I, along with millions of others, stand on the first tee and swing like a hero….and I only ever succeed in topping the ball 100 yards. We have all been guilty of it; pulling up in the car park, dragging the clubs out of the boot and grabbing your scorecard and then straight out to the tee. Your only warm up being a few putts on the practice green. Have you ever wondered what could happen if we actually warmed up properly, but even more importantly, made sure we were fit and in shape to play golf? I would ironically encourage you to turn on your tv, you will find that any young golfer now is at the peak of physical fitness. They take as much care over their body as they do their swing, and why? Because without this in their armour, they simply wouldn’t be able to compete in the modern game.
It isn’t the aim of this article to banish the Miguel Angel Jimenez’ or the Angel Cabrera’s of this world, far from it, golf should always be available and accessible to all, but there is certainly no harm in helping yourself to make the most out of your round and with any luck, shave a few off the handicap at the same time.
We will have a look at a few of the quick and easy activities that will not only help keep you in shape, but help prepare you for your round. The beauty being that you can do most of them just before you tee off.
1. Squats: These are great to improve your leg strength, and also for those hardy souls who carry their bags. Stretch your arms out in front of you, holding a club shoulder width apart. Gently bend your knees whilst keeping your back straight, and lower yourself as far as is comfortable and raise again. Repeat 5-10 times. Working that lower frame will help support the power that you create through the swing. In other words, if you ignore your lower torso, you might not have the strength, and therefore balance to swing effectively.
2. Neck stretch: Rest your left ear on your left shoulder. Breathe in and push down to the ground with your left arm and relax. Repeat this 5 times and then switch sides.
3. Work those hips: Improve hip strength and flexibility by doing standing side kicks. You won’t exactly look the most cultured you ever have, but who cares when you save 3 shots this weekend? Take your address stance, and place your hands on your hips. Slowly raise your right leg off the floor and extend it to the side. Take the leg as high as you can comfortably go, keeping the inner thigh parallel to the floor. Hold the position at the highest point for one count and then slowly lower. Repeat ten times and then repeat the action again with the other leg.
4. Full core stretch: Again, take your address stance, and bring your hands together. Rotate your entire core whilst pulling your left arm back. Repeat with the right arm (10 reps each). Keeping the same position, hold your arms out at shoulder height with palms facing inward, and rotate as far as possible in each direction for 10 reps each.
Naturally, there are endless exercises that can be done in the gym using dumb bells and all sorts of weights. If you have time for that then that’s brilliant, but we all know that many golfers simply don’t have the time that a professional does to put in to his strength and fitness training. The simple exercises can be repeated over and over again, and more importantly, you can do them anywhere, even if it’s on the tee waiting for your mates.
The taboo and mystery of fitness on the golf course is fast being unravelled, and it is becoming easier and easier to see the benefits, both to yourself and your handicap. Another great benefit of warming up properly and having greater fitness levels, is the fact that regular exercise has been shown to improve concentration levels, therefore the quickfire warm up routine will have you on the ball and ripping your first straight down the middle. Hydration and nutrition should also definitely not be overlooked. There are two golden rules - Thou shalt stay hydrated: If possible, get yourself hydrated even before you get to the course, but certainly keep topping up your water levels throughout your round to avoid dehydration and improve your concentration. Thou shalt not eat rubbish: Eating junk food before you play, or even that chocolate bar ‘for energy’ half way round will ultimately lead you to crash at some point in your round. Eat a balanced meal of protein and carbs before you get to the course. A couple of snacks of fruit and nuts will help to keep your sugar levels up during your round. If you are in a hurry to get to the course, protein bar can be effective
in delivering a quick input of the nutrition your muscles need to see you through to the 19th (although remember not to go overboard if we are trying to stay healthy. There is nothing wrong with ordering a glass of fresh tomato juice!)
It would be fantastic if this article could provide a fool proof method to shaving your handicap right down, but alas, it can’t. There is no magic cure, sometimes, we just have that nightmare day on the course where you can’t hit a ball to save your life! You honestly never know what’s going to happen out on the course, but, if we all started taking a little extra time and putting in that small bit of effort to exercise and warm up properly before our rounds, we might not only score better, but even just enjoy the most infuriating game in the world even more.