The Need for Speed (and how to test for it)

Golf performance has become more mainstream with technological advancements and cutting edge research by golf performance companies such as, The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI).  Knowledge of fitness, performance, and technique is essential to anyone in golf who is looking to get an “edge” on their competition.

At the forefront of golf coaching, performance, and rehab!
At the forefront of golf instruction, performance training, and rehab!

As stated earlier —> HERE, it is well established that club head speed (CHS) is a golf specific objective measure that correlates directly with driving distance, lower handicaps, and the enhancement of overall golf performance (Fradkin et al., 2004).

Previously, high tech tests were the only way to test for club head speed.  However, this is very difficult to the majority of golfers because of the requirement for expensive equipment.  Recently, field-based tests have been found to reliably measure golf specific power and correlate to club head speed.

There are several ways to test for power and human performance, but which tests correlate directly to golf and increased club head speed?  The three tests most commonly cited in research are listed below.

And, to the golfer!  That is, if you want lower scores...
And, to the golfer! That is, if you want lower scores…

FIELD-BASED TESTS

  1. Vertical Jump: The vertical jump tests for lower body power.  There are many ways to test for vertical jump, but many of them require extra equipment.  The least expensive and least involved way to test for vertical jump requires only a tape measure, a wall, and chalk.
    1. To perform, the subject marks his/her finger tips with chalk.  Then, they will stand as close to the wall and reach one arm as high on the wall as possible in order to make a chalk mark.  After this mark is established, the subject will then assume an athletic position near the wall and jump as high as possible touching the wall in order to make a second chalk mark.  The distance between the two chalk marks are considered the vertical jump height – measured in inches.  The best of 3 trials is recorded.
      1. Here is a youtube video describing how to perform the test.  Click —> HERE.
      2. The average PGA TOUR professional scores between 18-21 inch vertical jump.
  2. Seated Medicine Ball Chest Pass: This test measures upper body power. This test only requires a few items including a chair (with a back), a medicine ball (4kg for men, 2kg for women and juniors), and a tape measure.
    1. To perform, the subject sits in the chair with their back touching the seat back.  Without losing contact, the subject performs a chest pass and launches the ball as far as possible using his/ her upper body and chest.  The best of 3 trials is recorded.
      1. The average PGA TOUR professional scores between 18-20 feet.
  3. Supine Medicine Ball Sit-Up and Throw: This tests measures core power.  More specifically, it tests the ability of the athlete’s core to transfer force through their upper body to propel an object.  Does that sound familiar?  It should, because that is what the core does in the golf swing! All you need here is a medicine ball (same weight as above) and a tape measure.
    1. To perform, the athlete starts supine (lying on their back), brings the medicine ball overhead and as they sit up launches the ball as far as possible.
      1. The average PGA TOUR professional scores between 18-20 feet.

KEY POINTS

  1. Club head speed is important in terms of golf specific power.  Increasing your club head speed can help to lower handicaps and improve your game.
  2. Power can be trained in the gym by using strength and plyometric exercises.  Find a golf fitness instructor or physio to get you on track and individualize your program!
  3. Field-based tests have been examined and found to correlate to club head speed.  Each of the three test upper body, lower body, and core power.
  4. All three are equally important, so if there is a major imbalance in an area, attempt to improve that score to “balance” the three instead of increasing an already adequate number and creating a larger imbalance.
    1. For example, if a golfer scores the following: 15 inch vertical jump, 19 foot chest pass, and 20 foot sit-up/throw, then a program that focuses on lower body strength, stability and power would be warranted.  A program that has an upper body and core focus would further the imbalance.
  5. Attached is a video from TPI explaining each of the tests in further detail.  To view it click —> HERE.

 

References

Fradkin, AJ, Sherman, CA, and Finch, C (2004).  How well does club head speed correlate with golf handicaps? J Sci Med Sport 7: 465-472.

Read, PJ, Lloyd, RS, and Oliver, JL (2013). Relationships between field-based measures of strength and power and golf club head speed.  J Strength Cond Res 27: 2708-2713.

 

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