Without healthy knees, it's difficult to play as much golf as you want.
So what do you do, as you get older in order to keep your knees primed
Even though you're not jumping or running in this sport, the torque and
lower-body rotation necessary to swing the club makes knee health
We asked Mark Verstegen (@APCoach), founder of Athletes' Performance in
Phoenix, for advice for keeping two of the most important joints in your
body strong. I caught up with Verstegen this week at
the SKLZ & Athletes' Performance event in New York City, as they debuted some new
products and discussed the new top-notch training facility they're opening together out in
Verstegen stressed the importance of strengthening your knees, even if
you're not currently experiencing pain.
Muscular imbalance is always an issue for those who play "one-sided" sports. By that, I mean any sport that recruits the muscles on one side of the body far more than the other. Golf falls into this category. It's played asymmetrically and, over time, that imbalance could lead to pain and injury unless compensations are made.
I had a recent discussion with Ben Shear on this topic. Ben (@Ben_Shear) trains several players on the PGA Tour and has to deal with the fact that his clients are much more susceptible to these kind of muscular-imbalance issues simply because of the amount of golf swings they make every week. It reminds me of former PGA Tour player Shingo Katayama (above), who used to warm up on the range before tournaments by hitting right-handed and left-handed shots. He knew that the repetitive motion in only one direction would only make certain muscles a lot stronger than their counterparts on the other side of his body. So he tried to fix that.
Shear says balance in muscle groups not only applies from side to side, but also front to back. Think about your quadriceps (thigh muscles). They need to be strong, but the hamstring muscles on the back of the thighs also need to be strong. With that in mind, doing complimentary "push/pull" exercises where you alternate sets between the two movements is always a good idea. If you are training your chest, you also want to train your back.
To hear Ben explain this concept, click on the video below:
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest
When you hear the words rotator cuff, you might think about baseball pitchers sitting on the bench with their throwing shoulders wrapped in big bags of ice. But the four muscles that make up this part of the shoulder play a huge role in the golf swing. Not only do they provide control of the golf club, they also act as the brakes when your swing has to come to a stop. And just like the brakes of your car, they can wear out over time--especially if they aren't primed before the round.
Common injuries are inflammation of the muscles, impingements and tears. You'll know there's a problem by feeling pain or losing range of movement. But two other signs of injury to the rotator cuffs aren't as easily detected. One comes late at night. If you sleep on your side, and find yourself favoring one side because the other is uncomfortable, you could have issues with these muscles. And when you play golf, these two common swing faults might be a sign there's a problem: 1. You can't maintain the width of your swing you created at address and your arms collapse as you take the club back 2. Your left elbow bends during the follow-through, your cuffs could be damaged.
To help prevent injuries to your cuffs, PGA Tour fitness consultant Dave Herman (@superflexbands) demonstrates a few ways to warm-up your shoulder capsules. Click on the video below.
Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin analyzes how Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen used his superb ball striking to bounce back from his close call at Augusta National and win the Malaysian Open.
It didn't take long for Louis Oosthuizen to rebound from his playoff loss at the Masters -- actually, it only took seven days. With his final-round 68 at the the Malaysian Open, Oosthuizen secured the victory and his 5th European Tour title. The win moved Louis to 12th place in the Official World Golf Rankings. Once again, Louis' ball striking proved valuable as he continued to drive the ball well, while hitting more than 81% of his greens in regulation for the week. Take a look at these videos of his driver and iron swings, and keep reading to see what you can learn from them.
Driver: Louis does many things exceptionally well in his swing, but here are two simple tips you can learn from his driver swing.
1) Shaft Position at Address: In this video, notice that Louis sets up to his driver with the shaft leaning slightly back. Many great drivers have done this throughout history. I encourage my students to have the shaft set in a neutral position, but if they were to err one way or the other, I'd much rather they have the shaft leaning slightly back like Louis. Leaning the shaft forward de-lofts the driver and encourages hitting down on the golf ball. Both those things make it difficult for the average player to drive the ball. You can't go wrong by copying Louis' driver setup.
In the March issue of Golf Digest, which hits newsstands across the country today (the cover says "How to Play Fearless Golf"), an up-and-coming teacher, Kate Tempesta, provides a number of great tips to get your putting on track. It's the Breaking 100-90-80 section of the magazine.
Here are some highlights, which will surely help you if you're having trouble on the greens:
Understand mechanics: Play the ball slightly forward in your stance--under your left eye is a good spot--and make a shoulder-driven stroke.
Practice: Make it real. On the practice green, stand a few feet from the hole and try to fill it with as many balls as you can.
Lag putting: Putt like you throw. Make a motion as if you were going to toss the ball underhand to the hole. When you stroke the putt, mimic that underhand-toss motion.
They are more than 25 years apart, but when you delve into the golf upbringings of Jhonattan Vegas and Seve Ballesteros, the similarities start to come to life. Of course, the Spaniard came on the world scene at an earlier age--still a teenager--but both players found the game by chance, and learned to play by feel.
