“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” John Wooden
Since 18strong is first a fitness and second a golf site this first installment of How to Win at Golf is about the importance of fitness and training to winning golf.
There are many components to developing a good golf swing, but, in terms of fitness and training they can be broken into three:
- Understand the Fundamentals
- Train Your Body to Improve the Fundamentals
- Take it to the Course
Let’s dive a little deeper into each.
1. Understand the Fundamentals
Most golfers consider the fundamentals of the golf swing to be the province of golf professionals. The grip, stance, ball position and certain techniques certainly fall into this category; however, the basics of golf relative to your fitness can be appreciated by any golfer.
You do not have to be a low handicap player or professional to understand the fundamentals of a good golf swing in terms of your body and fitness. The most important is posture. How many times have we heard golf instructors and instruction books emphasize posture? Just as often they do not explain how physically to improve poor posture.
First, realize that your upper body, shoulders and arms need to be RELAXED. Practice simply shrugging your shoulders and lowering them to attain this feeling. Secondly, tighten your abs and hold them lightly in place. If you do this in front of a mirror you will be amazed at how much straighter your back will look. Take a couple of practice swings with your shoulders relaxed and your abs pulled in and you will feel the stability in your spine and spine angle.
A second basic fundamental is that the golf swing is a rotational movement. The ability to rotate back to your right side and through to your left side (if you are right handed) is essential to a good golf swing. It is however difficult to execute if you have poor flexibility or balance. Fitness pros can perform a basic test to see what areas need work—usually tightness in the hamstrings, lower back and shoulders. You don’t have to turn like a twenty old to improve your swing, but you will be a much more consistent player if you isolate and improve your weaknesses.
2. Train Your Body to Improve the Fundamentals
Whether or not you work with a trainer, proper posture and proper rotation requires practice and training. If you like to lift weights, simply remember to lift with your abs pulled in and your shoulders down. This works really well during any leg or back exercises. If you like to walk when you play golf simply practice your good posture as you walk the course.
Perform a few simple exercises before you go to the range to warm up. A few deep knee squats and shoulder stretches off of your golf cart will really help you prepare for your day on the course.
At the gym, get a program and stick with it. Golfers at any age can use exercise to keep their bodies strong, flexible and ready to play golf.
Flexibility, Flexibility, and Flexibility! Take a minute at work each day to improve your weak areas and incorporate regular stretching at home and especially when you travel. I like to swing with a weighted club to stretch my back and practice rotating properly. If you can’t touch your toes or perform a simple deep squat it’s almost impossible to correctly release a golf swing and transfer you weight to your left side.
3. Take it to the Course
You will be surprised how difficult it is to sustain your posture and tight core for 18 holes, but if you stick with it your ball striking will improve. It takes commitment and practice to improve in this area; however, the rewards are incredible. A good golf trainer can help you understand your body and work with you to improve this most basic fundamental—something no instruction book or golf lesson can provide.
It is also important to plan for tournaments and golf trips physically. Winning players know that to be ready for day three of a big trip or tournament that their body needs rest before the event, as well as proper nutrition and hydration. We’ve all seen many talented golfers fade on the final day of the member guest. Winners do not.
Finally, winning golfers pay attention to fitness and how it relates to golf. They commit to fitness year round. If you want to “Win at Golf,” it is not enough to do cardio and stay relatively thin; you must train your muscles specifically with your golf game in mind and maintain your flexibility as you get older. If you want to be a better competitor—regardless of your handicap—the place to start is with your body, everything else flows from there.