A life without a limb, or any added challenge, is just as fulfilling and can promote even more awareness and creativity for the drive to succeed in any endeavour. People who choose to see their situation as merely another growth opportunity, are able to overcome one of the many curve balls that life throws at us all. The temerity to take up a sport like adaptive golf is a courageous endeavor to say the least. You might be interested to know, however, that these individuals have a unique sensitivity for learning the sport of golf correctly.
Adaptive Golf, a Perfect Example of Life Finding a Way
Through our time and research on the Gravity Golf Swing and in teaching it for more than forty years, we have developed a unique view into the human brain and the way it learns. The brain is truly an awesome mechanism and it will never cease to humble and amaze you with its capabilities.
If you sit down at the front door of any store and watch a hundred people walk into the building, you may very well see many adaptations of movement; above ninety percent of everyone who walks in is dysfunctional in one major body joint or another. One may be hunched over and barely able to walk. Others may be dragging one leg behind them or have one shoulder slumped significantly lower than the other. They may have all sorts of maladies, but they all have one thing in common – they all manage to get through the door! Do you remember what Jeff Goldblum said in the movie Jurassic Park? When the scientists told him that the dinosaurs couldn’t breed because they had withheld lysine, his reply was, “ life finds a way!”
The Secret Awareness of Adaptive Golf Players
Over the years, we’ve worked with many physically challenged golfers, and it’s taught us one thing for certain; life does find a way, and the human brain can elevate itself to deal with almost anything. Amazingly, the adaptive golfer can oftentimes learn much faster than a traditional golfer. As a matter of fact, the challenges of adaptive golf meld perfectly with the way we teach Gravity Golf.
The easiest way to learn and excel in any motor program is through creating a perceived threat to the body, such as challenging one’s balance. We accomplish this through a system of very specialized drills designed to heighten the brain’s sensitivity to improprieties in power application. The intention of these drills are to make a golfer’s awareness extremely sensitive to maladaptive compensations created by sending energy back into the body during the golf swing. Some of the drills heighten the system by practicing with only one arm, creating a specific advantage for an adaptive golfer.
When using only one arm in a golf swing, it trains the body to use core-mass and inertia for power. Practicing with one arm trains a golfer to avoid using the upper body as an inefficient power source that can do damage to the body over time. This is contrary to people’s normal perception when they watch a one-armed golfer learning to swing with either the right or left arm. Although it appears they are trying to swing at the ball with their upper body, in reality the exact opposite is true; each arm is being trained to be a “rider,” instead of a “hunter” of the golf ball. A major league baseball pitcher throws with their core-in-rotation, rather than throwing with the arm. A shortstop can catch a grounder and throw to first base with the shoulder and arm, even leaning forwards, but the technique is altered when on the pitcher’s mound. A pitcher has to throw more often, and they have to be consistently accurate. If a pitcher threw with his shoulder and arm only, he would not only lose accuracy and velocity, he could potentially damage the shoulder and arm.
Learning the Counter-Fall Through Adaptive Golf Methods
Along with the sensitivity gained by training each arm independently, we magnify misuse of power application through other exercises. We will put a player on one-leg-only, or have him/her cross-the-feet. Doing this shrinks the safety envelope that surrounds the body, and causes the subconscious parts of the brain to kick into high gear during the swing. Anytime a player flexes the shoulders and arms during the downswing, while standing on one-leg or with the feet crossed, energy goes back into the body, and the balance feels threatened. The brain fears this feeling and begins to alter the motor program so that energy is expended properly rather than internalized. It instinctively causes the player to utilize counter-fall and core-rotation for power, instead of muscle from the shoulders and arms.
Learning to counter-fall correctly, preceding the downswing, is one of the major keys to having a technically great golf swing. Anytime a golfer starts the downswing from a position of balance, the core cannot make a free rotational release. This is why you see runners leaning forwards before they leap into a sprint, they are on the edge of their safety envelope making it easier to set the body into motion. If the brain senses that the core cannot easily turn, it will try to drive the rotation with muscle. When this occurs, it causes a change in the swing-plane.
