GOLF-SPECIFIC REGIMEN CAN PAY DIVIDENDS QUICKER THAN MOST THINK.
By most measures, Bill Boos is in terrific shape. A fire battalion chief for the Bend Fire Department, the 48-year-old has done plenty of running, cycling and just about anything else to keep himself fit. That did not help his golf game much.
“It’s not the full gamut of what you need in golf, which is stretching, balance and core strength,” Boos says. Until he began training specifically for golf in December for the first time, he never realized the benefits he could see in his golf game. With a handicap index hovering around 10, Boos embarked on a 12-week Titleist Performance Institute program, designed by Bend physical therapist Chris Cooper, focused on improving mobility and stability. The result, says Boos, has been hard to deny.
After a few weeks he noticed he could swing with greater club head speed, his balance was better, and he was making more consistent contact with the ball. Once a golfer who struggled to break 80, Boos went on a recent golf trip to Arizona and says he never shot higher than 80 there.
“It’s made all the difference in the world,” says Boos, who integrated his exercise routine with lessons from Bob Garza, the pro at Bend’s Lost Tracks Golf Club. “I’m hitting the ball straighter, hitting it farther. But not with as much effort as I would hit before. Hands down, it’s worth every penny.” Boos has never been more ready for the golf season.
Most golfers are not like Boos. In fact, most are like me, lacking the will or know-how to lower their scores though fitness. Ideally, a golfer will start a routine in December like Boos. But Cooper, a TPI-certified golf fitness instructor, says there is still time to get in proper golf shape before the meat of the Central Oregon golf season begins. “I’d like them to get ready in December,” Cooper says. “It’s just that people don’t necessarily do that unless they’re REALLY serious.“But I can have an 80-year-old guy work on his hamstring length (good for increasing mobility) for a week, and if he is consistent and diligent in doing the exercises, we can see a change in a week.”
Cooper says golf fitness aims to improve mobility and flexibility through stretching exercises, and add stability through exercises to improve strength and balance. Of course, seeking the help of fitness professional is always preferred. But there are a few things a golfer can do to make an impact before the season begins.
For starters, Chris Cooper, PT, DPT, CSCS, CGFI at Therapeutic Associates at the Athletic Club of Bend, says stretching can yield nearly immediate dividends, particularly those stretches that focus on ankles, hip joints, the mid-back and shoulders.
Ankle stretches will help golfer gain stability, and stretching shoulders will help mobility during the golf swing, but improving hip rotation and flexibility of the middle back are particularly important in protecting against injuries to the lower back, the most common golf-related injury. “You are probably going to be able to turn further and hit a longer ball just by working the flexibility of your hips and your mid back,” Chris Cooper says (Golf Performance Director in Bend, OR).
Improvements in a golfer’s game related to enhanced stability of the feet, knees and core typically take a bit longer to see. To improve balance, Cooper suggests — and this may seem simple — balancing on one leg as often as feasible. Cooper says much of golf is actually a balancing act, during which a golf swing transfers weight from one leg to another.
Improving knee stability begins with strengthening thighs though exercises such as wall squats, lunges and dead lifts. Working out the gluteal muscles and abdominal muscles (through Pilates or more conventional abdominal exercises that work in diagonals) will improve power and speed, Cooper says. “Glutes are king and core is queen (in a golf swing),” Cooper says. “Getting the glutes to wake up, even with just butt squeezes in whatever position you can imagine … that can help stability.”
Most of these exercises are relatively simple, but so few of us ever think of golf as anything that requires an exercise regimen. There is a reason why professional golfers — once a group that largely adhered to the gravy-based diet — now train like the professional athletes they have to be to compete at the sports highest levels.“All these things are going to help for life, because we bend over, we rotate, we have to balance and we have to weight-shift,” Cooper says. “All these things are real-life abilities that we need to have. But if you just keep waiting until the ‘right time,’ then you’re just wasting time.”
If a golfer commits to the right exercises now, real improvement in strength and balance can come as quickly as four to six weeks — just in time for the Central Oregon golf season to hit its stride, Cooper says.
Please visit the Therapeutic Associates website for more sports medicine information and to learn how you may benefit from physical therapy.