With arrival of the winter chill, staying indoors and making use of warm, dry spaces to keep fit is far more attractive than venturing outside, and for those who love to play the links there are quite a few ways to keep golf-fit during the winter months and on into the rest of the year.
“If you dedicate yourself to exercises that provide longevity and strength, then that helps,” says Doug Pike, Head Golf Professional at Meadowood Napa Valley, California.
For golfers it’s all about performance on the links, and one way to improve performance is to focus on exercises that help strengthen and lengthen muscles.
“I wouldn’t recommend trying to add bulk to the frame,” says Pike. “Range of motion is paramount.”
When choosing exercises to improve your golf swing make sure to select ones that enhance balance — one of the keys to a great swing.
“We’re only anchored to the ground by our feet,” says Pike. “They provide the stability for the upper body to pivot around.”
“Usually everyone needs help with their balance.” Exercises that focus on developing greater stability and balance help to increase that anchor when swinging the club.
“A lot of leg exercises help with stability and balance, like box jumps,” Pike says.
Balance will allow you to connect your club more squarely with the ball.
Pointing to many of the Masters Champions who in their older years have come out to hit the tournament’s opening shot, Pike illustrated how those champion players haven't lost their edge.
“Their wrists and hands have never lost that feeling of range and motion,” he says.
Exercise that will improve flexibility in your hands and wrists are the wrist stretch and the wrist rotation.
“The back plays a huge role too,” says Pike. “They need a strong and flexible back (with) range of motion. The back helps you wind up. That back flex helps you to create speed.”
Keeping the back supple and flexible can be done using stretching exercises that are low impact like the knees to chest stretch, and from yoga, the lying knee crossover stretch.
As we get older our shoulders can become more vulnerable and doing stretching and range of motion exercises can help with our overall flexibility and golf swing.
“(Doing) basic arm circles are big as we get older,” says Pike. “The shoulder can get vulnerable as we get older.”
Sometimes looking to alternatives to traditional exercise can help to improve our game too. Disciplines like martial arts help to increase body strength and flexibility that are so important in golf.
“When you look at the way a golfer coils and uncoils, it’s similar to the way a cobra coils and uncoils,” says Shifu Liz Weaver, co-owner of Sheng Chi Kung Fu, an online martial arts quan found at shoushu.com.
The muscle groups that are used in the wind up and release of a golf swing are the same muscle groups used in the cobra style of the Shoushu system.
“The leg strength is similar as is the core strength,” Weaver says. “Cobra is a circular energy that has more of a whipping action.”
This similarity of body movement makes practicing the cobra as an exercise particularly helpful for golfers, and traditional exercises help to develop both.
“To strengthen the core, I would say plank,” Weaver says about specific exercises to help with the cobra move and golf.
Another core and leg strengthen exercise is the dead lift without the use of weights.
“Without the weights, it’s going to work the calf, hamstrings, glutes and the lower back,” she says. “Lunges are good for the legs too.”
Beyond the body mechanics, martial arts and golf share similarities as they involve mental as well as physical practice.
“It’s all about the focus,” says Weaver. “Golfers are very focused. They have the ability to strategize; they have the ability to look at everything around them and cut out background noise in order to get the task done. We use the same tactics.”
“The goal is to learn and understand how your body works, how your body creates energy and your individual process to get there,” she continues.
No matter how you keep your body in optimum shape for your golf game, working out will help you play at your personal best.
“If we get anywhere near optimizing what we have, we all would be happier and playing better rounds of golf,” says Pike.
— By Sarah Lunsford, Tribune Brand Publishing