That is not merely a Gravity Golf opinion, it is a physics law! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction to the muscular flex from the shoulders and arms will come in the form of a path-change. This will either cause the player to hit the golf ball off-line, or, he/she will have to compensate in some manner to get a positive result. Compensations to a changing plane can be made with the grip, ball position, alignment, or posture. Even if a compensation offsets a plane change, it is still different from the ideal way to swing according to the Laws of Motion.
Learning how to use counter-fall to maintain rotary equilibrium (dynamic balance) as the arms and club swing through delivery is critical. When you are playing or practicing on one-leg, or cross-footed, learning to counter-fall correctly happens much faster. A healthy adult can easily hit a driver well over two-hundred yards, standing on one leg, while swinging with only one arm. By the way, one should never practice with the feet side-by-side, touching each other. When this occurs, there is no anchoring effect from the rear leg on the follow through. Sensing this, the brain will stop the core release in fear that the player will trip him/herself. If you will study one-leg or cross-footed drills on the Gravity Golf website or YouTube, it is easy to see how to practice properly.
Reaping the Benefits of Gravity in your Golf Swing
Learning to move the golf ball with core-mass-in-rotation is the key to overcoming any physical infirmity. Once a player knows how to partner with gravity, instead of doing all the work with his/her own strength, golf becomes far easier. If you watch certain touring professionals such as Freddie Couples, Ernie Els, or Louie Oosthuizen, you are witnessing a near perfect partnership with gravity in their swings. Notice how some players appear that they are barely working, while others look as if they might jump out of their socks. The ones who are working hard start the downswing from a stable position on their feet, and have to physically drive the rotation with muscle. The ones who are swinging effortlessly, go off-vertical (counter-fall) before the downswing begins. Then they allow the arms to start down in a pure deadfall, and gravity releases the body’s core into rotation.
Utilizing gravity, the golf swing becomes a rotary “sling” instead of a hit. In Freddie’s mind, at the top of the backswing, the ball is stuck to the club-face, instead of sitting on the ground. He simply leans back (counter-falls), drops his arms, and lets the turn sling the ball from the club. There is no attempt whatsoever to make a union between the club and the ball at impact. The ball is simply in-the-path of the swing. Freddie makes contact with the ball by feeling where his center of mass will be at impact. By subconsciously being aware of his mass in motion he is able to control where the bottom of the arc is going to be when he takes his stance-at-address, rather than by anything he consciously changes in the downswing.
A pure Gravity swing is totally counter-intuitive to every instinct that golfers have when they first stand over a golf ball. Instinct tells us to find the ball in the downswing with the arms and club. Every time those shoulders and arms flex to hit that ball, some energy goes back into the body and the plane changes. Yes, I already said that, but it’s worth repeating until it sinks in. Golf balls almost never sprout feet and walk into the new club-path. Believe it or not, adaptive golfers are more sensitive to improprieties in power application than golfers who have less than obvious challenges to make up for. Missing a limb changes our learning environment and we are left with the option to make up for this by having a more efficient level of technique. The same is true for each level of competition we progress through. Swinging a golf club while using one arm or leg will exacerbate the change in path to a greater degree if the technique is executed improperly. The brain, in its infinite wisdom, senses this and can figure out how to ideally apply power and maintain path-integrity.
The Benefit of Practicing the Front Route Drill for Adaptive Golf
Before attempting a change-of-direction, as in a conventional swing, a one-armed player should first learn to hit shots from a front-route mode. Click here to view a Front-Route One-Arm Swing Drill. This drill enables the player to quickly adapt into utilizing the full potential arc size of which he/she is physically capable. Therein lies one of the major keys to achieving maximum power if you are confined to playing golf with one arm; front-route swings are much easier to execute, and give the player a great feel for using the body’s core as the power source. You’ll be amazed at the power that can be generated from a one-armed, front-route swing mode. A player can legally play golf from a front-route mode if he/she so chooses. In fact, I would highly recommend doing so for one-armed players wanting to achieve maximum distance on full swings.
Adaptive Gravity Golf Provides a Way to Play Golf, for Everyone
The main goal of this article is to create an awareness for everyone seeking viable solutions for their challenges through the Gravity Golf method. Our methodology and drills can give players the ability to effectively deal with their individual challenges and still play satisfying, high level golf.
