Proprioception. It's a big word... but what does it mean? How does it affect- or rather, fix- your golf swing?
OK, so what is proprioception? According to Wikipedia:
also referred to as kinaesthesia (or kinesthesia, in American English), is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense".
Sounds mysterious, doesn't it? Ooooh... like a sixth sense! But seriously, you should try to fix your golf swing with proprioception!
Let's get just a bit serious here. Getting a Wiki definition is nice, but how about a more "Layman's Terms" definition? From VeryWellHealth.com:
Proprioception is the medical term that describes the ability to sense the orientation of your body in your environment. It allows you to move quickly and freely without having to consciously think about where you are in space or in your environment. Proprioception is a constant feedback loop within your nervous system, telling your brain what position you are in and what forces are acting upon your body at any given point in time.
The way that we can tell that an arm is raised above our head, even when our eyes are closed, is an example of proprioception. Other examples may include your ability to sense the surface you are standing upon, even when you are not looking at the surface. If you are walking along the sidewalk, and then turn to walk upon a grassy surface, your body knows how to adjust to the change in surface because of proprioception.
So... How Do You Make It Work?
There's a key part of that last quote: "the way that we can tell that an arm is raised... even when our eyes are closed". You can help yourself fix your golf swing by simply swinging with your eyes closed.
So what can you do to fix your golf swing with proprioception? Here's a few ideas:
Swing with your eyes closed
Have you ever tried this?
Before I discovered the word "proprioception" and how it could really help me fix my golf swing, I used to do this for giggles. I worked second shift at the time, and since my kids were young, they were in bed when I got home.
So, instead of sitting on my butt in front of the TV, I'd go out and hit pitch and chip shots out in the back yard. That'd eventually get boring, so I'd switch things up by making full swings with whatever club I had in hand.
The only light I had was from one street light and my kitchen, so it was dark. Dark enough it felt like swinging with my eyes closed.
But I tell you what, it really helped me discover my balance. And as we all (should) know, coming to a balanced finish is an excellent indicator that you made a good swing.
Well... because anytime you finish out of balance, you're wasting energy trying to keep yourself upright. Energy that could be better put to use applying to the ball.
Proprioception (or kinesthesia) is the sense though which we perceive the position and movement of our body, including our sense of equilibrium and balance, senses that depend on the notion of force (Jones, 2000)
It also means a higher percentage of shots hit on the "sweet spot". If you're falling backwards, how likely are you to hit the "sweet spot"? How about hitting it off the toe?
Remember, we don't like hitting off the toe:
The catch is: you can only make "shadow swings". Remember, you're only looking to feel what a balanced finish position is like. After working on this for a bit, translate it into hitting real balls. If you have a net at home, cool; just use that (or get this one, if you don't). Otherwise, hit up your local driving range.
If you're confident, hit some balls with your eyes closed. If not, it's OK; the point of all of this is to develop that feeling, then taking it to the range. Once it becomes more second nature, it'll carry over onto the course!
Stand on a Balance Beam
While it'd be interesting if you swung a golf club while on a gymnast's balance beam... I don't think my conscious (or my legal team) would recommend it.
Just standing on something a little off the ground is more than enough.
Even just a few inches, as you see in the pic above, is more than enough to get proprioception working.
Stand on One Leg
This is a tricky one. While I feel the first two are more than enough to help you fix your golf swing, practicing while standing on one leg can really help you fine-tune things.
If you swing out of control, guess what? You fall on your butt.
There's a bit of a catch to this one, because you can't make as full of a swing as you can with the other two methods. But really, though, you don't have to. Just getting the feel of staying in balance is more than enough.
You can modify this, if you'd like. You don't have to stand on one leg literally. You can stand on your target-side leg normally, while the backside leg can be pulled back (away from the ball) and you stand on your toe. Kinda like what I'm doing above.
The sensation of being on one leg is still present, and it can help you make a more full swing.
On to you: have you ever heard the word "proprioception" before?
Have you done things like this, while not even realizing it? Let me know in the comments!