Golf Flexibility Issues: Fix Your Neck to Improve Golf Consistency

In this article, we are going to help you improve your golf flexibility needed to keep your head relatively still in the backswing. Neck stiffness is often associated with inconsistent golf in golfers over 50 and your risk increases with age.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 12.49.20 PM

In our last article, “Do You Need Golf Flexibility,” we provided a test to determine if you are lacking neck flexibility needed for a consistent golf swing. If you performed the test and found that your neck is too stiff, you should perform the stretches in this article daily until you are able pass the golf flexibility test.

The rotation required for a good backswing can be as great as 70 degrees. What happens if you are unable to rotate your neck fully? Bad things!

If you do not have the correct amount of neck rotation, your head will move too much during your backswing. Effectively, a golf swing with this much head and neck movement is like trying to hit a moving target. You will never achieve consistency with this swing.

Too much head movement in the backswing.

Too much head movement in the backswing.

Slight head movement ok.  Good flexibility allows a full shoulder turn with only slight head movement.

Slight head movement OK. Good flexibility allows a full shoulder turn with only slight head movement.

First Things First
As a result, if you currently have limited neck range of motion, your first step should be to shorten your back swing or limit your shoulder rotation. You may lose some distance initially, but who cares about distance if you can’t hit the ball consistently on the sweet spot.

As your neck flexibility improves with this short guide, you will be able to rotate your shoulders more for added distance without losing ball contact consistency.

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The Solution
The solution to poor neck flexibility is not only stretching the neck into rotation, although that is part of it, but also posture.  Due to the nature of the joints in the neck, you can rotate the neck further in some positions than others.

Namely, if you have poor posture and a forward head position, your neck rotation will be limited regardless of how flexible you are. So after we give you a couple of good stretches for the neck to improve rotation, we also will help you improve your posture to free up your neck joints to be able to rotate further.

Part I: Neck Stretches to Improve Rotation

1. Neck Rotation with Slight Overpressure
Neck rotation stretch for golf

Setup: You can perform this stretch in sitting or standing, but be sure to have good posture.

Action: With good posture, rotate your head as far as you are able to one side. For an added stretch, use your hand to slightly push your head further into rotation.

Parameters: Hold for 30 seconds. If you have poor flexibility, you should perform this stretch several times throughout the day.

2 Stretching the SCM Muscle
Golf stretch to improve backswing

The SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle is a key rotator of the head and is commonly stiff.

Setup: Standing or sitting.

Action: Stretch front side of neck by looking upward, tilting away, and looking toward side that is stretched as if gazing at stars.

Parameters: Hold for 30 seconds. Perform several times per day.

Part II: Improve Neck and Upper Back Posture
to Improve Neck Rotation Flexibility

1. Cervical Retractions
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This is a very key exercises for anyone with neck problems, neck pain, as well as to improve neck flexibility.

Action: Keeping your eyes and head level, tuck in your chin to make a “double chin.”

Parameters: Hold position for 1 full second and perform 25 repetitions daily or more depending on need.

Key to success: When golfers first perform this exercise, they tend to mistakenly tilt their head downwards. Make sure that you keep your head level as shown.

2. Scapular Pinches
Posture Training For golf

Since your upper spine is connected to your mid spine, improving your mid back posture will improve your neck posture and alignment allowing it to rotate fully.

Setup: Begin in standing with good posture

Action: Pull your shoulders back and downward as if you were trying to put them in your back pocket. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades pinch up against each other.

Parameters: Hold each rep for 5 seconds. Perform 12 repetitions daily or more depending on need.

3. Wall Angels
Golf exercise to improve golf posture

I have listed this exercise in several articles because it rocks!

Setup: Stand against a wall with your back, butt, and elbows against the wall and your elbows bent. If you cannot touch your elbows, do the best that you can.

Action: Try to keep your back, butt, elbows and hands touching the wall as you raise them up and down as shown.

Parameters: If this is a difficult exercise for you to perform, do it 12 times in a row and do it often. The benefits of this exercise extend beyond golf improvement.

4. Prone Posture Training
Golf posture training

One of my favorite exercises.

Setup: Lie down on your stomach with a tightly rolled towel under your forehead so you have enough room to look down and still breath easily.

Action: From this position, raise your arms to the ceiling. It is important that you also try and lift your shoulders off of the surface as you raise your arms.

Parameters: Perform 12 repetitions slowly and deliberately.

Sometimes golf flexibility is not the cause of having too much head movement. To solve the other 2 causes you can review this previously published article: Golfers Over 50 Have Too Much Head Movement.

Thanks for reading! Please send me any questions concerning neck flexibility or other neck issues and I will be happy to address those concerns.

Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist
Age Defying Golf, LLC

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