Are you ready to take your golf game to a new level? Golf fitness and a whole body approach to your golf game may be the answer. Many of you have spent hours on the driving range sharpening your golf skills. You’ve invested a small fortune in new equipment, golf lessons, and accessories, yet you haven’t seen a decrease in your handicap in years. You’re not alone. Fifteen years ago the average handicap for women was 29. However, you may be surprised to learn it is the same number today. What accounts for this lack of improvement and what can we do about it?
The real answer lies in the basic understanding that what you are seeking cannot be purchased in a pro shop, from a local golf retailer or on-line store. The answer may be closer than you think because it lies within your current physical capabilities. The most overlooked component of improvement in golf is neglecting to factor in your physical conditioning. It is your physical capabilities that will determine your range of motion, level of consistency and potential for injury. It is the goal of every golfer to have better timing, control, accuracy and skill. If these factors can contribute to the execution of a golf swing with consistency, then you are well on your way to improved golf performance.
There are four main physical requirements a golfer needs to graduate to a greater, more consistent level of play. Which of these physical characteristics do you possess and which of these areas need improvement?
Balance. This is an area often overlooked by golfers of all abilities. Balance plays a critical role in stabilizing the core musculature as well as adding the element of control through muscle coordination. Balance plays a pivotal role in your ability to execute weight transfer and hip rotation without jeopardizing a stable address position. Golf requires highly repetitive motions while operating at a seemingly aggressive rate of speed. Those individuals with exceptional balance will have more efficient reaction times and therefore movement speed.
To measure your balance: Static balance test
Directions: Stand on a hard surface with both feet together, close your eyes, then lift your foot about 6 inches off the ground. How long can you hold your foot off the ground? Perform the test 2-3 times and then take an average.
If you can hold this position between 15-30 seconds, you’re right on Par! If you’re looking for Birdie performance, try your balance on each leg independently and shoot for more than 30 seconds.
Flexibility. Allowing your muscles to extend through their full range of motion is widely considered one of the most important aspects of a successful golf swing. Muscles which are inflexible can have a significant impact on all aspects of your game. The same is true for muscle imbalances. Once short and tight muscles have been identified, stretching can help eliminate the physical restrictions leading to the swing faults you may be encountering. Never neglect a pre-round warm up. It will prepare your muscles for the work to come and ward off immediate dangers to tight muscles.
To measure your flexibility: Sit and Reach Test
Directions: Sit down on the ground with your low back against a wall. Extend your legs straight out and about 12 inches apart. Place your hands together and bending from the hip, reach your hands out as far as you can. Where did you reach?
If you can touch my toes, Par excellence! For a shot at Birdie performance, try reaching through your feet.
Strength. Clearly when muscle force or strength is applied to the ball, power is created and distance is increased. Increasing your striking force to the ball will likely yield a desirable result for any level of player. Strength in key muscle groups will offer protection from injury. Strong lower back muscles will support your position at address. Strength in your midsection will provide you with the stability you need to make the most effective separation of the hips from the shoulders in producing the power you seek. A strong body creates a powerful swing, a strong mind, and a fit body.
To measure your strength: Wall Sits (Lower body strength)
Directions: Place your back against a wall with your feet at shoulder width apart. Bend your knees until your hips are just above a right angle. Place your hands at your side or on your hips and count the number of seconds you are able to maintain this position.
If you can hold this position between 60 and up to 90 seconds, Par excellence! To elevate your golf performance to the Birdie level, see if you sustain your wall sit past 90 seconds.
Endurance. Golf has always been thought of as a sport based on skill, requiring minimal fitness. Today, the likes of Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Annika Sorenstam have helped to propel the idea that fitness levels are indeed important to maintain your stay on the leader board. While the cardiovascular requirements for golf are not extensive, they are critical in maintaining adequate levels of energy and maximal levels of concentration. In the absence of a sound cardiovascular routine, physical fatigue can easily lead to mental fatigue. Mental fatigue then gives way to skill deterioration. Recommendations for cardio consist of at least 30 minutes of sustained activity 3-4 times weekly.
The meaning behind Golf Fitness is that you are, indeed, an athlete first and a golfer second. Use your body as your most prized possession and your greatest weapon in competition with yourself and with others. Here’s what Annika Sorenstam had to say in a recent interview for Women’s Golf. “I practice less golf, and I spend more time in the gym. But I know that if my body is in good shape, I’ll be able to swing the club the way I want to.” Factor in your current physical conditioning by using a whole body approach and you will see a lifetime of benefits in increased performance, longevity in your favorite sport, and a physically fit body worthy of recognition.
Susan Hill is a Nationally Certified Golf Fitness Trainer with the International Sports Science Association. She works almost exclusively with golfers of all abilities at Sage Springs Club and Spa, a premier golf destination resort in Sunriver, Oregon.
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