Golf Coaches’ Perceptions Of Key Technical Swing Parameters (P3)

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RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

OVERVIEW

Five higher order categories emerged from the inductive analysis as to the key technical parameters of the golf swing, which were ‘Club Motion’, ‘Posture’, ‘Body Rotation’, ‘Sequential Movement of Body Segments’ and ‘Arm and Wrist Action’. The higher categories, sub-categories and meaning units for the five key technical parameters can be found in Figure 2. For the purpose of this paper, only the golf coaches’ perceptions of Posture and Body Rotation are presented in detail and compared to the current golf biomechanical literature. Posture and Body Rotation were the most common themes discussed by golf coaches and were therefore chosen to be reported in this paper.

The results and discussion are divided into three sections, firstly, the definition of the stages of the swing identified by golf coaches will be discussed. The second section discussed the key technical parameters within the golf coach’s context, including example quotes, in order to develop an understanding of the coaches’ perceptions of the key technical parameters. Finally, the current golf biomechanical knowledge related to stages of the swing, posture and body rotation are discussed and finally compared to the coaches’ perceptions. Future research directions for biomechanical analysis are then suggested.

STAGES OF THE SWING

Many golf coaches referred to the key technical parameters of the golf swing at specific stages throughout the swing:

First, I would look at address position…then into the backswing to the top, then the start down, moving into impact and from impact to arms straight is follow through, then follow through to finish. So I’d analyse each bit. [Q1 (Quote 1)]

‘Address’ and ‘Impact’ were viewed as the most critical stages of the golf swing. The address or set-up included the ball position, the golfer’s alignment to the chosen target and their body position before the golf club was swung. From the observations, all golf coaches would define a target to which the golfer would aim their golf shots during their coaching session. In addition, some coaches paid particular attention to where the golf ball was positioned relative to the golfer. An incorrect ball position, relative to the golfer’s stance at set-up was linked to changes in a golfer’s body movements.

If we’re dealing with an elite golfer [a centred strike] should be very easy to attain. Usually something is misaligned in the set up or ball position…[Q2]

Ensuring the key technical parameters were correct and repeatable at set-up was important for coaches and a parameter most often referred to at this stage was ‘Posture’.

Following Address, some coaches referred to the ‘Backswing’ phase, which culminated when the golfer reached the ‘Top of the Backswing’. The Top of the Backswing was defined in two ways by the coaches; the first definition was when the golfer felt they could not rotate their ‘shoulders’ any further and the second definition was when the club had stopped and then begun moving again.

Body Rotation and Posture were often referred to in conjunction with the backswing and for one coach, creating a Top of the Backswing position through these parameters enabled the rest of the swing to work efficiently:

Figure 2. Diagram showing the key technical parameters including subcategories and meaning units

If we can get [the golfer] in a correct position at top of the backswing, everything reacts off the back of that…it’s efficient. [Q3]

Proceeding Top of the Backswing, the coaches spoke about the ‘Downswing’ phase, which was initiated by an ‘Initial Downswing’ or transition phase when the club began moving and ended at impact. For one coach, the Initial Downswing movement was considered as the most critical point of the downswing and ended at Impact:

I want the initial movement [in the downswing] to be good and once we’re on plane there, it is very difficult to get off that plane. [Q4]

Impact was regarded as a crucial stage during the golf swing. For one golf coach Impact was:

The transfer of energy…between club and ball…that is what creates ball flight…where the clubhead is at impact and how your club moves through [impact]. [Q5]

The coaches discussed all of the key technical parameters in relation to this stage. Some coaches also believed that the Impact position of the club would inevitably be the same across golfers as each golfer would be striving for the same clubhead parameters (e.g., centred strike).

Finally, the coaches spoke about the ‘Follow Through’ and ‘Finish Position’ as the point where the arms were straight and when the club finally stopped respectively. The Follow Through and Finish Positions were not widely discussed in relation to the key technical parameters, perhaps due to many coaches only interested in the swing through to Impact.

While coaches acknowledged the need to break the swing into stages in order to technically analyse key technical parameters, some emphasised the need to examine the ‘Whole Swing’.

I think there are crucial elements, like set-up, impact…so I do break down elements of it but I try and [have] drills…that help promote motion, movement, rhythm and tempo…I don’t like to see players who are transfixed about getting clubs in position, it’s a movement. [Q6]

The coaches believed that tracing the golfer’s movements throughout the swing was equally, if not more important, than solely focusing on specific stages of the golf swing. In addition, one coach highlighted a potential downfall with current biomechanical analysis.

The problem with a lot of the [biomechanical analysis] systems [are] they generally track what it is like at the start or the end of the movement…but how has that happened…is more important. [Q7]

In biomechanical literature, the most notable stages of the swing used in analysis are top of the backswing (TB) and impact (IMP). Other swing events used for analysis include; takeaway (TA), mid-backswing (MidBS), late-backswing (LateBS), acceleration (Acc), middownswing (MidDS), 40 ms to impact (40 ms), impact (IMP), mid follow through (MidFT) and end of follow through (FT). However, there are discrepancies between studies when defining some stages of the swing. For example, TB has been defined in several ways: club reaching maximum rotation; club reaches most lateral point before changing direction; maximum pelvis rotation and maximum upper torso/shoulder rotation. The discrepancies in defining the swing events can affect interpretation of some results, such as swing time.

Recent studies recognised the limitation with data analysis at key events for biomechanical analysis as a large majority of the continuous data signal is unaccounted for during analysis. Hence, functional data analysis techniques have been employed to detect patterns within a continuous data signal.

In summary, the discrepancy in defining some stages of the swing (e.g., TB) was evident in both the coaches’ perceptions of stages of the swing and the literature. The coaches’ perceptions of the most important swing events [Q1] were also not fully supported by the literature as some studies did not consider TA and the backswing to be important points when analysing the golf swing. Furthermore, the need for more advanced biomechanical analysis methods, which can account for the whole swing was noted by some coaches [Q7] and is currently lacking in the literature.

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