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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Team Approach to Game Improvement

The “Team Approach” to game improvement is a hallmark of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) approach.   In coordinating the best in golf instruction, fitness, and medicine, TPI has created both an infrastructure and philosophy that has changed golf performance enhancement in the 21stcentury. Below we’ll discuss how these elements fit together so that players can understand the importance of teamwork between these elements. 

Race cars have teams...you should too!

 

Golf Professional   

 If the player is a race car,  the golf instructor is the race car driver.  Ultimately, he is the one closest to the action.  As Dave Phillips, co-founder of TPI states, the golf pro is the “top of the food chain.”  No matter what advancements we come up with in other fields, the game will always be about swinging the club, hitting the ball, and finding a way to get it into the hole in the fewest number of shots.   The golf professional can also wear different hats, most notably in the biomechanics and equipment fields.  However, much like a race car driver does not fix his own car or build his own engine (though he has an idea of what he needs under the hood to make it work), the best pros team up with professionals in the other fields create the best physical template on which they can apply golf specific mechanics.

Fitness Professional 

The fitness professionals partner with the medical team as the pit crew.   If the car isn’t properly tuned and doesn’t have a powerful enginge, it doesn’t matter how good the race car driver is.  The main roles of the fitness professional are to address non-painful movement dysfunction, build physical capacity, and develop injury resistance.  With thirty six hole days commonplace in college golf, USGA qualifiers, and international team competition, conditioning is paramount.   Even at the recreational level, we frequently hear players complain they aren’t able to practice or that they can’t get into the positions their instructors are asking them to do.  This all too frequent phenomenon is the result of insufficient communication between the golf instruction and fitness realms.  Use your fitness and medical professionals to match the swing to the body, both now and as the player evolves.        

Medical Professional  

Primary job of the medical professional is to deal with painful movement.  Within the medical field you have a whole group of subspecialties, though therapy and orthopedics are the most common in golf.  The medical team must also understand swing characteristics, physical limitations, and equipment and how they interact to cause pain.   Sometimes the medical team needs to consult with golf professional when an injurious swing pattern is most effective or if dysfunctional swing pattern is necessary to keep player out of pain.  Coordination between the medical and fitness elements is important to facilitate proper progressions after an injury.      

Allied fields – Several disciplines exist within the three primary domains.  Below we’ll sample the main ones. 

Biomechanics 

Specialists in areas such as 3D motion capture and force plate analysis.  Some of the top biomechanists have doctoral level degrees in fields like engineering and physics.  These are guys who might otherwise put someone into space or design a missile to land within three feet of its target from the outer layers of the atmosphere.  The field of biomechanics gives us the most detailed picture as to what is really happening in the swing.  Thanks to the increased availability of 3D motion capture and force plate analysis, you’ll find many from golf instruction, fitness, and medical double dipping into this area.

Junior development 

This is a field unto itself with emphasis on providing age and gender appropriate learning and conditioning activities to support long term athletic development (LTAD). Some coaches specialize in the field of LTAD, so having this knowledge and skillset can be invaluable in running a junior program.  

Mental 

Everyone is to some extent practicing psychology with the player, but psychologists are the ones with formal training in this area.  Within the sport psychology field there are different specialties, from course management to non-golf related emotional counseling.  Although the term sports psychologist was virtually unknown thirty years ago in the mainstream, sports psychologists have become an integral part of most high performance teams.    

Equipment

The intersection of equipment and fitness is often overlooked.  It is important to recognize the evolutionary process that comes with changes to the body and coordinating those changes with appropriate equipment.  The player can get healthy, in shape, and pain free, but if the clubs don’t fit, the body must make compensations to fit the clubs, which can undo all the good things that happen in the gym and therapy clinic.  Having the ability to make changes in real time is ideal, but not always realistic.  Nonetheless, everyone must appreciate the interaction of these domains.  Within the equipment field there are specialists in woods, irons, wedges, and putters.

Manual therapy (Massage, neuromuscular therapy, acupuncture, etc.)

Generally considered part of the medical field but often part of the fitness realm in recent years with more strength coaches adding manual licenses to their toolboxes.  Know that manual therapy tools have widespread applications beyond treatment of discomfort.  They are frequently used as an adjunct to fitness training and skill acquisition.

Nutrition

Nutrition is not just important for professional playing over 100 holes in a week and practicing several hours a day, but also for amateurs who wilt down the stretch of their rounds, partially due to lack of fitness, but also due to poor fueling.   Anecdotally, as a former caddie, it was almost painful to watch out of shape players melt as we came down the stretch…and I was the one carrying the two bags full of sixteen clubs and thirty balls a piece!  Nutrition is not just “what do I have at the turn” but more importantly an understanding of sound eating and hydration habits off the course.

Footwear/apparel

Normally we don’t think of footwear and apparel as part of a performance matrix, but there’s a lot of research that goes into the foot.   The foot is the only part of the body connected to the ground.  Body uses ground for stability in the swing to create energy.  Because the shoes are a highly sensitive area of the body, shoe selection can have a profound effect on mechanics, fitness, and health.   Most players have to settle for what is on the rack when it comes to clothes, but there is no question that apparel for all conditions has improved markedly in recent years.

Vision

The eyes are a portal to the outside world for the brain.  Vision testing and training are probably the most underutilized tools in the game.  Reading greens, training depth perception, and learning proper alignment are only part of what vision improvements can offer.  Vision can play a significant role in each of the above listed disciplines.  Poor visual habits can obviously affect alignment and touch on the golf course.  In fitness, poor visual habits may lead to faulty movement, who may later translate to injury.  Most good coaches in any of these fields already integrate the eyes into their teaching, but teaming with a vision professional can be a game changer.   

Summary

The game is more competitive than ever across the globe, due largely to the level of talent that has entered the golf performance field to support an increasingly gifted pool of players.  Smart players will seek out the top professionals in each of the main disciplines and professionals will form teams to support the best players.  These relationships are commonplace at the professional level and will continue to increase in the coming years.  Amateur players desiring to maximize their playing potential will seek out local support teams to maximize their own playing ability.  If you treat your body like highly tuned race car and entrust it to a skilled driver, then good things will happen.  

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