Are golfers really athletes?
There was a time when golf was viewed more as a game then a true sport. Professional golfers back in the day did not necessarily portray themselves as the most fit individuals compared to other sport stars. In fact, smoking cigarettes was commonplace, even while on TV.
Just look at the some of the physiques on tour now, particularly current No. 1 golfer in the world, Brooks Koepka. His arms are like tree trunks. If any of you happened to watch and listen to the 2019 U.S. Open golf coverage, announcers repeatedly commented about the strength required to hit a shot or this golfer has been known for his power (winner Gary Woodland). However, they also referred to their incredible touch and mental toughness. Most people think Tiger Woods was the inspiration for this change of working out and playing golf, but that is not exactly true.
How about a little trip down memory lane and how golf became an “athletic activity?”
Gary Player was really the first professional golfer to take physical fitness seriously. In fact, he was often ridiculed for his workout routine. However, if you see Player now compared to some of his peers from his era of professional golf, you can see that maybe Player was right in his approach. Greg Norman was another who also took exercise seriously. Certainly, when Woods came along and all the success he had, along his muscular build, it really did push the needle toward golf and athleticism and ultimately became a huge influence for the professional golfer.
But when is too much of a good thing a bad thing? That is really the key to any activity and training. Woods has obviously had severe physical breakdowns, knee surgery and several back surgeries that eventually led to a fusion. However, it is Woods’ dedication to his fitness that has also allowed him to come back and play at a high level even with his back fused, winning The Masters this year and the Tour Championship last year. It’s pretty amazing, really.
Golf can be an activity that puts tremendous stress on the body, particularly the spine due to the rotational nature of the game and the frequent bending and stooping, teeing the golf ball as well as retrieving the ball from the hole. Anyone who plays golf regularly, or even infrequently, has most likely experienced back pain. Sometimes, pain results from just bending down to get something out of the golf bag or putting on shoes. Other areas that can be injured are, of course, the knees, hips and shoulders.
When participating in any sport that requires repetitive motions and stresses, injuries are inevitable, however, they can be prevented with a little effort. Most of us do not have the time that professional golfers do or the resources available to have personal physios, chiropractors, massage therapists and trainers. That being said, here is a good tip.
WARM UP! Yes, try to arrive at the course before tee time and perform a structured warmup program. I like the Orange Whip or a weighted club to loosen up, around 20 to 30 gentle swings gradually increasing your range of motion of your body as you go. Then do some deep squats with a club overhead (as far as your knees will allow). Then do big leg swings, arm circles and gradually work up from pitching wedge to driver. The best advice is to consult with a golf-specific fitness or health professional and be properly evaluated to learn what would be a good routine specific to your physical capabilities and limitations.
The stronger and more flexible you are, the less likely you are to hurt yourself playing — and you may even become a better, more consistent golfer as well.
Chris Kopp PT is a physical therapist and owner of Premier Physical Therapy Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra specializing in golf fitness and rehabilitation. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.premierptjax.com/golf.