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Sequencing Successfully!
By Mark Blackburn

Would you like a more powerful swing without any more effort?  Most certainly YES is the answer every golfer would give to this question, whether beginner or tour player.  The key to distance amongst all good ball strikers and long drivers is their downswing sequencing.  Have you ever wondered why golf swings which look so very different seem to generate speed and distance with great similarity?  Well, now through the use of 3D motion capture such as the K-Vest or Advanced Motion Measurement’s system we can look at how players transfer energy from one segment of their body to another and into the club.  We can definitively say that regardless of the style great ball strikers and long drivers, deliver the club to the ball in the same sequence.  This energy transfer is known as the Kinematic sequence.

Ideally, once a player has made their back swing, they will have coiled up and stored power ready to be delivered to the ball in the downswing.  The way they sequence that power’s delivery to the ball is the key to maximum efficiency and distance.  For an effective kinematic sequence to occur they must start the downswing from the ground up.  That is to say that the hips start or fire first, followed by the torso, then the arms and finally the club.  If this order is compromised power loss and errant shots will occur. 

In an efficient kinematic sequence each segment of the body builds on the previous segment, increasing speed up the chain.  Each segment of the chain slows down once the next segment begins to accelerate.  To illustrate this imagine you’re cracking a big bull whip.  The first thing that you do is accelerate the handle of the whip to generate speed.  Then you rapidly decelerate the handle to transfer speed to the next part of the whip and eventually the tip. 

However, there are factors which can disrupt the golfer’s kinematic sequence.  In no particular order they are poor technique, incorrect equipment and poor physical conditioning.  For the average golfer I like to start with technique.  Perhaps you have never been told how to start the downswing correctly, so your sequencing is off.  Maybe you’re playing with clubs that don’t fit you properly.  If the club is too heavy or to long you may be using the wrong muscles to start the downswing so you can instead stabilize the club.  Lastly, but most often you’re physical limitations developed during daily life make it impossible for you to start down in sequence.  Regardless of your problem, the only sure way to measure your sequence is to find a 3D capture facility and book an appointment.  If you don’t have access to one of these facilities I suggest you try the screen, exercise and drill below to work on your kinematic sequence.

To effectively transfer they energy from one segment of your body to the next you must have segmental stabilization.  This is a big phrase that simply means when you mobilize or move one part of the body another must stay stable or still.  To determine whether you physically can do this you should try the pelvic rotation test.  Get into your normal five iron address posture.  Now put your arms across your chest.  From here try to rotate your hips back and through without moving the shoulders.  If you cannot separate your hips form your shoulders you will find everything moves together.  If you have limited turn or move laterally this will also restrict your power potential.  The more turn you have while keeping the shoulders stable/ still the greater your potential for the “X Factor” stretch in the downswing and generating power.  If you found it hard to do this test you will find it difficult to sequence correctly in the downswing.  If it was easy then you have the ability to sequence correctly, but are likely using incorrect technique.  Improving the kinematic sequence and your pelvic rotation test require similar exercises and drills.  If after performing these exercises and drills you feel you still have no increase in power and distance find a Fitness Professional.  They will physically screen you and prescribe a golf specific fitness program based on your physical limitations.  Overcoming any physical limitations is the only sure way to develop a flawless kinematic sequence.

The hip twister supported drill will allow you to feel the correct separation / segmental stabilization in the transition and downswing.  Take your driver and place it grip end down on the ground.  Now take your address posture or a little taller to have both hands on the driver head.  Simply practice turning your hips while keeping your shoulders/torso still and facing forwards.  This will give you the feeling of separating your lower body from the upper body.  I like to see an emphasis on more rotation in to the lead hip during this exercise.  The more turn you have while staying stable with the upper body the more “X Factor” stretch your feeling.

Perhaps the best drill for reproducing the correct kinematic sequence is the step change of direction drill.  As the name suggests you will be trying to move your body in two different directions simultaneously, as occurs in the downswing transition.  Start with your feet together, holding a club with both hands, and pointing the club towards the target.  Take a step towards the target as you swing the club into a normal backswing position.  Without pausing, swing the club forward into a good balanced finished position.  This is reproducing the proper kinematic sequence with the hips leading followed by the torso, then the arms and finally the club.  You will be amazed at how far the ball will go without much effort.  Initially I recommend no more than five step change of direction swings in a row due to the high impact on the core muscles.  I would combine the corrective exercise and drill with your regular practice three times a week.  When warming up for a round of golf you can add the exercise and drill after your dynamic warm up but before you begin hitting balls.  When you’re playing I would focus my swing thought on a smooth transition led by the lower body, to implement an effective sequence.

Once you have your Kinematic sequence in order adding separation between each segment will further increase your power and distance.  Physical conditioning must not be ignored if your preoccupation when playing golf is driving distance.  However, if effortless swings in the fairway are preferable I suggest you perfect your kinematic sequence sooner rather than later!

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