With all eyes on The Masters, golfers across the globe are on some level actively drawing lessons from the best in the game in an effort to capture some of the “secret sauce” to improve their own play. Does this sound familiar? It’s natural to seek any means necessary to become more proficient at the game that’s full of highs and lows in an effort to experience more highs. But in a recent interview with Rory McIlroy in The Telegraph, golf fitness is being put under the microscope. When it comes to off-course training, is more really better? Is Tiger Woods’ absence from the hunt for a green jacket representative of a larger issue? To address this issue, I consulted Darin Hovis, a TPI certified athletic trainer, and asked him to share his expert opinion with regard to the following questions –
How much training should the average competitive golfer commit to in order to be really fit to play at a high level?
Any great training program should start with a functional training program to address the physical limitations that we ALL develop throughout everyday life. If these functional limitations are not addressed at the beginning, I can never expect my golfers to make the progress they demand on the course or in the gym. At the very least, this functional training program should be carried on 4 days per week throughout the year with regular check-ups from a certified/licensed professional. As Rory McIlroy states in the article, working out for most is a healthy hobby. Every golfer has their own personal preferences for training programs. Some of my professionals and high-level amateurs move into strength and power training, which includes squats and Olympic-type lifts, after the functional training phase. While others choose to perform exercises at their home with bands. A higher level of training requires a longer recovery period. Some of my players train 3-4 times per week while others are performing corrective functional exercises every day of the week. It all depends on the intensity of the training.
How does age factor into this — consider a junior golfer versus a club member who is very competitive in his or her 50’s or 60’s?
Age is a very important factor in training. It is imperative for me as an athletic trainer and golf performance specialist to determine a junior golfer’s biological age. Biological age includes factors such as height, weight, chronological age (birthday), and pubescent stage. Biological age determines the type of training for the athlete. Male junior golfers should not start heavy strength training until 6 months after their 2nd growth spurt. Female junior golfers may begin lifting programs as they end their growth spurt. This is typically age 13-14 for females and 14-16 for males. Athletic performance becomes reduced as we age. It is known that strength, aerobic capacity, muscle elasticity, and overall performance declines between ages 25-35 years. It is important to take this into account with any aging golfer. The training must be appropriate to the age and current physical condition of the player. Otherwise, there is always risk for injury. I train 75 year olds that are still very competitive and perform very well in the gym.
What are the most important parts of the body a golfer should focus on developing/maintaining — core, legs, upper body?
The absolute most important part of the body to develop is the glutes. In other words, get your butt in gear! EMG studies have shown that the gluteus maximus, along with other hip stabilizers, are the most active muscles in the body during the golf swing. The core is another important area that most players lack. These two areas are the most common sites for deficiency when I meet junior and aging golfers. The legs are commonly the first to go as a player fatigues during a round or practice session. Insufficiencies in either of these areas can cause a number of swing faults including over the top, early extension, and loss of posture.
Is there a correlation in your expert opinion between athletic training and performance in golf?
I absolutely think there is a positive correlation between appropriate athletic training and performance. The key word is appropriate. Golfers should not engage in CrossFit or Boxing classes to directly improve their golf games. Seek out a fitness or medical professional that is certified through the Titleist Performance Institute to make the biggest improvements in your body and your golf game. The more athletic a player becomes in the gym, the more apt they are to make positive swing changes, avoid injury, and shoot lower scores. The swing becomes more efficient which produces more speed, power, and accuracy in all aspects of the game.
What should all golfers be doing at a minimum to play safely?
Regardless of the level, it is of utmost importance to get a proper warm-up in before a round of golf or practice. Any dynamic exercise is great for a warm up. The warm up below increases core temperature and reduces risk for injury on and off the course. Forward/Backward Leg Swings
- 12 each way
Lateral Leg Swings
- 12 each way
Small Leg Circles
- 10 clockwise
- 10 counterclockwise
Large Leg Circles
- 10 clockwise
- 10 counterclockwise
- Place the club across your chest and perform backswing and follow through shoulder turns
Club Full Swing Stretch
- Grab the club on both ends and perform 15 rotations starting from the right, then 15 rotations starting from the left.
Thank you, Darin for sharing your expertise on the subject and providing golfers with some sound advice on how to achieve the best level of fitness for advancing their game. For more information on getting fit for golf or to schedule an assessment with Darin, visit www.Par4Fitness.com or contact Darin directly at 724.301.4285
Darin is a certified and licensed Athletic Trainer and is very involved with the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI). He is certified through TPI as a level 3 Golf Medical Professional, level 2 Junior Coach, and level 2 Power Coach. Darin currently works with multiple professionals on the Web.Com, PGA Tour Latino-America, PGA Tour Canada, and West Florida Golf Tours. Darin also works with juniors and amateurs of all ages. Darin’s training philosophy involves using the SFMA and FMS to correct functional limitations to prevent injury, correct mobility, and increase performance. Darin offers all the latest strength training methods to get the most out of any golfer!