Coaches Corner Enhancing competitive with seasonal training

By Golf Fitness MagazineJanuary 7, 2010, 2:26 am

By: John Stemm

I have been working with golfers for 10 years as a physical therapist and athletic trainer, and I continue to be amazed at how the fitness side of golf has evolved. Current PGA tour players have embraced the concept and have revolutionized professional golf. This has drastically changed the perception of fitness in the golf industry. Although each year my programs change to better suit the needs of my players and their goals, one thing remains the same: playing better golf through better fitness. The difference comes with the increase in focus, demand, intensity and timing applied to each physiologic parameter.

Success in the game of golf requires a higher level of fitness than the average player is prepared for, or even acknowledges. In a single round, a golfer can walk seven to eight thousand yards, the equivalent of four miles or more. This distance alone is a significant task for most people, but when combined with pulling or carrying the weight of a fully loaded golf bag, traversing the inclines and declines of a course, and executing 70 to 100 swings, the physical stress load becomes substantial.

Walking the course does provide some physical fitness benefits that can help your game, but if you ride a cart there is virtually no fitness improvement. It is important for young players who are competitive to embrace walking the course as an avenue for improved fitness.

What steps can an amateur player take to improve his/her game? Purchasing more expensive equipment may make you look better, but it does not necessarily improve your game. Over the years, the national handicap average hasn’t changed much at all, despite the advancements in equipment. Spending more time on the driving range or on the course, is obviously one goal golfers have if they want to improve their game; however, it is often tough to find the time.

Sessions with your golf instructor are also another goal for golfers wanting to improve, however, yet again, lessons need to be reinforced by consistent practice and weather does not always permit that, nor does the hectic schedule of juniors. Even if you were able to take lessons and get out on the course with your new clubs three times a week, if you have not addressed physical fitness deficiencies, your game may not improve to its potential and may actually weaken with each hole throughout a round due to fatigue.

The challenge for the amateur player who has decided to start a physical fitness training program is knowing what to do, and when to start each phase of their program within the year. The most common error people make is starting at a level that is too advanced, and/or focusing on the wrong parameters at the incorrect time of the season.

It appears that a common trend in the conditioning of golfers is that they are often instructed on exercises that they are unable to perform correctly and consistently. The assumption that most golfers (even low handicap golfers) have sufficient core stability is false. Conversely, the assumption that high handicappers have poor core stability is also false.

Like every sport, golf has its different seasons. These seasons may change due to the geographic area in which you live, but there are still times of heavier play and times of lighter play. In order for your specific program to work, there must be emphasis on certain physiologic parameters at different times of the year, or a seasonal routine. The way to emphasize this is to divide your typical year into seasons, or blocks of times based on the amount of time you spend at the golf course. 

As a reference, we consider a “recreational golfer’s” off-season (winter) as defined by golfing less than twice a month if at all, pre-season (spring) as one to two times a week, In-season (summer) as two or more times a week, and post-season (fall)as one time a week.

Specific Training For Specific Seasons

As I have explained, during certain times of the year, focus should be on different areas of your golf fitness routine. The following, will list the season and then I will break it down into what area you or the competitive golfer, should be focusing on during that time period.

Off-season is the time of year you should focus your attention on flexibility and strengthening. This is the best time to commit to getting stronger without risking your fitness program and adversely affecting your golf game. 

Flexibility refers to tissue’s ability to withstand a stretch. Mobility is your joint’s ability to move through a range of motion. Although these terms differ, they can be used interchangeably in the world of golf. Golfers must possess excellent flexibility and mobility in order to play at a higher level and remain injury free.

A golfer’s ability to move through a greater range with little resistance allows him or her to generate a greater force, which in turn increases power. Good flexibility aids in maintaining good posture throughout the golf swing. The ability to swing through the motion without placing abnormal forces on one area (due to the tightness of your muscles.), will significantly reduce the chance of injury and prolong your golf career.

Strengthening refers to the amount of force a muscle or muscle complex can produce at one moment in time at one point within, or throughout a body part’s range of motion. “Functional strength” plays a major role in your golf game. Functional strength is not determined by how much you can bench press, but by your body’s ability to repeatedly produce force during the performance of any golf skill. The performance edge gained by developing a strong foundation can range from decreasing your risk of injury to helping you get out of the “lies” that your weaker counterparts are unable to do.

Pre-season

It’s the time to get ready to start playing golf. Your fitness program should reflect exercises that will immediately affect your game. These parameters are flexibility, power, balance and cardio-respiratory conditioning. We have defined flexibility above, however, power, balance and cardio-respiratory conditioning are defined as follows:

Power is determined by the formula of force multiplied by distance, divided by time and is an accepted measure of strength and speed. Training your muscles to contract in an explosive manner will help increase club head speed, which ultimately increases driving distance. Additionally, power training can also help prevent injury because the training stresses of speed and force closely resemble those experienced on the course.

