The connection between health and golf has long been embraced by the world’s best players. Stronger, faster, and fit golfers are hitting the ball further, and are maintaining focus and energy throughout the entire round.
However, the average golfer does not need to spend thousands of dollars on a personal trainer or hours in the gym or on the driving range to improve their health and golf game. What they need are the right exercises that will focus on improving both their fitness and golf game. This post will look at three areas of fitness that impact golf and provide a few simple exercises anyone can do to improve their handicap through better health.
Fitness and Golf: A Perfect Match
Golf fitness has been on the rise over the last 20 years. When golfers make millions of dollars a year and compete against the best players in the world, they need to be in top physical shape. The leader in this golf fitness trend is The Titleist Performance Institute, which has grown to over 19,000 certified trainers in over 63 countries since its inception in 2003. They work with golfers of all calibers to analyze and apply ways to get stronger, faster, and stay focused longer.
A great example of the benefit of golf fitness can be seen with Phil Mickelson. He won a major championship at 50 years old, becoming the oldest major winner in history. His ability to continue to hit the ball over 300 yards and maintain his mental and physical endurance during the round contributed to this accomplishment.
The average golfer may not have Phil’s team of trainers, but nor do they need it. Most golfers are not competing against the world’s best for their livelihoods. They simply want to enjoy the sport for as long as possible and maybe get a little better each year.
What seasoned golfers need is a routine that will strengthen the physical and mental parts of their game without having to spend hours on the range. This begins with knowing the areas to work on and getting into a good exercise routine.
Three Areas to Improve Your Golf Fitness
The golf swing requires the entire body to work together. A perfect synchronization of muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance produces the beauty of the textbook golf swing. Therefore, exercising to better your golf game also produces overall better health.
There are three primary areas of your physical fitness that can help improve your golf game:
- Strength: There are great benefits to strength training for golf. Increased strength can produce farther driver distances. But hitting it far is not only a result of raw power but of muscle stability and explosiveness. Strength training can help improve balance, control, and fast power, all of which are required for properly swinging with more power and speed. Golfers need speed and control more than power.
- Flexibility: Driver distance is also related to flexibility. Rotating on the back swing and creating torque, or elasticity, in the core impacts the ability to create speed. Flexibility also helps maintain the fluidity and length of the golf swing, allowing for a smooth and long swing rather than a short, painful jabby swing. Especially for those who may not get out on the links as often, improving flexibility is crucial to reducing pain and maintaining a consistent and powerful swing.
- Endurance: An aspect of physical health that may be overlooked in golf is endurance. Maintaining top physical performance throughout the round is important to improving scores. Muscle and mental fatigue can reduce distance and focus and cost players shots in a round. ESPN reported that Rory McIlroy cited fatigue as the main reason for his poor Sunday performance at the 2014 Tour Championship, costing him the championship and the $10M FedEx Cup.
These are three important areas that can help improve a golfer’s game. However, it is also essential to assess your own strengths and weaknesses to know what areas need the most work. Each person will be different, and targeting the areas specific to you will help maximize your efforts.
Train for Success
Success in golf, like in life, does not mean the same result for everyone. Some may view success as lower scores. Others may view it as making it through a full 18-hole round, whether in a cart or walking. Regardless, there is preparation for any kind of success, and improving in the above categories is how golfers can train their bodies to achieve their view of success.
Here are three simple exercises that can help improve your strength, flexibility, and endurance without requiring long hours in the gym or hundreds of dollars in trainers.
Squats focus on lower body strength and stability, which are the power and stability muscles in the golf swing. According to strength and conditioning coach Jamie Greaves, squats are also “really good for mobility through the ankles, knees and hips, as well as core control and trunk control.” These can be done with or without weights, depending on your abilities and level of fitness.
Areas to focus on as you work on your squats include:
- Form: Feet are shoulder width apart and back straight. When you begin to squat down, it is important to keep the hips back, as this will “help minimize the stress on your knees and afford you more power from the hip muscles.”
- Weight: The weight is not as important as getting a full range of motion by going all the way down and all the way up. If this cannot be achieved with added weight, start with only body weight. Good form is more important than lifting heavy weights.
- Reps: For golf, we want strength, not girth. According to Men’s Health, the best range for building strength is 3 sets of 10 reps. If this is too easy, try to add some weight but also maintain good form.
- Maximizing Squats: Former tour pro and golf fitness icon, Scott Stallings, says to descend slowly and hold for a couple of seconds at the bottom. This helps with muscle stability. Then be explosive on the way up, which can improve lower body power.
Yoga can be a great tool to help golfers avoid injuries and loosen up after sitting at a desk all day. There are a plethora of free yoga apps that provide simple stretching routines that can help improve hip rotation, balance, mobility, heart rate control, and reduce the risk of injury. Pro golfers, such as Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Natalie Gulbis all do yoga to help improve their flexibility, increase their body control, and maintain their heart rates with breathing exercises.
This can include running, biking, walking, swimming, rowing, stair climbing, high-intensity training, or anything that gets the heart rate up. This also forces the individual to push their limits and develop the mental fortitude to keep going when their energy is low.
Cardio helps golfers increase physical stamina and mental focus throughout the entire round, which helps avoid unforced errors due to physical and mental fatigue. Remember Rory McIlroy’s heartbreaking loss at the 2014 Tour Championship and year-long, $10M FedEx Cup all because of fatigue in the final round.
Along with these exercises, a healthy diet can help maintain energy and contribute to an overall healthier disposition. This healthier lifestyle can improve your ability to swing the golf club and stay focused throughout the entire round.
Play Golf for a Healthier Lifestyle
Just about all physical activity can have positive health benefits. However, there are a few activities that allow for all ages and physical abilities to participate. Golf is one of those few that has virtually no age limit or physical requirements. An eight-year-old and an eighty-year-old, a professional athlete, and a wounded vet can all enjoy golf and its health benefits.
In addition to the health benefits of training for golf, according to the Orthopedic Institute, golf alone has a couple of primary health benefits that provide good excuses to get out and play:
- Golf stimulates the cardiovascular system, which contributes to good heart health.
- The light exercise of walking the golf course can help improve lung function.
Additionally, getting outside can also help reduce stress and improve overall mood. If anyone needs an excuse to get out and play a few holes, or simply despises the gym but wants to get in better shape, let them get out and play some golf!
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