Golf: Reducing Tension (part 2)

The first part of this series talked about converting muscle tension to static or dynamic tension. Try the exercise below to feel the difference.

First, grab a golf club and grip it the way you normally do. Use just enough pressure to keep it from slipping out of your hands. Now, squeeze the grip as hard as you can. You should feel your shoulders, arms and wrists tightening up as your muscles start to contract.

Next, loosen your grip. Keeping your arms relaxed, bend over from the waist and let the club hang down from your hands and arms. Pressure on the grip along with the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders allow you to hold on to the club in this manner. Static tension is created from gravity pulling the weight of the club downward. Elasticity of the arm muscles (like a rubber band) is offsetting the force of gravity, and that is what makes the arms feel like they are still relaxed. Admittedly, there is not much static tension in this example and it is only present when setting up to the ball, but what happens when the club is moving?

For this next exercise take a club and hold it in either hand. With your arm completely relaxed and just enough grip pressure to hold on to the club, start swinging it slowly back and forth. Go short distances at first, feeling the weight of the club. You should notice as you change direction, that there is not much pull from the club on your wrist. Now, increase the distance and swing the club somewhat faster. As you do this, you are going to experience two sensations. Since the inertia and centrifugal force of the clubhead are increasing, you are going to feel the weight of the club pulling on your arm. Additionally, those same physical properties are going to cause your wrist to hinge or bend as you change directions. This is called dynamic tension since it increases as you swing the club faster and faster. Ironically, the arm continues to feel relaxed even though the tension on it is increasing.

Ok, here’s where the fun begins. Grip the club with both hands and just enough pressure to hold on to it. Keep both arms totally relaxed. Start swinging the club back and forth as you did in the last exercise. That is, short distances at first and increasing the distance and speed as you go along. When swinging the club further and further back (or forward), the club is going to want to continue moving in the same direction and you are going to feel the weight of the club pulling on your wrists as you change direction. Let the weight of the club finish hinging your wrists for you. This is the feeling you want to achieve during the golf swing.

Actually, the club naturally pulls on your arms and wrists continually during the backswing. Dynamic tension is achieved by the fact that you are allowing the weight and centrifugal force of the club to pull on your relaxed arms. The arms and shoulders form a triangle. The pulling effect on two sides of the triangle (the arms) is what gives strength and stability to the triangle. Although the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders goes through some transitions during the golf swing, the dynamics are the same.

Reducing Tension Before Making a Golf Swing
Ideally, you want to eliminate or convert as much muscle tension as you can before making a golf swing. One way is to warm up with the exercises above. Another good exercise is to grab two clubs (one in each hand) and swing them back and forth. When doing this, try to keep them moving parallel to each other with your arms relaxed. In this way, you feel of the weight of the clubs and it prepares your arms to move at the same speed.

Muscle tension in the legs and feet can also affect your golf swing in an undesirable way. If they are tense when swinging the club, it will be difficult to turn properly (in either direction). Do some leg stretches during your warm up exercises to help relieve any tension in them.

Something you can do before addressing the ball is to stand with the club in your left hand and at your side, then release all the tension from head to toe. This takes but a few seconds, but pays big dividends during the golf swing. Also, you can get the feel of the grip at the same time. Take the time to learn what reduced muscle tension feels like and your swing will improve immensely.

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Golf: Pace of Play

Lately there has been a lot of discussion at the professional level about slow play. Kevin Na’s inability to pull the trigger at the Players Championship and Morgan Pressel’s demise at the Sybase Match Play are two examples. Unfortunately, these things always filter down to us average golfers. Courses increasingly demand that we play faster despite the fact that most of us don’t use a caddy familiar with the course, have the benefit of a rules official and often times play on courses that have difficult set-ups. All of us should do what we can to keep the pace of play reasonable, but what is reasonable?

Golf: Reducing Tension (part 1)

As long as I have been playing golf, I’ve heard and read that tension in the golf swing is a “shot killer.” I never understood how there could not be tension when we are told to keep a certain grip pressure, to keep our left arm straight in the backswing, to turn our hips back and then forward, to rotate our wrists one way then another, etc. All golf swing movements require some form of muscle strength (contraction). Muscle contraction translates to tension plain and simple.

Muscle Tension versus Static and Dynamic Tension
Here is an example of muscle tension. Holding on to a golf club requires that you have the strength in your hands to put pressure on the grip. Consequently, grip pressure creates tension in the hands and wrists. The more pressure, the more tension. Fortunately, this is a situation where you have the opportunity to reduce muscle tension by using less pressure. Ideally, we would like to reduce or eliminate as much muscle tension as possible throughout the entire golf swing.

If we can convert a certain amount of muscle tension into static or dynamic tension, we can start to understand what a relaxed swing feels like. Static and dynamic tension differs from muscle tension in that neither is related to muscle contraction. By taking advantage of muscle elasticity, a certain amount of muscle tension can be converted to static or dynamic tension. In part 2 of this subject I will give you some exercises that will let you feel the difference between muscle tension and static or dynamic tension.

Confessions of a Guitar Junkie

As a child I learned to play the guitar on my father’s 1935 Epiphone Blackstone guitar. He traded in a violin to get that guitar (his mother wanted him to play the violin). He learned fast and soon found himself playing with a band in “Speakeasies” during prohibition at the tender age of 15. One night the speakeasy he was playing in got raided and he was the only one the police let go. He says it was because of his age. They told him that they never wanted to see him again in that kind of place. He promised to stay away from speakeasies and he kept his word. In fact I don’t think he played much after that, but he did keep the guitar. Many, many years later (I think I was 12) I took an interest in it and convinced him to pay for my lessons.

I got my first new guitar when I was 14 or 15 years old. It was a Christmas gift and I completed my lessons with it. I have never played professionally (just in a high school band), but those two guitars got me started down a road that I continue to travel on to this day. That is, ya I confess, I am a guitar junkie. Now, I really don’t want to be a guitar junkie, but something compels me to keep looking at new guitars and to buy another one every once in a while.

I don’t have every guitar that I have ever purchased as I have sold some over the years, but I certainly have many more than I need or play. I think that the reason that I keep buying them is that I am looking for a certain sound. I do admit that the guitars that I have purchased over the years all fall into the low to medium price range. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever played a guitar that is priced at the high-end.

My thinking now is that I should sell all the guitars that I have and spend time to find a good high-end guitar that gives me the sound that I am looking for. What I am afraid of is that I will eventually own several high-end guitars. So instead of being a cheap guitar junkie, I would end up being a high-priced guitar junkie. Is there really a difference?

Get a Free Golf Ebook

It has been almost 3 months since I started this blog. Originally I was going to use it exclusively to promote my books. But, I soon discovered that blogs are a great way to discuss just about anything and a way to connect with people all over the world. Already, I have had more visitors than anticipated and I have communicated with several of them. To show my appreciation I am offering a free copy of my new book “Golf: A Beginners Guide and Reference” for a limited time to my followers and anyone else who reads my blog. It is available to read online or to download in many ebook formats. Just click on the referenced link and use the coupon code DT73E at checkout.

I look forward to continuing and to conversing with more bloggers on various subjects.

Please note that this offer has expired.