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WHY DO GOLF FITNESS?

By: Beth Begelman, CGFI

Very often we hear about the importance of being fit, especially now that the New Year is upon us. Of course being fit will help us achieve a richer and more rewarding existence. We reduce our risk of heart disease and related illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes and we generally feel better mentally.  For those of us involved in various sports activities, being fit specifically for our chosen sport is crucial to perform to the best of our abilities. It is common for elite, professional athletes to train for their sports but sport-specific training can also greatly enhance the recreational athlete’s game and longevity. The game of golf is no exception and is one such sport where specific fitness is a key to improved performance.

It is common knowledge that the game of golf was “kicked up a notch” when Tiger Woods came on the scene in 1996.  He clearly demonstrated how being fit for golf can elevate one’s game—he’s number one on the tour and money list and plays fewer events than most of his competitors on the PGA Tour. However, Tiger didn’t start golf fitness; the PGA Tour has had a fitness trailer and trainers at Tour events since the mid-1980s. Additionally, studies have been done on the biomechanics of golf and the effects of the golf swing on the body.   Many industry professionals have been gathering tons of data from touring pros and have used that data to more clearly define the positive impact of fitness for golf. Their goal is to bring golf fitness to the masses and they are doing this with MYTPI.com, a website dedicated to providing golf fitness information. They cover every possible topic related to golf fitness--nutrition, equipment, training, and even technology.

Anyone who plays golf whether professionally, competitively through club leagues and even the casual golfer understand the physical demands of golf. The load placed on the body in the full swing is tremendous and even practicing long and short games can wreak havoc on a player’s back. How can one alleviate pain or mitigate the impact on the body?
Sport specific fitness can help all levels of golfers with their game, reducing their handicap but more importantly will help extend their golf playing abilities.

So how does being “fit for golf” translate to improving your game and what exactly is golf fitness? The full swing is an unnatural movement done at a very high rate of speed. The stress the body goes through is unique to the swing and understanding how those stresses affect the musculoskeletal system is important in defining a golf fitness program. Just as every player is unique, so too should be a golf fitness program. Program design should begin with a physical assessment. The assessment will help determine areas of weakness, specifically areas of concern regarding balance, mobility, stability and flexibility. Optimally, a player will be strong but will also have enough flexibility and stability to repeatedly perform the rigors of a golf swing without pain or injury.

Once areas of weakness are determined, a program is designed to address those concerns. For example, when a player has a weak low back and isn’t able to stabilize his pelvis while rotating his torso (x-factor stretch); it is indicative of either poor posture and/or a weak core (abdominals, back, glutes). These types of weakness will manifest themselves in golf swing faults such as “Early Extension” or “Coming Over-the-Top.” Simply put, the golfer cannot maintain his dynamic golf posture due to physical restrictions. The result of this is a higher handicap and a greater risk of injury to the player. The exercises prescribed in this particular scenario will include strengthening the core muscles as well as having the player learn to stabilize his hips dynamically. This may include crunches, some type of torso rotation, strengthening of the glute max (large butt muscles) and the glute medius (lateral butt muscles which help stabilize the hips) among many other exercises.

Fitness for golf involves understanding the biomechanics of the swing and, when swing faults are present, having the knowledge of the human body to understand how to prepare the body to efficiently make the swing. An efficient swing will create less load on the body and will, in most cases, help a player lower his score. This might involve a team approach, the golf coach and the physical trainer. The golf coach/instructor can identify the swing faults and relay the information to the trainer, and then the trainer can screen the player for physical limitations. This is the ideal scenario; the instructor working with the physical trainer who also has access to Sports Medicine specialists such as orthopedic doctors and chiropractors.

The bottom line is that being fit for golf can greatly enhance a player’s game by making him a more efficient and better player and also by reducing or eliminating pain during and after a match or practice. An added bonus to all this is feeling better all around by being a healthier individual. Now that’s a resolution we can all commit to.

Beth Begelman is a Certified Golf Fitness Instructor that has been trained by the Titlest Performance Institute and currently trains golfers at The Fitness Studio of Orlando.  She can be reached at 407-532-6600.