Steph Curry’s performance at the Ellie Mae Classic has surprised quite a few in the golf world. Nobody thought a full-time basketball player could compete with professional golfers, but he’s impressed many. Turns out that being a great athlete in one sport can benefit you in another sport.
TPI recently published an article about the relationship between basketball and golf. In it, they share a few of the ways that an athletic background in basketball can benefit a golfer. The thesis was borne from 3D data they’d collected and the observation that nine of the 10 leaders in driving distance have an extensive basketball background.
One of the most important advantages that a basketball player has is their ability to use the ground to generate energy in the swing. Here’s TPI co-founder Dr. Greg Rose discussing how vertical force can help a golfer gain distance.
Dr. Greg Rose discusses the relationship between driving distance and vertical jump.
— TPI (@MyTPI) September 21, 2016
The concept of generating energy through ground reaction force isn’t a new one to most golfers. The most powerful golfers in the world leverage vertical force to generate club head speed. The more vertical force they are able to create, the greater their potential for club head speed. Here’s a screenshot of a graph from Dr. Sasho MacKenzie’s research at St. Francis Xavier University charting the relationship between club head speed and vertical force under the lead leg.
But timing of vertical force is just as important as amount of force. According to Dr. MacKenzie, a two foot jump would max at around 2.5x bodyweight. A dunk would be closer to 3x bodyweight. In golf, the fastest swingers in the world create about vertical force of about 2x their bodyweight under the lead foot on the downswing. For most golfers, that number is closer to 1.5x.
So instead of focusing just on HOW MUCH force is created, golfers should focus on WHEN the force is created. Research by Dr. MacKenzie indicates that there is a strong relationship between club head speed and the ability to generate maximum vertical force under the lead foot when the shaft is vertical in the downswing.
Pressure under the lead foot when the shaft is vertical in the downswing is a key indicator of swing speed. Great video by GOLF.com. Research by BodiTrak advisor Sasho MacKenzie at StFX University
Posted by BodiTrak Golf on Friday, June 9, 2017
While we don’t have the force data for two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, we can observe a characteristic in his swing that is consistent with a number of powerful hitters on professional tours (such as Patrick Reed and Johnny Miller).
Check out Steph Curry's lead foot near impact. Similar move to Patrick Reed, Johnny Miller, etc. pic.twitter.com/4BRZyPVizF
— BODITRAK SPORTS (@boditraksports) July 17, 2017
Notice how his lead foot “pops up” as he approaches impact? That happens because he generates so much force under his lead foot that the pressure causes his foot to pop up. Here’s how Mark Blackburn described it for Golf.com:
As big hitters near impact, the force under their front foot swells until the left side of the body has no choice but to “jump” up in response. (The left foot of some bombers actually leaves the ground.) This drops the pressure under their front side to near zero, shifting the CoP to the back foot. The sudden increase in pressure under the back foot allows the player to push his CoM toward the target, just like we’ve all been taught.
So while the rest of the golf world is locked into Steph’s score, pay attention to his feet. You can learn something about how powerful athletes generate speed in golf.