Your Lifestyle May Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Golf Game

By:Bob Forman

You probably don’t realize it, but what you do off the golf course can often times influence how you do on the course. The computer age can be much to blame, as can cell phones, for our golfing frustrations, as well as some of our day jobs.

For many, sitting a good part of the day hunched over a computer, desk, workstation, or patient (as in the case with dentists and surgeons) does not bode well for posture in general, and can wreck havoc not only on your health, but on your golfing performance.

Similarly, the amount of time we spend looking down at our cell phones is also contributing to this dilemma. “Text neck” or the curving of the cervical spine and shoulders (photo right) significantly adds to poor posture.

One distance-robbing, swing-altering consequence from these modern-day lifestyles, which is impacting golfers of all ages and levels, is the C-posture. No longer just an older golfer’s affliction, C-posture is characterized by a bowed spine and rounded shoulders while setting up over the ball.

This upper cross syndrome, as it’s more clinically called, is defined by a shortening or tightening of the chest muscles and a concomitant lengthening or weakening of the upper back muscles (rhomboids). This imbalanced combination pulls the shoulders forward creating that rounded shoulder posture that is becoming more prevalent both on and off the golf course.

Of concern is the fact that a rounded shoulder posture will cramp the organs in the chest cavity. With less room to operate, the heart and lungs can get crowded out and as a result, negatively impact their functional capacity. Health experts say this can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent. It's also been linked to headaches, neurological issues and shoulder and neck pain.

Not only does prolonged sitting or time on the phone in a hunched over position bring on this condition, as the body adapts to the position its placed in, too many sets of chest strengthening exercises in the gym will also lead up to it. This is exacerbated if little or no focus is given to the opposing rhomboid muscles in the upper back.

It’s estimated that more than a third, and growing, of all golfers have this condition and it will rob them of power, distance, and accuracy. C-posture reduces a golfer’s ability to take the club back in the backswing by up to 30%, as the body cannot rotate around a bent spine as easily as it can a straight one. This reduction in backswing may decrease the golfer’s ability to generate clubhead speed and power, resulting in lost yardage.

As a compensation to increase the backswing, a golfer with a C-posture will stand taller as they bring the club back, allowing for greater range of motion. This “loss of posture” or “dynamic posture” swing fault, however, can affect swing path and balance, adding to the tendency for weak, off line and inconsistent shots.

To correct upper cross syndrome and C-posture, focus should be placed on specific exercises to stretch the tightness and strengthen the weakness. Two such exercises are the doorframe stretch and the upper back squeeze.

The doorframe stretch is a good exercise to stretch out the chest and front shoulder. Raise your arms about shoulder height and place your forearms against a doorframe with the elbows bent 90 degrees. Without moving your feet, gradually lean into the door until a gentle stretch is felt across the chest and/or shoulders. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times. Remember to breathe normally. Don’t overdo this stretch!

The upper back squeeze will focus on the strengthening of the upper back (rhomboids). Take an exercise tube or band, wrap it around a solid fixture about chest height, and grab onto each end. Step back till a sufficient stretch is felt in the tube/band with arms outstretched in front of you and palms down. From this starting position, slowly pull the arms back, keeping the elbows up and away from your body, as far as comfort permits and then return to the starting position. You should feel your shoulder blades squeezing together. Repeat 15 to 20 times. Exhale on the effort.

In addition, a series of simple stretches for the neck and shoulders has been shown to be effective in improving range of motion and discomfort in the area.

If what you do for a good part of the day is creating anatomical imbalances in your body, you need to correct the imbalances that are developing or have already developed in your musculoskeletal system.

For C-posture the initial emphasis should be on strengthening the back and stretching the chest. Don’t go hog wild in the gym with a bunch of chest exercises to get that chiseled look as strengthening a muscle will also tighten a muscle. Work first to get balance back in the upper body by lengthening the chest and tightening the upper back by doing the two exercises mentioned. As posture improves, you can slowly incorporate strengthening of the chest back into the routine.

A physical assessment by a credible golf fitness instructor will be able to identify whether or not you have any deficiencies, like upper cross syndrome, and how severe they are. This blueprint will allow for a targeted exercise program that will correct the imbalances, bringing balance back into the system.

Once that’s done, the body will be able to do what it needs to do in order to swing an efficient golf club. You’ll still need assistance with technique, though, to help rewire the brain-body connection (or what’s been falsely called muscle memory) in order to fix the wrong movement patterns. That’s where a teaching professional can help.

Now that you’re aware of the fact, be mindful of what you do throughout the day and focus on exercises that will help your posture in general and your golf game. Fixing the C-posture may help alleviate any neck or upper back stiffness/discomfort that you may be experiencing, as well as get you more yards down the fairway, improve your playing performance, and enhance your playing satisfaction.

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