Balance, as it refers to pre-season training, is the ability to maintain correct postural alignment, essential to accomplishing any movement pattern. The body relies on three systems to maintain balance: vision (the eyes), vestibular (the inner ear), and proprioception (sensory receptors found in joints and soft tissue). Maintaining position and alignment is a learned and trainable fitness parameter.

Any change and/or loss of balance within the golf swing will change the relationship of club face to the ball and have a dramatic effect on the ball’s direction of flight. Training your body’s “balanced position” and mid-section stability both with and without a club in your hand, will translate to a more controlled and stable swing and fewer trips to the rough and/or the pro-shop for new balls.

Cardio-respiratory conditioning: Golf is a game of nerves, both mentally and physically. Mentally, you need to be able to “see the big picture,” but still be able to focus on the details of the moment. Physically, you need to have control over both gross and fine motor skills, which are affected by the fitness level of your cardio-respiratory system.

The affects of your aerobic (with oxygen) fitness level on your golf game tend to be evident during the course of a round. As you combat fatigue, all aspects of your game quietly erode. As you get tired you tend to change your posture, your relationship to the ball and your gross motor skills. Hence, your swing changes and your game is negatively affected.

There have only been a handful of studies that have examined the affects of anaerobic (without oxygen) fitness, on your game. However, it is evident that a lack of anaerobic capacity can trigger a decrease in fine motor skills (short game) within a single shot at that critical moment between address and ball strike.

In-Season

It is at this time that you begin playing more and that your fitness program should become secondary. Your valuable time should be focused on practice. There are however, a few physiologic parameters that you can work on during this time. This is an excellent time to continue improving or maintaining your flexibility as well as improving your motor control/core stability.

Motor Control/Core Stability is enhanced through anchoring exercises, which are designed to build the functional relationship of each joint to its related muscles. This phenomenon is illustrated by Michael Jordan soaring through the air from the foul line to one of his patented dunks. As Michael makes his way to the hoop, his lower body moves in one direction, his head in another and his arms in yet another.

Have you ever wondered how he moves around without a limb anchored to the ground? Have you ever wondered where his anchor is, and from where the movement is initiated? The answer is that as he moves through the air he dynamically stabilizes his center, and using it as the keystone to his movement.

The greater the muscle’s ability to work, separately and collectively with its related joints, increases the body’s ability to maintain correct alignment throughout the performance of any movement pattern, especially throughout a golf swing. This stabilization is started from the center of your body, referred to as your “core.” Core stabilization is vital to the performance of many athletic skills.

The ability to contract your trunk musculature is essential to providing a stable base from which your extremity musculature can pull. Not only is establishing this stable base important from a strength perspective, but also from a motor control perspective. Mastering the ability to instinctively contract your core muscles will significantly improve your chances of being able to replicate your golf swing over and over. 

Post-Season

The last season or is one of rest and recovery. However, I feel that flexibility is such a vital component to the program it should be a part of every season including the Post-season. 

The key to improving your physiologic parameters such as strength, flexibility, power, balance, motor control/core stability and cardiovascular levels is to receive immediate and consistent feedback. The trick for any golfer is to “put it all together” the same way, at the same place, each and every time, over and over and over again. The consistency comes from an adequate fitness level within each physiologic parameter at the correct time during the golf season. Most golf-conditioning programs neglect these important physiological parameters as well as their link to the “seasons of golf.”

As you can see, golf fitness must be planned based on your volume of play. It is not just a collection of “golf-specific” exercises it is a collection of traditional fitness exercises done at the correct time. This is what makes them “golf-specific exercises.” You now understand the physiologic parameters that your program should consist of and when you should perform the exercises.

Improvements in your physical deficiencies will peak during your highest volume of play; thereby, improving your play through better fitness. Incorporating Seasonal Training into your golf game can lead to better golf as well as a healthier lifestyle.

The previous article is written by the strength and conditioning coach for the 10-time NCAA champion, men’s golf team at Oklahoma State University. The insight on how to plan your training around the seasons is very informative for those competitive amateurs. Though the majority of us are not training as competitive amateurs, the information that follows is still very useful for all golfers, especially those that feel the effects of “snow” on their golf game.


EDITORS NOTE: Golf Fitness Magazine is the only national consumer publication dedicated to golf-specific fitness, mental focus, and improving ability, performance and health among all golfers. Our priority is to maximize your potential, lower your scores, reduce your risk of injury, and extend your golfing years. Each issue has departments dedicated to men, women, seniors, and juniors along with tips, advice and simple exercise routines from GFM’s team of experts. If you want to improve your golf game, and hit the ball farther, click here for special offers on a subscription so you can have all this and more in-depth advice delivered right to you! Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our FREE golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game. To contact our Senior Editor, Publisher or Online Editor with questions or comments, please visit our web site golffitnessmagazine.com for more information.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.