Golf is such a mental sport that it’s easy to forget about the physical demands of the game. But if Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson use workouts and exercises to improve their golf skills, why can’t we?
Stuart Eiche took up golf at age 15. Now 62, the civil litigation lawyer from Sussex, Wis., maintains his “recreational” golfer status as a member of Bristlecone Pines Golf Club in Hartland, Wis., where he golfs at least once a week.
Eiche has always been an active person, adding tennis and cycling to his activities, but he never really worked out for his golf game until six years ago when he joined a gym.
Now, two to three times a week, he works with Tony Becker at Privato Personal Fitness in Wauwatosa, Wis., and golf-specific exercises are incorporated into his workout plan.
The 12-handicap golfer liked that he found an encouraging atmosphere, free of intimidation, where he could get stronger and more flexible with Becker’s guidance and mentoring.
The exercises help his golf game with injury prevention and lower scores.
“Definitely both,” Eiche said. “At my age, injury prevention is probably more important to me than actually lowering my score. Being able to stay on the course and do what I like to do is the most important part of it.
“Strengthening the muscles that support the joints that are most likely to get injured during golf is the biggest part of it for me.”
Becker said that certain exercises could help take a 220-yard drive to 250, but another benefit of working out for the golf game may happen on the final holes, when fatigue can start settling in. Eiche found his exercises helped then, too.
“Muscle memory is very important in golf,” Eiche said. “In fact, if you’re having a bad day, people who help others say just let your muscle memory take over. Let your tempo take over, just swing through and your body will remember the things it has done for years. Part of this program gets those movements in to your muscle memory.”
Becker had an internship at the former Athletes Performance fitness facility in Arizona (now EXOS) and worked with all levels of athletes. He borrowed ideas from there, and put his own spin on some, for golf specific stretches and exercises.
The Scorpion stretch
This stretch focuses on low back, hip flexor, thoracic spine flexibility and spine mobility, with the golfer laying on the stomach and bringing the opposite foot to the opposite hand. Keep the arm outstretched at the shoulder and move the opposite leg near the floor as close to it as possible. “It loosens up the back,” Becker said. “That’s where a lot of golfers are tight before they begin. The big thing with golfers is shoulder-to-hip disassociation (How far you can rotate your shoulders without your hips moving). The more rotational strength you can build, without letting your hips turn, the more power you can generate.”
The World’s Greatest Stretch
This starts with a right lunge, then bringing your left hand to the ground and extending your right arm up and back into a torso rotation. The move ends by bringing your right arm back to the floor on the right side of your right leg, and holding a pyramid yoga move while still in the lunge position. After the stretch, switch sides. It focuses on hamstring, glute, groin, hip flexor and torso flexibility. “It loosens up the hip, loosens up the hamstrings, loosens up the torso as well,” Becker said. “It builds a little bit of shoulder stability because you are putting some weight on to your hands.”
Squat with overhead explosive rotational press
This exercise focuses on lower body explosive power while also strengthening the shoulder – similar to a golf swing where you need lower body power and shoulder stability to work hand in hand for a powerful and precise golf swing. Hold dumbbell weights in each hand, go into a squat and, while pushing up, move into a rotational twist and raise each weight above your head. Bring down the weight, go into another squat, and move into the other direction rotationally while pushing the weights back up. Repeat several times. “These are big-muscle exercises to build explosiveness, lower and upper body stability, core stability, shoulder mobility, spine mobility,” Becker said.
Lunge position med ball chops
The focus is on lower body stability and isometric endurance while utilizing the upper body for rotational strength. While in a lunge position, hold a medicine ball with both hands, bring it over your right shoulder and move it down quickly toward your left knee. Repeat several times. “The chop is a movement pattern,” Becker said. “You’re building rotational force. A baseball player can swing harder, faster. A golfer will have a powerful swing. The lunge position puts you in an unstable surface. Sometimes golfers are on unstable surfaces. A lot of golfers like myself, you’re in the rough a lot. If you can be strong while you’re doing a rotational exercise, when you’re in a golf stance you should have more control over your swing.”
Bosu squat with med ball counterbalance
This is a dynamic move, with the focus being on the squat. Again, this is an unstable surface. Stand on the Bosu with the rounded side down, hold a medicine ball in front of you and squat. Repeat several times. The golfer is working on balance on the Bosu and the posterior chain with the squat. The arm work with the medicine ball builds shoulder strength, since the golfer is holding his arms straight. Becker said it is important for golfers to work in compound exercises that allow their upper body and lower body to work simultaneously, since the golf swing does this. “A lot of golfers, the biggest injury I’ve seen was their front knee and front-lead shoulder,” Becker said. “By holding that ball out in front, he’s able to strengthen the entire shoulder capsule.”
Med ball perpendicular throw with explosive hip drive
This mimics a golf swing. You need a partner for this, standing several feet to your side. Face forward. Squat and, with feet continuing to face forward, turn your hips and torso and throw the ball underhand to your partner. Repeat several times. By releasing the ball, the golfer follows through on throwing the ball, releasing that energy, just as he would swinging a club. The explosive power comes from the hips and glute activation. A lot of power also derives from the explosive hip movement.
On the Web: To watch a video demonstration of these stretches and exercises, visit jsonline.com/blogs/sports/302369821.html.