Palm Desert, Calif.
Henceforth, when I am asked my opinion about the 21st century golf swing, I will have a new answer: “See your fitness professional, then see your golf professional, and make sure these two people are best of friends.”
I have seen the future of golf, and it is the synchronization of the fitness pro and the golf pro.
Rob Mottram opened my eyes. The former physical therapist for both the U.S. Ryder Cup and U.S. Presidents Cup teams, Mottram owns a Palm Desert training facility, Golf Health & Performance Center. He counsels several touring pros, including Masters champion Mike Weir.
As I watched Mottram work with various amateur golfers, several in their 50s and 60s, I realized how much misinformation has been passed down to golfers through the years:
If an instructor ever urged you to implement a swing move that continually felt uncomfortable, the explanation may have been purely physical. Perhaps your body, because of insufficient flexibility or strength, couldn’t accommodate the move.
If you were told not to exercise because it would alter or destroy your timing, you were misled. Tiger Woods showed the world that golfers can work out and be better players because of it.
If you were told to “swing easy” on every shot, you were given the wrong information. The same goes for golfers who invariably try to kill the ball. “The whole key,” Mottram said, “is to control the moves. What we do with our (workout) program is teach golfers to turn on and off the muscles”
If you swing only one way, without variation, you might achieve consistency. Many golfers were coached this way. Unfortunately, without exercise, these golfers are at great risk for injury. “Players want to be robotic-like,” Mottram cautioned, “but that one dimension makes them vulnerable to injuries and strains.”
What kind of exercise program can you expect? Lots of stretching. Plenty of work with medicine balls. Balance beams. Frisbee throwing. Weight training. Yoga routines. Nutritional changes.
Want to be Tiger Woods? Let’s be realistic. Woods is physically gifted beyond the reach of most of us. When Woods turned pro after winning his third U.S. Amateur in 1996 and promptly joined the PGA Tour, Mottram performed a standard physical evaluation.
In one test, the golfer lies on his back and extends one leg at a time straight up in the air. Mottram pushes the leg toward the golfer’s head,
testing flexibility. With Woods, the leg went all the way down to his shoulder.
“Amazing,” Mottram said. “With a body like that, he can do some things that most of us can never do.”
But what most of us really want to do is just hit the ball solidly and add a little distance.
The answer to this quest may be golf fitness, although one exercise program clearly does not fit all. In truth, one exercise program fits one. Each golfer, if trained by a professional, will have an individualized slate of exercises. Furthermore, the program will change as the golfer progresses. For clarification, let’s look at the experience of Greg Walker, a veteran competitor on the long-drive circuit.
Walker is a serious guy. “I had been working with some top (fitness) instructors,” he explained. “They had trained some Olympians and pro athletes, but, as it turned out, they didn’t know anything about the
biomechanics of golf. Anyway, I was doing really heavy squats, as much as 400 pounds.”
And he was getting nowhere.
Then he met Dr. Greg Rose, who started ClubGolf Fitness Center in Gaithersburg, Md. As Walker recalled, he challenged Rose by saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but what do you know about hitting a golf ball hard?”
And Rose, after watching Walker slug some balls at an indoor hitting bay, replied, “Your left glute (gluteus, a muscle in the buttocks) is weak. It isn’t working properly.”
To which Walker said, “No way. I am doing 400 pounds of squats.”
And then, inexplicably, Walker’s left glute began throbbing. Then it developed spasms. Rose had been
correct, and Walker, after following a program devised by Rose, finished fourth in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship at the age of 40.
Observed Walker: “Now I tell people that no matter how much you practice, you aren’t going to improve if you have a physical limitation. Most golfers aren’t even aware of their limitations.”
The future of golf is the marriage of fitness instruction and swing instruction.