Golfing Posture: Down to a Tee

Golfing Posture: Down to a Tee

Hi everyone! It is that time of the year again – the time for walks without a jacket, trips to the beach, and of course, playing golf! My name is Casey Estes, and I’m a physical therapist at Back in Motion. Like you, I’m ready to become more active after what felt like a lengthy winter. One of my favorite ways to do that is by playing golf.

For many years, golf has been a fun and enjoyable sport to play for people of all ages. Oh, who am I kidding? We wait all year long to get out on the course, just to get mad at ourselves for how poorly we are playing. But regardless of whether or not we play well, golf can cause back pain or aggravate existing back pain due to the forceful rotational nature of a golf swing.

In this post, I will discuss ways you can adjust your swing to protect your lower back, and some exercises you can perform at home to help prevent lower back pain from your golf swing.

There are two key components of a golf swing that people tend to become sloppy on: good posture and getting your hips through the swing (the hips don’t lie, Shakira was right). Becoming careless with these not only make for a poor swing and hitting poor shots, but may also create lower back pain.

First, good posture is crucial to reduce injuries while playing golf. Even on the golf course you can’t avoid people telling you to stand up straight! Because you have to look down when addressing your ball before the swing, it is easy to forget that your posture has a tendency to suffer by rounding your back and leaning your upper body closer to the ground. It is important to remember that a good golf swing requires a coil through your hips and back. If you have poor posture during your swing, it affects the way your muscles activate and contract and the way the joints in your spine will move. This will lead to compensation causing an increased chance for lower back pain, and poor golf shots. See the picture below contrasting poor posture from ideal posture.

Poor Posture Vs Ideal Posture

And second, the inability to rotate your hips through your swing causes unnecessary stress and eventual pain on the lower back because it leads to excessive rotation through the lower back itself. When at the peak of your backswing, you should start rotating your hips upward and towards your front leg. To aid in the ability to do this, make sure to contract and activate your gluteal muscles. Additionally, you should have a firm left leg for righties, and right leg for lefties, allowing a solid brace for your hips and club head to rotate around. See the picture below on what your hips should look like on impact. These tips will not only help prevent back pain, but also may help your swing too! But disclaimer – I am not responsible for any poor golf shots after taking these tips!

Next, I will list a few exercises that will aim to help decrease the chance of lower back pain from the golf swing. To make sure we all have a pain free golf swing, we need a good combination of exercises for strength, and stretches for flexibility. See below for pictures of all exercises listed.

5 Exercises

Regarding strength, the first exercise is for good core stability. The exercise is called “The Birddog” (#1 below).

Bird Dog

Start on all fours, draw or suck your stomach/belly button up towards the ceiling as if you are putting on a tight pair of pants, then lift your opposite arm and opposite leg slow and controlled and then back down. Alternate and perform the other arm and leg as well. Make sure that your core stays stable and level, such so that you could balance a board on your lower back without falling. Complete two sets of ten reps per arm and leg.

The next two exercises are for the glutes. The first is “The Bridge” (#2).

The Bridge

For this, lay on your back, push through your heels, squeeze your glutes, and lift your body up towards the ceiling. Pause for two seconds, and then back down. Complete two sets of fifteen reps.

Next are “Clam Shells” (#3).

Clam Shells

Lay on one side with your knees and hips bent. Without rotating your hips/core backwards, lift your knee up towards the ceiling and back down. Complete two sets of fifteen reps on each side.

The next two exercises are for gaining more hip and lumbar mobility. The first is for the lower back called “The Open Book” (#4).

Open Book

Start on one side in a similar position as the clam shell exercises. Start with your hands out in front of you, and open your top hand similar to the page of a book, and rotate your body as far as you can go until you feel a stretch in the lower back without any discomfort. Pause for two to three seconds and return to the starting position. Perform two sets of ten reps on each side.

The last stretch is the “Single Knee to Chest” (#5) which will stretch your glutes, lower back, hamstring, and even the hip flexors on the opposite leg. During the finish of the golf swing, you are internally rotating your hip on your front leg, which stresses the posterior capsule of your hip joint. This stretch will also help loosen that posterior capsule for an easier and more comfortable swing.

Single Knee to Chest

While laying on your back, grab one leg and bring it up to your chest as far as you can until you feel a stretch in the posterior hip/back without any discomfort. Perform two sets of thirty second holds for this stretch.

Like previously stated, adding these tips to your golf swing and performing these exercises as prescribed three to five times a week, can help to decrease and limit back pain in your golf swing. However, it should be noted that if you experience any pain with these exercises and stretches, or have continuing pain in your golf swing after the tips and exercises, contact your local Back in Motion Physical Therapy for questions and potentially to be evaluated. Also, be sure to stop the specific exercise or stretch causing discomfort until you have spoken with a licensed professional. Thank you for reading, I hope you all enjoyed it, and happy golfing!

Written and demonstrated by Casey Estes, DPT

South Portland, Maine