Train Your Body for Optimal On-Course Performance (and Become A Better Golfer!)

Compared to other sports, the physical demands placed on the golfer are not particularly significant. You don’t have to run to play golf, you don’t have to jump, and you shouldn’t be out of breath at any point during your round. However, despite the modest physical requirements of this game, you still want to make sure your body is prepared to help you play at your best. Physical conditioning has become a bigger part of the game in recent years, and you could potentially lower your scores simply by placing an emphasis on your physical fitness.

There are a few ways in which improved fitness can help you play golf at a higher level. Those include –

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  • Adding flexibility can improve your rotation in the backswing and downswing
  • Adding strength can increase swing speed
  • Improved endurance will help you to play at your best from the first hole on through to the last

If you take some time to watch a professional golf tournament on TV, you will quickly notice that most of the players appear to be quite fit. That was not the case a couple decades ago. Golfers today, thanks in large part to the influence of Tiger Woods, work hard to keep their bodies in excellent condition. While you might not be a pro golfer anytime soon, your own game can benefit from regular visits to your local gym.

Of course, before you get started with any kind of physical fitness routine, you should always check in with your doctor.

Training with a Goal in Mind

There are a number of ways in which you can improve your own level of physical fitness. If you are training for a marathon, for instance, you will focus on losing weight, improving your endurance, and strengthening your lower body. A marathon runner needs to be lean to handle the rigors of 26.2 miles.

On the other hand, someone training for a weightlifting competition is going to take their fitness in the opposite direction. Large, bulky muscles are required to lift heavy weights, so losing weight and creating a lean frame is not on the weight lifters to-do list. A good weightlifter is going to be built like a fire hydrant – sturdy, stable, and thick.

So what does all this have to do with golf? In order to have your training actually benefit you on the course, you need to have a goal in mind for your workouts. What are you trying to accomplish? What would you like your body to look like in order for it to perform well on the golf course? Just as the marathon runner doesn’t want to end up with a body that is better suited for weight lifting, you don’t want to wind up with a physique that is suited for some activity other than golf.

You need to have a clear picture of your goals before you even set foot in a gym. For most golfers, the ideal goals for their physical fitness efforts are going to look something like the following.

  • Lean muscle to add power to the swing without having bulk get in the way of good rotation
  • Aerobic endurance to maintain energy levels throughout all 18 holes
  • High level of overall flexibility
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Again, you can look to the professional golf tours to find examples of the physique which is best for golf. The average pro golfer is long and lean, with very little body fat and also little in the way of bulky muscle. The golf swing is a rotational movement, so you need to be sure that the results of your training are not going to get in the way of your rotation.

Off-Season Training

Ideally, you will want to do the majority of your fitness work in the off-season. For instance, if you live in a climate where golf courses close for the winter, those winter months are perfect for preparing your body for the season to come. If you do a good job of building a base level of fitness during the winter, you can shift your attention to maintenance during the summer months – while planning plenty of time to actually play golf, of course!

During the off-season, focus on your large muscle groups. If you are going to be doing weight lifting as part of your training, the winter is the best time to do your most aggressive lifting program. Of course, even at this time, you need to be smart with your lifts to stay safe and avoid injury. An injury suffered in the off-season can easily carry over into the spring and summer, so always train carefully.

In addition to strength training, be sure to do enough stretching to maintain or improve your flexibility. Stretching is a great thing to add to the beginning or end of your workout routine (or both). Even just a few minutes spent stretching at the end of each workout can go a long way toward adding to your flexibility for the coming golf season.

In-Season Training

When the courses thaw and the green grass returns, it will be time to alter your fitness routine to fit in with your golf schedule. As you don’t want to be trying to play golf with sore muscles, it is smart to reduce the amount of weight you are lifting during the season. Also, this would be a good time to shift your attention to cardiovascular workouts. Increasing your cardio and backing off of the weight lifting is the best way to prepare yourself for the course during the season.

If you are someone who plays a lot of golf during the season, be sure to listen to your body and respond with changes to your workout routine as necessary. For instance, if you notice that you are losing energy at the end of your rounds, it may be that you are working a bit too hard at the gym. Tailor your workouts to your golf needs to optimize your results on the course.

Overall, fitness and golf are a natural pairing. Sure, you aren’t going to be running around on the golf course like you would on a basketball court or soccer field, but physical conditioning can still help you to perform at a higher level. Be smart when training, get professional help if you aren’t experienced with weight lifting, and look forward to playing some of your best golf in the year to come.


Matt Ristine

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