Golfing: An Athletic Event
Or Recreational Pastime?
There was a time before Tiger that the amount of weight a golfer would lift depended on whether they were lifting a pint or rocks glass. Flexibility was measured in the ability to tie your shoes without groaning. Cardiovascular fitness meant walking as opposed to taking a cart. Aah! The good old days!
There is not a sport that exists today where the athletes have not improved performance. Today's athletes are physically superior to athletes of the past. Today's athletes run faster, jump higher and perform longer. World records are constantly falling. The pitchers in the World Series are in their late 30s. The modern athlete would blow the doors off the player from the 60's. Not because they possess greater skills but because the modern day player has the advantage of today's modern training techniques and greater understanding of exercise physiology. Not only are athletes playing at a higher level; they are achieving and maintaining their highest level of performance at the later part of their careers. Elite golfers are playing longer and stronger because their conditioning programs keep them injury-free and at a high level of fitness.
Golfers are notorious for pouring money into the billon-dollar golf industry for the latest piece of equipment, balls that fly further, clubs with bigger sweet spots. Yet despite the new technogical advances in equipment, the scores of golf have not improved on the average over the years. Dr. Bob Rotella, author of 'Golf of Your Dreams', says "15 years ago the average amateur male golfer handicap was 16.5, the average female 29." Those scores remain the same today. So we can keep investing in the latest piece of equipment hoping it will improve your game, or you can invest in the most valuable piece of equipment you possess, your body.
Golf is without a doubt an athlete's game. According to Dr. Donald Chu, fitness expert, "the energy of hitting a golf ball 300 yards is the same as hitting a baseball 300 feet. A 10 handicap golfer will take about 50 hard swings per game, 50-75 more in practice." That's a lot of energy output. Not to mention a golfer will pick-up 1/3 of their body weight 30-40 times per game and walk thousands of yards.
If that's not tough enough, golfers, like other athletes, must maintain good flexibility. Being flexible is crucial for golfers. Pick up any golfers' magazine or journal and they will be filled with tips to help your game. Advice for one's swing inevitablly includes comments such as "keep loose", "rotate more", "strong but supple", "relaxed". But they don't tell you how to get there! Although staying flexible is an uphill battle, improvements can be made by as little as 10 minutes a day. A daily 8-10 minute stretching routine will do much more than stretching 1 or 2 hours a week. As we age our joints and muscles naturally get tighter, and this of course has a terrible effect on our swing and our lower back! Not only will stretching improve your game, it will also help you avoid injuries.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, anywhere from 45% to 80% of golfers have lower back pain. In 1991 there were 7,000 reported golf injuries, in 1998 14,000. So what does The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommend for avoiding injuries? Warm-up and stretch before playing. If we can chose to ignore such advice, we can very well be a number in the golf injury stat sheet.
So although not many of us are in the same league as Tiger, we can still benefit from elements of training used to by elite athletes. Regardless of one's age or playing ability, stretching and warming up will keep you healthy and on the course.
Paul Frediani is the author of Golf Flex, Ten Minutes a Day to Better Play.