When it comes to the golf swing, we all know how important thoracic spine (T-Spine) rotation is for both performance and injury prevention. When it comes to the entire upper body, however, there’s another joint that is often overlooked can limit your ability to swing the golf club.
As surprising as it may sound, your neck can be the limiting factor to your swing. You might be thinking, “my head doesn’t move when I swing the club, I’m staring at the ball the entire time.”
As we rotate our spine in one direction, we move into cervical spine (C-Spine) rotation in the opposite direction. Let’s use a right-handed golfer as an example.
As a golfer rotates into his backswing, he creates T-Spine rotation to the right. Since the head remains still, looking at the ball, our neck is rotated towards the left at the top of the backswing. If cervical rotation is restricted actively, this can be detrimental to the amount in which you can rotate your T-Spine, potentially throwing off your swing.
Here is the average player’s cervical spine mobility utilized during their golf swing on the PGA TOUR. These numbers were taken directly from the TPI Medical 2 Certification.
73 degrees of left-sided rotation
64 degrees of right-sided rotation
47 degrees of flexion
25 degrees of both left and right side bending
Here’s a simple screen from the Titleist Performance Institute to test if you have ample cervical spine mobility for the golf swing:
After performing the screen on yourself, these are some of the factors you want to keep in mind to determine whether you have adequate range of motion or not:
Normal range is the ability to touch your chin to mid-collarbone on both sides without pain.
While performing the test, make sure your mouth remains closed at all times. Opening your mouth to get your chin to touch your chest is considered a compensation.
Pain is abnormal and should be addressed if present.
Let’s take a recent example from Joe Gambino, one of the co-founders of Par Four Performance, to better understand this lesson.
Joe has a history of neck stiffness and limited mobility throughout his cervical spine. In the past, he hasn’t had the opportunity to hit as many golf balls as he’d like, but the volume of swings has increased over the past six months.
As he continued to play, Joe started to develop neck pain when moving into right cervical rotation and flexion, which are two movements required in the downswing.
Roughly two weeks ago, his neck pain continued to amplify with each swing he took. The pain has been lingering since and he’s just starting to feel better. Joe hasn’t been able to hit balls in the meantime, and is probably going to be sidelines for another week or two.
The moral of this story is - don’t be like Joe. We hope he’s learned his lesson, and is listening to his body to make sure his neck doesn’t flare up again in the future. Address your limitations now, so you can stay on the course and not miss time due to injury.
Now, how should you train the neck intelligently? The exercises listed below are a great starting point to help you address and neck limitations you might be dealing with.
Shoulder Engaged Neck CARs
Sphinx with Cervical Rotation
Band Pull Aparts