Many onlookers may consider golf as a low-intensity sport, but research shows overall fitness has a significant effect on performance. Dr Wells, Director of Sports Science for the Royal Canadian Golf Association believes the game is very physically demanding because it requires ‘explosive power’ while at the same time exacting incredible muscular precision. Wells has spent extensive time evaluating 17 national athletes in order to devise an optimal golf training regime. He has calculated that the average male player calls upon 30 pounds of muscle and uses almost every joint in the body to produce 2,000 pounds of force in only 0.2 seconds. To reach their full potential, professional players need to combine muscle strength with flexibility and control.
Every player looks to improve his or her game, whether it’s a professionally minded student at IMG, or a recreational player like Stefan Masuhr. A golf training program is a lot like a typical fitness routine, but it needs to balance strength building exercises with stretching to avoid developing muscles that are too bulky. Dr Wells has pinpointed six training areas, called ‘the six pillars’, which when combined, can help to achieve the all-round fitness needed to execute the game.
Elements of Golf Training
- Balance – Balance is essential for a controlled, accurate swing on both uphill and downhill slopes. Golf training works to improve balance during both front to back and side to side motion, so momentum from the legs can be transferred to the swing more efficiently.
- Posture – Posture is one of the most important factors in a golf swing. Players need to strengthen their muscles enough to maintain all the natural curves in the spine and protect it from unnecessary movement or injury. The Golf Biomechanics Manual from 1999 defines posture as ‘the positon from which movement begins and ends’.
- Flexibility – A greater Range of Motion (ROM) allows players to generate more force in a shorter amount of time. Tiger Woods himself is quoted as saying he was convinced that increasing ‘flexibility will add power to your swing’. Additionally, flexibility helps to reduce injury and lengthen a player’s career.
- Core Stability – There are 29 muscles in the core area; between the rib-cage and the hips. This area is key for developing the power and control needed for an optimal swing.
- Strength and Power – Golf players need muscles that contract and provide explosive power almost instantly. The drive swing requires a lot of force.
- Cardiovascular Fitness – Golf might not seem like an especially cardiovascular game, but most players will walk 7-10 km on an average course. Arriving tired or out of breath will result in loss of control on the next swing. For adequate training, players also need the strength to pull off regular consecutive swings on a practice range.
Exercises and training in all of these areas has been proven to help even professional players improve their game. Beyond that however, like any other sport, golf comes down to practice. Students considering a professional career should be aware of the hard work and dedication required to achieve excellence.