Golf courses are opening across New England and while you’re itching to get out there and swing for the fences, you may want to ensure a successful and healthy season by tuning up your body as well as your game.
If you spent the winter cuddling your TV remote, you may have noticed that the fitness craze Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam launched years ago has taken over among the 20-somethings who tee it up each week on Golf Channel. Indeed, the muscles rippling under the blouse of the formerly scrawny world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, are par for the course out on tour.
“All young golfers have seen what fitness can do for Tiger and Annika and it’s just part of what they do now,” says Kathy Ekdahl, a Titleist Performance Institute-certified golf fitness instructor based in Hudson, Mass.
You don’t have to be ripped to prepare for the rigors of walking 18 holes without requiring a defibrillator or pulling a muscle each time you swing. For sure, you need not go all Arnold Schwarzenegger at the gym. What you do need is to build stamina, boost core strength, and increase flexibility to help you execute longer drivers with more consistency and agility.
As Ekdahl and Dave DuPriest, an exercise physiologist and owner of FitGolf Performance Center in Wilmington, Mass., assure you, achieving resilience in your hips, back, and shoulders, and strength in your abs does not take all day or even require breaking a sweat. But it does take a commitment of some eight to 12 weeks to achieve what Ekdahl calls a “training effect.
“Strength, power, endurance, flexibility, core stability, and balance,” she says, “need time to develop.”
A good place to start, says DuPriest, is to try to touch your toes. If you can’t, some gentle hamstring stretches are in order.
Indeed, both trainers urge golfers who are not fitness buffs to start slowly with their new exercise regimens. Flexibility work on the hips, upper back and torso, and shoulders is a good place to begin, and DuPriest likes thoracic-rotation exercises to help you get limber.
Once those parts are moving easily, add planks, bridges, lunges, push-ups, rows, and squats — all good ways to add stability and strengthen the abs.
If you’ve done your drills regularly over the winter, you’re ready to add speed and power drills involving medicine balls and kettlebells — work designed to “get the hips turning and the core contracting at fast speeds, the hallmarks of a good golfer,” notes Ekdahl, author of “Getting Golf Ready: A Woman’s Guide to Golf Fitness.”
DuPriest agrees. “Med ball twist taps are a great way to build some core strength while training mobility,” he says.
Next up for DuPriest are balance and coordination activities. While you probably can’t stand on one foot with your eyes closed for a tour pro’s average of 21 seconds, try doing so for 10 seconds or so with eyes open to start. Walking lunges with a twist using a medicine ball should help with weight shift and timing.
For speed and power, both trainers recommend med ball slams — four to six pounds to build speed and more weight for strength, says DuPriest.
Fitness may not be the only weapon in a great golfer’s arsenal, but Ekdahl and DuPriest urge you to do what you can to get on – -and stay on — the course.
“Fitness,” says Ekdahl, “plays a huge role in preventing injuries and improving endurance for the long game of golf.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminerWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?