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Eliminating Back Pain from Your Golf Game
by Elizabeth Howzen Kais

Rotating your body 180 degrees while generating enough force to accelerate a golf club can place a lot of stress on your back. Initially this stress may be experienced as an unusually high level of tiredness, also known as fatigue, at the conclusion of a round or range session. If left alone this fatigue progresses to muscle aches, tissue tears and changes in the alignment of the spine. The key is to be both strong and flexible enough in the muscles to properly align the spine making the rotation movement of the golf swing effortless.

The easiest area of misalignment to identify is the neck. Many golfers underestimate the importance of keeping the head centered between the shoulders. Every inch that the head moves forward of the midline increases the weight that upper back ligaments and neck muscles support by 100 percent[1]. For example, if your head weighs 10 pounds and it moves one inch forward of the midline your upper back ligaments and neck muscles must now support 20 pounds. A head that is two inches forward forces the back ligaments and neck muscles to support 30 pounds, and so on. Unfortunately this forward head posture is reinforced in our daily activities of working at a computer or desk and driving. This misalignment leads to headaches and pain between the shoulder blades.

How can you determine proper head alignment on your own? With one hand place the shaft of a driver on your spine directly between your shoulder blades with the grip on the back of your head. You can steady the club by holding it at the clubface end below your low back. Now take your address stance while continuing to hold the club shaft on your spine between the shoulder blades and on the back of the head. Place your flat, free hand on the back of your neck. Your hand should simultaneously contact the club shaft and your neck in this position. If it only contacts your neck, your head is too far forward of the mid-line.

Correcting this misalignment involves two steps. First draw your chin straight back in toward your throat. Do not allow your chin to simultaneously move up or down, only straight back. Second, as you draw your chin straight back, elongate your neck as if someone were pulling it straight out in line with the spine. Do not worry if you are unable to hold this position or are not able to contact the shaft of the club and the back of your neck at the same time when you first begin this exercise. Pull the head back and elongate the spine as far as you can and hold the position for as long as you can maintain perfect form. With perfect practice your front neck muscles (deep cervical flexors) will become stronger and your back neck muscles (cervical extensors) will stretch back to their normal length.

Low back pain occurs when there is too much or too little spine curve in the area between the ribs and the hips. This condition occurs when some muscles surrounding the low back, ribs and hips become too tight and shift the bones. This also causes the opposing, balancing muscles to become loose and weak. Both conditions reduce low back rotation in the back swing and the follow through causing a short swing and an over all reduction in drive power. A golfer who attempts to improve their rotation without addressing their abnormal lumbar curve can over stretch the mid-back and/or shoulder muscles and stabilizers causing damage to those bones and tissues (i.e. bone spurs or rotator cuff tears).

How can you determine proper low back alignment on your own? With one hand place the grip of a driver directly between your shoulder blades with the shaft bisecting your hips. The shaft will actually lie flat in contact with the sacrum, which sits between the hip bones. You can steady the club by holding it on the shaft toward the clubface end below your low back. Now take your address stance while continuing to hold the club grip between the shoulder blades and bisecting the hips on the sacrum.

Place your flat, free hand on the middle of your low back. The flat hand should be positioned between the ribs and hips directly opposite the belly button. Your hand should simultaneously contact the club shaft and your low back spine in this position. If it only contacts your low back spine, you have too much low back curve. If you cannot fit your flat hand between your low back spine and the club or if the club shaft rests flat on your spine from ribs to hips, you have too little low back curve.

Correcting too much low back curve simply means stretching the tight muscles and tightening the stretched muscles. The tight muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the erector spinae and the psoas. Rounding your mid to low back like an angry cat, either standing or on hands and knees, while drawing your belly button in stretches the erector spinae. This muscle begins at the sacrum and hips and ends on the lower portion of the sixth and seventh ribs[2] and extends the spine.

Lying face up flat on your back and bringing one knee into the chest while pressing the low back and straight, other leg into the floor stretches the psoas. It is critical that the low back and straight leg remain in contact with the floor. The stretch occurs in the front hip area of the straight leg when the hips tilt as the opposite knee is pulled in toward the chest and the low back is pressed flat into the floor. The psoas begins at the low back (lumbar) spine and ends at the thigh bone (femur)[3].

