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Richard Bucciarelli, BA KINE, CSCCS, CPT, CLWM

If you’re a golfer, then you probably know how much time, effort and hard work goes into adjusting your swing for optimal results. In fact, most golfers are constantly making small modifications to all aspects of their swing, including grip, stance, hip-shoulder turn ratio, and so on. While making such changes can have a positive impact on the overall efficiency of the golf swing, achieving an increased club head speed – thereby imparting more force on the ball and driving it farther – may not come about as a direct result of these adjustments.

Recent developments in golf fitness have focused on biomechanical analyses of the ideal golf swing, in search for cues as to what areas of fitness (i.e. strength, flexibility, coordination) should be improved in order to enhance performance. While it does involve a series of complex, coordinated movements, the golf swing can be viewed in a simple way as an object – the golf club – which must forcefully strike the ball as it accelerates towards it. Since force is a function of ‘mass times acceleration’, the simplest way to increase the force of the golf swing (all other factors remaining the same) would be to increase the acceleration of the club.

The acceleration of a golfer’s swing can be increased through targeted flexibility training. Performing functional, sport-specific stretching exercises prior to participation in an explosive sport, such as golf, will temporarily increase the range of motion in the joints used in the sport, thereby increasing their elasticity. If an increased range of motion can be facilitated in the muscles, it will allow the limbs to accelerate over a greater distance, and the golfer will be able to increase the acceleration of the club, thus producing more force and hitting the ball farther.

Researchers in Melbourne, Australia, recently demonstrated that performing a golf-specific warm-up and flexibility program prior to teeing off allowed golfers to significantly increase club head speed, which had a direct, positive impact in improving their long game (Fradkin, 2004) . This immediate improvement in performance occurred as a result of the temporarily increased range of motion and elasticity in the golfer’s muscles.

Flexibility training doesn’t just result in short-term benefits to golfers, however; if performed regularly over a number of weeks, this type of training will also produce desired long-term benefits of improved performance and prevention of injuries. Again, for a proper understanding of the long- term benefits of regular flexibility training, we must first examine the mechanics of the golf swing. Many different muscles and body parts – the hips, waist, shoulders and elbows, to name a few – must contract and move in a coordinated manner to produce the right speed, strength and accuracy in a golf swing. Golfers with tight muscles – resulting from poor flexibility -- are unable to utilize the correct golf swing, and instead must compensate by making many smaller adjustments, resulting in a very inefficient swinging action. In addition to decreasing the quality of performance, these changes can eventually lead to numerous chronic ailments which, in severe cases, may force golfers to stop playing completely in order to rehabilitate their injuries.

Performing regular flexibility training over a period of time will improve swing mechanics and club acceleration, as well as prevent the onset of repetitive use injuries in golf. This is achieved through the permanent increase in range of motion, and decrease in resting muscle tension, of specific muscles and joints used in the golf swing. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that performing regular static stretching exercises creates an increase in range of motion, as well as a corresponding decrease in resting muscle tension, in the muscles being stretched (Toft et al., 1989, McHugh et al., 1998). The concept that an increased static range of motion results in an increase in elasticity of the muscles suggests that static stretching is beneficial to both sports performance, as well as injury prevention in golf. The bottom line is that a more flexible muscle is more relaxed, and can therefore move more easily and quickly through its range of motion. For a golfer, this translates into more yards off the tee, more power and club control throughout the entire round, as well as less aches and pains at the end of the day.

© RJI Group Ltd., 2006

Richard Bucciarelli, BA KINE, CSCCS, CPT, CLWM, is a kinesiologist and strength coach, and president of RJI Group Ltd., a wellness consulting company in Toronto. RJI offers an assisted, customized Stretch Team Service to private golf tournaments throughout the Greater Toronto Area. For more information on stretching for golf, or the Stretch Team Service, visit


Fradkin, AJ, Sherman, CA, and Finch, CF (2004). Improving Golf Performance with a Warm-up and Conditioning Programme. Monash University, Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.
Gleim and McHugh (1997). Flexibility and its Effects on Sports Performance and Injury. Sports Medicine, 24(5): 289-299.