I've been feeling a little bit guilty recently. Last week, I was at Pebble Beach and I honestly don't remember when I've been in such a beautiful location and had such consistently beautiful weather. I don't feel guilty about enjoying perfect weather; I've worked very hard to get to where I am in my career. I tweeted out what I thought were some amazing pictures from my week, but started to feel some twinges of guilt when I saw some of the weather pictures that a lot of my Twitter followers were tweeting back.Man, some of you folks have some serious snow!
I'm no stranger to snow. I grew up in New Jersey and have shoveled my way through my share of nasty winters. I just forgot how really, really nasty it could get! I've always looked at the bright side of things, though. So, when I started thinking about the shoveling that many of you are doing, I realized that a lot of the key elements to the shoveling process are incredibly similar to those of the golf swing.
Think about it. If you've read my book or any of my blogs or have seen my DVD or my appearances on Golf Channel's Morning Drive, you know that three of the main things that I talk about are strength, stability, and mobility around the hips, the ability to maintain posture and spine angle, and the importance of balance. Sure, you could work on these in a formal training setting...or you could just grab a shovel and go outside and try to find your car in your own driveway.
The reason that many people develop a very arms-y swing is that they've never been able to make their hips a part of their swing. The fact is, you really don't need your hips to swing a golf club. The club isn't that heavy. You CAN swing it with just your arms. The problem is that if you don't involve the hips, you're never going to be able to generate the power you really want. The great news about snow is that it's heavy. Turning to dump shoveled snow off to your left forces you to rotate through the hips. Moving snow requires you to load successfully and with rotation from your right side into your left.
A problem I see all of the time is players whose scores suffer toward the end of their round. Most of the time, this is due to the inability to maintain spine angle over 18 holes. The perfect posture that was there on the front nine just isn't there on the back nine. Most of us don't have the time to devote to a weight training program that will develop not only strength in the muscles of the back, but also endurance in these muscles. The cool thing is that shoveling for any length of time will develop both muscular strength and muscular endurance. You're not doing a quick three-sets-of-ten when you're clearing the sidewalk -- you're doing three-sets-of-a-thousand. All those reps are what will keep your posture strong from the first tee to the eighteenth tee. A coincidence that the perfect spine angle for shoveling is so similar to the perfect spine angle at address? I don't think so!
I love to work on balance with my players. If you came down to the Joey D Golf Performance Center in Jupiter, Florida, you'd see everyone from weekend golfers to top juniors to touring pros working on their balance. I have to get creative when I want to get someone to understand the importance of balance to the golf swing -- I have them practicing portions of their swing standing on balance disks or on one foot or with their eyes closed. If you're trying to deal with a mountain of snow while standing on layers of slush and ice, you don't need to get creative with your training. You're improving your balance and stability with ever shovelful of snow you move.
Shoveling isn't for everyone. If you've got pre-existing conditions like back issues or heart issues, your best bet is to find someone with a plow to help you out. But if you're a healthy person, you may just find some unexpected benefits from it, because -- ultimately -- the things that are going to make you the most effective shoveler also have the potential to make you a better golfer. So, if your local forecast calls for another six, ten, or twelve inches of snow, don't look at it as another sign that you should have moved to Florida. Look at it as a gift from Mother Nature -- an amazing golf training aid delivered free of charge right to your front yard.
And the good news is that there's still another month of winter!
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