While the thrill of sinking a long putt for birdie or eagle is probably unmatched in golf (unless you’re one of the lucky few to ever score a hole-in-one), it’s still a really good feeling to hit the ball smoothly and cleanly off the tee, watching as it sails seemingly forever before landing safely and rolling to a stop in the middle of the fairway.
To boost your strength on the course, you don’t need the latest technological wonder of a driver in your bag. No, the art of hitting a golf ball farther, with accuracy, begins in the weight room.
STAND FIRM. You play golf with your feet on the ground, so the bulk of your strength training should occur while standing, recommends Pete Draovitch, M.S., physical therapy and sports medicine, and co-author (with Ralph Simpson) of Complete Conditioning for Golf (Human Kinetics, 2007). “Something as simple as mini-squats, a lateral step-up and body twist, or stair lunges will help you build the glutes while driving into your leg like you would during the golf swing,” he says.
TAKE YOUR MEDICINE. Your workouts should also replicate the dynamic motions of golf. Martha Nause, a former professional golfer and now coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., urges golfers to strengthen the different planes of movement involved in a swing, including critical core rotations. For this, she says a medicine ball works best.
One medicine-ball exercise mimics a golf swing. Begin by holding the medicine ball at the height of your swing. Then advance your swing as if you were holding a club, and follow through by throwing the medicine ball against a wall. “Focus on form,” Nause emphasizes. “You will see improvement in your golf game.”
Golf also requires sustained endurance — 18 holes take four to five hours to complete — and bursts of intensity. Cross training should include twice-weekly intervals on a treadmill, elliptical trainer or both. “These machines work a golfer’s legs, which provide your first push of power in your swing,” Nause says. Warm up for three to five minutes, then do intervals for 20 minutes, alternating one minute at 70 percent of your maximum exertion and one minute at an easy pace.
BELIEVE IN BALANCE. Because a golf swing depends on power as it moves through the kinetic chain — feet, ankles, knees, hips, and so on up to your wrist — balance has a tremendous impact on your swing. “Golf is a sport that involves kinetic linking as you pass that momentum to different parts of the chain, [allowing] you to hit the golf ball,” Draovitch says. “Everyone is different.”
What part of the kinetic chain is your weakest link? If you know, you can determine the remedy. If a certain area is weak, focus on strengthening it, and if your body is tight, you need to add flexibility work to your conditioning regimen, he says.
MANAGE THE MIDDLE. Finally, as you develop strength, don’t forget the core, Draovitch says. Isometric core exercises provide stability, while dynamic core exercises, such as the woodchopper with a medicine ball or the aforementioned golf swing holding a medicine ball, improve mobility. Both types are needed in a golf-centric training plan.
Many things have been said about the game of golf (some of which can’t be printed in this magazine), but one of the most insightful quotes comes from golfing great Bobby Jones. “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course — the distance between your ears.” Use your head not only on the course but also when devising your training routine, and may long drives and the easy putts to follow be yours.