The stretched muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the hamstrings and abdominals. Lying face down over a Swiss Ball (a large latex ball inflated to 55 to 65 cm) with your hands on the floor, draw the belly button in toward the low back and raise the legs to parallel with the floor. This will strengthen the hamstrings. Turn face up so your whole spine is on the on the Swiss Ball and perform crunches to strengthen the abdominals.

Correcting too little low back curve simply means reversing the previous muscular information. In this situation the tight muscles most commonly associated with too little low back curve are the hamstrings and the abdominals. Assume your address position with the club grip on your mid back and the shaft between your hips. Make a space for your hand by tipping your hips forward (toward the ground) and arching your low back. Draw your belly button in toward your spine for support. Be certain that the club shaft remains in contact with the spine between the shoulder blades, the sacrum between the hips, and your hand. You will feel a stretch at the top of the back of your leg just below the hips and sacrum. The hamstrings begin at the base of the hips on the back side of the leg and ends just below (Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus) the knee and just above (Biceps Femoris) the knee.

Lying face down with the hands under the shoulders and straightening the arms while keeping the hips on the ground stretches the abdominals. It is critical that the hips remain on the floor and the shoulders remain as far away from the ears as possible when the arms extend. The rectus abdominis begins at the front of the hips and ends at the fifth, sixth and seventh ribs and the xiphoid process of the sternum[4].

The stretched muscles most commonly associated with too much low back curve are the hip flexors (psoas and quadriceps) and trunk extensors (erector sp inae). Sitting down and standing up strengthen the hip flexors. Assume your address position with the club grip on your mid back and the shaft between your hips. Make a space for your hand by tipping your hips forward (toward the ground) and arching your low back. Draw your belly button in toward your spine for support. Be certain that the club shaft remains in contact with the spine between the shoulder blades, the sacrum between the hips, and your hand. Now bend your knees and hips more as if you were going to sit down on a chair. Only lower down as far as you can keeping contact with the stick, your knees tracking to but not beyond your second toe, and your feet flat on the floor. Then stand all the way up keeping the same perfect form.

Lying face down on the floor with your fingertips at your ears and lifting the torso as high as possible off the floor strengthens the low back extensors (erector spinae).

Always remember that you are a unique individual with specific needs. Be sure to consult your physician prior to starting any new activities. The health and fitness industry is not regulated by any federal or state government agency. Only seek exercise advice from certified and degreed practitioners.

Elizabeth Howzen Kais has a Masters of Education, Health and Physical Education from The College of New Jersey. She is a C.H.E.K-Certified Golf Biomechanic and Level 1 Practitioner, NCSF certified Personal Trainer and Primary Certification Instructor, a Master Member of IDEA (since 1991) and an American Council on Exercise Group Exercise Instructor (since 1990). She is a strength and conditioning consultant for golfers in south Florida. She is available to answer questions at www.FloridaGolfConditioning.com.

[1] Chek, Paul, Scientific Back Training, The CHEK Institute, Encinitas, CA, 1993, p.18.
[2] Kendall, Florence Peterson, Et. Al., Muscles Testing and Function, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA, 1993, p. 138.
[3] Kendall, Florence Peterson, Et. Al., Muscles Testing and Function, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA, 1993, p. 214.
[4] Kendall, Florence Peterson, Et. Al., Muscles Testing and Function, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA, 1993, p. 147.

Ball Position

by Tim Peightal, PGA Professional

Ball position. This is something that I think is very overlooked or just taken for granted. I feel it is extremely important to know where the ball is relative to the bottom of the swing, that spot may differ from player to player, because of the amount of foward lateral movement each player has. ( You need to find the best position for you.) On all full shots that are uninhibited or not in some type of awkward lie the ball position should be slightly ahead of center to about 3 inches ahead of center according to the length of the club.

The ball position should be ahead in the stance so when you redirect the swing the club will start foward and decend on its foward approach to the ball. This will produce forward and downward pressure on the ball, making the ball start down your target line.