Unfortunately, most golfers are completely unaware of how well they could play if they fully understood how to partner with gravity when they swing. For physically challenged players, the understanding of gravity becomes even more important. It is absolutely critical for one-armed players to understand the principles of proper power application. When working with diminished shoulder and arm strength or a balance threatened situation, players have to know how to create power using gravity, counter-fall, and core-mass-in-rotation.
In the Beginning, There was David Lee; He Saw the Golf Swing, and it was Good
When I began playing golf as a child (at age 4), I started with a “kill” concept like most everyone else. As a teenager, Arnold Palmer was my hero and I ripped at the ball just like he did. When I began playing the PGA tour in 1970, it became apparent to me that players like Nicklaus and Trevino were using far less effort, yet had greater distance and control. I asked them how they applied power, they couldn’t tell me. After studying those guys and a few others for over ten years, I began to realize the role that gravity played in their golf swings, and it was life-changing for me. Freddie Couples uses no more than about half the energy that Tiger Woods uses to hit the ball about the same distance. Please, don’t get the idea that I am casting a disparaging light on Tiger as a player; he is obviously one of the greatest players ever to have played the game. The muscle he has traditionally used to power his swing, however, has taken a substantial toll on his physical health. This year at the Tour Championship in Atlanta he was looking more like a pure gravity player than ever, with far less effort in his swing. Unfortunately, some of the violence returned at the Ryder Cup and his control suffered for it.
In 1982, once I finally learned how the swing should ideally function, it was astounding to realize that I too could move the ball farther with only a fraction of the effort. At that time, I had no idea of the role that gravity played in a proper swing, and neither did anyone else that I knew. It became apparent to me that those individuals who could do it had stumbled into the feeling by trial and error and had learned to trust it; the instinct to use upper-body muscle had almost totally left them. They couldn’t explain how they had learned to partner with gravity, but they felt it. Anyone who is unaware that there is a secret to swinging like Freddie Couples has a tremendous opportunity to transform their game. In my opinion, ninety-nine percent of everyone playing the game has unfortunately never felt what Freddie feels in the swing.
Working with Adaptive Golf through Gravity
Anyone working on their swing through adaptive golf definitely needs to understand how to partner with gravity and apply power in the most efficient manner. Currently, there are several organizations around the world for adaptive golfers and the number is growing. Among them are:
USAGA – United States Adaptive Golf Alliance
EDGA – European Disabled Golf Association
NAGA – National Amputee Golf Association
DGA – Disabled Golf Association
SMGA – Salute Military Golf Association
NAOAGA – North American One-Armed Golfers Association
Only recently, I have spoken with representatives of the USGA and it is my understanding that a national championship for physically challenged golfers is in the planning stages. Currently, the information on when it will happen and how different physical challenges will be categorized has not been totally worked out, but I have been told it is forthcoming very soon.
If you are an adaptive golfer, or wanting to become one, and regardless of whether you wish to compete or not, there is good news for your future through Gravity Golf. The goal of our company and research has long been to understand how power in the golf swing should ideally be applied, and more importantly, how to easily communicate that information to others. Both those challenges have been accomplished and the information is now available to everyone.
Proper Power Application for Adaptive Golf with the Gravity Swing
Most people are unaware that there are at least five different ways to power a golf swing. Four of those techniques send some level of energy back into the body which, as already mentioned, causes path-change and miss-hit shots. The Gravity swing is the only one of the four that eliminates energy coming back into the body during its execution. It is, therefore, the most compliant with the Laws of Motion and good physiological principles and is ideal for adaptive golfers. Of all the potential ways you could swing a golf club, the Gravity swing is the most efficient because when you partner with gravity, it does a good deal of the work for you.
We have a number of affordable ways that you can access the Gravity Golf technology and learn to enjoy this game. Given the opportunity, we will be happy to help you. Working with golfers of all ages, skill levels, and challenges is what we do. Physical challenges or otherwise, you will be astounded at what you can accomplish; there are solutions for making you function at a level beyond your imagination. We look forward to the opportunity to share that knowledge with you.