Stretches to take your golf game to the next level

<a href="http://contributors.golf.com/golf-teachers/Tim-Mahoney.html">Top 100 Teacher Tim Mahoney</a> is the director of education for Troon Golf.

The secret to reaching your scoring goals is to focus on improving the weak areas common to your handicap group. You'll find these — and the means to fix them — in the December 2009 issue of GOLF Magazine with Top 100 Teacher Tim Mahoney. The final step is to add some flexibility and mild strength training to your practice. Whether you're a 30-handicapper looking to get to a 20, or a 10-handicapper shooting for single digits, the name of today's game is athleticism. Following this detailed exercise program will pay immediate dividends.

Perform the stretches recommended for your handicap group three times a week, holding each stretch position for 5 seconds and repeating each stretch 10 times. If you're not sure what your body can take, start with the 30-handicap stretches, even if you're a low-handicapper. You can work up to the more challenging stretches. It'll take you just 20 minutes a day to make serious improvements in your athleticism, which is the key to reaching the next level.

Some of theses exercises require elastic Therabands or an inflatable exercise ball, both of which are available at most sporting goods stores. They're worthwhile investments if you're serious about improving.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

I NEED MORE POWER!

The Problem
You're sliding and swaying on your backswing, downswing, or both. You're losing your posture through impact (rising up or bending down) and your swing is too flat.

Why It's Happening
You have poor shoulder-hip disassociation. In other words, you have problems moving your hips and shoulders independent of one another.

The Solution
Perform the stretches below. Start with the one matched to your handicap group.

30+ Handicap: Hip Crossovers
Lie on your back, bend both knees, and squeeze your knees and ankles together. Raise your toes, leaving your heels on the floor. Then, as one unit, move your legs, hips and pelvis from one side to another. Make sure you move your legs, hips and pelvis as a single unit.

20- to 30-Handicap: Leg-Overs
Lie on your back with your legs straight. Then raise your right leg high enough so that you can swing it over your left leg without touching it. Try to swing your right leg up and out as high as you can. Bring your right leg back to your starting position, and repeat with your left leg.

10- to 20-Handicap: 90/90 Lower Back Rotations
Lie on your back, bend both knees, and squeeze your knees and ankles together. Raise your legs and bend your knees slightly, almost in a chair-sitting position. (Imagine that you've tipped over backward while sitting in a chair.) Next, slowly move your legs, hips and pelvis as a single unit from one side to the other. Move as far to the left to right as you can without lifting your shoulder blades off the ground. Hold for a few counts on each side.

10- to 20-Handicap: Open Book Stretch
Lie on your right side with your right leg straight and your left leg slightly bent. Stretch out your right arm, then move your left arm up and over, like you're opening a page in a book. Hold for a few counts. Repeat the stretch while lying on your left side. You should feel like you're opening your chest to the sky.

< 10-Handicap: Russian Twists
Rest your head and shoulders on a physioball with your hips raised. Then, while holding a weighted ball in both your hands, rotate your upper back from side to side, keeping the ball even with your shoulders. Hold on each side before rotating to the other side.

I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

I NEED MORE ACCURACY

The Problem
You're making contact all over the clubface because you're hunched over at address, causing you to feel crowded at impact or "thrust" toward the ball through the hitting zone.

Why It's Happening
You have poor pelvic tilt control and inefficient core strength. Without these, you can't hold your positions throughout your swing, especially with longer clubs and faster swings.

The Solution
Perform the stretches below. Start with the one matched to your handicap group.

30+ Handicap: Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back. Try to rotate your pelvis back while simultaneously flattening your back, then rotate in the opposite direction. As you perform this drill, suck in your stomach for more focused training on your core.

20- to 30-Handicap: 5-Iron Pelvic Tilts
Assume your address position with a 5-iron in your hands. Rotate your pelvis forward — just your pelvis. You should feel like you're slowly "thrusting" toward the ball, and that the top of your back is curving. Then, rotate in the opposite direction by pulling your pelvis back. This time, it should feel like your lower back is curving.

10- to 20-Handicap: Hip Flexor Stretch
While standing, grab your left ankle with your left hand and pull your left heel to you rear. Then, extend your right arm up and out, like you're hailing a cab. Hold, then switch sides.

< 10-Handicap: Segmented Rolling
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Help yourself up and bring your chest to your knees. While in this position, place your arm across your chest. Then, slowly allow your trunk to move backward. Fight gravity all the way back to the floor. Help yourself back up to your knee and repeat 10 times.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE

The Problem
You're slicing on one swing and hooking on the next. Your swing plane isn't consistent because you don't have proper control of your hips, and mostly use your arms to power the club back and through. You're also swaying and sliding because you have difficulty turning your hips fast enough, if it at all.

