Turn your golf game into a great workout by following tips from the pros
With a few simple strategies you can burn more calories and work your core to reap the fitness benefits of golf.
Joe Plecker, director of instruction at Baltimore Country Club, says there are several easy ways to make your game a better workout. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / June 4, 2012)
Now you've got us started.
If you want to use your round of golf for health benefits — in addition to dropping your score and having fun — here's how to do it.
Give up the cart
"It's how you decide to make golf healthy or not," says Joe Plecker. "Walk the course, carry your bag or use a push- or pull-cart for 18 holes. Then you start to see how you can exert yourself. But if you spend a lot of your time cart riding, you're really not going to get the most benefits.
Plecker should know. As a PGA teaching professional at the Baltimore Country Club in Mays Chapel, where he's director of instruction, he lives the life as well as teaches it. He's also the host of 105.7 The Fan's "The Better Golf Show" on Sundays as well as one of Golf Digest's "America's Top 40 Under 40" instructors, and as such he needs to stay in shape.
Others agree that golf can be a significant exercise and a useful part of a workout regimen.
"As far as golf being a good fitness tool, I think it can be a great one," says Jeff Crews, vice president of marketing at WeightTraining.com. "If you walk, then you can easily get many miles in a round and burn many calories between playing the game and walking. ... I recently went golfing and burned a little over 1,900 calories in an 18-hole round."
Stretch before swinging
"Give yourself time," Plecker says. "If the first thing you do is grab a club and swing, you're not doing it how the pros do it. Any time a tour professional arrives at an event, they head to the fitness trailers, where there are physical therapists and trainers who stretch them 20 to 30 minutes before they even put on their golf shoes."
Serious golfers also dabble in yoga and Pilates, "which are great because they involve a lot of core stability, and you have to be in balance and strong in the core to do a lot of these flexibility exercises with your extremities," he says.
"Golf is a very similar activity; you're getting into a golf posture with your core very stable — your abdominals, your lower back, your hips, everything's in a pretty strong position there. You can swing easier, hit it longer and play longer."
Weight training is OK
Golfers were once told that bulky muscle mass would cut down on vital flexibility. "Tiger broke that myth," says Plecker. Indeed, the vision of a trim, cut Tiger Woods smashing drives and draining putts with sinewy forearms and vein-thatched biceps changed how other pros approached the weight room.
"If you have more muscle, you can move the club head faster and you can hit the ball farther," Plecker says.
Yes, golfers are athletes: "Just try to live the life of a tour pro for a week," says Plecker. "You arrive on Monday for practice and have a long session; Tuesday you play and walk a practice round or two; Wednesday you play in the 18-hole pro-am all day; and then you walk and compete for four consecutive rounds and leave Sunday night and do it all again on Monday.
"You can't keep the schedule that these guys do and travel the miles and be as 'up' for every round if you're not an athlete. You have to be an incredibly good athlete to be competitive in golf."
"Whether the average golfer realizes it or not, golf requires many athletic characteristics," says Andy Steigmeier, a Titleist Performance Institute-certified golf fitness professional in New York. "Strength, power, balance, coordination and — if walking the course — stamina. The average tour pro can stand on one leg with eyes shut for 16 to 20 seconds, not easy."
Steigmeier helps golfers realize their sport is on par, so to speak, with those considered far more athletic.