GOLFERS are more likely to improve their game simply by going for a strenuous walk than heading to the fairway, according to research by a Scots academic.
Susan Brown studied the actions of 50 golfers using sophisticated motion capture cameras to identify the “perfect” swing.
But instead of confirming sheer strength or the height of the backswing as key factors, she discovered that a golfer’s ability to move their hips and upper body independently was more important.
Golfers with this high flexibility were more likely to achieve the high club speeds needed to drive the ball accurately for hundreds of yards.
Brown, a lecturer at Napier University, Edinburgh, said golfers who spent most of their working lives sat behind a desk were less able to move their pelvis and thorax independently of each other.
So taking the dog for a good walk, heading to the gym, swimming or a yoga class is more likely to turn aspiring golfers into the next Rory McIlroy than endlessly tramping towards the 18th hole.
Brown has spent four years studying golf swings and her findings will be published shortly in the Journal of Sports Sciences.
Most orthodox golf professionals believe the height and length of the backswing is critical. Golfers are generally taught a strict order in which their body must move in as the club swings down – pelvis first, followed by the thorax, arms and club
But Brown, who tested volunteers for physical flexibility, believes there is no such thing as the “perfect swing”.
“I found a relationship between the flexibility tests I had done and club head speed,” she said.
“In terms of improving, you find people who can separate thorax from pelvis do record higher club head speeds.
Her finding is good news for women golfers who believe they will never be able to compete with men.
She said: “You might make the assumption that females can’t hit as hard as men because they are not as strong.
“On the whole they will be less strong, but actually what is important about this finding is it’s not just about strength, you can have enough strength but getting continually stronger doesn’t matter.”
Brown had a warning for golfers of either sex who think they can lead a sedentary lifestyle and significantly improve their game.
She said: “Those people who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, they’re not as able to functionally separate the thorax and pelvis.”
Analysis of the thousands of images she took of volunteers have identified other factors which, when combined with an individual player’s physical make-up, can lead to success.
As well as flexibility, it seems the strength of the left hand grip and a shorter backswing are also vital.
She said: “There is a positive relationship between left hand grip and clubhead speed.
“You’re not going to improve continually, but you have to get it to a certain level. Left had strength is more important than right.”
Her research also found a correlation between backswing speed and clubhead speed.
Surprisingly, those with slower clubhead speeds tended to take a longer backswing.
She said: “A decrease in backswing time appeared to be a contributing factor in clubhead speed.
“Backswing [allows your] muscles to store energy.
“The longer you take to do it, the more energy dissipates.
“But it’s definitely not the case of make it as fast as you can.”
It emerged recently that golf’s governing body, The Royal and Ancient, has been using the latest technology to test new designs of golf clubs for approval.
The St Andrews-based R&A used a robot called Rab to test the swings.