Volume 24, Issue 3 May/June 2014 | Download PDF
by Robert S. Gailey, PT, PhD | drawings by Frank Angulo
Golf is one of the most popular sports enjoyed by amputees of all ages. It encourages people to get outside, compete within their comfort level and enjoy social exchange. It’s one of the best activities for improving balance, coordination, range of motion, strength and endurance.
There are many aspects to putting, from stance to club selection. For the purpose of this exercise, the classic pendulum-type stroke has been selected.
Stance | Set up with a comfortable, wide stance; bend your knees slightly, as if you were going to sit. For transfemoral amputees, the prosthetic knee is straight with the sound limb slightly flexed, if possible. Feel the weight over the center of your feet, with a little more weight on the front foot. You should feel secure and balanced over both feet. Your upper arms should rest lightly on your ribs, and your forward eye should be directly over the ball.
Stroke | Your hands, arms and shoulders all work together, creating a pendulum-type stroke. Your shoulders and arms create a triangle that moves an equal distance on both the back swing and the through swing, with the head remaining still at all times.
Prosthetic Foot | You should feel the points of the heel, little toe and great toe on the prosthetic foot. This will help balance the weight over the foot. Start with equal weight distribution between both feet, then move the weight slightly toward the forward foot.
- From your putting stance,shift your weight side to side slowly and gently from one foot to another. Find the point where your weight is equally distributed between both legs.
- Again, from your putting stance with the weight equally distributed, shift your weight from your heels to your toes. Focus on the prosthetic foot, sensing when you are on the heel and then on the toes. Find the point where your weight is equally distributed.
- With your weight equally distributed, move the weight just slightly to the front foot. Bring your hands together, fingers straight, trunk and knees flexed. Keep your head still and move your shoulders, arms and hands together in a stroking motion.
- Take a putter and start with short three-foot putts, progressing to longer putts. Maintain the same swing, focusing on a stable base within the lower body.
Chipping and Pitching
Stance | Use a narrow, open stance, with your feet positioned fairly close together. The forward foot is slightly back, and your body is aligned slightly left of the target. The ball is positioned back toward your back foot with a fair amount of weight on your forward side. Knees are slightly flexed with your back straight and rear end out a little.
Stroke | Your hands move ahead of the ball, wrists firm (no bending), with your weight moving toward the forward leg. The distance of the backswing and through swing dictates the distance you want the ball to go. Both movements are usually equal in distance. A short chip requires only a short back and through swing, whereas, if you want the ball to fly farther, a more complete stroke is required, along with a little wider base with your feet.
Prosthetic Foot | Getting the weight down into the prosthetic foot is essential for consistently successful chipping and pitching. A prosthetic foot that permits vertical and rotational shock absorption can make this stroke smoother and more comfortable, especially when the prosthetic limb is forward.
- From the narrow stance position used for chipping, hold your hands in a golf grip position and practice short strokes. Focus on getting the weight down into the forward leg. The trick is maintaining the balance over the forward leg at the end of the stroke.
- Once comfortable with motion and weight-shifting without using a club, use a sand wedge and perform the same motion. Again, hold your finished position with your weight well forward.
- Since golf courses are neither flat nor firm, practice the stroke with a foam cushion under both feet. Hold the finished position.
- As your comfort level improves, take a half swing, then three-quarter and finally a full swing. As you increase your swing, widen your stance. Focus on the weight shift and holding the finished position.
Stance | Feet should be shoulder width apart and turned outward slightly. Bend your knees slightly until you feel your weight over the center of your feet. Transfemoral amputees will need to keep their prosthetic knee straight; as a result, the sound knee will be straighter as well. Stick your rear end out a little, keeping your lower back straight and your chin up (Figure 1).
- Backswing – Make a smooth, one-piece turn, moving the club, hands, arms, chest and shoulders together, sweeping the club head back low with a full, wide swing. Keep the weight on the inside of your back foot with your front foot firmly on the ground (Figure 2).
- Downswing – The lower body initiates the movement as the body unwinds, and the hands remain soft as the club head moves through the ball. Your body weight shifts smoothly from the rear foot to the front foot. Your body must be encouraged to rotate all the way through the shot, with the majority of the weight finishing over the front leg (Figure 3).
Prosthetic Foot | As the magnitude of your swing increases, the need to have a sense of where your prosthetic foot is increases. The more you can feel where your weight is distributed over the prosthetic foot, the better your balance and swing control. Also, the greater the forces that are generated throughout the prosthesis, the more a shock absorber or torsion-control device will reduce the forces and permit greater motion and comfort.
- Take your stance position, then take a half swing and progress to a three-quarter swing and a full swing. Focus on the weight shift between your feet. Keep the weight inside your back foot during the back swing, and allow the weight to move to your forward foot during follow-through. Hold the follow-through position for a couple of seconds.
- To help keep the weight distributed equally on the inside of both feet, place a half-buried golf ball under the outside border of each foot(Figure 5).
- To maintain pelvic stability, place a ball between your knees. Take a swing, keeping the ball in place. This will help maintain a stable base and prevent over shifting (Figure 6).
With practice, not only will your game improve, you will improve weight shifting, stability and balance over the prosthetic limb in various positions. The strength in your legs, as well as your overall balance, will increase, especially as you take bigger swings.