Why It's Happening
Your hip rotation isn't what it should be. Good players on average have twice the hip rotation as lesser-skilled golfers.

The Solution
Perform the stretches below. Start with the one matched to your handicap group.

30+ Handicap: Hip Drops
Lie on your back, bend both knees and set your feet about shoulder-width apart. Rotate your hips to the left, which allows one hip to internally rotate and the other to externally rotate. As you perform this stretch, tighten your stomach muscles to prevent your pelvis from rising. Hold, then rotate to the right.

20- to 30-Handicap: Hip Circles
Get on all fours. Next, lift your left hip and swing your left knee toward your chest, then away from your side, and then up toward the sky. It should feel like you're tracing large circles with your hip. Repeat with your right hip.

10- to 20-Handicap: Hip Windshield Wipers
Lie on your back, bend your hips and knees until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. (Imagine that you've tipped over backward while sitting in a chair.) Next, place your fists between your knees. Squeeze your knees into your fists and then open and close your feet together.

< 10-Handicap: Steamboats
Wrap a Theraband around your right ankle. Balance on your left foot and then move your right leg freely forward and back to neutral 10 times, then to the side 10 times and then back 10 times. Repeat the exercise with the Theraband around your left ankle.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM

The Problem
You feel like the act of swinging a golf club takes too much effort. You used to make athletic motions naturally. Now they feel like work.

Why It's Happening
You power muscles and controllers such as your glutes, hips, back and shoulders have softened. Without these, anyone will struggle swinging the club on plane consistently and with ample speed.

The Solution
Perform the stretches below. Start with the one matched to your handicap group.

30+ Handicap: Calf Stretch
Place the ball of your foot on the edge of a step. Lean forward while keeping your knee extended and hold. Perform 10 reps on each calf.

20- to 30-Handicap: Foam Roll Back Extensions
Lie on the floor and set a foam roll under your back just below your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head and extend back over the foam roll.

10- to 20-Handicap: Physioball YTWs
Place your chest on a physioball or incline bench. Then, form the letters Y, T and W as follows:

Y: Raise your arms out and above your head with your thumbs up and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
T: Next, move your arms so they are 90 degrees to your body, forming a T, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
W: Next, move your arms so that your elbows are bent and at your side so you form a W shape. Squeeze your shoulders together.

Hold each letter for 5 seconds, and repeat the cycle 10 times.

< 10-Handicap: Diagonal Squat Lifts
While in a squatting position, hold onto a weight and raise and lift the weight diagonally across your body.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING

The Problem
You don't feel stable at address or during your swing. Your motion feels clunky, and while you make good contact on most swings, you know your results can be much better.

Why It's Happening
Your ability to balance isn't up to snuff, making it difficult to use the ground for leverage and stay centered. It's also a safe bet that your hamstrings are tighter than a miner's handshake. Tight hamstrings create tension in your hips and lower back.

The Solution
Perform the stretches below. Start with the one matched to your handicap group.

30+ Handicap: Dynamic Hamstring Stretch
While lying on your back with your legs flat on the floor, bring one leg to your chest and then interlock your hands behind your knee. Bring your thigh perpendicular to the floor, then extend your knee so that your foot moves up toward the sky. Hold, then flex your knee and bring your foot back toward the floor. Repeat the stretch 10 times with each leg in a smooth fashion. You should feel a "flowing" stretch behind the active hamstring.

20- to 30-Handicap: Static Hamstring Stretch
While in a long seated position, bend your right knee and set your right ankle over your left thigh. Then, lean forward and hold. You should feel a long, strong stretch in your left hamstring. Repeat with right leg.

10- to 20-Handicap: Standing Toe Touches
Stand with the balls of your feet resting on a 1/2-inch foam roll. Next, bend at the knee about 30 to 45 degrees and touch your toes. Keep your fingers on your toes and then extend your knees as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly raise yourself up to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

< 10-Handicap: Hand Walks (Inchworm)
Get into a push-up position, then slowly bend your ankles and walk your feet toward your hands, keeping your knees straight the whole time. Once your feet are under your hips, walk your hands away from your feet until you get back to your original push-up position. You should feel a good stretch in your lower back, hamstrings and calf.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST

BONUS EXERCISE: BALANCE TEST
This one is easy — or is it? Fix your gaze on a point on a wall and try to balance on one leg. Count the seconds. You won't last as long as you would expect, but keep practicing. You'll build better balance within a week with this exercise. Alternate legs after each attempt, and repeat 5 times for each leg. Once you can consistently balance on one leg for 30 seconds, perform the exercise with your eyes closed.

I NEED MORE POWER
I NEED MORE ACCURACY
I NEED HELP SWINGING ON PLANE
I NEED HELP WITH SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
I NEED A SMOOTHER, MORE EFFORTLESS SWING

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