Fit for a swing: improving strength and flexibility will improve your game

Is it important for a golfer to be physically fit? Look no further than Tiger Woods for the answer. Players like Woods and Adam Scott on the PGA Tour and Annika Sorenstam and Natalie Gulbis on the LPGA Tour are world-class golfers who use fitness to enhance their games.

Fitness will improve your life and your golf game. Increased stamina allows you to stay fresh from the first hole to the 18th. Flexibility and range of motion allow your golf swing to remain fluid as you grow older. And everyone wants more distance, which can be attained by increasing your strength through weight training.

Like corporations that have wellness programs, the PGA, Champions, and LPGA tours have fitness, vans that travel to each tour site. Players have access to strength-training and cardiovascular machines. Physiotherapists are on site to stretch players and tend to everyday aches and pains.

All of this improvement has funneled down to the amateur and country-club scene. More golf facilities are setting up gyms in locker rooms for their players.

Most country clubs are made up of golfers age 35 to 65. As golfers get older, they naturally lose strength and flexibility. As this happens, their golf games begin to suffer. They don’t hit the ball as far as they used to, which makes the golf course more difficult. Aches and pains start to creep in. If the fun goes out of golf because of difficulty or pain, golfers stop playing. The trickle-down effect begins, and it ultimately affects the country club.

The genius about golf fitness is that it can specifically address the areas important to the golf swing. Strength plays a role in hitting out of the rough, balance throughout the golf swing, and distance. Flexibility of shoulders, neck, back, hips, and hamstrings are essential to making a functional golf swing. Any impingement in one of those areas can set off a string of compensations that make the swing unreliable.

The golf equipment company Titleist has been a major player in bringing golf fitness to the forefront. Doctors Greg Rose and Dave Phillips, co-founders of the Titleist Performance Institute, have created an incredible fitness curriculum for golfers. Their website, www.mytpi.com, has massive amounts of information on golf fitness. Their program consists of a golffitness evaluation measuring strength, flexibility, and range of motion. As a result of your evaluation, you’ll be given a golffitness handicap and report that compares your findings with tour professionals they’ve tested. The program culminates in an 18-session workout designed to address your needs.

The program has become so popular that Rose and Phillips have begun to certify golf professionals and fitness trainers around the world. Fitness trainer Brad Davis and Head Golf Instructor Rodney Cook of the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Dallas are among the first to be fully certified in golffitness training from the Titleist Perfomance Institute.

Golfers are always looking for an edge to take their game to the next level. Golf fitness is another avenue to draw from when looking for that edge. When the benefits are looking better, feeling fitter, and playing better golf, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity. CL

2. A Proper Downswing

One of the hardest things for a golfer at any level to do is to get the bottom of the downswing in the proper place. Ideally, you would like to hit the ball and the ground at the same time. If you miss, it’s far better to make contact with the ball first and then the ground than it is to hit the ground first and then the ball.

Draw a line on the ground and practice starting your divot on that line. If the divot starts behind the line, move your lower body more forward and through the shot. If the divot starts in front of the line, keep your upper body turned back longer into the downswing.

The next time you play or practice, pay attention to where your practice swing is hitting the ground. As you get the bottom of the downswing more consistently in the proper place, your contact and distance will improve.

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