It's well known that Seve developed his vast array of magical shots and honed arguably the best set of hands ever to hold a golf club by hitting a cut-down 3-iron on the beach in his native, golf-poor Santander. Vegas, who grew up in the newly golf-poor Caracas, where golf courses have been plowed under to make way for affordable housing, learned in a similar way, swinging broomsticks at rocks. "I generally just picked up what I could find and swung at everything I could find around," he said earlier in the week of the Hope. "So usually I hit plastic balls, rocks, whatever I could find around the house, breaking windows and all kinds of stuff. That's kind of how my game started. [My dad's] been always a good and big fan of golf, and so just by looking at him I just started doing it."
Just by looking at him I just started doing it. What a great way for a youngster to learn to play, something that unfortunately is all too rare these days when so many teachers (and parents) rely on videotape and computer technology to impose swing mechanics and positions on young golfers, who often get confused and later burned out. They don't have a chance to develop the feel and touch and natural golf instincts that so many true champions of the game have shown us, from Bobby Jones and Sam Snead, to Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to Lee Trevino and, yes, Seve.
Just as Seve was exposed to the game by chance, growing up near a golf course and caddieing, Vegas' father, a caterer who was unemployed for three years, also grew up next to a course, where he picked up range balls. He gave Vegas his early lessons, but Jhonattan soon "graduated" to a real teacher, the three-time Venezuelan World Cup golfer Franci Batancourt. Vegas later moved to Houston and lived with his mentor, refining his game under his watchful eye, but the roots of that natural talent were established long before that.
That's why the miraculous flop shot Vegas hit on the first playoff hole had the markings of something Seve in his prime would do. Short-sided, about 30 yards from the hole, the shot looked impossible. From a fluffy lie, he would have to hit the ball nearly straight up and land it softly on a downslope in the rough and hope it would trickle onto the green. He hit the shot perfectly, the ball landing in exactly the right spot, rolling onto the green and actually hitting the hole before finishing three feet away. His birdie extended the playoff with Gary Woodland (Bill Haas parred), and then Vegas made a Seve-style par on the next playoff hole to win. After pulling his drive into the water, unfazed he took a penalty drop, knocked a 9-iron onto the green and made the 12-footer for the victory. I hope Seve was watching.
See how Golf Digest Playing Editor Phil Mickelson executes his famous
Martin Kaymer, winner of the PGA at Whistling Straits last August, and now No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking after his dominating victory Sunday at Abu Dhabi, has become arguably the best ball-striker in the game. Besides a lot of hard work, what is his secret?
Willi Hofmann, the long-time coach of fellow German star Bernhard Langer, has known Kaymer since the 26-year-old was a teenager. Hofmann says the secret is a very simple swing with no extraneous body movement. Kaymer stays so still over the ball, there is very little that can go wrong. When he combines that with a smooth and confident stroke on the greens, nobody can compete with him. Just ask Rory McIlroy. "Martin was playing on a different planet this week," the Ulsterman said. Just ask Lee Westwood, the only player ahead of Kaymer in the world ranking, who finished 26 shots behind Kaymer at Abu Dhabi!
Kaymer's move resembles a Stack & Tilt motion, but without the flat backswing and straight right leg. His weight constantly moves toward the target starting just before his transition, and he finishes with his weight firmly planted over his left leg. This lower-body support allows him to control the clubface with his forearms for ultimate consistency. It's an athletic swing worth emulating. Look at the following slow-motion video. If you view this swing over and over this week, I bet you'll be a better ball-striker by this weekend.
It was the 72nd hole of last week's PGA Tour event. Steve Marino had 210 yards to the green on the par-5 finisher and needed to make eagle to have a chance of tying tournament leader Mark Wilson at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Any tour player would have a good shot at knocking it on. But when you have to stand inside a fairway bunker and your ball is outside the bunker, two feet above your shoes, what do you do?
"Anytime you have a difficult or strange lie, take several rehearsal swings to determine where the clubhead is hitting the ground," Flick says. "Always do this. That determines your ball position." Flick says that Marino does the following four things:
1. He chokes down on the club dramatically. That helps keep him from hitting behind the ball.
2. He stays really steady throughout the swing--almost making a driver swing. Notice that his head actually moves backward at impact, which shows he's swinging slightly up on the ball. Staying steady is a good thought for any usual lie. You are not allowed to create a stance in the bunker, but Marino makes sure to anchor himself with his right foot, then stays very steady on that foot throughout the swing, greatly limiting his weight shift. He swings the club back deliberately and smoothly. These adjustments give him a better chance of making solid contact.
3. Marino factors in that the ball won't go as far because he's hitting up through impact, sending the shot on a higher-than-normal trajectory. Note he has only 210 to the hole, and he's swinging a fairway wood, which normally would go farther than that for a strong tour player.
4. There is no flip through the hitting area. Look at Steve's left forearm through impact. He uses it to stabilize the clubface. There is absolutely no breakdown.
Flick also notes that when the ball is well above your feet, the tendency with a higher-lofted iron is to either hit a dramatic hook (raise an iron so the shaft is more level to the ground, and the face in effect closes), or there is a tendency to shank the shot because you are off balance. "Selecting a fairway wood reduces the chance of overhooking and eliminates the shank," Flick says. "Steve obviously has practiced this kind of shot, because he knew exactly what to do. Tour players practice all kinds of shots, but amateurs rarely do. If you practice shots like this one from time to time, you'll be prepared when you encounter an unusual stance on the course."