Golf Fitness Research Review; 1

Study

Gordon, B.S., Moir, G.L., Davis, S.E.Witmer, C.A. and Cummings, D.M. (2009) An Investigation into the Relationship of Flexibility, Power and Strength to Club Head Speed in Male Golfers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23, 5 p1606-1610.

Summary/Main Points

This study was a correlational study looking at the relationship between 15 male golfers (Age 34.3±13.6, Hcp 4.9±2.9, Height 1.78±0.05m, Mass 86.2±10.3) club head speed (CHS) with rotational trunk flexibility, total body rotational power and chest strength.

CHS (ms-1)

Trunk Flexibility (degrees)

Rotational Power (meters)

Chest Strength (kg)

42.4 ± 3.5

71.8 ± 11.8

8.0 ± 0.9

44.5 ± 10.9

Table 1: Testing Results

CHS was measured using a Swing Mate (radar technology). Rotational trunk flexibility used a trunk rotation resistance machine. Rotational power used a 3kg hip toss throw for distance. An 8RM (repetition maximum) on a Pec deck machine was used for chest strength.

The strongest correlation was between CHS and chest strength (r=0.69), with rotational power achieving a moderate correlation (r=0.54) and rotational flexibility with a weak correlation (r=0.27).

Analysis & Evaluation

Overall, strength, power and flexibility didn’t correlate very well with CHS. I think this could have been for the following reasons:

Only 6 of the 15 participants had played golf in the 4 months leading up to the testing. That means that these participants were hardly even recreational golfers (albeit having a handicap of 8 or less). Anecdotally speaking, if I haven’t played in 4 months, my swing isn’t all that great!

The participants seemed to have very good trunk rotational flexibility (see table 1). I believe this is more than the PGA Tour average. This is much more than I usually see in golfers of this age group (just another anecdote). This could be because of the method of testing.

Furthermore, their Pec Deck strength didn’t appear to be particularly great, and so to for their medicine ball throw. This could be attributed to the fact none of them were taking part in any exercise routine leading up to the study, which could also explain the average BMI of 27.

The medicine Ball Rotational Throw sounded very difficult to get right. They had to throw the ball at a certain trajectory and the distance was measured in meters. This sounds like a lot could go wrong and requires good technique! The Interclass coefficient (ICC) was only 0.89 (I would have liked to see 0.95 like the Pec Deck test).

Their attempt to make the rotational medicine ball throw too ‘golf specific’, I believe, was a downfall. As soon as you become too golf specific in what is meant to be a test of pure power, then you are also testing golf technique (i.e. golf movement patterns). If they wanted to be ‘golf specific’ why didn’t they do the other tests in golf posture too? The good thing about the Pec Deck machine was its reliability ICC of 0.95.

For the CHS testing, the participants were instructed to “swing maximally”. This doesn’t replicate an actual golfing situation very well. Maybe for long drive competitors.

Additionally, if participants were swinging pretty hard (maximally!) yet only managed an average CHS of 42.4ms (about 95mph), they either really need to hit the gym or improve their swing mechanics… I think a bit of both by the looks of it!

I realise it wasn’t one of the studies hypothesis, yet it was mentioned a couple of times and within the conclusion it states, “these exercises [meaning the tests] may also provide useful field tests that practitioners could use.”

I don’t think any of the tests used in this study make good field test and I believe there are much easier tests to administer with better reliability and validity.

Within the discussion Gordon et al state “the present study further highlights the importance of improving the strength of the chest musculature during training to improve CHS.” They do continue to say further research is required, however. I don’t think they can come to this conclusion with the evidence they provide. All they found was a mild correlation and they cannot jump into thinking further increases in chest strength would increase CHS.

Gordon et al also recommend adding the pec deck and hip toss to a total body conditioning programme for golf. This is a big jump after only finding a somewhat strong and average correlation with CHS, this doesn’t mean that improving chest strength and rotational power will then improve CHS (that would be a logical fallacy).

Furthermore, to suggest that these exercises in particular would make good additions to an exercise programme due to correlative data within the present study is another logical fallacy!

An interesting point within the study was the good trunk rotational flexibility and that there were no reported injuries in the prior 12 months leading up to the study. My interpretation is that this flexibility could have reduced their risk of golf related injuries.

Conclusions

I don’t think we can draw too much from this study. The main issue for me was the participants used, and the fact they hadn’t played golf for a long time. Therefore, this is not representative of any population that actually play golf.

Another issue is the tests that were used within the study failed (in my opinion) to help find strong correlative data between CHS and strength, power and flexibility.  Other claims are made within the study that I don’t completely agree with, yet I wanted to keep this short.

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