The golf swing is an unnatural movement for the human body. Making a twisting motion around the spine can put pressure on your lower back, neck, knees, elbows, and other vulnerable joints. This only intensifies when the club impacts the turf, giving your body another jolt and causing additional strain. After this repeated stress, your body may reach the point of arthritis, which brings more pain and difficulty gripping the club.
While pain can creep into any golfer's life, much of the struggle comes down to poor swing mechanics placing unnecessary pressure on the body. Here are some of the key golf swing tips to prevent injury and improve the efficiency of your swing.
Golf Swing Tips
Posture and Stance
Poor posture in the swing is one of the biggest culprits of golf injuries. In particular, many golfers become too hunched over with a rounded back, a position that makes it harder to turn back and through as they swing. Because of this restriction, the golfer will end up putting more pressure on their hips and lower back. This can lead to herniated discs and stiffness in the neck.
Standing up straighter allows for a more complete turn of the body, adding power and freedom of motion to your swing. A good way to test your posture is to stand as though you were about to hit a golf ball. Let your arms hang down without putting any life into them. Are your hands relatively close to your body or are they far apart? There should be only about 5-6 inches—about enough room for a fist—in between your dangling hands and your body. This should happen naturally when you are standing tall and will give your shoulders and hips more room to operate.
For the stance itself, your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart. Any closer and you lose stability. Further apart and it becomes very difficult to turn your body. Make sure that your feet are lined up in the direction of your target. If you are pointed too far to the left or right, compensations in the swing can put unnecessary stress on your body.
Many golfers don't consider their grip as a factor when thinking about injuries, but it plays a vital role in the golf-swing ecosystem. If you hold onto the club too tightly, that is a sign of tension throughout the body. Tension is the opposite of flexibility and it will prevent a golfer from feeling free in the swing. A result of long-term tension is often arthritis.
But how do you know if you are holding a golf club too tightly?
One test I do with my students is to have them picture themselves holding a bird when they grip their club. This odd visual gets an important point across: You need to keep a secure hold on the bird so it won't fly away. However, too firm of a grip might injure its delicate body. Apply this to your club grip: held securely enough that you can feel the weight of the club and know you can hold onto it throughout the swing, but not so tight that you can't feel anything.
Many golfers also struggle with how to hold a golf club. An improper grip can cause blisters. Most players will want to use the interlocking technique. For right-handed players, this means that the index finger of your left hand will interlock with the pinky finger of your right hand. When you wrap your hands around the club, make sure that the lines that each of your thumbs makes are pointing up to each shoulder. When you look down, you should be able to see at least two knuckles on your left hand.
There is a common misconception in golf that you have to swing harder to gain distance. While this is partially true, consistency and a solid strike of the ball come from using your power efficiently and hitting the center of the clubface. When a golfer tries to attack the ball with all of their might, they are putting themselves in harm's way. A best practice would be to try hitting your shots at 80 or 90% power, including drives. Many golfers quickly see their results improve with less effort—while also minimizing pressure on their joints.
One important swing tip is to make sure you are releasing the club properly. This means that the toe of the clubface points toward the sky both on your backswing and through swing when it is waist-high. Mid-swing, it should be facing straight toward the target as it makes contact with the ball. Practice short swings where the club "does the work" of hitting the ball by releasing it through impact. If you can hit the checkpoints of the toe facing the sky before and after hitting the ball, it means you are creating more effortless power.
When a golfer hits a ball properly, they make contact with the ball first and the ground second. That repeated motion of hitting the ground can be very hard on a golfer's wrists.
One important way to reduce wrist pain is to make sure your swing is not too steep coming into the ball. A steep swing is when the club comes in at too high of a descending angle, which causes a deeper divot and more strain. You can help shallow your swing and reduce wrist pain by focusing on extending your arms in both the takeaway and the follow-through. This keeps the club lower to the ground and will produce a shallower divot.
Benefits of a Good Golf Swing
When you have an efficient golf swing that doesn't put undue pressure on your body, it's much easier to play the game pain-free. If your golf swing is causing pain, it's worth assessing what hurts and how your swing could be contributing to the issue. There are always different paths to swing a golf club so that pressure is reduced.
A painful swing is most likely not an effective swing. The adjustments that you make for pain prevention will also benefit your golf game. Maintaining an upright posture, reducing grip tension, swinging within your capabilities, learning to release the club properly, and shallowing out the club prior to impact will improve your game while reducing your pain.