Check your flexibility before you swing

The gap between Tour swings and recreational swings keeps getting wider. Technique aside, one of the reasons for the discrepancy in distance and accuracy between the game's best and the masses is flexibility. A little-known fact is that most PGA Tour professionals have 50 to 100 percent more flexibility in their upper body than the average person on the street. In fact, elite golfers possess greater flexibility than NBA players. While some are naturally blessed with this performance advantage, most had to acquire it through hard work starting at a young age, dedicating themselves to constant practice and avoiding sedentary lifestyles at all costs.

(RELATED PHOTOS: Pro golfers hitting the gym)

Because you're not a Tour pro, you lack the necessary flexibility to make a Tour-caliber swing. That doesn't mean you can't play the game and enjoy shooting solid scores. You just can't mimic what you see your favorite golfers manage on weekend telecasts position-for-position. For example, if you try to turn your upper body a full 90 degrees on your backswing while keeping your hips stable like most Tour players do, you'll end up over-turning everything, and instead of creating a sizable X-Factor (shoulder turn over hip turn), you'll make it smaller and dramatically reduce the energy in your motion.

My goal as a golf-fitness instructor is to decrease the performance gap between professionals and amateurs by helping amateurs become more flexible. My first order of business with any new student is to gauge just how flexible-or inflexible-they are. You need a starting point before setting any long-term goals. An easy way to discover your level of flexibility and just how big a shoulder turn you should be making in your swing is to take the Pretzel Test. It takes seconds to complete and is incredibly accurate. Click here to watch the video.

If you "fail" the Pretzel Test, don't give up hope. A flexibility restoration program tailored to your needs can get you where you need to be in a short amount of time-if you stick to it. You can preview many of these programs on my website, www.fredericksgolf.com. In the meantime, tone down your swing so that it's a better match for your body. Opt for a shorter backswing (i.e., one you can control) over one that increases the likelihood of overswinging and reducing speed. The trick is to end your backswing at its natural stopping point. As soon as your upper body can no longer rotate, stop. That's the end of your backswing (this goes for your arm swing, too). You may feel less powerful, but I bet you'll actually hit the ball farther than you are right now. A tighter coil, even with a shorter backswing, leads to squarer strikes, which is the real secret to adding yards.

Golf fitness pioneer Roger Fredericks has worked with more than 70 Tour players, including seven Hall of Famers. His DVD, "Roger Fredericks Reveals the Secrets of Golf Swing Flexibility" is the best-selling golf fitness DVD of all time.

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