There are many telltale harbingers of spring, from warmer temperatures to longer days, chirping birds and blooming trees. But for golf enthusiasts, the most compelling sign winter has mercifully ended is the iconic Masters Tournament. Hosted annually by majestic Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, the Masters tees off this week amid great fanfare as the world’s best golfers compete for the coveted green jacket, not to mention $11 million in prize money.
The start of the Masters also symbolizes that the busy season is underway for Dr. Lindsay Becker, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, CGFI-M3. A physical therapist by trade, Dr. Becker has carved out a clinical niche focusing almost entirely on golfers.
She founded Buckeye Performance Golf about four years ago in Dublin, OH, one of America’s most hallowed golfing destinations. Located just outside Columbus, Dublin is home to beautiful Muirfield Village Golf Club, designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Consistently ranked among the top 20 courses in the country, Muirfield Village annually hosts the PGA Tour’s prestigious Memorial Tournament and has been the site of many other famous golf competitions, most recently the Presidents Cup in 2013.
“I’d say about 50 percent of my clients come to me for tips on how to improve their golf performance,” says Dr. Becker, who is also a HawkGrips course instructor. “Another 25-30 percent are what I call ‘high-level rehab’ patients. This means they have a previous condition such as back pain or a rotator cuff repair, but aren’t necessarily debilitated by it right now. So they want to exercise and work on their golf swing without aggravating or reinjuring that previous condition. Then the remainder of my population is true injury rehabilitation. Those clients tend to be golfers as well, even if they didn’t necessarily injure themselves golfing.”
Dr. Becker attended nearby Ohio State University in Columbus as an undergraduate before earning her doctor of physical therapy degree in 2006 from Northwestern University in Chicago. During her final clinical rotation before graduating, Dr. Becker worked at an outpatient orthopedic clinic in Gainesville, FL, where she started specializing in golfers as a patient population.
Finding the Fairway
“We mainly treated patients with sports injuries at that clinic and many of them were golfers,” she comments. “It seemed like a lot of clinics in the area offered programs for returning to running after an injury, but nobody was specializing in golf-related rehab. So the idea of doing something like that sounded interesting to me. Around the same time, I learned about the Titleist Performance Institute in California, which was really focusing on golf fitness, proper swing mechanics, and rehab programs for golfers. So looking into what they were doing also influenced me to focus more on golf.”
After graduating from Northwestern, Dr. Becker continued working in the Gainesville clinic for the next four years. During that time, she also received her instructor certification from the Titleist Performance Institute.
“At the clinic in Florida, we helped golfers with their technique to achieve better performance, but more from a rehab standpoint,” she recalls. “For example, if a golfer came in with an injury, we’d look at their swing but mainly in the context of how their mechanics could be contributing to the injury, or vice versa. So at that time, I didn’t really see any golf clients purely for performance purposes like I do now.”
In 2010, Dr. Becker decided to return to her home state, where she worked at Ohio State Sports Medicine for the next four years.
“I had a dual role there in which I saw some general sports medicine patients but also ran the program geared toward golfers,” says Dr. Becker. “Those visits could entail evaluation related to both performance and rehab. Some patients wanted to learn how to get stronger or more flexible for golf, while others were curious how their specific injury might relate to the golf swing.”
Dr. Becker’s treatment population at Ohio State included professional, recreational, and junior golfers. Over time, she began receiving many referrals specifically for her services. “So I started thinking maybe I could launch a golf-focused practice of my own. Then a management change occurred at Ohio State, and it just felt like the right time to try.”
Changing the Game
So in 2014, Dr. Becker founded Buckeye Performance Golf, a 5,000-square-foot facility featuring a rehabilitation area, gym, and three hitting bays with launch-monitor technology. What was her vision for the new practice?
“I still wanted to focus on golfers and emphasize performance as part of their rehab. But my practice would have a cash-based business model that enabled me to spend more one-on-one time with them, whether in the clinic, on the driving range or at a golf course.”
In traditional clinic settings, on the other hand, Dr. Becker felt her work was often dictated by what insurance companies would allow.
“So there were time constraints and billing concerns that really impacted patient care,” she relates. “For example, you couldn’t just spend three hours with a patient because you’d never be able to bill an insurance company for that. So in moving to a cash-based system, I’m now really able to cater to a client’s needs on any given day, from performance to rehab to being on the course with them.”
And how do HawkGrips help Dr. Becker treat this population?
“A lot of my clients have soft-tissue restrictions that may be related to an injury, but also affect their golf swing in terms of the positions they can get into or how much rotation they can achieve,” she says. “HawkGrips are a great way to work on that soft tissue without having to dig in with my hands, and I actually feel the instruments are more effective than my hands would be for many conditions. In golf, there can also be a lot of chronic overuse injuries such as tendinopathies, and that’s another area where the instruments really come in handy.”
PT for the Pros
Dr. Becker has worked with many PGA Tour players over the years both at Buckeye Performance Golf and Muirfield Village, where she joins the medical staff for the Memorial Tournament and other professional events.
“The pros love HawkGrips and even ask for the treatment,” shares Dr. Becker. “I treat them with HawkGrips particularly for low-back pain, shoulder tightness, upper-back tightness, and neck soreness. I see many tennis-elbow and wrist/hand issues as well with PGA Tour players, so really the whole forearm area can get a lot of chronic soreness, particularly the lead arm.”
One of the reasons HawkGrips are so popular among her patients is the short treatment time needed to achieve impressive results. This appeals not only to PGA Tour players who must compete at a high level for four straight days in a professional tournament, but also recreational golfers who don’t want an injury or condition hindering their game for several weeks.
“I had a client come in the other day who was having trouble getting into his left side on the downswing,” Dr. Becker relates. “So I treated his hamstring and gluteal area with HawkGrips for about 10 minutes. Then we had him hit golf balls at one of the bays in my clinic and he commented right away on how much better he could move.”
While a traditional rehab clinic might have an area where patients can swing a golf club, very few offer the ability to actually hit golf balls onsite the way clients can at Buckeye Performance Golf. So the immediate effect of HawkGrips Therapy coupled with this cutting-edge clinic feature is truly a winning combination.
“It’s very gratifying to enable such a rapid and significant functional difference from pre- to post-treatment, where patients can definitively recognize the benefit,” concludes Dr. Becker.
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