When most people think of the role of the hips in the golf swing, they usually envision a player like Rory McIlroy snapping his pelvis toward the target at the start of the downswing in order to generate a tremendous amount of speed and power into his shots. But the muscles responsible for good hip function do a lot more than that when it comes making a good swing, and if you're hips are tight, solid contact with the ball could be a challenge.
Players with tight hips often struggle to keep their pelvis stable as they swing the club back and this can cause an improper weight shift to the front foot (reverse pivot). Without a major adjustment during the downswing, this could ruin any chance the player has of a solid shot. Another symptom of tight hips occurs in the downswing. A lack of mobility makes the golfer thrust the pelvis toward the ball—known as early extension. This is a death move in the golf swing at it changes the address posture and also re-routes the club on a slicer's path from outside the target line to inside.
Most people get tight hips from simply sitting too long each day. It also can come as a result of tears to the cartilage that surrounds the hip joint (labrum) or simply from aging conditions like arthritis. The quickest test to see if you have tight hips is, while sitting, squeeze and contract the glute muscles on each side of your body as hard as you can. Do you feel tension on the outside of your hips? Bingo. Another telltale sign is how slow/stiff your walking becomes after a long car ride or five-hour day on the golf course.
You can improve hip function dramatically if you follow a quick routine in the gym.
You first have to get out the kinks and knots with foam rolling. Yes, the foam roller can be your friend! Then you need to work on the musculature that is key to good hip function. We're talking about the hip flexors and rotators, the adductors (inside of the thigh), glutes (butt) and the hamstrings (back of the thigh). Here are a few stretches to enhance your mobility and flexibility.
1. Stationary Spiderman Stretch
- Assume a push-up position and step forward as if to try to step just outside of the right hand with the right foot. From this position, drop the right elbow to the ground. Then return the foot to its original position and switch sides.
2. Pigeon Stretch
- On a mat, start from all fours (on hands and knees), bring your right knee forward and place it behind your right wrist. Place your ankle somewhere in front of your left hip. The more your lower leg is parallel with the front of the mat, the more intense the hip opener.
- Slide your left leg back, straighten the knee and point the toes. Make sure your leg is behind your body and not drawing outwards and your heel is pointing up to the ceiling.
- Draw your legs in towards each other to help keep your hips square.
- Gently lower yourself down and use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.
3. Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Prop your left heel up on a surface that is the same height or a little lower than your hip such as a chair or bench. Flex your foot.
- To increase the stretch bend forward toward your flexed foot, by creasing at your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.