How to develop proper balance for the game of golf.
By Lance Gill - Posted July 19, 2006
A great golf swing always starts with body and its contact with the ground. The feet are the only two objects on the human body that should touch the ground in the golf swing. If there are physical limitations in this area (such as balance), mechanics will be compromised, ultimately ending in poor performance or even worse, injury. This article will aim to identify and implement strategies to overcome any balance deficiencies that may be present in your body.
First and foremost, balance is compromised of three control centers; the eyes (visual), the inner ears (vestibular) and the proprioceptive system. For the sake of this article we are only going to deal with the Proprioceptive System, as we are going to assume that no disturbances or limitations are present in the Vision or Vestibular systems. Proprioception can be defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In layman’s terms it also has been described as the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts.
Without adequate proprioception in the golf swing, the body will fall victim to a sequential break down in the segments above the level of the proprioceptive (balance) breakdown.
As discussed in the article, “Joint by Joint Approach”, Mike Boyle and Gray Cook deal with the efficiency of body movements in a sequential manner. Certain joints possess certain qualities, and when these qualities are compromised, there is usually a breakdown that arises either above or below the joint in question. The propioceptive system in the golf swing follows a similar pattern.
The complex motion of a golf swing requires that the body perform a series of tasks in sequence from the feet all the way to the cervical spine, in order to propel that little white ball towards your target with the correct amount of distance and spin. The precision required for this activity is monumental when it gets broken down to the smallest detail. Any variance from the precision required, and your ball travels either left, short, right, long, too high, or too low.
Identifying the sources of variance in the golf swing is often a daunting task. One such source can be linked to a person’s balance or proprioception. As stated above, the only two body parts that should touch the ground in the golf swing are the two feet. However, in many golf swings, the two feet are not working as effectively as possible; thereby compromising the segments above them (knee, hip, lower back, mid back, shoulders, etc...). When a golfer presents with limitations in their ability to maintain their balance throughout the golf swing, it is imperative to determine what level of proprioception that they possess.
Through a very simple test, you can determine how your balance/proprioception stacks up to the best in the world. The Single Leg Balance Test is probably one of the easiest tests that I use to determine what level of balance golfers possess. To perform this test, simply stand on one leg, and raise the opposite foot, making sure not to touch the legs together. Arms can be outstretched to the side if you desire. Once you have obtained a quiet and steady stance with your eyes open, close both eyes and go for as long as you can without tipping over, or scooting the feet from their original position. Average human single leg balance time is approximately 10 seconds, while the average on our tour players (male and female) is roughly 26 seconds. This is a major difference between those players who are very efficient and effective in making that white object go to the desired location. Try this test and see where you fall in regards to your proprioception. If there is a limitation, feel free to look at some of the exercises attached as drills that can help to increase your ability to balance, and thereby allow the segments above the ankle/foot to do what they are supposed to do, instead of compensating for the limitations in the ankle/foot.