Many who play golf for leisure or professionally know the game can be gratifying and equally frustrating. The best way to play golf is to be in good golf shape by practicing regularly.
What exactly is good golf shape? For every player it will be different. There are common points for each golfer to work on to achieve their best, including flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Proper golf flexibility allows the player to go through their golf swing without limitations due to tight musculature in the calves, hips, trunk, shoulders and neck. If there is a limitation in one of these areas, the swing is compromised, affecting performance, especially consistent performance. For example, if hip flexibility is limited, the trunk will have to rotate more, increasing the stress on the lumbar spine, which is not designed to handle a lot of rotational stress. Pain or stiffness in your back will limit your ability to go through your normal swing motion, and the ball won't go where you want it to go. To avoid this, get into a habit of doing a variety of stretches prior to starting your round.
Strength that meets the specific demands of the golf swing has been analyzed in professional and amateur golfers. Studies show that professional golfers had better strength in certain body parts when compared to amateur golfers. Increasing strength will improve driving distance for those of you who like to 'drive for show.' A study done by the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 compared three groups of golfers based on their handicap. They found the group with the lowest handicap (less than 0) had significantly better strength than the other groups in the areas of the core (hips, pelvis, low back) and the rotator cuff. The advantage in strength increases swing velocity, which should increase driving distance, as well as plays a role in preventing injury.
Good cardiovascular fitness plays a role not only for the current golf season, but also in future seasons. For the current season, good cardiovascular fitness decreases fatigue, reduces risk of injury and allows for better enjoyment of the round. If you don't get tired during a round of golf, you will be able to concentrate better and have more consistency in your swing throughout the round. Beginning and maintaining a regular exercise routine that includes some form of cardio will help your game. Make a smart choice about the proper activity for you based on your doctor's recommendations.
Use these core components of golf fitness to improve your performance and reducing the risk of injury. You can take the 'do it yourself' approach, or you can seek the help of a fitness or appropriate medical professional to help map out the best plan for you. If the problem is a swing mechanic issue, consult a local PGA professional. Or, you can apply this quote from Arnold Palmer, "I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone's golf game. It's called an eraser."
Seth Kinley is the Coordinator of Susquehanna Health Sports Medicine Services and a staff Athletic Trainer. Susquehanna Health's sports medicine fellowship trained doctors are able to see anyone who is physically active from a nontraditional athlete to a traditional athlete.
For more information, call Susquehanna Health Sports Medicine at (570) 320-7450 or visit www.SusquehannaHealth.org/SportsMedicine.