Biomechanics Tells the Story


There has been a great deal of research dedicated to analysis of the golf swing.  Research has focused on measurement of muscle activity, ground reaction forces on the feet, compression forces on the spine, and measurement of twisting/rotational angles and resulting forces.  Some research has compared the golf swings of amateurs and professionals.  Here are some salient points from recent research findings.

  • During the backswing, the pelvis generally rotates 45-50 degrees away from the target, while the torso rotates 90 to 95 degrees, depending on the physical capability of the golfer.  Clearly, professional golfers tend to be at the higher end of trunk rotation over the pelvis.  What this shows is that there is a separation of movement between the pelvis and trunk, with the trunk leading the way in production of velocity for the downswing.
  • At impact, the pelvis is rotated 40 to 45 degrees beyond the target line, while the trunk is rotated 20 to 25 degrees beyond the target line.  This discrepancy helps to create the “lag” which contributes to clubhead speed at impact.
  • There is also lateral bending of the trunk.  For instance, at the time of impact, the torso is also bending sideways while it is rotating toward the target along with the hips.  It is this combination of the rotation and side bend that creates peak forces on the lumbar spine at impact.  These findings match subjective reports of increased low back pain at or just after impact.   Findings on golfers with back injuries have shown a distinctly asymmetrical pattern of arthritic changes that can be brought about by the constant repetition of these forces on the spine.
  • And, as you might expect,  professional golfers show high consistency in their muscle firing patters.  Amateur golfers are more sporadic and inconsistent.  What this means in terms of back injury and other golf related injuries is that professional golfers get injured from overuse, whereas amateurs get injured from “technical difficulties”.

What are the take-home messages here?  In order to train for injury prevention,  there are three guidelines:  (1) keep core musculature strong to prevent excessive movement in the spine, (2) work on overall body strength for greater consistency, and (3) train movements that are close to what happens in the golf swing to develop more coordinated firing patterns.  Training in this way will help you counteract the large biomechanical forces happening in the golf swing, and may even improve your score!

All the best

© 2013-2020 Kristen Carter.  All rights reserved. Kristen holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology, and is a Certified Health Coach and Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Professional.

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