In Pursuit of the Perfect Game: It Might not be Your Swing that Needs Correcting  

Article by Brianna Venekamp, Sioux Falls Woman

Photos by Julie Prairie Photography, Sioux Falls

Professional athletes don’t run onto the field, dash onto the court or hit the course without proper training and a good warm-up. Yet a familiar sight on golf courses everywhere is golfers paying their fees at the clubhouse before heading straight to the first tee.

“The golf swing puts a tremendous amount of stress and force on the spine, putting golfers at a higher risk for back injuries,” explains Dr. Peter Looby, an orthopedic surgeon at the Orthopedic Institute in Sioux Falls. “Making sure your technique is sound and that you’ve taken steps to strengthen your core muscles in the off-season is the best thing you can do to help prevent unnecessary injuries.”

Dr. Looby acknowledges that hiring a personal trainer and setting up private lessons with a golf instructor is a best-case scenario that not everyone can do. However, everyone can take some steps to improve their performance before taking that first swing.

“One thing everyone is capable of doing is taking time to warm up before they hit that first shot,” Dr. Looby says.

But he cautions that even that science is changing. In recent years, researchers have learned that static stretching—the technique of holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds to lengthen and prime the muscles before intense activity—is wrong.

“Research has shown that static stretching can actually weaken your muscle by decreasing its capacity to output power,” Dr. Looby explains.  “In fact, static stretching prior to a dynamic activity like golf can actually decrease performance rather than enhance it.”

That’s one of the reasons the orthopedic Institute has partnered with GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness to create a golf warm-up routine.

Dynamic stretching consists of using sport-specific movements to prepare the body for activity. It involves moving through ranges of motion and holding each position for only one to five seconds. These movements often mimic the positions and movements that are involved in the actual activity—in this case, golf. The speed and reach of the movement can be increased with repetition as the muscles heat up.

“The key is to keep the stretch moving,” Dr. Looby says. “A five-minute brisk walk, or monster walks, one right after another, instead of static quad stretches, improves blood flow and slowly prepares the muscle to do the same action at a faster speed.”

Knowing the difference between static and dynamic stretching exercises and performing them consistently (and properly) will increase your range of motion, your power, and ultimately, might even reduce your handicap!