With the golf world focusing on ‘beefing up’ stretching can easily be forgotten. Here we’ll guide you through a modern approach to stretching, these stretches can increase your performance, club head speed, reduce the risk of injury and provide everyday benefits of having less aches and pains.
For this I’ve teamed up with a buddy of mine Jeremy Golden. Jeremy is a seriously knowledgeable S&C coach who has worked with college and elite athletes across America. Hopefully, with our combined insight we can really help your golf game.
What are the aims of stretching
Stretching can be used for two main purposes:
- Increasing flexibility / mobility
- Priming the body for movement (practice and play)
Later on we’ll discuss how to adapt your approach, based on your desired outcome. However, let’s dive into the best golf stretches and key joints that they target.
Key areas and golf stretches
Your thoracic spine is the middle and longest section of your spinal column. Rotation about your spine provides separation between your pelvis and upper body (shoulder line). This rotation is integral to your golf swing. Below we have two great stretches – one for developing rotation and a second for maintaining mobility across ranges of flexion / extension.
Golf stretches for thoracic rotation
Golf stretch for spinal flexion / extension mobility
Your thoracic spine is designed to rotate, players who have limited thoracic rotation often end up trying to use their lower back (lumbar spine) to rotate, which can result in injury. The stretches above are ideal for improving your performance and reducing your risk of injury.
Golf stretches for lower back
Your lumbar spine is the main section of your lower back. It can rotate, but its main function is to flex and extend, controlling the profile of your lower back – which you may have heard called anterior / posterior pelvic tilt.
If you spend many hours sitting in a chair you will likely lose some of your range of motion in this area. The stretches below are a great way to slowly improve and progress the range of motion you have in your lower back.
Jeremy has selected these options to minimise the load placed through your lumbar spine when stretching. But it goes without saying, take care and please consult a professional before you embark on any new golf exercise regime.
Hip stretches for golf
The way in which your hips move during your golf swing is critical. In the modern golf swing internal and external hips rotation makes up almost half the rotation we see professionals make during their backswing, with the rest coming from their thoracic spine.
Hip rotation is a key source of power, but crucially, maintaining hip flexion whilst rotating allows you to maintain your golf posture throughout your backswing and downswing – helping to prevent early extension.
The following stretch (90-90) is one that few golfers use, but it reflects the range of motion in the golf swing well. You will find this stretch quickly highlights limitations in hip rotation. As Jeremy discusses below – roll into the position, then tilt and shift your upper body to tweak where around your hips this targets.
Golfers who have lower back pain often suffer from a lack of mobility in their hips. The inability to rotate your hips often leads to excess pressure being put onto your lower back trying to create this rotation.
Increasing rotation about your right hip increases the amount you can lengthen/stretch your right gluteal muscles during your backswing, which will result in greater force development during your downswing.
The key message from this section – don’t neglect your hips, these are just as important as your upper body for creating rotation and maintaining your form.
Hamstrings & adductors
Both the hamstring and adductors range across your hip joint, making them equally important for managing how your hips move during your golf swing. Jeremy and I became quite passionate when discussing this section, with Jeremy shouting – ‘nobody talks about the adductors!!’
Luckily he has the following stretching exercises to target these areas.
Below is a simple hamstring stretch. You can progress this stretch by tilting further forwards with your upper body and/or by flexing your foot towards you. Ensure you tilt from your hips and keep good posture as you progress – avoid ‘hunching’ forward.
Below is a simple adductor stretch using a golf club. Jeremy has gone for a driver, I tend to favour an iron in case I get carried away and press too hard on the shaft. Either way, this is a very good stretch to target an under conditioned area for many players.
Shoulder stretches for golfer
The last area to cover is stretches for your shoulders. As your arms move across your chest and back again (lateral shoulder flexion / extension) they are responsible for transferring the large forces you’ve created with your body into the golf club. For this reason it is important to make sure they are warmed up and ready to perform.
A second little note is that your right shoulder needs to be able to externally rotate for you to shallow the club shaft in your downswing. I personally feel this is over-sold as a reason why golfers get too steep in their downswing, but nevertheless, when we consider the range of motion needed in our shoulders to swing a golf club, it is clear that we should look after them.
Below is a nice short set of shoulder and upper back stretches. Jeremy, being a pro, does this with driver, opt for a steel shafted club if you are concerned about snapping a shaft.
