dustin-johnson-medicine-ballIt’s that time of the year again.  The golf season is ending faster than U of M can give away a football game… and not because the weather is getting crappy.  Let’s face it, if you were playing the best golf of your life just as envisioned in April, you’d still be playing.  Your great golf wouldn’t be cast aside because of a little frost delay on a Sunday morning.  Not to worry though, next year is your year… again. Why? Because for this off-season, you have decided to sit down and put pen to paper.  Your game changing plan could look something like this:

  1. Evaluation for Custom Driver and Putter.
  2. Coaching Plan & Lessons.
  3. Movement Assessment & Custom Exercise Program.

Fantastic.  Nice Plan!  All of those are great ideas and it’s no coincidence, all are part of a tour players off-season plan as well.  Too often these plans turn out more like this:

  1. Replace “old” driver I purchased this past March with the next, latest and greatest. Guaranteed to get ya 15 MORE yards! Guaranteed!!
  2. Early Christmas present: $2,500 lesson with Butch Harmon.
  3. Finally… this is the off-season that I will hit the gym before work, do some extra “core” exercises to help my swing speed, and stretch my hamstrings so my back doesn’t mess up my season… again.

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Don’t assume a new driver will make a lick of difference.  I’m not saying it won’t, but buyer beware.  I was talking with Jeff Goble, PGA Professional and club fitter at the Fox Hills Performance Center who said that while fitting a client this past week, NOTHING could out-perform the Taylor Made R7 that he came in with.  You want a club fitter like Jeff, who isn’t going to get you into new clubs just because you think you need them.  Ask Brandt Snedeker, whose’s career earnings are closing in on $28 million.  This guy’s driver debuted in 2010 and can be purchased for twenty bucks.  Oh ya, and Snedeker’s putter… it’s ten years old.  I’m not saying that a fancy schmancy, $500 limited edition Scotty Cameron, isn’t the flat stick for you… it might be.  Just don’t assume it is.

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When it comes to golf lessons, work with someone who can tailor a true game plan for you.  To go low, you will probably need to talk more than just path, plane and posture.  Chad Elledge is the best that I have worked with at implementing a true game plan you can apply on the course. Why? Because Chad spends most of the time with his players on the course and is able to accurately identify where they need help and then coach them toward their goals.

Finally, lets make certain that you get through the winter without injuring yourself at the gym and ensure you don’t mistake your crunches, BOSU push-ups and kneeling on a exercise ball for productive exercise that will actually enhance core strength, dynamic speed and balance.

Having a movement evaluation performed is the initial step and a critical component to identifying the weak links that are limiting your potential, in the gym and on the course.  During this evaluation, one of the priorities is your ability to create dissociation (separation) between your hips and shoulders.

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The majority of amateur golfers that I evaluate for the first time, have below-average shoulder-hip dissociation.  This can often lead to poor, compensatory movement patterns. Separation between our hips and shoulders is essential for efficient human locomotion and activities like throwing, kicking or striking/swinging.

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Specifically, shoulder-hip dissociation allows for the core to work authentically and reflexively without a single conscious thought like “tighten your abs”. Shoulder-hip dissociation also helps create enormous amounts of rotary speed and can allow for balance and stability to miraculously appear without a single minute spent standing, kneeling or sitting on a exercise ball.  In a nutshell, poor separation often equals poor performance and injury.

Spend a minute and just evaluate anything that you think is important to your health, livelihood or your golf game.  Try to touch your toes, hit a few putts or even just walk heel-to-toe on a narrow curb like a little kid.  Then, spend all of 5 minutes following the video below before re-testing what ever you did.

What did you notice? Did your toe touch actually involve your hands reaching down past your knees? Were all of your putts significantly closer to the hole? Did you feel like Baryshnikov walking on that curb?  It’s not uncommon that after I spend just a few minutes restoring shoulder-hip separation, then back-loading it with a few simple, yet challenging movements… posture, balance and stability will often just reappear.  Lack of shoulder-hip separation is like wearing ear plugs during a conversation. Those ear plugs will probably make communication challenging and frustrating, especially if the conversation is rich with important details.  If you’re lacking this separation, your core won’t hear much of what the environment is trying to say and compensations will ensue.  These compensations can make the most simple daily tasks become painful or lead to the frustrations you experience during your golf lessons.

So before you assume your off-season is going to be your best one yet, create a game changing plan to help your realize your goals and avoid frustration:

  1. Find a club fitter that you trust and has been around the block a few times.
  2. Find a coach. By coach I mean a true coach, just like any other team sport. Find a coach that will help you practice where you compete.
  3. Get a movement evaluation!  Find a skilled movement specialist who will not just identify that you are lacking shoulder-hip dissociation, but why this compensation has become a significant part of your daily movement strategy.
  4. Lastly, don’t assume the exercise program that is changing your waistline is actually changing your core.  If the aforementioned movement specialist is also a fitness/performance guru, discuss a comprehensive program to help you reach your goals.  If he’s not the man for this job, ask him to get you to someone who is.

With a bit of planning ahead and surrounding yourself with a team that communicates, you will ensure that your activity this off-season isn’t being mistaken for productivity.

Author: Graham Polakoff