It’s estimated that between 55 and 80 million people across at least 136 countries worldwide play golf. With the vast majority of these people are amateurs and play more than once per week, every week of the year. Playing golf requires long durations of low–intensity activity with short bursts of high–intensity movements.
The length of the game will vary depending on the course length and can last anywhere from 3.5 to 6 hours when walking an 18-hole course. Golf has been described as technically demanding, requiring high precision and is one of the most complex sports to exist.
A summary of a game
- 60% of the game is spent preparing and practising golf swings
- Performing a swing with a driver only takes 1.09 seconds and the head can reach speeds of over 160km/hr
- An average of 30-40 swings are performed every round
- An amateur golfer will achieve 90% of their maximal voluntary contraction when using a 5 iron
- Putting requires a high degree of sustained trunk control and challenges postural endurance over long periods of time
- Golfers with lower handicaps rotate their shoulders greater than 90 degrees during the backswing
Research has revealed that strength, power and flexibility training can increase club head speed, driving distance and swing mechanics. It was also reported that golfers with the most strength, flexibility and balance possessed higher skill levels. Club head speed is commonly used as a measure of performance in golfers and increases of 3-6m/s can equate to a decreased handicap of approximately 4 shots. There is also evidence that improvements in swing kinematics can occur because of motor learning effects and improvements in physical characteristics specific to golf.
It’s therefore suggested that golf-specific training programs that focus on injury prevention and improved performance can support golfers at all levels to meet the physical requirements of their sport.
So, what should you consider in a golf-specific program?
“Optimal” golf fitness incorporates a combination of cardiovascular fitness, strength, stability, and mobility.
The long duration of low-level aerobic exercise involved in playing golf and walking around the course has resulted in the encouragement of a golfer to engage in cardiovascular conditioning aimed at reducing their level of fatigue.
Trunk extensors, hip extensors and the abdominal muscles play a vital role in producing an efficient and powerful golf swing. Creating this power begins in the lower body and consists of a transfer of energy up through the trunk and into the chest, arms and then hands. Performing resisted movements that mimic a golf swing have been shown to improve the sequencing pattern of the pelvis, shoulders and arms. Ideally, strength exercises should be performed 2-3 days per week.
Biomechanical analysis of a golf swing identified that the torso rotates up to 109 degrees during a backswing and the hips up to 64 degrees. Therefore, it’s important to have good mobility in the upper body, as well as good stability in the lower body.
Performing static stretches for multiple areas of the body including shoulders, lateral trunk/lower torso, hip flexors and extensors, chest, wrist and forearms have been shown to enhance performance. Stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds.
Balance training on stable and unstable surfaces can also provide benefit to a golfer’s balance whilst performing a swing and walking on uneven ground. Standing on one leg is a common balance exercise.
Can this program reduce my risk of injury?
Yes! Golf-related musculoskeletal injuries are commonly due to overuse. Golfers with a history of lower back pain often have poor hamstring and trunk flexibility, as well as all aspects of trunk strength.
Due to age-related changes in physical condition impacting flexibility, strength and balance, senior golfers who engage in golf specific training programs may be able to reduce these changes and maintain greater overall health whilst improving their golf game.
What do you mean, warm up?
Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted the importance of warming up for overall performance. Performing a warming up protocol 4-5 days per week over a period of 5 weeks, produces a positive performance and conditioning effect on the long game for male golfers.
- Increasing body temperature and commencing specific movements such as windmills and trunk twists
- Performing static stretches
- Practising 30 seconds of air swings with a golf club
In summary, it is beneficial for a golfer to perform some form of exercise rather than no exercise at all for golf improvement. However, focusing on all the above-mentioned aspects can assist in the overall physical conditioning for game improvement.
Written by Alexandra Green
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Fradkin, A.J., Sherman, C.A., & Finch, C.F. (2004). Improving golf performance with a warmup conditioning programme. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38, 762–765. PubMed doi:10.1136/bjsm.2003.009399
Gosheger, G., Liem, D., Ludwig, K., Greshake, O., & Winkelmann, W. (2003). Injuries and overuse syndromes in golf. The American journal of sports medicine, 31(3), 438-443.
Lamberth, J., Hale, B., Knight, A., Boyd, J., & Luczak, T. (2013). Effectiveness of a six-week strength and functional training program on golf performance. International Journal of Golf Science, 2(1), 33-42.
Lephart, S.M., Smoliga, J.M., Myers, J.B., Sell, T.C., & Tsai, Y.S. (2007). An eight-week golf-specific exercise program improves physical characteristics, swing mechanics, and golf performance in recreational golfers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21, 860–869. PubMed