Golf can be a long lasting, enjoyable recreational sport if you can stay healthy enough to play well and without pain. But many golfers find their game deteriorates with age and they often have annoying pain during or after golf. Neither of these things need to be a given. With some common sense and a few golf fitness rules, you can greatly improve your performance and enjoyment of the game. If you are not a golfer, pass this along, or, consider how these sensible tips can be applied to your favorite workout or sport? Here’s my top 5 golf fitness mistakes, and how to fix them, to get you started on the right note for the golf season:
Skipping a warm-up, especially after a long day of sitting at work.
Golf is no different than any other rotational sport. It demands an adequate warm-up, as the golf swing is one of the most explosive and complex swings in all of sports. If all golf pros warm-up, if all athletes warm-up, why shouldn’t the recreational golfer? What da ya think…you’re better than me?
Add in the fact that lots of us sit for a big part of our day and shut off our essential core muscles, and you can understand how a golfer can be very unprepared for swinging a golf club with ease. The muscles we need to transmit power from the ground to our club head are the same muscles that get tight and weak from sitting. It’s a recipe for pain and poor play. You can see why so many people hurt their backs and shoulders playing the “recreational game” of golf.
It doesn’t matter if you take 10 minutes or 30 minutes, just create a user-friendly warm-up that addresses your individual needs. Think of it as part of your golf preparation routine. Just like the routine you have before you hit the ball, the golf warm-up can calm the body and mind for a better game and most importantly, a reduction in injury risk.
Not hitting the gym hard enough off season.
Off season is the time you can make the biggest physical commitment to improving your game. After all, you have 4 hours, several times a week, at your disposal now that you are not playing golf, right? Right?
Do you make the time? Or do you pass exercise off as not important? Exercise is important. And not just for golf. Make the time. Getting your core stronger, improving the mobility of your mid back, strengthening your shoulders, working on hip and thoracic rotation……all of these fitness goals will greatly help your game.
Ignoring pain during your golf game and not taking care of it outside of the game.
Almost every golfer I know will deal with some kind of shoulder, back or hip pain over the course of a year, or over the course of accumulating seasons of golf. As I said earlier, the golf swing necessitates some very specific muscle actions, and if you don’t have those muscle actions on board, injury can occur. But what most surprises me about my friends who are avid golfers, is how much they ignore their pain. And, how easily it escalates to an injury that screws up your game and may keep you from golfing altogether. Don’t ignore your back, shoulder or hip pain. It is sign that something is breaking down. If, after warming up adequately and stretching after golf, the injury continues, then it’s time to see a healthcare professional. I find that massage in particular can be helpful to undo knots and trigger points that develop from a forceful swing, but physical therapy and other healthcare modalities are also helpful. If you want to golf forever, take care of your body forever.
Not paying attention to your posture during the day.
Most people who sit for work eventually slouch in some way. Muscles on the front of your body shorten and get tight and muscles on the back of the body get weak. This postural imbalance can ruin a golf game over time. If you sit for work, get up frequently and stretch. Notice if you lean to one side or the other when sitting or standing, and focus on improving the asymmetry. If you have a rounded upper back, as many do from sitting (and gravity as we age!), you need to undo this with both strengthening of the mid and upper back muscles, as well as stretching the chest and upper back( in rotation and extension) to offset rounding. Rounding of the upper back can cause low back issues, so, keep this in mind if your low back hurts you during or after golf. Rounding of the upper back also always decreases shoulder turn and the ability to have a complete, smooth swing.
Never taking golf lessons.
I have to admit, I don’t get this one. I love my golf pro! But, many golfers with very poor swings refuse to get help. Maybe they don’t want to do the work, or maybe they don’t want to know the truth?
Either way, if every player on the tour has a teaching golf pro, why shouldn’t the average golfer? Hiring a golf pro may keep you out of the injury zone from a poor swing. They may give you that one tip which dramatically changes your game. Why not open your mind to learning more? Find the right fit for you and make the commitment. If you are serious about your game, this is not an option.