Here's how to determine where the ball is relative to your feet. Place two clubs on the gound forming a small letter t. The one that is parrallel to your target is your foot line, place your toes along this club. The one that is perpendicular should be placed to indicate the center of your stance. Now start with the ball slightly ahead of this point for your iron shots and work foward up to about three inches for your driver. Remember on all full shots the ball should be between your front heel and the club that is at the center of your feet. Try it I'm sure you will like it.

Article written by Tim Peightal

A Trip to the Senior British Open

by Bob Boldt, PGA Professional

My trip started from Reno, Nevada after trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open at Hidden Valley Golf Course. There had been two spots available for 42 players. I came in fourth, which was the same as last. Disappointed but not despondent, I was looking forward to my exemption into the British Open (I had earned an exemption from the Senior Tour money list). The last time I had an opportunity to play in Britain was in the late sixties when I played the regular tour.

I should have expected a bizarre trip when my flight was delayed going to Seattle. The only way I could play in the Senior British Open was to make my connection with British Airways there at 10:30 p.m. If I missed it I would miss my deadline for registration. U.S. Air to Seattle had engine problems; no other flights were available. I found one that went to Portland, then flew from Portland to Seattle, and arrived 30 minutes prior to flight time.

Naturally the British Airways flight was in another terminal. After some frantic hustle I jumped on the plane as the doors were closing. One problem, my baggage and clubs didn't make it.

Great! What do I play with? British Air says, "No problem, they'll be on the flight tomorrow and will be shuttled up, hopefully to arrive before the tournament starts." This is not starting out well!

A 747 business-class window seat will be welcome. But my ticket is incorrectly made out; the travel agency has the seating correct on the agenda record but not on the ticket. So I get back row, middle seat, in the smoking section, and that's that. "Sorry you have paid for business class but there are no seats available; you will be upgraded on the return."

I don't know if any of you have had the pleasure of sitting for ten hours in an economy section, middle row seat between a 260-pound Trans-Euro racing mechanic (chain-smoking Camel unfiltered) and a 16 year-old, son of a rock drummer for "Licorice and the Earshots," (also chain-smoking--Benson and Hedges filtered). I can tell you it was very similar to being gassed.

If I could have gotten off the plane, I would have. Drinking was a thought, but I restrained myself and only downed a sleeping pill, in hopes of waking up thinking this was a bad dream. I guess the pill didn't work for a couple reasons: the lack of oxygen in the air and Alorinsk, the mechanic, who downed as many Jack Daniels as needed to pass out about 3 hours into the trip, and snored in bursts so hard it shook the seats. His body was so big I couldn't rest my elbows on the seat rests. Lippy, the rock drummer's son, would not shut up. He told me his whole life history; everything from his new nose ring to how he birdied the eighteen hole at St. Andrews by hitting a three wood into the hole from 160 yards. He asked for my autograph and asked if I wanted to attend his concert and check out some babes. I felt so lucky; a great pair to draw a seat between.

London -- my time 8 a.m. I've had no sleep but am anxious to register and practice (I don't have my clubs but I could at least get to see the course) and get some sleep.

Now about the rental car… The travel agency again made a mistake with my reservation and I was booked for a Land Rover stick shift. No problem, I just wanted to get on with it. This car, jeep, whatever is like the ones you see on safari and it rode the same way.

On a three-hour drive on the wrong side of the road, shifting with my left hand and trying to negotiate a roundabout I was within a few miles of the hotel and course when it happened. I was in the inside lane of the roundabout, completely stopped, when I heard a crunch on my left side but didn't see anything. It was about 10 p.m. I peered out of the other side to see what had happened and saw the remains of a mini-minor MG (a car the size of a large bumper car) flattened on the side of the road. The car was chartreuse with polka dots and the driver was a mini-skirted, high-heeled, well-endowed, teenybopper with spiked hair. She was as high as one can get, grabbing her neck and lying on the side of the road. I asked if she was hurt and she starts yelling at me with every swearword I know, and the crowd starts in and sides with her. I have a feeling this is not going to be very good.

One hour later, Constable Stanley Preston arrives, a 25 year-old weight lifter, clothing starch-pressed into military iron folds. He has a semi-penciled mustache; I can feel I'm up against it. Stanley immediately attends to Pricilla ("Call her Prissy," she tells Stanley)-- I may as well throw in the towel. 30 minutes later Stanley comes over and states that he is giving me a citation…and I haven't even talked to him yet. I start to explain and Stanley says, "License, passport, insurance, rental documents, international license." I have everything except the international license.

