Movement in golf and the thought behind it

Updated: May 29

Much of my most current reading had been directed towards understanding why players move in the way they do. Perhaps the most profound sentence I recently read was around the concept of ownership, with the definition being that the only thing you ever truly own in life is the way you chose to view the world, this was one of those moments that made me stop, think and reflect as to what this means to me and almost instantaneously apply this to human movement and why players move in the way they do in golf. One of my initial thoughts to this was even the understanding of what the word biomechanics means to me, my first response was this is a word that for some can create ambiguity unless previous clarity and education had been provided, however even with a clear understanding of what biomechanics is, I am starting to think and believe that the word ‘biomechanics’ is missing something, rather than it’s accepted and traditional description as applying the laws of mechanics to human structures (which it what is), perhaps we could amend and describe it as the laws of mechanics on human movement and the thought behind it?

Let’s look at the concept of choice/ownership of thought and apply this to some of the philosophies behind movement in the golf swing:

My role – After I discovered the ownership definition, this had me think deeper into my role in player and coach development, in previous articles I’ve discussed that for me the main use of data is it allows us to ask more informed questions, however alongside this I believe my role is to provide players and coaches with options and choices. To explain further, part of player development is also to provide and enhance their education therefore this includes allowing players to make their own choices as to what movements/improvements they would like to make and which ones they feel they can best play with. As an example, if imbalances were observed through pelvis movement and hand/wrist movement in backswing, providing the player with two options that were both designed to achieve the same end gain, in this case lets say club delivery during impact could prove very helpful. Giving the player the option of improving the pelvis or hand/wrist and allowing them to decide which one they could best play with and relate to provides them with a choice and helps them decide which one they can connect with and most importantly start to create their own understanding of what this means to them. One could argue that some players can process multiple signals simultaneously, however often cognitive overload can occur when attempting to adjust multiple movements/segments at the same time which amongst many things divides up the attention the brain can direct towards each movement/segment, crudely like the way a computers CPU works, the more programs open, the more it is having to divide up it’s processing capabilities. Typically I try and provide two segments that initially the player may not correlate or link, for example a proximal segment such as the pelvis and a more distal segment such as the hands. This can start to open up areas of discovery and discussion such as where they best like to place their attention - more internal or external, what they may have had more success or failure with historically however perhaps the most revealing and connected to this article, how they chose to see the world of movement, after all who’s session is it, theirs or ours? Now, there is always the chance that a player will go ‘I have no idea, you tell me’, if this happens then my view is I have asked the wrong questions in advance and clearly not created the right environment to allow the player to see the gain attached to both improved pelvis and/or hand & wrist movement.

Be the best at being you – Golf as always intrigued me in the way that it copies or looks to ‘a model’ of movements or revere’s certain players moves, yet we all have our unique sets of skills, constraints, anthropometrical measurements, memories and views of the world (after all we do not look at the world through our eyes, instead we look at it through our brain so understanding belief formation and where beliefs come from is of huge importance on why players move in the way they do). I’m sure I am completely wrong, however I do not observe any other sport that copies or attempts to replicate movements made by other athletes, for example Usain Bolt has his uniquely skilled way of running which would be hard to reproduce for almost any other sprinter therefore why golf has adopted the approach of copying other players has always humoured me as essentially you start to become someone else’s value rather than understanding what’s good for you and why based on the existing and current movement options you have, in short be the best at being you rather than being a caricature of someone else. Some thoughts to play with are if golf is a sample of one, perhaps being truly native and unique to you are more helpful than being a copy of someone else?

Change or improvement? - One of the most used words in a session by people is change, for example I am attempting to change how I move. My response to this often is “would you like to change how you move or improve how you move?” Change can go in every direction therefore movement regression is a change, therefore improving movement is a very different approach than changing movement.

Improving how we move - Moshe Feldenkrais was a true innovator and pioneer of human movement behaviour and a huge influence on my thinking. One of his many philosophies was when learning new moves (more on new moves later), to start make them as small as possible. Feedback shared with me is when the moves are as small as possible, expectations are reduced and the new moves gets the full attention compared to when new moves are made quickly and over large ranges. Purely through observation when movements are kept as small as possible, significant gains in movements are made and improvements achieved. If you take nothing from this article except go read about Moshe Feldenkrais then you’ve had a good day!

Learning new moves or restoring ones that you’ve lost?

A question we can explore is do we learn new moves or are we restoring ones we have lost through life? This applies typically to more mature, older humans. Through birth, allowing for any disabilities, we are born to observe, acquire, learn and refine movement. However as we get older through the choices we make these movement options we had as a child often become disabled, an example of this is when people say they are learning to squat as they have never done this before, however It is one of the most primal movements young babies learn first, some of the best squat patterns observed are in young babies, therefore when you start squatting later in life, are you learning a new move or restoring and enabling ones that you have lost through life? After all, you become what you do and become what you don’t do.

Understand the human before you understand the data

An area of much curiosity to me is before we can understand the data, we need to understand the human. Previous articles have explored and discussed the role of environment, anatomy, equipment etc, in short the more tangible influences on movement, however two of the most important and sensitive influences on movement are non-palpable, personality and memory. A player’s personality hugely determines the data they produce, for example very cerebral thinkers typically present certain patterns whereas more visceral thinkers can display very different movements. Memory or past experiences has a vital effect on how players move, this area requires much discussion however a short understanding of how memory can influence movement is the brain priorities movement on a hierarchal approach – based on what is has had success/failure with previously, how this sits with the player’s internal representation of movement and how they connect it back to the task of impact will help control how they move.

Point of interest vs point of failure

When looking at movement patterns, to best understand why players move in the way they do is to look at the point of interest vs the point of failure. Movement is defined by needs and choice, for example if a player chose to move in a certain way, it creates a need elsewhere to achieve a match on impact. Typically, players spend most of their time around the point of failure, however this is invariably where the adaptation was made in an attempt to create the match, however understanding why there is a current need to move that way is perhaps a much better question. Therefore, the point of failure may be the need, however the point of interest is what movement happened in advance that created the need to move that way, locating this is the point of interest therefore a way that movement can be viewed is point of interest vs point of failure. This can also be applied to understanding pain, the area of pain is the joint that failed, however understanding why the joints was placed into failure connects back to imbalances elsewhere, therefore the point of failure could be the wrist, however the point of interest could be the pelvis as the wrist was having to adapt to accommodate dysfunction through the pelvis. Some could describe this as cause and effect, however for me the cause is an effect as this in itself is the effect of something else. In the next article I publish, this will look at the correlation between the anatomical considerations and a player’s movement options/choices. Humans or golfers?

A question I was asked recently during a presentation was how do I work with skilled players compared to less skilled players, my response was I don’t see skill levels, I see human beings.

Evolving human movement in golf is one of the great opportunities presented to us and improving my knowledge and understanding of movement is one of my continual aspirations. With the 3D motion capture data we have this is allowing such wonderful advancements in helping us evolve, after all one of the main uses of science is to allow for a better tomorrow. However to provide a balanced view, if we allow it to happen we live in a world currently where constant comparable’s are made between player movements, coaching concepts are debated, defining good/bad movement and the acceptance of what’s right or wrong appears to be all around us, expectant patterns are placed upon us leading to a conformist approach, now some of this may be good however if we don’t start to make choices based on our own unique and individual way of how we chose to see the world then could we soon be moving from human evolution to human devolution? After all, one of the main things that stops us progressing is our imagination therefore to use young humans as a wonderful example, to evolve further the two greatest investments needed are in the human and the movement therefore for this to happen, never leave the playground.


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