The Kinetic Link Principle of a Golf Swing

By M.L. Rose
The swing of every golfer, whether pro or amateur, relies on biomechanical principles.
The swing of every golfer, whether pro or amateur, relies on biomechanical principles.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines kinetic as something “of or relating to the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith.” A golf swing, obviously, is kinetic. Indeed, the basic golf swing includes a variety of movements, literally from head to toe. With respect to golf, the kinetic link “is the biomechanical description of how the body efficiently creates power in a golf swing,” says Dr. Sean Fletch, who works with the Canadian Professional Golf Tour to develop training programs for its players.

Why Biomechanics Are Important

A golf swing, viewed in all of its component parts, is a complicated process. Eventually, however, “it all boils down to what happens when the golf club makes impact with the golf ball,” says golf writer Harry Hurt. “That is why impact is often called ‘the moment of truth.’” In an ideal swing, the club head strikes the ball squarely, with the head’s sweet spot, while the player generates the maximum power required for a particular shot. Understanding your body’s biomechanics obviously can help you or your instructor find the best way to achieve your goal. As Fletch notes, a golfer who lacks any understanding of his biomechanics will be limited. “Unless you plan to rely on luck and good genetics," he says, "you will never be able to change your ability to effectively create more power, without injury.”

Loading Muscles

To generate power in a golf swing, players must “load” their muscles, Fletch says. Loading the muscles involves stretching them, then contracting them. For example, he says, anyone performing any type of jump will instinctively squat a bit first before leaping. The squat stretches the muscles in one direction; the jumping action then contracts those same muscles, providing the jumper with her power. In golf, the backswing loads the muscles, which then contract during the downswing.

Four Segments of the Golf Swing

Fletch identifies four segments of a golf swing’s kinetic link: hips, torso/shoulders, arms and club. As the downswing begins, he says, the hips should “accelerate in the direction of the downswing,” while the torso and shoulders “lag behind,” which helps to further load the hip muscles. The torso and shoulders then begin moving, bringing the arms -- followed by the club head -- toward the ball. The movement of each segment must be coordinated, Fletch adds, to create maximum club head speed at the point of impact.

Chipping and Putting

Some golf shots, such as chips and putts, don’t rely on power and therefore are governed by different biomechanical principles. The National Institutes of Health’s PubMed website recommends golfers “produce a lower grip on the club” and use “a slower/shorter backswing” to generate accurate putts and chip shots, because these shots require consistent shoulder and wrist movements.

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