued physical adaptation. As a final
point of consideration, less is currently
known about the efficacy of S&C
training interventions and the effects
that they can have on swing kinematics
and injury risk; these interventions
should be a point of investigations
for the S&C practitioner in the future.
This would provide greater interaction
between the player, golf coach and S&C
and medical practitioners, which would
only serve to benefit the player further.
strength and ballistic force production
capabilities ... should be a priority for
golfers
17
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ISSUE 63 / MARCH 2022
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Ehlert, A and Wilson, PB. A systematic review of golf warm-ups: behaviors, injury, and performance. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2019-Previous literature has demonstrated that warm-ups have the potential to increase physical performance and reduce risk of injury. Warm-ups before golf may have a similar result, but a systematic evaluation of their effects in golf is currently lacking. Three electronic databases (PubMed, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science) were systematically searched to address 3 primary research questions: (a) What are the current warm-up behaviors of golfers?; (b) Is there an association between warm-up behaviors and golf-related injury?; and (c) What are the effects of various warm-up protocols on measures of golf performance? Twenty-three studies (9 observational and 14 experimental) were identified that included data on warm-ups before golf participation. Overall, the current data suggest that many golfers either do not warm-up regularly or perform a warm-up that is short in duration. Studies on the association between warm-up behaviors and golf-related injury were mixed and inconclusive. Experimental studies suggest that a variety of warm-up methods may be beneficial for golf performance. Specifically, dynamic warm-ups and those with resistance exercise tended to enhance measures of performance, whereas static stretching was inferior to other methods and potentially detrimental to performance. Overall, the results of this systematic review suggest that various warm-up protocols (with the exception of static stretching) may enhance golf performance, but observational data suggest many golfers do not regularly perform them. More data are needed on the warm-up behaviors of competitive golfers, the impact of warm-up behaviors on golf-related injury, and to further identify effective warm-up methods for enhancing golf performance.