Importance of Functional Assessment for golf

The use of the expression “Functional Training” has gained a lot of attention over the last number of years. Athletes across all sports have been seeking out new methods and approaches to training in the hope it will improve performance.

During the course of this, they have talked about making their training more ‘functional’. But do they know what this really means and is it another fad in the strength and conditioning industry?

We know the best way to improve at golf is to practice it regularly, however, practice alone will only develop the motor skill element of the sport. It will not improve your ability to apply force when teeing off or during some long iron play, and will not improve your flexibility and mobility.

In sports which involve repetitive muscle actions such as in golf overuse injuries are very common. Exercises outside of normal training must be performed to help improve a golfers force production, flexibility and mobility to reduce the risk of injuries and help improve performance. This article intends to look at the first step in functional training, the functional assessment. We will look at what is a functional assessment, what are the tests involved specific for golfers and what is the rationale behind doing this test. 

What is a Functional Assessment?

The functional assessment is a series of tests which assess the stability and mobility of the various joints of the body. They will assess whether the athlete has the basic stability and movement competency in order to undertake or continue in intensive training without associated risk of injury. They also assess a golfer’s ability to activate important muscles for their sport. The tests we perform at KG Elite Performance include:

The Overhead Squat

Core Strength (using a pressure feedback analyzer)

Pelvic Stability Test

The results of the functional assessment help guide the therapist before conducting the musculo-skeletal assessment which is the next part of our Golfer Assessment protocol.


What is the rationale for the tests?

Functional tests such as the one highlighted above provide very useful information regarding a golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. The Overhead Squat in particular assesses mobility limitations around the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder joints. If these limitations are left unaddressed they can severely impact upon performance and increase the risk of injury. 

Mobility imbalances can also occur in the upper body, particularly in the shoulder joint. The golf swing is an action which requires a lot of use from the chest muscles in order to develop speed on the club. Because these muscles are used regularly they can become particularly tight which can lead to rotator cuff problems down the line if left unaddressed. So in many cases we need to create balance between these muscle groups so we stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak muscles so that all muscles are at their normal resting length.

The functional assessment can be also used to assess for any asymmetries which occur between right and left hand side of the body. At KG Elite Performance we use hip and trunk stability tests to assess for muscular imbalances. Let’s look at the main hip stabilizer, the gluteus medius in some more detail as this is a muscle which is particularly important for golf. Its main function is to stabilize the hip when the foot contacts the floor. If this muscle is inactive or placed in a weakened position by its opposing muscle group, it can start to affect a golfer’s ability to remain stable when teeing off or hitting an iron shot. As a result a lot of the forces applied during the shot are either misdirected or are spent on stabilizing the hips as opposed to being directed towards the ball. This can result in a misplaced shot or a lack of required distance on the shot.

Functional Training

Once all the flexibility, mobility and stability compensations have been collected from the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder joints an athletes program is created to address the underlying problems. This really is the true essence of functional training whereby you are trying to return muscles to their normal resting length and in particular have the stabilizing muscles activate accordingly. Once this is achieved, the golfer is then physically ready to commence more advanced training without the injury risks. And as golfers, staying injury free is one of the keys to success. 

At KG Elite Performance, we functionally screen our golfers on the initial consultation and then have them return one week later to receive their individualized programs which address their compensations. We spend this second consultation taking them through their exercises so that they thoroughly understand them. Six weeks after this golfers return for the re-assessment. After this we begin prescribing programs which are specific for the sport so that they can continue making improvements when competing. 

Biography: Karl Gilligan


MSc in Strength & Conditioning (currently completing)

BSc (Hons) in Sports Science

Physical Therapist (MIAPT)


Irish Institute of Sport Accredited Strength & Conditioning Coach

NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)



3.5 years as a Fitness Trainer with IRFU & Leinster Rugby

S&C Coach to professional golfer Richard Kilpatrick

S&C Coach to Olympic Canoeist Eoin Rheinisch (4th Place Beijing 2008) & ICU

S&C Coach to Inter-county Football Teams

S&C Coach to Eircom Premier League Soccer Teams

KG Elite Performance has assessment clinics at:

Belarmine Medical Centre, Belarmine, Stepaside, Dublin 18.

Wheelworx Bike and Tri Store, Fonthill Retail Park, Lucan, Co. Dublin.

Raw Gym, Portobello, Dublin 8.


Contact: 087 290 1100