Dynamic vs static golf stretches
Many golfers are unclear with the difference between dynamic and static stretches, and when to use each. As the names suggest, static stretches involve you finding a stretch and holding it. Whereas, dynamic stretches require you to move back and through a range of motion about a joint or joints.
Which type is best? Both are great – Jeremy describes dynamic stretches as ‘static stretches 2.0’ – hitting the same muscles and joints, just moving whilst you’re doing it. This is a good thing and will help you be prepared to move fast!
Dynamic stretching can also develop strength at the same time as mobility, which can improve your ability to stabilise your body throughout a range of motion. This is another key requirement for creating an athletic golf swing.
In the short video below Jeremy gives you a great dynamic lower body warm up using mini bands.
This type of short sequence has many benefits for warming up and your general conditioning. Most elite athletes carry out a similar ‘glute activation set’ before a gym routine or performing.
What Jeremy and I both agree on is that properly executing static stretching is a real skill that few untrained athletes excel at. We discuss this in more detail below.
Helpful tips when doing static golf stretches
Great static stretching requires intention and focus on lengthening muscles. This requires you to be well attuned with your body and be able to gradually relax you muscles as you progress through a stretch.
The following sequence breaks this process down:
- Move into your chosen stretch until you feel a suitable stretch in the correct area.
- Focus on your breathing, and hold the stretch.
- After 8-10 seconds, simultaneously breath out, and allow the chosen muscle group to relax and length.
Step three requires you to be really in tune with your body. Closing your eyes can help improve your awareness and proprioception, practicing Yoga is also a great way to develop this skillset.
Golf warm up stretches (pre-round)
If you’re one of those obsessive golfers who will get to the course 90 minutes early, then yes you can use this entire stretching routine as your golf warm-up – you’ll feel great. However, for the other 97% of golfers reading, here is the order of stretches we recommend if you are short of time:
- World’s greatest stretch
- 90-90 hip stretches
- Hamstring & adductor stretches
- Shoulder lateral flexion / extension
If you’re running to the tee with your golf shoes untied, five of the world’s greatest stretch on your left and right side is our best advice – disclaimer: we can’t guarantee you’ll crush your drive 310 with a 45 second warm up.
One myth about a great golf warm up
Golf is an explosive action – muscle groups across your body contract to >90% of maximum activation. With this in mind, a great golf warm-up should properly prepare your body – you should feel out of breath and sweat when you carry out a proper warm up routine – it is called a warm up.
This concept has finally hit the main tours with golfers now lifting weights and dynamically stretching before a round. We’ll see this small performance gain slowly filter down into the mini tours and to club golfers at some point.
A dynamic warm up won’t transform you into a scratch golfer, but being prepared to hit the golf ball on those first three holes can make a big difference to the rest of your round.
How can I improve my flexibility for golf?
Pick 2 – 4 of the stretches in this list and perform them 3 – 5 times a week. Performing them 1-2 times a week will help your general conditioning. However, if you can complete these three times a week or more you will really start to see gains in your range of motion.
The good news is that, if you haven’t stretched like this before, you will likely make some good gains in a very short period of time.
A quick note I would like to share – if you do improve your range of motion don’t be surprised if you become more inconsistent for a few weeks. Your body has to work out how to control these new degrees of freedom it now has.
This isn’t a big problem, and you don’t need to make any conscious changes. If you feel this has happened to you, just head to the range and focus on making solid strikes and focus on holding a balanced finish.
You will soon start seeing the benefits of better mobility.
Golf stretches to improve shoulder turn
What we call ‘shoulder turn’ is made up of thoracic rotation and internal/external hip rotation. The thoracic rotation stretches (World’s greatest) and hip rotation stretches (90-90 stretches) will be ideal if you want to create a larger shoulder turn, but don’t neglect those hamstring or adductor stretches – these are two secondary areas that affect your ability to rotate.
Golf stretching summary
There we have our modern guide to golf stretching. Remember – mobility in your thoracic spine and hips are both keys for performance and reducing the load on your lower back. You should be out of breath and warm after performing a proper golf warm-up. Finally, dynamic stretching is a great way to develop range of motion and increase your strength.
For more on golf fitness, and golf-specific exercises check out these articles and click here for more information and creating an annual golf training plan. I would just like to say a huge thanks to Jeremy for helping me put this together. You can go find him on Twitter and thank him in person.
Happy golfing – Will & Jeremy
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