Today’s golf professionals are utilizing special fitness regimens to get them in top shape for the green.
By Larry Olmsted
Today’s professional golfers hit the ball farther than ever, regularly astonishing fans by driving a 400-yard par 4 or hitting 7-irons in from more than 200 yards. Many golf experts have attributed this to improvements in technology, yet the same exact gear is available to all amateurs, most of whom have seen little corresponding benefit in terms of booming drives or lower scores.
If equipment alone cannot explain why the current generation of golfers is the best and most well-rounded ever, what else plays a role? That would be fitness, and it can hardly be a coincidence that today’s pros are more physically fit and conditioned than ever before.
“There’s no doubt that a fitness revolution has swept through modern golf,” says Michael Patrick Shiels, a golf journalist who has covered the PGA TOUR for years. “The guys who took fitness seriously used to be so rare that just working out gave them a reputation as zealots, like Greg Norman and most famously Gary Player. … Then came Tiger [Woods], chiseled like an athlete from more physical sports, who seemed to be playing, and working out, at a whole different level, so all the young guys followed suit.”
Randy Myers, director of fitness at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center, currently trains 17 PGA TOUR players. Myers has been a pioneer in the field ever since he wrote his master’s thesis on golf fitness 25 years ago at Pennsylvania State University. However, while Myers is firmly convinced fitness can make anyone play better, he is equally concerned with everyone playing longer, fixated on the notion that golf can be a forever game enjoyed by grandparents along with younger generations.
“You can enjoy golf at any age, but you do need to be doing some kind of conditioning,” Myers says. “We’re trying to build a program that will firstly let you play golf better and stay healthy for your entire life.”
All of the Sea Island Golf Performance Center multiday programs include a fitness evaluation component. “Our schools take a very holistic approach, making sure your equipment fits you, working on your swing [and] your short game,” Myers explains. “We work on mental skills and flexibility and a pre-round stretching routine.”
He also offers a variety of dedicated consultations. These include a one-hour evaluation and stretching session, a 90-minute evaluation and custom fitness plan developed using the Titleist Performance Institute evaluation, a series of five 30-minute stretching classes, and kinematic sequence analysis using Nike’s NG360 Golf Performance Assessment system. For this, golfers are covered in sensors and swing while high-speed cameras and computers create a complex, 3-D, 360-degree model of the swing including weight transfer, muscle load, shoulder rotation and range of motion. It’s a combination of technology and old-school drills (see sidebar for more information) that Myers hopes will allow players to keep golfing for the rest of their lives.
“Fit For Golf, Fit For Life”
“Everyone talks about growing the game of golf, but it should be about extending the game, keeping people playing their entire lifetimes,” says Randy Myers, director of fitness at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center. That’s one of the issues Myers addresses in his new book, “Fit For Golf, Fit For Life: The Ultimate Golf Fitness and Flexibility Guide,” available for purchase at seaislandshops.com. With an introduction by Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, Myers aims to answer the question, “Why do TOUR pros make the game look so effortless?” Here are a few of his fitness tips for everyday golfers:
If you want to work on posture and balance: “These are the two things you can address that will immediately allow you to put the club in a better position,” Myers says.
Drill A: Clutch your golf club horizontally to your chest with overlapping hands and stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Then turn in the direction of the standing leg and hold for 15 seconds. Switch legs. If you can’t hold for these times, do what you can and work up. If you can’t balance at all, touch the other toe to ground until you can. “This addresses posture as well because you need to have good posture to balance,” Myers says of this drill.
If you want to learn how to properly utilize your lower body: “The most common problem I see in amateurs is they don’t know how to load, to use the ground and their lower body to generate power; it’s all arms and hands which leads to inconsistency,” Myers says.
Drill B: Stand and hold the club out in front of you vertically with arms fully extended, then slowly lift one arm keeping it straight as you extend it vertically. The goal is to lift your hand parallel with your shoulder and spine angle.