Like many, I have tracked and watched Bryson Dechambeau’s approach to his career with both enjoyment and enthusiastic curiosity and am always slightly irritated by his nickname within some media circles of ‘the mad scientist’ as this would suggest that they perceive science as mad and in addition, because they don’t have the intellect and intelligence of Mr Dechambeau then he must be the mad one where as the reality is it said more about their intellect than it does about his. One area of intrigue I have is the shape and size of his grips. Anatomically this would appear to be sensible to have one size, shape as well as non-tapered designs as when the fingers flex/wrap to grab/hold an object the fingers sequentially close from little finger first through to the thumb last. Having tapered grips requires a reverse of this anatomical sequence as it encourages the index finger to move and flex/hold first due to the grip being thinner beneath this finger as it essentially has to move and flex more. This then presents the questions why were tapered grips designed this way a little like why was the Olympic weightlifting bar designed to be the length and weight they are? Who decided all this on day one?
Therefore when looking anatomically how a player moves in their swing, we can start to apply the same levels of preciseness to human movement to locate and establish exactly why we move the way we do in our swings and then really resolve the perceived issues we have and improve how we perform. In essence what’s effecting what and why do we move the way we do.
One could suggest we never truly resolve any problems in life as all we do is exchange or sometimes even upgrade them. Some examples being, if you have no money in life you can suffer poverty, you then win a million pounds on the lottery and you then suffer taxation. You have poor education therefore you suffer the ability of not being able to read or write, you then go to a renowned public school such as Eton then you suffer the expectation of achieving the grades to go to University. One more is you are a single person who suffers from loneliness, you then get married, well we’ll leave this one there....! The moral being when looking at how we move within our swings, we need to establish what problems we want to resolve and as and when we do resolve them, what may then happen?
Let’s look at some examples of this. It’s fairly accepted within anatomy the concept of everything connects to everything therefore everything effects everything therefore allowing for this, crudely below is a typical list of related problems we can see in the golf swing: Hip and foot/ankle
Improved posture/swing performance.
Hip and foot and ankle: When looking at lower limb movement, much depends on who you ask to understand is it the foot and ankle influencing the hip of vice versa for example a podiatrist may give you a different answer to a physiotherapist as much relates to their education and belief systems. Essentially its typically both however to truly locate ‘what’s effecting what’ we can employ the approach of if we improve the foot and ankle movement, how does the hip respond, equally if we improve how the hip/pelvis move how does the foot and ankle then move. Therefore often using a pragmatic approach, especially when in coaching we can then start to establish what segment/joint do we need to adjust in order to improve the opposing one. As an example, if the foot/ankle is being held in an supinated/inverted position, typically the femur/hip is then held in an externally rotated position. If we then improve the foot/ankle orientation and interaction on the floor, does the femur/hip then move away from its externally held position or vice versa? This is relevant to all however it can be even more relevant to younger, adolescent players who are often more mailable therefore establishing good lower limb alignment and function at this stage in their evolution can be extremely influential.
Neck and ribcage: Rotation is influenced by essentially everything within the human body and the reality of rotation is every single (well almost) movement we make is one of rotation, therefore if the joint/segment can’t rotate in the transverse plane it most often adapts and then moves in the sagittal/frontal plane. Areas such as teeth, the jaw, diaphragm are some of the less overt areas that have hugely significant influences on both how we rotate and where we rotate through. Often, when being assessed players have had suggested that they lack thoracic rotation and are taken through a series of movements designed to improve thoracic spine rotation. However invariably, it is not the thoracic spine that lacks range and movement quality, it’s more what’s above (the cervical spine/jaw/skull formation) and below it (the diaphragm) that isn’t allowing it to move. Therefore the question we could ask is not how much can the thoracic spine move, more so what’s not allowing it to move well?
Hand and shoulder: It's accepted within podiatry that the foot and ankle are inherently connected, therefore within upper limb biomechanics the hand/wrist and shoulder have a similar relationship. Ironically, if we invert the body and do a hand stand the ankle becomes the wrist, the knee becomes the elbow and the hip becomes the shoulder. Often when attempting very precise finger and hand movements, we move our bodies into very extreme and adapted postures to allow the fingers to move in such a way to complete a task, an example being threading a piece of cotton through an eye of a needle whilst standing up (one to map visually as we read this). Therefore, how the hand moves will then control
and determine how the shoulder essentially moves. Equally so, one way of helping guide someone to exploring how they can hold the club is to provide them with an understanding of shoulder/scapula control (often referred to as connection within some areas of golf coaching), therefore the degrees of freedom available at the hand are then controlled by the shoulder orientation and position. Therefore if one is looking to improve hand and wrist movement, one approach we can explore is to improve the shoulder and vice versa, when looking to refine and advance shoulder movement we can look to improve hand and wrist movement. Or in short, spend lots of times doing handstands as spiritually we have become disconnected from the planet as we do not touch the floor enough, although an area of science called grounding is an approach used in cycling that once a cyclist has completed a stage of a race, for example The Tour de France, once off the bike they remove their shoes and walk barefoot on grass or sand to reconnect themselves to the ground. This approach is still very evident today and often used by athletes that fly frequently as humans were never designed to leave the floor...
Improved posture/swing performance: One of the first questions I intrinsically ask myself in most sessions is “Is it the postural frame we have that is making us move the way we do or is it the way we are moving that makes the postural frame adapt?” Let us explore this expansive question a little more. Three of the biggest influences we have within movement are our anatomy, our perceptions (memory’s relative to action) and our concepts (schema/history behind the concept). Many of our deep belief systems around movement and concepts we hold close to us through life have originated from how we initially moved and coded movement around the frames we have, therefore the genesis of many of our movement beliefs have been formed and evolved from how we moved around our posture on day one. Alternatively, from a myofascial observation our soft tissue is still ‘playing golf’ for around two hours after we have finished due to the plastic/viscoelastic nature of these tissues. Therefore once a player has finished golf and sits on the sofa to relax, myofascially they are still being held internally in the dominant postures that golf as migrated them towards. Also, some golfers can shrink (not literally) up to around 2 inches in a round of golf (chin to ball distance 1st tee vs 18th tee) due to fatigue, compression etc which then provokes the circular discussion around is it our frame that makes us move the way we do or is it the way we move that makes our frame adapt? Invariably it depends on who you ask and what their background is which will typically control this response, however normally it’s a little of both. From a movement hierarchy observation, when we shift someone’s perception it typically always influences their soft tissue however when we improve their soft tissue it doesn’t always improve their perception, unless they can make an immediate connection/perception to the new movement affordances available. Pragmatically, it’s a little like the foot/hip discussion, only by exploring both approaches can we establish which approach the player best responds/doesn’t respond to.
In recent times some areas of education within golf coaching has become very intellect based, realistically to create healthy internal conflicts within ourselves perhaps we can spend an equal amount of time between experience vs intellect. Humans have in recent times become very brain orientated however the reality is we need to explore intelligence beyond intellect. When looking at how we move in our golf swing, typically we have two types of people, responders and non-
responders, however locating what a player does not respond to can actually be of more value than establishing what a player does respond to. A little like science, science rarely said you are right it more often said you are not wrong. Reverting back to Mr DeChambeau, If we removed all science from discussion and went back to day one, would we simply not return to the current day issues we have as to most anthropologists understanding science wasn’t available on day one therefore we’ve arrived at where we are today both because of and in spite of science...
Dr Mark Bull