Bob Forman, MS - Exercise Physiology
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, Author, Speaker

It’s a safe bet to say that Michelle Wie has very flexible hamstrings and strong erector spinae muscles.  At least for her sake, I hope that’s the case.  Otherwise, her new putting style that appeared to help her win the Women’s U.S. Open last month, may take a toll on her longevity in the game.

table topThe “table top,” as it’s called has Michelle bent over the ball 90 degrees at the hips with her back parallel to the ground and legs straight.  It’s a unique putting style that I’ve never seen before and quite unconventional.  Although it has moved Michelle up from 51st in putts per round last year to 39th this year, I don’t recommend that you run out and emulate it.

Let’s take a look at the physiology. 

When a person bends forward at the waist, this activates the muscles in the lower back - the erector spinae - to prevent the body from bending too rapidly.  You aren’t aware of this happening, but it does, as the body always strives to maintain balance or equilibrium, and the act of bending forward shifts the body slightly ahead of the center of gravity. 

At the same time, the vertebrae in the lower (lumbar) spine separate from each other on the backside, stretching the intrinsic muscles that attach each of the bony structures together.  Each of these functional units will flex approximately 8 to 10 degrees, so given the fact that there are 5 units in the lumbar spine, the low back will flex in the ballpark of 40 to 50 degrees.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “But where does the other 40 to 50 degrees of flexion come from in order for Michelle to get parallel (90 degrees)?”  OK, maybe you weren’t asking yourself that question, but here is the answer anyway.  The lumbar spine, at this point, is fully flexed as the muscles and posterior superior ligaments are stretched to the max.  In order to reach parallel, the hip and buttock muscles (hamstrings and glutes) must elongate to allow rotation of the hip bone.  The degree of range of motion is dependent upon how much flexibility these particular muscles have.

If flexibility is lacking in this area, which is common especially among men, the hip bone will be limited in its rotation.  As a result, the low back muscles will have to stretch beyond their comfort zone in order to bend over further.  This is when the potential for injury increases.

Once you’re in the table top position you have to maintain it, unsupported, for a few seconds until the putt is made.  This places tremendous stress to the lower back muscles as they are held in an isometric contraction in order to hold the upper body parallel to the ground.  This, too, will more than likely cause strain to the lower back over time.

Finally, the putt is made and we can now stand erect.  Here, again, lies potential for injury.  Raising the trunk from a bent over position with legs straight places a pretty heavy load on the lower back muscles.  It’s been estimated that the average upper body weighs approximately 100 pounds (probably a little more these days).  Due to the lever system and relationship between the weight and force arms and fulcrum, that number is multiplied by 10.  So in order to lift the upper body from a bent over position with legs straight, it will take about 1,000 pounds of force from the lower back muscles.  Pretty impressive, huh?

By the way, anything you bend down to pick-up with straight legs also gets multiplied by 10, so picking up a 50 pound child puts you at extreme risk, as studies have shown that the low back muscles typically sever at 1,500 pounds of force.  

So just getting out of the table top putting posture puts most of us at two-thirds the risk for muscle damage.  Combine that with the isometric contraction while holding the putting position for 18 holes and/or the hamstring tightness deficiency discussed above and you are a low back injury statistic waiting to happen.

As a sidebar, there is quite a bit of bending over during a round of golf, however, most golfers use what’s called “the golfer’s lift” (photo left).  While reaching down to tee-up the ball or pick the ball out of the hole, a club is used to support your body weight and one leg is raised off the ground as a counterbalance.  The supporting knee is generally flexed a bit to help with stability.  This technique is an excellent way to take the pressure off the lower back.  Be careful, though, that the club doesn’t slip out from under you as can be the case with wet greens and/or the newer Champion bermudagrass greens. 

My mantra is “Everything in life is chronic”, and that definitely applies to health and fitness.  You take up smoking or indulge in poor eating habits and it probably won’t affect you tomorrow, next week or next month, but somewhere down the road the habit will bite you.  The same goes for improper exercise and poor body mechanics.  Consult with a teaching professional and/or a certified golf fitness professional to make sure that what you’re doing today won’t take you away from the game later on.  


