A hallmark of The Titleist Performance Institute is a concept they refer to as “The Body-Swing Connection.” Simply, the type of swing that a golfer can perform is dependent on what their body can physically do. So, the swing is connected to the body’s available strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, etc. As we already know, proficient golfers score better on physical performance tests than high handicap golfers which should be no surprise because it makes sense that being stronger, more flexible, and having more balance would help improve your mechanics. Click —> HERE for an article I wrote on this topic.
With this understanding, TPI has created a movement screen that is specific to golfers. The goal of the screen is to identify physical limitations that may hinder golf performance and potentially increase risk of injury. This should be of interest to any golfer because of the high prevalence of injuries in professional and recreational golfers. Check out this overview of golf injuries —> HERE. Furthermore, understanding a relationship between key movement patterns and a golfer’s mechanics can help tailor a training program to maximize golf performance. To view the TPI movement screen click —> HERE.
Hopefully it is easy to see that physical limitations can hinder the golfer from performing an “optimal” swing, and the movement screen gives us a holistic view of mobility and potential stability deficits in specific areas of the body. However, do we learn anything about the golf swing by putting someone through the movement screen? In other words, can we predict swing faults based on the results of an athlete’s movement screen? The answer is YES!
In a 2014 study by Gulgin et al., the authors set to investigate The TPI movement screen’s relationship to golf swing faults. Interestingly, the authors were the first to administer formal research on this topic even though TPI has suggested several correlations in the past. Several finding were the same, but some of the findings did not validate TPI’s previous claims.
Before we dive into the study, check out the list of the body swing connections presented by The Titelist Performance Institute below. This list helps make the connection between the physical screen and the Big Twelve swing characteristics that may result from a failed test. TPI also is forthcoming with the fact that they call these swing “characteristics” because they report that many successful golfers have these characteristics. Before reading ahead, click —> HERE for examples of the swing characteristics.
- Pelvic Tilt – S-Posture, Early Extension, Reverse Spine Angle
- Pelvic Rotation – Over the Top, Casting, Scooping, Chicken Winging, Slide, Sway, Hanging Back
- Torso Rotation – Loss of Posture, Flat Shoulder Plane, Early Extension, Sway, Slide
- Overhead Deep Squat – Early Extension, Loss of Posture
- Toe Touch – C-Posture, Too Much Knee Flex, Loss of Posture
- 90/90 – Loss of Posture, Flying Elbow, Chicken Winging, Early Extension
- Single Leg Balance – Sway, Slide, Hanging Back, Loss of Posture, Early Extension, Reverse Spine Angle
- Lat Test / Reach, Roll and Lift – Loss of Posture, Flat Shoulder Plane, Early Extension
- Lower Quarter Rotation – Sway, Slide, Reverse Spine, Hanging Back, Early Extension
- Cervical Test – Loss of Posture, Early Extension, Reverse Spine Angle
- Wrist Patterns – Casting, Over-the-Top, Chicken Winging, Loss of Posture
- Seated Trunk Rotation – Loss of Posture, Flat Shoulder Plane, Reverse Spine Angle, Early Extension, Sway, Slide
- Bridge w/ Leg Extension – All 12 possible
Now lets get back to the study.
The authors looked at thirty-six subjects who were instructed on how to perform each of the tests in the TPI movement screen. After, they were instructed to hit several golf balls with their 5-iron while being recorded. The video recording was performed on a commercial software program that had the ability to pause their swing at any point which allowed the authors to identify swing faults. The results are as follows:
- The most frequent physical test limitations were overhead deep squat, toe touch, single leg balance, and bridge with leg extension.
- The most common golf swing faults associated with those physical tests were early hip extension, loss of posture, and slide in the downswing.
- A golfer who was unable to perform an overhead deep squat is 2x more likely to early hip extend in the golf swing, and 54% of golfers who failed the deep squat demonstrated a loss of posture. A golfer who was unable to perform a toe touch is 6x more likely to hip extend. A golfer who is unable to balance on their left leg is 3x more likely to early extend, lose posture, and slide during the swing. A golfer who is unable to bride on their right side is 5x more likely to early hip extend, 6x more likely to lose posture, and 2x more likely to slide on the downswing.
The authors went on to discuss some incite into why they feel this is important for the golf swing.
- Early hip extension does not allow the golfer to drop the arms into the proper slot during the downswing, and thus may shots may get “blocked” or hooked. Furthermore, early hip extension may affect one’s ability to properly rotate their hips during the swing which may cause a slide during the downswing.
- Loss of posture is an indicator of an inefficient golf swing because this makes the golfer’s ability to return the club on plane less likely.
- A Slide makes it difficult to stabilize the lower body during the down swing which takes away power from the upper body or transfer of momentum. This lateral shift or slide generates a feeling up the club being behind the golfer and makes it difficult to square the face in relation to the swing path.
The authors concluded that the physical limitations that relate to swing characteristics should be addressed by the fitness and/or medical professional to prevent the golfer from swinging with improper mechanics.
Regardless of how the findings of the study compare to TPI’s previous list, it is important to know that the study used a small sample size (36 subjects), so further investigation is warranted to be able to generalize findings and validate Gulgin et. al’s work.
However, there is a take home message! Both the study and TPI agree that there is a clear connection between physical limitations including flexibility, strength, and balance and the ability to perform proper golf swing mechanics. This illustrates yet again a huge reason why a full evaluation of each golfer (including a movement screen) is of utmost importance to optimize performance and injury prevention.
Gulgin, HR, Schulte, BC, Crawley, AA. Correlation of Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Level 1 Movement Screen and Golf Swing Faults. J Strength Cond Res 28(2): 534-539, 2014.