Great golfers look so relaxed. How can they make it look so easy yet hit the ball so far? It turns out that relaxation is a key ingredient in a consistent and powerful swing! The pros wind up the back swing and then take the brakes off and “let ‘er rip” all the way through to the finish. Compare that to many amateurs who try to step on the gas, yet at the same time ride the brakes all the way to impact, commonly with unsatisfactory results.
What is going on? In coordinated, efficient movement, each muscle fires at just the right time, the right speed and the right intensity. The unwritten second component, being able to relax muscles at the right time and at the right speed, is just as important.
If you can’t relax properly, you are putting on the brakes. This results in a slower clubhead speed both directly by slowing down the arms, and indirectly by hindering upper and lower body separation and thus power generation.
I bet that many of you can feel unwelcome tension in your swing, but just can’t seem to get rid of it. Here are a few things to try:
- Check your balance. You should be able to stand on one foot with your eyes closed for at least 15 seconds. Why is this important? For a good follow through you have to shift your weight to the front foot, turn your body and head toward the target, and stand up as the club swings around you. That is a lot of movement in little time. If you have poor balance, your body will put on the brakes and slow down the golf club to keep the speed manageable and keep you from falling over.
- Practice the hand slap drill to improve your speed of letting go – video
- Practice super relaxed swings. To get there, relax your face and shoulders. Drop the lower jaw a bit so your teeth are not touching. Unfurrow your brow. Put a smile on your face – even a fake one works! Breathe through your nose; inhale during the backswing and exhale during the downswing. Raise your club, then take the brakes off and let it swing through! **Important: DO NOT start with your full swing. Start with chip shots and gradually lengthen the swing.**
- Hit your shots at 80%. This takes away the temptation to try and “smash it”, which in most golfers introduces unwanted tension into the body. Make 80% your go-to shot. You may not hit your maximal distance, but you will make up for that with consistency and accuracy.
- When it comes to relaxing, the mind is just as important as the body! Did you know that most pro athletes practice relaxation daily? This comes in many forms: Yoga, meditation, tai chi or Feldenkrais are just a few. Even just five to ten minutes a day of breathing with awareness will make a difference.
Give these ideas a try and let me know how it goes!
Dr. Claudia is a TPI-certified, North Carolina licensed chiropractic physician with 18 years’ experience in clinical practice treating athletes of all ages and levels with a focus on optimizing movement for efficiency, resilience, longevity and injury prevention. While golf is the focus of her practice, she is happy to consult on and treat many other injuries and conditions such as back, neck, shoulder, wrist, hand, hip, knee or foot pain, sprains, strains, overuse injuries, arthritis etc. You can reach her or learn more here.