The Healthy Golfer Blog

One of the most underrated aspects of the golf swing is good balance. Great attention is often paid to golf's fundamentals and swing mechanics, but balance is often a forgotten topic. According to the Oxford Reference Dictionary balance is defined as “the stable condition arising from even distribution of weight”. Balance represents a complex neuromuscular communication system which relies on feedback from the central nervous system to the body. There are three main systems in our body that affect our balance: eyesight which recognizes what is up and down; the canals in our inner ears which are horizontal, vertical and angular and filled with fluid and hair cells for feedback; and finally, the proprioceptors and mechnoceptors which are tiny message receptors in our joints and muscles, etc. which send signals to our brain for a response to different actions taken by the body. Balance is necessary in maintaining appropriate spine, trunk and torso positions throughout the swing.


In the game of golf, balance is extremely important from the address of the ball to the finishing stance. Recall in your last golf lesson, the importance of placing your complete weight on your front leg while being able tap the tip of your toes with your rear foot – this is describing how a to balance your golf swing mechanics. Balance is one of the most important aspects of a golf swing because good balance can increase your clubhead speed by 5 percent. If you have poor balance then it is difficult to swing the golf club at your maximum speed and on a consistent plane. Tour players can swing with ~100 percent efficiency and still maintain proper balance while most amateurs can only swing with 80 percent and maintain their balance.


Balance in the golf swing has a direct correlation to posture. When your posture is correct, with the spine supported at address, balance is possible throughout the entire swing sequence. According to Dr. Christian Reichardt, author of "Pain-Free Golf," when a golfer is not balanced at address and goes through the golf swing with excessive motions, the brain has to work overtime just to keep the golfer on their feet. If the brain is preoccupied with keeping you balanced, it will not be able to control the golf swing with accuracy on a repeated basis. Therefore, any swing faults you have will be magnified. If balance is not maintained during the swinging action, shoulder turn, weight shift and force transfer may be affected and the shot outcome will be compromised.


Now let’s talk about some things that can affect your balance.  Prescription medications that you may be taking can impact your balance and therefore, it is important to check with your family physician or pharmacist about the possible side effects. A lack of flexibility and/or strength in your muscles can hinder your balance. Physical attributes of your body being overweight and/or pregnant may affect your ability to have good balance by affecting your center of gravity. (Note: A woman’s center of gravity sits lower than a man’s.) Drinking alcohol will affect your balance because it slows your body’s reaction time. Often your golf swing requires a quick and efficient response; expect alcohol consumption to impede this response. What you eat can affect balance through a lack of proper nutrients that aid the body in functioning optimally (i.e. essential fatty acids (omega 3’s) aid in nerve function). A previous injury or recent surgery may also affect your balance, for example, if you injured your knee ligaments particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) up to 15 percent of your body’s proprioception may be compromised. The proprioception is the system that let’s the brain know what the body is doing. Even the type of golf shoes you are using can affect your balance for example, uneven wear on the bottom of the shoes, poor support for your feet, wrong size or if you wear orthotics! The ability to maintain your body in the correctly "balanced" position, while going through your golf swing requires intense neuromuscular control. I will explain later a few devices that can be used to improve and affect your balance. Finally age reduces our body’s ability to balance itself because the sensory organs and balance systems become less sensitive over time.


The body's center of gravity runs through the center of the head, shoulders, hips, knees and finally the center of the ankles. Try this: Stand as tall as possible with your head held high and your arms hanging along the sides of your body. You should feel the pressure of your weight on the heels of your feet through the ankles. Now, lean back a little. Can you feel your abdominal and upper leg muscles tighten up? As soon as your center of gravity, which is about a quarter of an inch wide, is compromised a signal shoots from the small fluid pocket inside your ears that controls balance to the brain. The brain identifies where the out-of-balance condition lies and activates the necessary muscles to correct that condition.

When you swing a golf club, you produce centrifugal forces that can easily pull you out of balance. When you do, your body goes into survival mode. Signals are passed, muscles are activated and, of course, your focus is compromised. In a sense, your body would rather have you remain standing than see you strike a 9-iron to three feet. We're our own worst enemies, but it doesn't have to be that way.


In my office I use a TOG Gait Scan to assess a client’s balance. It is a force plate connected to a computer that can assess what the body is doing from left to right and front to back while standing. If you have previously been injured or are presently injured your body will compensate to minimize the affected area and alter your body’s balance which in turn may affect your golf game. There are many different devices that can be used to train your balance: an exercise ball (Swiss ball), wobbleboard, and BOSU (semi dome ball/wobbleboard). These devices create an unstable environment which causes the body to stimulate your nerves and muscle to work to maintain your balance. The other thing that affects balance is tightness in your calf muscles, hamstrings and hips. The lower body provides stability to your golf swing. Stability helps create resistance between your upper and lower body which enables you to produce power. If the muscles in your legs and hips are tight then your lower body will tend to sway and slide in order to support the winding and unwinding of your torso. This lack of stability will cause inconsistent shots and may create both left and right misses. In addition, working with flexibility exercises will help to increase your golf balance by releasing muscle tension. When swinging your golf club you want your weight to be balanced on the balls of the feet, not on the heels or toes. With short irons, your weight should be approximately 60-percent on the target side foot (left foot for right-handers). For middle iron shots the weight should be approximately 50/50 or equal on each foot. While for your longest clubs, you want to place about 60% of your weight on the backside foot (right foot for right-handers). This will help you swing the club on the correct angle on the back swing.


Here are a few exercises you can incorporate at home or at the course: 

  1. Position yourself in follow-through posture, with weight on front leg, back leg raised off the ground a bit and arms extended in front of one side of your body. Hold arms in position where they would end up after completing a full swing. Keep back leg raised and maintain balance. Hold up to 30 seconds, and repeat move several times.
  2. Position yourself in follow-through posture, with weight on front leg. Lift back leg and maintain balance for as long as possible (up to 30 seconds). Increase difficulty by closing eyes or pretending to lose balance by leaning in different directions; work to return to starting position.
  3. Increase difficulty by holding dumbbell in one or both hands while performing exercise number 2.
  4. The same exercise but, instead of dumbbells, use a golf club; extend club out in different directions, and at varying speeds, to increase difficulty of maintaining balanced posture. Repeat several times.

Since balance is fundamental to every aspect of your golf game, spend some time each day working on developing it by implementing some of the balance mechanisms I have mentioned earlier. You will find your golf swing and your score improving significantly.


Call to book your assessment and take your golf game to another level. You can also follow me and get some insight and details about helping your golf game on Twitter - @thehealthygolfr (no this is not a spelling mistake)


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