Stanley reads me my rights, explains that we must all go into Constable's Headquarters, and that I am being cited. Prissy is now well and her hero has been, and will be, rewarded.

2:00 a.m. Papers are filed. I have the right to a lawyer but nothing can be done until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Until then I must be in custody. I plead my case with the British Open registration, invitee of the Royal and Ancient, etc. Stanley does not hear me. Desperation sets in. I'm not going to sit in custody and miss the tournament because I was hit by a drug-crazed-teenybopper in a go-cart.

3:00 a.m. Prissy is leaving; Stanley is escorting her home. I approach Stanley and inform him that I am going to report him to the consulate for improper procedures: no witnesses, no checking for alcohol, drugs, or open containers, and giving me no food. This was a real bad idea. Stanley is pissed, but I don't care. I demand to see another constable and get my first break, as in comes Captain Bush, authoritative, 60ish, very proper, very British. He listens to my story, starts a chat with "stud-ly" Stanley and I can see it isn't polite--the captain is a golfer!!!

At 5 a.m. the captain arranges a cash bail. Prissy says her car is worth 800 pounds and she has no insurance. Captain Bush takes $1500 in Travelers checks from me, proceeds with paperwork and says, "Believe me, this is the very best way out." I believe him and I'm on my way at 6 a.m.

I arrive at the clubhouse at 8:00 a.m., unshaven and having been up for thirty hours. I register, explain my dilemma to the Royal and Ancient committee, borrow a set of clubs (mine are to arrive tomorrow, the tournament day!) and hit the course.

At 2:00 that afternoon I finally check into the hotel, crash, wake-up the next morning at 9 a.m. and am scheduled to tee off at 12:30.

By 10:30 my clubs have not arrived. I feel like a zombie (jet lag, bad) but I'm going to play no matter what.

At 12:00 my clubs arrive, half an hour before my tee time. The weather is beautiful.

Within that half an hour a storm comes in. The first hole is 208 yards, par 3. A one iron comes up short, and I hit it perfectly. I shoot 73, bogeying the last two holes, and had one of the lowest rounds in the afternoon. All of the leaders played in the morning. I was ecstatic with the round. Things are turning around.

On Friday I have a 9 a.m. tee-time and am looking forward to good weather, as it was on Thursday morning. Wrong! There's another storm front right behind the first one and it is more violent.

This time I hit a driver on the 208-yard first hole. My two fellow competitors, Hugh Boyle, a Ryder Cup-per from Britain and Hans Hohnke from Sweden, cannot reach the green with their drivers.

By the 4th hole the storm intensifies and destroys my umbrella. Rain is covering the greens but there is no cancellation ("The show must go on"). I am drenched and cannot hang on to the club and shoot 40 on the first nine.

On the 10th hole the club slips out of my hands-O.B. The next shot I top. The following shot buries in a pot bunker. I hit it but cannot get it out. I hit the next shot backwards, but too far, into a dense thicket-unplayable. Now I'm really in trouble because I can't drop anywhere--2 club-lengths gives me no relief. Dropping further back, keeping that point on my line to the hole, puts me in the trolley rails. I can only drop the ball and play it from where I started, back in the bunker. This particular pot bunker is so deep that one cannot do anything but hit sideways or backwards. I drop the ball in the bunker and it buries. I try to play sideways but it doesn't come out. I try again and move the ball to the rough near the fairway. A perfect 5 iron flies over the green into a thicket. I chop out, chip up and two-putt. (Trivia what did I score?)

I would have quit at this point but I was at the furthest point from the clubhouse, so I decided to play on. 88 shots later I arrived at the Royal Lytham and St. Annes, circa 1896, clubhouse. The storm was gone.

A bottle of spirits, a quick flight home, and this nightmare was behind me. I arrived at Boundary Oak two days later, to the question, "What happened, why did you withdraw?"

Dumbfounded I said, "What?"

"You made the cut by three shots."

The storm had caused many scores in the 100's; last place was 2000 pounds or 4,000 dollars.

Article written by Bob Boldt
See Bob's web page for more.

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