Fitness and Golf: How to Feel Better & Play Better in 2023
By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Steve Buzza, PGA, teaches a fitness class to golfers.
Some attribute it to Gary Player. Others credit Tiger Woods. But golf fitness has never been more prevalent within player development programming than it is today. A focused attention on one’s body has pervaded the game improvement process. PGA Professionals across the country are implementing fitness into their menu of golf instruction programs, and the topic is now mainstream and talked about as much as any other aspect of golf instruction.
At Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, Dr. Alison Curdt, the PGA Director of Instruction recently hosted a golf performance camp to address such issues as biomechanics, nutrition, fitness and the mental game. She brought in experts to address the importance of each topic and what golfers can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle in each realm.
“We’re targeting golfers who hope to play collegiately, in high-level amateur tournaments or even professionally, as well as those who want to vie for their club championship or simply play the best golf they can,” Curdt explained.
Golf fitness is not a subject relegated to only the most skilled players, however - it is for everyone. As a result, golf facilities are implementing special programming on an ongoing basis. Mike Tabbert, the PGA Director of Instruction and Club Fitting at Ironworks Golf Academy, in Beloit, Wisconsin, offers a variety of fitness programming geared towards improving one’s golf game.
For instance, his Power Golf Academy is an 11-week off-season course. “We teach exercise drills and help golfers apply those concepts to the actual golf swing. The Power Golf Academy targets the whole body to gain more mobility, strength and speed, and uses K-Player to facilitate biofeedback drills,” he stated.
Tabbert conducts an initial fitness assessment, which serves as a baseline upon which progress is measured. With different drills implemented every three weeks in a circuit training format, Tabbert’s students have increased club head speed by an average of five mph, resulting in over 20 yards gained by increasing their power and range of motion.
In addition, he offers a TPI Accelerator course that incorporates 15 exercises, a TPI Power Level screening and a 3D swing analysis. He also runs various speed schools throughout the summer to help golfers generate more club head speed and attain greater distance.
The key to effective golf fitness training is in its application to the golf swing. Sure, general fitness will help you get into better physical condition, but applying the concepts of body movement and rotation to the actual golf swing is what renders the greatest results for golfers.
One exciting aspect of golf fitness, or performance training, whichever you prefer, is the wide breadth of programming that has this direct effect on a golfer’s game. Take Steve Buzza, a PGA Golf Instructor at Bonita Bay Club who has a degree in Sport Science and Biomechanics. He has implemented yoga into his fitness training with students that not only prepares the body for golf, but simplifies swing mechanics and readies golfers emotionally for the demands of a round of golf.
Through his efforts, Buzza strives to get more men involved in yoga at Bonita Bay, and offers a very popular women’s class at his summer facility on Long Island. “At Montauk, where I spent the summer teaching and coaching, I’ve had a lot of women beginner golfers in my lessons, and have implemented yoga into those sessions, as well. They may not have golf experience, but I tap into their overall athletic IQ. In fact, I’ve had many women students on Long Island who have far more experience in yoga than I do, enabling me to link the benefits of yoga to their golf game, alleviating some of the anxiety and fear that sometimes come with learning a new activity like golf.”
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Whether it’s short-term, long-term or ongoing, attention paid to the body is changing the face of the game itself. With 300-yard drives the norm on the professional circuits, and some players looking more like linebackers than golfers, newbies and weekend warriors should understand that fitness can definitely help your game. But this education should be done carefully, so we don’t scare people away from golf.
After all, the game of golf can still be enjoyed for its original attributes - a brisk walk, time in the sun, an experience with family and friends and the general challenges of accuracy, short game, putting, mental toughness and course management. Putting it that way, golf certainly has a lot to offer - better health and wellness is now one very big part of it.