Biomechanics of a Golf Swing

Golf physics cover

We, humans, have invented and mastered countless sports over the course of many years. While some sports are very physically demanding others require analysis and techniques that are utilized at critical points. Golf is the best example of the latter, as it combines the calculations within one’s mind and executing the perfect swing. To an untrained eye, golf can appear as nothing but a boring sport with swings that any 4 years old can make, however, it just appears that way. Professional players understand well that it requires countless hours of practice just to learn how to properly swing the club in the first place. It’s a game of patience and precisions, which is understood by Biomechanics.

What is Biomechanics?

Biomechanics is a study that falls in the spectrum of Kinesiology. As the name suggests it combines the Bio (the body or the organic part of the equation) with mechanics (mechanism or techniques), in simple terms it is the study of physics that comes into play by an organism upon performing certain tasks. Biomechanics are highly used in professional sporting events as well as producing gym equipment that is less hazardous. There are five main components of biomechanics.

  • Motion: Simply the moment of the body in a particular direction.
  • Force: The amount of push or pull that enables the body to move, stop or change direction.
  • Momentum: Product of the mass and velocity of a body that continues to propel the said object.
  • Levers: In biomechanics, our limbs act as levers.
  • Balance: Stability of the body on the ground.
Golf science

Measurements of a golf swing.

There are other aspects like the axis of the rotation and proper technique of carrying out a task that plays an essential role in understanding the mechanics of the body.

Biomechanics of a Golf Swing

As mentioned previously there are other factors such as the ground, the temperature, and wind that affect the course of the swing but those are external factors that can’t be controlled or practiced. So the followings are the mechanics which can be improved upon.

  • Rotation: The very thing that we notice when we observe a golfer is that they rotate their rib cage in order to build tension. However, it really isn’t just the rotation of the rib cage, in fact, if one is to only rotate their torso they’d suffer intense pain after a number of certain swings as our bodies are not made to be rotating on that particular axis constantly and definitely not while exerting force. The reason behind this according to scientists is that the center body line must be maintained regardless of the rotation, meaning one’s throat must always be aligned with one’s belly button. If one is to bend or raise their shoulders while performing a swing, this imaginary line is twisted and they might face problems with elbow joint and scapular.
  • Motion: Various tiny movements are involved in the making of the perfect swing. It may appear that only the torso and arms are in motion, however, tiny adjustments are constantly being made by our wrists during the swing. In rookie players, there might be no uncocking of the wrists or they may do it subconsciously, professional golfers are well aware of the tiniest little motions that can make or break the swing. Not one but at least three directions are involved in these motions.
  • Balance: This is among the easier details to understand. As it is established rotation is essential for a good swing, but one cannot have a proper rotation without having a stable base. The placement of feet should be in a manner that the center of gravity must not be changed, if when performing the swing the balance becomes offset, it will severely change the course of the swing and even cause injury. In each swing, the upper body rotates and to some extent legs as well, but the feet are firmly planted for stability resulting in the balance of the body.
  • Force: Simply the amount of push that is required to be able to smoothly launch the ball off the tee. As simple as it sounds, the right amount of force is required to properly execute a swing, too weak and you’d fail to cover any distance, too strong and the trajectory of the ball will be altered. This aspect only comes with practice.
  • Levers: As mentioned earlier our limbs are the levers in the realm of biomechanics. Obviously, legs are not used here but interestingly the club becomes a part of the lever as well, more like an extension of the body while performing the swing. Either the arms and clubs are considered two separated levers working in the same direction with an equal amount of force or simply one lever. The shoulders of a golfer act as a fulcrum, meaning the fixed point from where levers are attached and finally the effort is the hands from where force is applied. Again perfect swing can be observed but only learned after practice.
Lever of golf

Representing the lever in a golf swing.

  • Momentum: Upon raising the club at a certain height, while maintaining the perfect posture. We apply the force and it is the momentum that carries the arms and the club in motion. The momentum of the weight of the arms drives the club and makes the contact with the golf ball and even after that it is the momentum that continues pushing on the arm and making the golfer rotate in the opposite direction. Some people forcefully stop just after hitting the ball, this is really unhealthy and can cause serious damage to the individual in the long run. As one needs to apply an equal or stronger amount of opposite force to stop the motion of the arms which can shock the muscles and cause intense pain.

These are the fundamentals of physics behind a golf swing. Scientists have even mapped 3D images of professional golfers to understand the golf swing and help new players get better. But ultimately it is about practice, as learning something by observing and doing are two completely different things.


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