Jake Berman

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Golf: Over Swinging = Losing Distance

Golf Swing

So we’ve gone over the proper body mechanics required for the golf swing and how improper use of those body mechanics leads to back pain and losing distance off the tee. We also now know that the twisting/turning motions of the golf swing are supposed to come from your upper back (thoracic spine) and your hips (ball and socket joints) and NOT from your lower back (lumbar spine). I also identified the core and the glutes as being the main muscles required to generate power during the golf swing. Specifically, the right hip and associated glutes for right handed golfers and the opposite for lefties. 

how “over swinging” is the number one cause of losing distance off the tee.

Now I want to get into more detail on how “over swinging” is the number one cause of losing distance off the tee. In my experience, this overwhelmingly affects male golfers vs female golfers. Being a male myself, I attribute this to our male tendencies to either consciously or subconsciously strive for dominance. I know some males reading this will immediately deny this however this theory is coming from our innate psychology striving for survival dating back to our Caveman days.

Back in the Caveman days, being the strongest in the pack significantly increased your chances for survival and reproducing. I know many of us like to think that we are much more “sophisticated” now-a-days but the reality is that deep down either consciously or subconsciously we men will always be striving for some sort of dominance. 

The way this deep rooted innate tendency relates to your golf game is explicitly clear on the tee box. I don’t care if you are 38 or 88 years old, you get a certain feeling, a feel good feeling, a shot of dopamine when you out drive all your buddies on the tee box.

I know this is true as I’ve had the pleasure of playing a few rounds with one of my clients Dave, who at the time was 88 years old.

To be completely honest, I had no idea how the round would play out walking up to that first tee box with Dave. I was just feeling lucky that he invited me to play on one of the most exclusive golf courses in Naples! The first few holes went as I figured with me (playing the blues) out driving Dave hitting from the seniors’ boxes. But then things got interesting on the 5th hole when Dave bet me on who would hole out first (both of us were already on the green 50+ feet from the hole). To my surprise, Dave one-putted! And I three-putted…

This led to the next few “friendly” bets on the putting green and ultimately gained more stakes when Dave bet me on the 9th tee box. He said whoever has the best drive on this hole would win the round. On this particular hole there was a significant distance between our two tee boxes with significantly more water hazard available to me. 

So of course I grabbed the big stick and let ‘er rip...I had been hitting nice fades off the tee all day UNTIL that hole where I hit a beautiful SLICE! Right into the water! I’ll never forget the excitement I saw on Dave’s face as he walked up to his tee box. Dave lined up and took the club back slowly keeping his core and glutes engaged, then let it go with a perfect drive right down the middle- his best of the day! 

If you knew Dave, you would know him as one of the most genuine and humble people you’ve ever met. So when I saw the excitement on his face and watched his entire body lift up, I couldn’t help but be happy he won. Read that again, that last sentence makes me sound like a “bad guy” right? Well not really if you remember the deep seeded innate psychology going on in my brain...and every male’s brain! Yes I truly was happy that Dave, my 88 year old client and friend won the round but there was a tiny part of me that for a few seconds was bummed out that I lost. I’m blaming it on the mental pillar breaking down on me (remember those pillar things I talked about a while ago???). 

Moving on, I tell that story to give one example of how it doesn’t matter how old you are- if you are a male then you want to hit the ball farther than everybody else in your group, and that’s either happening consciously or subconsciously. And that right there is the beginning of the end of most male golfers’ careers.

Statistically speaking, the biggest percentage of lost distance off the tee shots in male golfers comes around the age of 60 years old. Males might lose 5, 10, or 15 yards off the tee between the ages of 40-60, but after 60 I frequently hear of golfers losing 30-50 yards off their tee shots in less than 5 years in most cases! That is a huge amount of distance lost in a relatively short period of time! That is the difference between 3-5 club lengths in your choice for your 2nd shot on par fours! Meaning if your 2nd shot on an average par four was usually with a 7 iron, you now are hitting a fairway wood! I don’t know about you but I’m attacking the pin when the 7 iron is in my hand. I’d just hope to be somewhere close to the green when using my woods. This completely changes the game for golfers over the 60 years old. 

In general, most 60 year olds that I’ve worked with in my Naples Physical Therapy clinic don’t feel “old”. So when these 60+ year old golfers lose 30-50 yards off their tee shots, the 1st thing they try to do is swing harder. If you're reading this and familiar with how golf works then you know that swinging harder and golf go together like oil and water.

Because swinging harder never works, the next thing we males try to do is bring the club back farther. We want more “shoulder turn” or “I got to get my back to the target.” This is where it all goes wrong. This is when we try to over power our natural body mechanics and “create” motion that doesn’t exist.

