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Balancing Your Checkbook And Golf Swing
By: Sean Cochran
We all search for it. Balance in our daily lives. Balance while riding a bike. Politicians are always debating a balanced budget in Washington, and most of us could use a little balance in our checkbooks. Balance is a term used in golf quite often as well. It�s a �buzzword� and almost a clich� when it comes to the golf swing. I am sure you have heard numerous times from swing coaches that �you have to stay balanced when swinging your club.� Others phrases that I hear when we talk about golf and balance are the following: �When it comes to a sand shot, dig your feet into the stand so you can stay balanced,� �If the ball is on an uphill lie and above your feet, make sure you swing through the ball, and stayed balanced,� and �Stay balanced when hitting the driver and get to the finish position in perfect balance.� The list could go on and on, and I am sure all of you could probably add to the short list above.
Two questions always arise in my mind when I hear the word balance in association with golf: 1) what does balance exactly mean, and 2) how do I create balance in my golf swing? I am guessing quite a few of you have these same questions, or similar ones, when you talk about the subject of balance in relation to the golf swing.
I am going to answer both of these questions. We will first define balance and its relation to the golf swing. Secondly, we will discuss how you develop the balance capacities of your body in relation to the golf swing. So without further ado let�s get started.
What is Balance?
This is a really great question and the perfect way to begin. So let�s hear it! What is the definition of balance? Think about it for a minute and then write down a couple of your answers. I understand that this is not the easiest question to answer (trust me, I have asked it plenty of times), and it is okay if you are not able to create a good working definition of balance (that�s part of what we are going to do with this article). Okay, time is up, what did you write down?
Well, let me tell you some of the replies I have received for this question and we will take if from there. Here are just a few that I hear: �head over your belly button between your feet,� �swinging a club on the correct path,� �knowing where your body is in space,� and �kinesthetic awareness.� All of these answers are somewhat correct, but none of them gives us a good sound understanding of what balance really means.
The definition of balance is simply the ability to control your body during movement. Sounds pretty simple, does it not? It really is when you think about it, but let�s break this definition down so we understand it completely. Starting with the first portion of the definition: �the ability to control� means what? Well, it is probably easiest to imagine what �out of control� looks like. Take the mental image of a racecar crashing into the wall. We could describe the car as out of control. Now take the flip side of this, and what would this car look like if it were in control? It would probably zoom around the track without hitting anything. The body is the same; if your body is out of control it will, in a sense, crash or fall over. If the body is in control, then it performs whatever movement you are asking of it without �crashing.� Take the example of a toddler running. Sometimes they get going so quickly that they get out of control and fall over. Other times they stay in control and are able to run.
Moving onto the second part of the definition: �your body.� Pretty easy concept to understand, don�t you think? Your body includes your torso, head, arms, legs, and anything attached to the arms or legs, like a golf club. Up to this point we can put together the first two parts of the definition and summarize it as: the body (including your arms, legs, torso, head, and golf club) must be under control. Let us add the final part of the definition into the mix to complete our understanding.
The final piece of the definition is: �during movement.� This simply means anything your body is doing. It can be walking, running, throwing a baseball, or, in our world, swinging a golf club. Swinging a golf club is �our movement� when discussing this definition. We are now at the point to put the whole definition together. Let us use the example of a golf swing to create the connection we are looking for in terms of the definition.
Balance is the ability of your body (i.e. nerves, muscles, and skeleton) to swing a golf club effectively and efficiently on the correct path without changing the position of your body in such a way that it is detrimental to the swing and its outcome (i.e. contact with the ball). Pretty simple definition when you break it down, and from now on when your swing coach says, �You have to stay balanced,� you know what he is talking about.
Developing Balance in Our Golf Swing
Okay, we now know the definition of balance and its relationship to the golf swing. Now, for the second question of this article: �how do we develop balance in relationship to our golf swing?� This next section will answer this question for you. I would also bet that the answer is not as obvious as it appears.
I will first say that developing balance in your swing is a combination of a couple of factors. The first and probably most obvious factor is mechanics. The golf swing is a biomechanical movement that requires the body to take the club through a specified swing path in a certain sequence and timing. The body must learn the biomechanical movement of a golf swing to become efficient with the movement. As your body becomes aware of the movement, more efficient with the movement, and has a better �feel� for the movement, the concept of balance in your swing will improve. So the first part of developing balance in your swing is linked to the mechanics of the swing and becoming more efficient with these mechanics. This all funnels down to two things: 1) proper instruction about the swing, and 2) practice. Practice, practice, and more practice is necessary to create better balance in your swing.
The second factor has to do with a term that many of you have probably heard before. That term is �muscle memory.� Realize that within your body the skeleton is controlled by your muscles, muscles are controlled by nerves, and the nerves are told what to do by your brain. The messages sent to your muscles through your nerves by the brain create movement (i.e. muscles working to make the body move). These movements can either be efficient or inefficient. Inefficient movements by the muscular system tend to be �sloppy� and �unrefined.� Efficient movements are just the opposite. Efficient movements by your muscular system are refined and technical. Improvement in balance is a result of the latter (i.e. efficient muscular movement). Efficient muscular movement is developed through training the muscles and nerves of your body to become more efficient. This is not done through typical exercises like bench press or leg press, but through stabilization and balance exercises.
As golfers we have our priorities. Let�s get some balance in our golf swing by training our bodies, getting proper instruction, and certainly a lot of practice. Once we�ve got balance there, then we�ll start talking about balancing our checkbook or helping Washington balance the federal budget.
Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly with 2004 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. He has made many of his golf tips, golf instruction and golf swing improvement techniques available to amateur golfers on the website www.bioforcegolf.com
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