Summit proves importance of golf fitness

Most valuable golfers of 2010?

Forget the various professional tours. I nominate Greg Rose and Dave Phillips, founders of the Titleist Performance Institute, as golfers of the year.

After attending the World Golf Fitness Summit, organized and conducted by Rose and Phillips, I believe more firmly than ever that the fitness movement in golf is the sport’s most important development since 1979. That was the year TaylorMade founder Gary Adams introduced the modern metalwood.

Rose and Phillips, along with TPI and its network of fitness experts, have hosted four of these Fitness Summits, every other year since 2004.

The Summits keep getting better and better, and the message for all golfers is clear: If you want to utilize all of your potential and if you want to play excellent golf into your senior years, fitness is the key ingredient.

This is serious business. All other factors being equal, the fit golfer will win every time. At least, that’s my opinion.

An important endorsement for Rose and Phillips has come from golf instructors. These teachers are providing a glimpse into the future of the game, with swing instruction and fitness instruction combined in equal doses.

So it was no surprise that more than 500 attendees at this year’s Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., included a contingent of highly regarded teachers – among them Mike Adams, Mike Bender, Mike Bennett, Mark Blackburn, Jason Carbone, Chuck Cook, Sean Foley, Peter Kostis, Dennis McDade, Chris O’Connell, Andy Plummer, James Sieckmann, Jim Suttie and Jon Tattersoll. 

I interpret this as proof that golf fitness has been accepted as an essential part of golf instruction.

Looking ahead, a reasonable conclusion would be that golf scores will continue to plummet, that we haven’t seen anything yet. Call this the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As golfers get stronger and quicker, while maintaining their flexibility, more barriers will come tumbling down and scores will continue to get lower.

The PGA Tour is reaching a ceiling on total yardage (can you say, 8,000 yards?). Hole locations can’t get much tougher.

I expect a flurry of scoring records to be set in upcoming years. Golf finally will accept the reality that its top players are better than ever before.

Why are they better?

Clubheads, shafts and balls are the beneficiary of improved materials and advanced design. Golfers are the beneficiary of fitness research and analysis.

When Tiger Woods emerged as a fitness junkie in 1997, his first full year on the PGA Tour, some observers scoffed at the intensity of his exercise routine. Now, 13 years later, nobody questions this strategy.

Rose, who holds a doctorate of chiropractic, and Phillips, a popular golf instructor, became poster boys for golf fitness in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With support from Titleist, the Titleist Performance Institute opened in Oceanside, Calif., in 2004.

One of the first revelations in fitness-based golf instruction was also one of the simplest. Teachers finally realized that many of their amateur students were incapable of turning their bodies as much as instructed. Around the world, teachers were prescribing a big shoulder turn on the backswing, and golfers in general were not limber enough or fit enough to do it.

Today we are smarter. Fitness instruction, along with swing instruction, has taken a major step forward. Exercise programs focus as much on flexibility and agility as they do strength. Many routines call for lighter weights and higher repetitions, not heavier weights and fewer reps.

Much is being learned about training junior golfers. Sensible physical development and injury prevention are primary concerns among trainers who work with young players.

Greg Rose and Dave Phillips are the godfathers, if you will, of golf’s new fitness movement. They are the most valuable golfers for 2010.

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