The Importance of Hamstring Flexibility

My teaching pro has shown me what my golf swing can and cannot be. And all without one of those damn coaching whistles.

My teaching pro has shown me what my golf swing can and cannot be. And all without one of those damn coaching whistles.

My teaching pro has taken me just about as far has he can, physically.  He has told and shown me just about everything I needed to learn in order to construct a performing, repeating golf swing.

It’s not the prettiest or most powerful swing on the range, but it is becoming apparent quickly that I’m closing in on the best swing I can make.

On a good day, in golf shoes, I’m 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and weigh around 190 pounds (that’s just under 14 Stone for our friends from the Old Empire).

I played competitive sports in high school and intramural sports in college, so the limits on my golf swing aren’t from a severe lack of athleticism.

I can turn my shoulders well past 90 degrees in either direction with my feet firmly planted on the ground. Not too shabby.

Unfortunately, however, my incredibly tight hamstrings have prevented me from touching my toes from a straight-legged standing position in more than a decade.

This is the number one limiting factor for my golf swing.  Unless I can get significantly more flexible as I enter my late thirties, I suspect my ball striking and shot distances will peak during the summer of 2015.

Looks like I'll be doing a lot of things like this in the wee hours long after The Bearded Baby has settled in for the night.

Looks like I’ll be doing a lot of things like this in the wee hours long after The Bearded Baby has settled in for the night.

How does that lack of hamstring flexibility affect what kind of golf swing I can produce? My extremely tight hamstrings prevent me from taking the club as far back as my rotational flexibility should allow, without incorrectly losing my tilt away from the target.

Once I take the club back to a certain point, any further turning of my upper body requires me to raise my torso up away from the ball and causes me to lean towards the target to keep my balance at the top of the backswing.

This is predictably disastrous, as it creates all sorts of plane and path problems on the way down.

Some times my hands and hips are fast enough to compensate to get the club back to the ball square at impact.  Other times, it creates all kinds of wild mishits and unintended, exaggerated shot shapes.

If I had better hamstring flexibility, I could take a bigger shoulder turn without losing my balance or sliding my hips to the right on my backswing to compensate that loss of balance.

That this guy hits the ball as far and as well as he does is just amazing.

That this guy hits the ball as far and as well as he does is just amazing.

Also, better hamstring flexibility could improve my posture and help me maintain a more consistent grip pressure and tension level throughout my body.

Seeing this problem crop up repeatedly on the video monitor or in the mirror has convinced me to begin stretching in earnest to try to increase, or at least maintain, my current levels of flexibility.

As importantly, it means I must constantly work on keeping my swing “short” and the rest of my body at a constant, relatively relaxed tension level.

And, begrudgingly, I’ve finally given up on that quest to see the clubhead out of the corner of my left eye at the top of the backswing like John Daly.

(It’s absolutely soul-crushing to accept that a guy that looks like that might actually be more athletic or better coordinated than me).

Most of the physical angles and positions at various points in the swing are becoming ingrained with practice. What is left is a matter of developing a consistent feel for what is “right” when standing over the ball.

Physically, the careful eye and thoughtful instruction of my teaching pro have taken me as far as he can.  Of course, I have almost everything to learn about pressure, competition, course management, and when to ramp up and gear down on the golf course.

But I now know what my physical limitations are with respect to my golf swing and golf game, and I have all the tools I need to play this game how I know I’m capable of playing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with a yoga mat in the living room.

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