Hips in the Swinging Seventies

My next journey in Golf – at age 75 — has been a recent one. It’s all about Right and Wrong. Do it “Right” and you may get excruciating pain that lasts through the night. Do it “Wrong (ly)” and you will survive another day, but perhaps not look like a touring golf pro, in either style or distance.

But first, stand up straight and look at your hips. Now take any golf club and make a very small swing with it, hitting nothing Please. As the club moves from one side to the other, your hips want to follow. It’s inevitable with the club going right to left (unless you stiffen your body and use your arms only, as in putting). The hips are going to want to rotate AND swing from one side to the other.

Perhaps we were originally built to be belly dancers, but a lot of seventy year olds have lost the easy gyration (if not yet the rhythm). When you take a beginning golf class – which you will – then if it is with any mixed group, they will gravitate toward the ideal model. The way the Touring Pros look….The Right way to swing a club. It usually means the correct grip and the selected posture. Leaning slightly forward with your knees bent, they encourage you to dip your lead shoulder and rock the trailing shoulder back upward. Swinging the iron in a downward arc, they want you to hit the ball just before you hit the ground. Some people never quite get it “Right.”

The first time I did it “Right” I fell hopelessly in love. It had taken me a few weeks of trying, of dipping my lead shoulder (left in my case) , of banging the ground first or topping the ball or blading the ball hard forward. When that first Right ball flew off my club face everything was perfect and it flew further and higher than I had ever thought I could hit a golf ball. Later ( after using buckets of balls) I got to where I could hit downward on the ball and feel the perfection again — as long as I was on the mat at the driving range. I’ve not yet managed to go beyond hit and miss with irons off the grass, but I will.  The fond memory is always there: when you hit it Right, life is right.

Except that your quest for the perfect swing may well hit your hip flexors. There is a core muscle, called the Psoas, running down through your body to hold you erect. Some have compared this phenomenon to a tent, with your spine the main tent pole being held in place by stays in the ground around it.

The Psoas is a muscle you may stress outside its comfort zone when you hit the golf ball in the “Right” way. It is hard to describe my own experience, but if your hip flexors, mainly the Psoas muscle, get out of whack, you may have some very bad days until it recovers. If it was stressed enough, there may be days when something inside your hip structure seems to be paining without reason, and without any position of immediate relief.

There are a lot of physical therapy specialists (many under Medicare) who will help you through this. However, for less than a co-pay, I got a set of online videos that showed me how to exercise my way out of this hip flexor hell. A few minutes a day keeps the flexors aligned, or loose, or whatever they want. You can find your own comfortable method, but do assuage that Psoas.

Which brought me to discovering my Wrong way. Some golf writers are even suggesting older golfers should swing more upright, with feet closer together. You will not look like the Touring Pros who are such leaders in golf. I cannot tell you exactly how, but this slightly more upright swing might help you “shallow out” your stroke in a way that sometimes gives you more accuracy and consistency. But even if these new Wrong ways seem logical and helpful, clearly the Wrong way may not be the right way for everyone.

Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

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