Backswing

In 9 out of 10 male golfers over the age of 60 that I’ve worked with for golf performance and resolving back pain, the way they get that increased “shoulder turn” or increased backswing is by straightening their right knee and bending their left elbow into the backswing. This leads to what I call “wrapping the club around your body.” After taking a slow motion video of said golfer’s swing and taking a screenshot right at the transition from the backswing to the downswing, the shaft of the club will at least be parallel to the ground and sometimes be even farther with the hands being higher than the club head! Not even Cameron Champ who is the longest driver on the PGA tour (at the time of this writing) gets his hands higher than his club head at the top of his backswing! If he can’t do it at 25 years old (using perfect technique), what in the hell makes a 65 year old man think he can??? Think about that for a minute…

"I can’t say this enough, I’m not a golf professional. I’m simply a biomechanics expert"

So I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I know a damn thing about swing technique (technique is another one of those 4 pillars again, remember?). But what I will sit here and confidently tell you with 100% certainty is that when you try to take the body further in a motion that is capable of doing with proper body mechanics, the overall efficiency (power and strength) of said movement exponentially decreases. And I do mean exponentially, aka dramatically, aka significantly decreases! 

Over the years of working with male golfers in Naples over the age of 60 struggling with back pain and/or just wanting improved golf performance, I’ve developed scientifically proven and reproducible techniques that objectively test strength and power during the golf swing. The techniques that I use are so simple yet so clear that you, the client, can easily see that “you ain’t usin’ no muscles (my words)” for pretty much the last third of your backswing (usually the entire last half of the backswing!). This usually directly correlates to the reverse meaning that “you ain’t usin’ no muscles” for the 1st 33-50% of the downswing! (hope you like my proper grammar!) 

If we are not using muscles, what in the heck is moving the club?

Well momentum is the main driver but I’ll get more into that later. For now you need to know that momentum is using your joints, tendons, and ligaments to perform the motion because your muscles are not working. Keeping things extremely simple, the #1 job your muscles have is to take the majority of the stress you place on your body AWAY from your joints, tendons, and ligaments. Reason being, that if you break down your muscles they can easily recover in 24-72 hours (in general). Take that 24 hour delayed soreness (DOMS delayed onset muscle soreness) you experience after a really good and intense workout. But as most of you know, if you break down your joints, that usually results in a joint replacement because joints don’t recover like your muscles do. The same goes for tendons and ligaments, you break those down and it takes significantly longer and more intervention to repair those than muscles. 

  • YOU MAY BE ASKING, “SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?”

Most of my male clients hate my answer because they “feel” like I’m asking them to take a three quarter swing or sometimes even a half swing. And in all honesty, I’m not asking them to change anything. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll never ask you to change your swing (technique pillar) because I am not a golf professional and I don’t teach golf philosophy; I’m a biomechanics expert. I’m simply showing them what my scientifically proven objective tests are saying and where in their backswing they start to lose power. 

The results speak for themselves. If you look at Pete’s testimonial on bermanpt.com/golf, you’ll hear him say how much clubhead speed he gained in MINUTES of finding, recruiting, and properly using the right muscles during the transition from backswing to downswing. And these results are expected! It’s so simple a Caveman can do it (shout out to Geico)! But seriously, using more muscles equals more power. Power generated in the golf swing is converted into torque which is where clubhead speed comes from. This works 100% of the time with every single person that goes through The Berman Method because it’s science, not technique! Technique requires interpretation which can vary from person to person; science is reproducible everytime if you follow the same exact equation (which we do, it’s called The Berman Method!). 

Now it’s time for some immediately actionable tips.

I know I’ve asked you to do this before but I want you to do it again since you should have a better understanding of what you are looking for now. Set up your phone or have somebody record your swing in slow motion. Then watch the video and pause it exactly at the transition from backswing to downswing. What does your left elbow look like? Is it more bent or more straight? Then look at your right knee. Does it look straighter than it did at your address position? These questions are geared towards right handed golfers of course. 

Let me know what you find and even better, try to shoot holes in my process and tell me why I’m wrong! I always love hearing arguments against science, almost as much as I like out driving everybody in my group! 


P.S. I finally hit a few drives over 300 yards, 305 yards to be exact! June 3rd, 2021 was officially the 1st time that ever happened! The best I’ve ever done before this was 275 yards and that was down hill and down wind… 

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Dr. Jake Berman

Dr. Jake Berman

After graduating from the University of Florida, Dr. Jake Berman, PT, DPT sought out mentorship first from Bob Seton in Destin, FL and then from Aaron Robles in Jacksonville, FL. Both of these mentors have 20+ years of experience helping people keep active and mobile so they can enjoy high quality active lifestyles. What Jake found was that back pain was by far the most debilitating pain and the highest factor leading to decreased physical activity later in life.

These experiences are what inspired Jake to specialize in helping people aged 50+ keep active, mobile and pain free despite the aging process. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to alleviate somebody’s back pain so that they can get back to living their best life- especially in Naples! Over the years of helping 100’s of people aged 65-75 become stronger and pain free, one thing for sure has become apparent: “he who rests rots”.

Jake is a firm believer that we become stiff then old, not old then stiff. Seriously, think about it...
Dr. Jake Berman

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