Despite what the average person may think, golf is a game that requires an incredible amount of physical strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility.
Professional golfers understand and value the importance of strength and conditioning to improve their golf performance. But they also put enormous time and energy each day into specific exercises that help with flexibility.
I suspect most amateur, and club golfers spend very little time stretching, and they don’t realize it’s to the detriment of their own game.
In this complete stretching guide, I’ll reveal to you the top ten best stretches to improve your flexibility, reduce injury, and, most importantly, lower your scores., but first, lets take a look at the importance of flexibility.
The Importance Of Functional Flexibility
In recent years golfers have come to understand the critical role that flexibility and stretching play in the performance of their golf game. Being flexible and supple unleashes an enormous amount of untapped power you didn’t even realize you had.
Increased flexibility translates into more power and more clubhead speed, which ultimately means more distance off the tee.
Your flexibility in your joints is tied directly to your ability to move. It also plays a vital role in being able to swing efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, being flexible is not a magic bullet, and you’ll still have to work hard on your technique to ensure a solid swing.
However, the added flexibility will make it easier to find the correct postural positions and allow you to hold those positions, which is just as important.
When it comes to designing flexibility and stretching programs for golf, there are several parts of the body to focus on, with the primary emphasis being the core.
The golf swing requires multiple complex movements to be timed perfectly to succeed; this is why focusing on improving full-body flexibility is critical. A good strength and conditioning program should include stretching and flexibility movements focused on multi-joints while paying attention to developing a solid core.
Remember; the golf swing derives most of its power from the hips and legs, but without a strong core, weight transfer becomes inefficient, resulting in less distance off the tee. Ensuring your body is flexible and strong will go a long way to rectifying that and improving your game.
Balance and Posture
There are no two ways about it; posture and balance are essential to an efficient and effective golf swing.
Golf is a game in which one side of your body is predominantly used; this increases the chance of postural imbalances and injury. Imbalances in your posture will adversely affect your golf swing and lead to biomechanical issues that can result in bad swing habits and unwanted injury.
You will need the help of an expert such as a swing coach or trainer who specializes in biomechanics and analysis. These professionals can design a plan for you that’s “individualized” for your specific needs. Factors will include past injuries, how long you’ve been playing, how often you play, and any future goals you may have.
The ultimate goal of any good golf program should be to achieve full-body strength and conditioning coupled with flexibility and balance.
Flexibility and The Swing
Without getting too scientific, it is important to understand just what balance is and how it affects your golf swing.
Balance is a complicated system that communicates with your neuromuscular pathways. We could, however, just take a more straightforward definition from the Collins Dictionary, which states, “balance is the ability to remain steady when you are standing up.”
Professional golfers are in excellent physical shape, and it’s got nothing to do with genetics; it’s all about hard work. Golfers work with sports scientists and trainers that specialize in flexibility and mobility. The reason golfers value these two metrics is that by increasing your overall mobility and flexibility, your rotational movement also sees dramatic improvements.
Starting early with sport-specific training allows your body to develop your soft tissue structure specific to your sport. Although starting at an early age gives you a head start, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your flexibility as you get older. As a matter of fact, the older we get, the more imperative setting aside time to stretch becomes.
Mobility Vs Stability; What’s the Difference?
In golf, we often define functional movement as maintaining a perfect balance between power and mobility during the swing.
The golf swing is incredibly complex. In my experience, high handicappers struggle with power and balance. Most amateurs either tend to swing with too much power, compromising technique, or lack the balance needed to swing with more power; it’s a fine line to tread.
Being flexible can also have its downsides; some players are too flexible to the point where they have difficulty controlling their motion during the swing. The flip side is strong players; being powerful is fine, but lacking the flexibility to swing effectively will hinder your performance and increase your chance of injury.
Currently, in sports science circles, many questions and topics are still heavily debated, such as:
- How long should you hold each stretch?
- Which stretches are the most effective?
- Dynamic or Static stretching; which is better?
- How often do you need to stretch before seeing long-term benefits?
However, what is clear for the average golfer is that increasing the amount of time you spend improving your flexibility significantly boosts the chances of lowering your score and handicap.
Top 10 Best Stretches For Golf
There’s no shortage of different styles, methods, theories, and strategies when it comes to stretching. There’s everything from dynamic to static stretching and isolated and ballistic stretching.
I know what you’re thinking; I don’t have the expertise to implement those strategies into my stretching routine; well, here’s the best part, you don’t have to.
The stretches I’m recommending here can be performed by anyone, anywhere, and are primarily targeted towards beginners embarking on a flexibility and mobility program for the first time.
However, before we take a look at the stretches, there are a few crucial factors you need to consider before starting your stretching program.
- Understanding your body’s limitations
- Grasping the correct stretching techniques
- Warming-up before starting your stretching to help lessen the risk of injury
- Stretching immediately after your round or workout is the most effective time to stretch.
