It's not just skill and talent anymore - a successful junior golfer is much more of an athlete than his or her predecessors were back in the day. We interviewed a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is at the forefront of bringing correct golf physical training and movement to junior athletes to help prevent injuries and build peak performance at their different levels of development.
Dr. Daniel Tari PT, DPT, OCS is Co-Founder of Club PT and is also Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Certified. His clinical interests and specialities include sports and athletic injuries, manual therapy, dry needling, spinal mobilization/manipulation, postoperative treatment, movement analysis, kinesiology taping and injury prevention and wellness.
He works with some of the top junior golfers in the region and in addition to his private practice also partners with Georgia Golf Performance, the Georgia State Golf Association and various top golf coaches and clubs in the Atlanta area.
When did you realize you wanted to get into physical therapy; what sparked your passion in that regard?
I have always played sports, including Collegiate hockey, and during this time realized what a great impact sports medicine and physical therapy can have on a player’s performance. While doing my internship at Emory I decided I was more invested in sports medicine than surgical medicine.
What is involved in the TPI certifications and their impact on how you approach training and treatment of junior golfers?
TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) is the world's leading educational organization dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to the golf swing. Since its inception in 2003, TPI has analyzed thousands of professional and amateur golfers to ascertain exactly how a properly functioning body allows a player to swing a golf club in the most efficient way possible. A significant part of the analysis is to determine physical limitations, how to improve on them or how to maximize performance given such limitations.
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Do you see a lot of junior athletes and what sports are they generally involved in?
I see junior athletes mostly involved in hockey, figure skating, track, cross-country, and golf. We help athletes involved in all sports in our clinic. We also do golf specific programs outside of our clinic.
When junior golfers come to see you for the first time, what is the typical problem they are needing help with?
In-clinic patients come to us with injuries to backs, hips, and knees – caused mostly because they are playing too much and not strengthening their bodies sufficiently.
What services do you advise and provide for junior golfers that are geared towards the healthy athlete to further boost performance?
We create programs to improve strength, power, mobility, stamina and co-ordination. We utilize the TPI Developmental Model which focuses on the player’s age and skill set. In our partnership with Georgia Golf Performance I am the Fitness Director of the program and create all fitness and athletic programs for the juniors.
What are the key things that parents of young juniors, and the older juniors themselves, should be focusing on to prevent injury to backs, shoulders and knees which typically take a bit of a beating in competitive golf.
Athletic development in general must be stressed in junior athletes as well as playing multiple sports. Golf is not an early specialization sport. If you start developing fitness as a priority at a young age it reduces burnout and injury as the player gets older.
At what age is it safe to introduce dedicated weight training into a junior golfer’s (or any junior athlete’s) schedule?
It depends on the individual athlete as age ranges differ. Girls and boys can typically start an introductory weight- training program around the onset of puberty, which is generally around 11-12 in girls and boys a little later.
A high level teenage junior golfer is a multi-sport athlete (plays basketball competitively). He has sprained the same ankle twice in the space of 6 months playing basketball, which obviously affects his golf swing as he recuperates given that he cannot transfer weight as effectively the his left side on the follow through. At what point do you suggest he focuses completely on golf and lets basketball go?
Specialization happens when the athlete knows what he or she wants. That being said, there are a lot of pro-athletes that played multiple sports through college. Physical therapy helps an athlete bounce back from injury quicker. The faster you start physical therapy after an injury the faster you will be back on track. Our Direct Access Model helps a return to sport very quickly and saves a lot of money. Our athletes know that they can call us immediately after an injury and we will have them in our clinic the next morning.
Should junior golfers have regular physio check-ins – i.e. as opposed to only when they have an injury. What cadence would you recommend and at what age should they start this?
Yes, in our Georgia Golf Performance program we do athletic development check-ins through the year with all age levels in the program.
Do you work with swing coaches in developing training routines based on what the junior golfer is trying to work on in their game or what they coach believes they need to develop?
Yes, we work hand-in-hand and have ongoing contact with the coaches of the junior golfers we work with.
What are some good exercise that juniors could do at home that could benefit their golf fitness and conditioning?
Some good general exercises for junior golfers would be squats and planks. These develop core and lower body strength.
Teenage golfers often need to focus more on flexibility and mobility and we have good exercises along these lines including the ones below. These exercises should take 2 to 3 minutes or 10-12 repetitions per exercise.
The Pelvic Step Out – Start standing tall with a golf club over your head. Keeping the club and your shoulders stable and pointing forward, step back and open to the right with the right leg. Return to the starting position and repeat to the left.
Pelvic Tilts in Golf Stance – begin this drill by getting into a 5-iron golf posture and then placing a golf club grip down at approximately mid-stance. Use the bluc to support the weight of the arms/upper body. Begin to slowly tilt your pelvis forward (arched back) and then backwards (slouched back). Repeat both directions in a slow and controlled manner focusing on obtaining as much forward and backward tilt as possible.
Open books – begin this drill lying on your side with your knees bent and hands extended out in front of you. Keeping your knees in contact with the ground, try to rotate your top arm all the way across your body. Try to touch your forearm to the ground, keeping your arm at chest level. Return and repeat on both sides.
A-Frame Stretch – start this exercise in your 5 iron posture and bend from your hip sockets putting your elbow on one knee and your hand on the other. Hold a club in your opposing hand and reach behind you pointing the club vertically I the air. Feel the stretch in your shoulder and lat. Repeat on the opposing side.
Back in the day if a young athlete got injured it was often a long road from primary care physician to orthopedist and eventually physical therapy. They could be out the whole season! These days, golf physical training is incorporated into regular golf coaching and if an injury happens you're in physical therapy immediately with a much quicker bounce back.