Trim Your Score & Shape Your Swing with CardioGolf

Karen Palacios-Jansen is one LPGA Master Teaching Professional with a lot of heart and a lot of ingenuity. That heart beats unceasingly to help others improve their golf games, and that ingenuity devised her signature golf-specific fitness system called CardioGolf. As her website states, “Get your heart pumping and your golf form in shape with CardioGolf’s unique fitness and game improvement program. Trim your score. Shape your swing.”

A resident of Mooresville, NC, just north of Charlotte, Karen’s efforts have been universally applauded by her peers. She has been a perennial recipient of Golf Digest’s “America’s 50 Best Women Teachers,” was the 2008 LPGA Southeast Section Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year, was thrice voted by Golf Digest as one of the state’s “Top 50 Teaching Pros” (once in Florida and twice in NC), has been elected Vice-President of the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals organization, is a frequent guest on Golf Channel, and is a Nike Golf Performance Specialist.

Karen, who is also fluent in Spanish, graduated from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, with a degree in Speech and Theatre and earned her Master’s in Journalism from Columbia College in Chicago. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and is a prolific writer on golf fitness and instruction.

She was the managing editor for Golf Fitness Magazine and has published more than 100 articles for Golf for Women, Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golf Tips, and local publications. She has published her book Golf Fitness: Play Better, Play Without Pain, Play Longer, and Enjoy the Game More, her blog “KPJ Golf” is read by thousands of golfers each week, and her online video tips have received more than 100,000 hits.

Karen is married to Dan Jansen, four-time Winter Olympics speed skater and 1994 gold medalist in the 1000 meter.

OK, time to pump Karen for more specifics about both her life and CardioGolf.

NEGM: How did you become involved in golf in the first place? What are your five favorite courses that you have played?

KP-J: My dad was into golf, and I grew up on a golf course, living on the second hole of the Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville, Illinois. When I was eight or nine, all I had to do was walk through my backyard to get onto the course.

I played golf at Stetson and afterwards I joined the LPGA Futures Tour [now the Symetra Tour]. I played in a few LPGA events, but, basically, I have been teaching golf ever since I graduated from college.

My favorite course—and it doesn’t matter where it is—is the one that has no one in front of my group because I enjoy playing quickly. The favorite five would be Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Olympic Club, Mayakoba in Mexico, and the course I belong to, Trump National Charlotte.

NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome of today? Of any time period?

KP-J: My husband Dan and I against Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Trailblazers Mickey Wright, Babe Zaharias, and Patty Berg.

NEGM: Why did you decide to become an LPGA professional and then become an LPGA Master Teaching Professional?

KP-J: I really enjoy playing the game, and I wanted to take this enjoyment and turn it into a career. Teaching came naturally to me, probably through my dad, a professor of medicine, who always stressed the importance of education. I always liked helping other people enjoy the game, too.

My first professional position was at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando, and David trained me. Then, still in Orlando, I worked at the Faldo Golf Institute before going to Miami to work at the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral [now Trump National Doral].

I’ve been a member of the LPGA for 20 years, and in that time, I did the necessary seminars, educational programs, instruction, and accreditation work to make me eligible to become a Master Teaching Professional. Then I had to write a thesis and present it to the LPGA, and I developed a course called “Teaching Her,” designed specifically to teach women how to play golf.

NEGM: You are a certified AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America) trainer and instructor. What exactly does that mean? And how does being a certified Pilates instructor fit into the scheme of things?

KP-J: I have studied to be certified as both a personal trainer and a group instructor, and I have utilized this background and this expertise to help develop my CardioGolf program.

Briefly, Pilates enhances the balanced development and efficient movement of the body through exercises in breathing and core strength and flexibility. Other benefits include lengthening the muscles, toning the core, and developing strength equally throughout the body. It fits in perfectly with the demands of the golf swing.

 NEGM: So, how did you come to develop CardioGolf and your fitness/golf swing program?

KP-J: When I was working for Jim McLean at Doral, we would teach golfers from the Northeast who were on vacation in January or February and then would return home and not pick up a club for the next several months. One time a student asked me, “What can I do to practice my golf indoors until I can play outside?” I made him a videotape of exercises and drills he could do inside to practice his swing. He called me a few weeks later to say the exercises were great but that he was not allowed to swing a club in the house anymore because he had broken the chandelier. What I then did was to cut down a club to about 23 inches and send it to him, so he could use the short practice club indoors. That idea was a great success for him—and his wife—and I realized that I had created a viable home exercise and swing program that I called CardioGolf, the image of golf and fitness together.

First of all, no ball is required, and you can practice your swing at home or in the office. It’s a unique mix of golf exercises and swing drills, and it’s fast moving so you get a really good workout while emphasizing your swing mechanics at the same time. The benefit of making practice swings without a ball is that you can work on certain moves that you wouldn’t be able to see if you were hitting a ball. Just repeating the motion over and over again and trusting the motion that I am promoting will allow you to ingrain that feeling so that when you do get to hit balls, you will repeat that motion automatically. CardioGolf works just as well for the novice golfer, average golfer, and low-handicap golfer because the exercises and drills become individualized over time.

The full program for indoor use includes videos for the instruction and the practice club that I call the “Shortee.” It can be swung inside and is lighter than a normal club so that more clubhead speed can be produced during the workout.

NEGM: Does husband Dan help you out in any way?

KP-J: Yes, Dan is highly motivated—once an Olympian always an Olympian. He does a lot of mental training with other athletes and not just speed skaters. He’s actually working with some race car drivers, and together we work with some golfers. I have gotten a lot of great information from Dan—how could I not! Dan and I met at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy where he was my student. We have been married for 17 years now.