- Consistency in your stretching routine is a must; setting aside 15-20 minutes isn’t much, and the benefits of doing it far outweigh those of not.
Stretching with a playing partner or gym buddy helps keep things from getting too dull and keeps the both of you motivated and accountable.
Top Tip: This tip seems almost too straightforward, but it’s tried and true; Your body knows best; so if you’re a little tight and feel the need to stretch, do it. Even a two-minute stretch can relieve pain and get the body loose and ready to play.
Knee To Chest
Target muscles: Lower back and glutes
- Lie down flat on your back with your body straight
- Bend your right knee and slide it to your bum
- Place both of your hands behind the knee and pull it towards your chest
- Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side
Both Knees To Chest
Target muscles: Lower back and glutes
- Lie on your back with your body straight
- Bend both knees and slide them towards your bum
- With both hands behind the knee, pull both knees towards your chest
- Hold for 15-30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
The Tiger Stretch
Target Muscles: Upper back
- Move to an area with soft flooring and hop on all fours.
- Slowly lower your chest while simultaneously extending both arms forward.
- Now, slowly exhale, push with your arms to arch your back like a tiger or cat stretch.
- Once you feel a comfortable stretch, hold for 15-30 seconds
Target muscles: Hamstrings and glutes
- With your legs straight and your back on the floor
- Lift one of your legs as high as you can and bring it towards your chest, being careful not to over-stretch
- Again once you’ve found a position that offers a pain-free stretch, hold for 15-30 seconds
The Figure Four
Target muscles: Hip flexors, glutes
- Lie down on the floor and put both feet on a wall or door frame
- Now get your hips and knees into a 90-degree angle
- Cross your right leg and place it on your left knee
- Now in a slow controlled manner, push your right leg in the opposite direction until you feel a pain-free stretch.
- If performed correctly, you should feel a slight stretch through your hips and bum
- Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side
Cross It Over
Target muscles: Glutes and hip flexors
- Place a towel or foam pole on the ground or floor to support your neck; lie flat with your body extended
- Put both of your feet on a wall or door frame.
- Now slowly place your right leg over your left leg.
- With your left hand, slowly bring your right leg towards the floor until you feel a nice stretch; as always, be careful to not over-stretch
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, being careful not to “bounce.”
Flex The Hips
Target muscles: Hip Flexor and glutes
- In athletic stance and your legs about two-feet apart
- Slowly bend one knee and then place your opposing knee on the floor
- Move your foot, ensuring your in-step is firmly resting on the floor
- Now put your hands to the side and rest them on your hips, ensuring your leg is still at 90°
- Take a deep breath and hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
Target muscles: Quads
- Stand and grab hold of either a wall or bar with one hand.
- In a slow controlled manner, bring your left leg towards your buttocks, holding your leg with your right hand
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and be careful not to over-extend the knee, placing unwanted stress on the joint
Stretch That Chest
Target muscles: Chest, triceps
- This stretch requires you to stand in a corner or under a doorway
- Bring your elbows to shoulder height, making sure to bend them, so they’re facing up
- Now place the palms of your hands against the wall or door frame and slowly push
- If performed correctly, you should feel a nice stretch throughout the chest region.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds again, being careful not to overextend
Target muscles: Calf
- Stand roughly one meter or an arm’s length away from a wall or door frame
- Slowly bend your left leg, ensuring your right leg is straight
- With your left leg now touching the wall, lean towards the wall and place emphasis on the calf muscle
- Hold for 15-30 seconds
Stretching for Youngsters
Golfers like Tiger Woods bought unparalleled popularity to the game of golf, which saw an ever-increasing number of juniors switch from traditional sports like basketball and baseball to golf.
Children, as we know, are still in their growing phase, so designing a stretching program that considers this is critical for their physical development and can help prevent injury. Undoubtedly the best habit for junior players to develop is learning the importance of warming up correctly before practice or play.
The golf swing places a lot of force on the body, particularly the trunk or “core,” which has to absorb and transfer the power of weight driving through the legs. Children are also susceptible to growth spurts that place extra stress on their lower backs. When designing a stretching program for juniors, these growth spurts need to be considered.
Muscle groups to target for juniors stretching:
- Lower back
- Core and trunk
- Hip flexors
Preventative efforts such as stretches, warm-ups, cool-downs, and strengthening programs can help the child’s golf and physical development without placing unwanted physiological stress on their bodies.
Stretching plays a significant role in improving your golf swing, and flexibility along with helping to mitigate injury.
I hope you heed the recommendations outlined in this comprehensive stretching guide and start implementing preventative measures like warming up and cooling down. As always, be sure to seek the advice of an expert trainer who has experience designing strength and conditioning programs with a focus on mobility, flexibility, and stretching.
All of these efforts combined will have you well on your way to becoming a better, stronger, and more flexible golfer.