If I’ve learned anything from working with athletes for the last 15 years it is that they are passionate by nature. The golfers that make up my practice rank among the most enthusiastic of that group and often engage in “I-must-be-ready-by-this-date” style rehab. The problem with golf in Southern Ontario, is that unless you are fortunate enough to travel often, it is not something that most recreational athletes can play or chose to train for 12 months of the year.
The result is that when the nice weather arrives and the golf greens thaw, I see a lot of overuse injuries. In their enthusiasm for the game, many golfers forget that it demands muscles and movements that they might not use otherwise. If those muscles have not been engaged in a sport specific manner and suddenly you are playing four straight hours of golf, you are likely to put yourself at risk for injury.
With Canadian golf season being tragically short, wouldn’t it be wise to prepare a little and enjoy it as much as possible? If you would like to maximize your time on the course and probably improve your handicap, here are my top five tips for getting ready for golf season.
Get to the Core of your Swing
Your core muscles (deep abdominals, back extensors, pelvic floor and diaphragm) are your centre of power when it comes to an effective swing. Having a strong core not only protects your back from rotational injury, it also helps you generate more force to drive the ball and stabilizes your body for improved precision and accuracy. If you want to out drive the competition, you need to be consistently working on strengthening your core.
Stretch it Out
Some people treat golf more as a hobby than a sport. The problem with that mentality is that they forget key components of sporting success like stretching. Dynamic stretching of the shoulders, back and hips before a game keeps your limber and allows you full range of motion when you play. Static stretching before you hit the clubhouse, reduces the stress of activity and helps to keep your muscle fibers in good alignment.
Here our physiotherapist, Jordan Fortuna, demonstrates a hip flexor stretch. Note he keeps his forward knee directly above his ankle and adds a forward pelvic tilt until stretch is felt through the front of the hip.
Train like a Pro
Adding some sport specific strengthening to your off season routine can do wonders for your handicap. While generalized strengthening is still helpful, you will improve more from movements that mimic what you will do on the course. Engage in a walking program to keep your cardiovascular fitness up to walk the course or try a rotational hip and gluteal exercise to strengthen your swing.
Train with a Pro
Taking a warm up lesson with a golf pro is a great idea early in the season. When you aren’t playing year round, it is easy for your mechanics to change. That can be hard to correct and evaluate on your own. Making the investment in a critical appraisal of your mechanics and some expert correction can set the stage for a successful season and eliminate the poor mechanics that might otherwise lead to injury.
Get Treated by a Pro
I always advocate for preventative medicine. I’m happy to help you out when you are sore but it is easier to know your weaknesses and strengths before you start so you can establish a more focused training plan. A quick tune up with your local physiotherapist or massage therapists can identify which exercises will have the most impact on your handicap as well as help you stretch out the muscles and joints that are already tight and could hinder your game.