Expert advice for improving your golf game while also preventing overuse injuries.
As the saying goes, golf can be a good walk spoiled — in part because it’s a deceptively grueling sport that can be hard on your body.
Consistently manipulating the ball’s flight requires strength, agility, and mobility from head to toe, as well as endurance to spend several hours on the course. Even golfers who travel by cart from hole to hole need enough energy and fitness to stand for long stretches and repetitively torque their bodies.
Many golfers complain of lower-back pain, which is often the result of their swing’s twisting motion coupled with poor swinging posture. This combination is exacerbated by repeating that complex movement dozens of times during a typical round.
In addition, few of us play golf more than once a week, and this can stress parts of the body we seldom use, further increasing the risk of injury.
The key to success lies in preparation, explains Total Gym master trainer JayDee Cutting III, creator of the CoreGolf Fitness program. Training at home or in the gym can bolster your general fitness and teach you to properly torque your upper body to create a powerful, fluid motion — from the backswing through the downswing and follow-through.
Golfers need adequate mobility through the thoracic spine (upper and middle back) and a strong, well-coordinated core that can handle the taxing nature of repetitive spinal rotation.
Training for golf not only can prevent injury, Cutting says, but it can also boost your overall game by strengthening your lower body and core while keeping your spine supple.
Incorporate the following exercise and mindset tips to improve your score — and your enjoyment on the course.
Golf Training and Techniques
Establish a preshot routine. Visualization is a key component of success in many sports, and golf is no exception. To begin, select the proper club, step up to the ball, and imagine the shot in your mind, picturing the flight of the ball. Next, set up behind the ball and rehearse your swing. Use this time to relax, loosening your arms and hands with each practice stroke while breathing mindfully. Once you settle on your footing during this rehearsal, don’t shuffle your feet when you address the ball.
Hone your swing. Experts recommend developing one basic swing that takes your unique physiology, comfort, and goals into account. A motion that you can perform repeatedly without injuring your body will elevate your game in a sustainable way. A golf pro or master coach can help you discover your swing; practicing is then integral to success.
Mind your mindset. Golf is played on varied terrain and is not by nature as reactive as other sports, making it a game of focus, explains Cutting. Instead of obsessing over your last bad shot or worrying about the water hazards and sand traps to come, he recommends teaching yourself to focus on only your swings and hitting the ball.
Professional golfers stay focused by using preshot routines, such as the one described above. Another way to concentrate during a round is to create a mantra in tune with your swing. For example, some golfers think the word “smooth” during their backswing and “easy” during their follow-through.
“This helps focus the mind, so it’s not wandering into Ugh, I had a triple bogey on the last hole,” says Cutting.
Drill: Build strength to improve posture and reduce back pain
“Not many people realize that all the power in golf comes from your legs and core” — not the arms, Cutting says. He recommends two basic moves to beef up those muscles:
- Walking lunges strengthen and mobilize your entire lower body (legs, hips, and glutes). Hold dumbbells at your sides for an added challenge.
- Planks improve core stability. Try performing them high on your hands, low on your forearms, and on your side. Aim to hold for 30 seconds.
Add these to your workout routine and use them as a pregame warm-up.
Drill: Improve hip and shoulder mobility
The dynamic twisting and hunched, internally rotated shoulder position that occur with each swing can lead to tightness in the hips and shoulders. Try these stretches for relief:
- Seated figure four: Sitting on a chair, lift one foot and place it across the opposite thigh, just above the kneecap. Use your hip muscles to draw your knee down until you feel a stretch through the hips.
- Downward-facing dog: Begin in a high-plank position, then press your hips back and up until you form an inverted-V shape. Let your head hang loosely to feel a stretch in the shoulders and lower back.
This originally appeared as “To a Tee” in the May 2018 print issue of Experience Life.