We have all have been in that unfortunate situation; A ball lying on a hill above your feet, or a ball that didn’t make it into the bunker (whew) but did manage to stop on the rim with an uphill lie, or that time you had to take your shoes off and roll your pants up to stand in the water to avoid an extra stroke. A lot of nerve and technique are needed for such situations in addition to your ability to respond to the terrain.

Do you think balance is important in this situation?

Once you get over the mental part of ‘how am I to get out of this situation?’, the body should respond naturally if your balance is performing well. Having an efficient balance system is critical in knowing how much the hips should bend when addressing the ball (i.e. do I stand closer to the ball?, should I give myself some space?). Balance also plays a role in the downswing by keeping your weight near your heels as you strike the ball.

To understand what factors into good balance, it is good to know what areas need to be addressed. There are three balance sensors in our bodies that detect various amounts of information that help keep you upright. The first is the vestibular system located in the inner ear that acts as a natural gyroscope, the second is found in the golgi tendon organs and muscle spindle reflexes that detect muscle/tendon length, and the last component is the vision systems to give visual feedback that keep our head above our feet.

The best way to train all three of these balance systems is to practice. I know it sounds simple, but is it the simple truth. The more time spent learning how to react to changing ground forces, the more improved and trained balance will be. By training balance, you will know what is supposed to happen when the ground changes because you have experienced it before.

The basic plan to train balance is to stand on one leg with your thigh parallel to the ground, squeezing the glute muscles on the standing leg, and staying tall in the shoulders and chest. Depending on age and other factors, this position should be held for no less than 20 seconds at a time. To make this drill more challenging, add time while balancing or grab a dumbbell in the hand of the balanced leg. Repeat this drill until you reach a total of 3 minutes a side. Always try to increase the interval time and total time spent balancing. Perform this drill to help improve balance and ball contact on any surface you encounter on the course.

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