Static Hamstring Stretch

 One of the main factors for low back discomfort is tight hamstrings, which can also affect hip mobility in the golf swing.



Check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program.



A quality, customized golf fitness program will. . .
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  • Improve playing performance and satisfaction
  • Identify and correct golf-specific injury triggers

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The golf exercises are going great.  I am hitting the ball the best I have ever hit it.  My back pain has gone away also. 
David R. 

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If your Club or organization would like to host an informative golf fitness workshop, contact Bob at or 336-509-4610.

Bob came to my club and did a hour long session on the basics of his teaching and philosophy of fitness and how it relates to the golf swing and its performance.  My members thoroughly enjoyed the hour and wanted more.  I was impressed with his content and explanation.  My members were floored with his Q&A and his personal adaptation to their issues.  I was impressed with his interaction with attendants of the seminar.  If you are looking for someone to integrate your fitness program with the golf program, Bob is the guy to do it!  We will be booking Bob to come back to our club next spring.
Shannon Howell, PGA Head Golf Professional
Country Club of Sapphire Valley, Sapphire Valley, NC

"Bob Forman was fabulous!  He is a great presenter who shared some extremely valuable information related to how anatomical deficiencies such as: poor posture, flexibility, and balance impact our golf swing.  He not only shared what they are and how they impact the swing, but also demonstrated exercises to help correct them."
Ellen Gregory
EWGA-Wilmington, NC chapter

“Westchester is one of the Country’s largest private clubs with a membership that has high expectations for service and performance.  Bob Forman’s seminar on golf specific fitness and flexibility was extremely well received and motivated many of my members to begin a program of evaluation, exercise and follow-ups.  I highly recommend Bob for his knowledge, energy , and ability to connect with amateurs concerning golf fitness.” 
John Kennedy, Director of Golf
Westchester CC, 
Harrison, NY

Bob has a fantastic ability to understand and combine his expertise of the physical complexities of the human body with the PGA Professional’s trained eye with respect to the complexities of the golf swing.  Bob offers a refreshing angle that most amateur and professional golfers can understand and embrace.  Many times, a golfer will have physical limitations that prevents him or her from moving the way the PGA Professional is trying to instruct.  Bob can take the golfer’s weakest physical traits and focus a training program to better overcome those obstacles and allow the golfers to ultimately improve their swing. 
Dennis Nicholl, PGA Head Golf Professional
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Functional Golf Fitness Training is a comprehensive player improvement resource for golfers of all ages and levels, teaching professionals and coaches.  
A great manual for golf teams as well.  

Dedicated chapters on:
- how to identify and correct the common physical deficiencies most golfers have that are impacting their swing and injury potential
- over 40 golf-specific exercises and drills

- preventing/alleviating the #1 injury in golf, low back injury
- how to fix the more common swing faults

Amazon reviews:

"Very clear explanations of causes and fixes for main physical deficiencies affecting golfers. Easy to follow instructions. While other books may give a whole laundry list of exercises that end up not being used, Forman has selected a few for each issue and puts together a program that doesn't take long to do"

"This book not only tells you what to do but also why you need to do and what results you can expect.
I have every book in print about golf fitness and this book is by far the best."

Available in print at TheBookPatch Buy Now style 1 button
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Swing mechanics are often influenced by physical deficiencies in the golfer's body.  Below are some of the more common swing faults, their physical causes and how to correct.






While correcting the deficiencies, you also need to rewire the brain-body connection in order to break out of the inefficient swing pattern.  





November 11, 2017
The top 10 fitness must haves for better golf.  Click on the pic and then "podcast."  
My segment starts at 1:10:30.

June 22, 2017
(go to 1:10:00 into the show)
golf posture, muscle imbalance, improving distance, stretching, hydration, Tiger and specialization, Rory and weight lifting

March 14, 2015
(go to 1:08:00 into the show)
fitness vs. golf fitness, strength training and slowing down the aging process, C and S-postures 

scroll down to 9/9/2013
(go to 23:15 into the show)
back injury