Gyms for golfers. In a society obsessed with fitness, this was bound to happen. And it has – in a big, important way.
Golf fitness is not about building bulging muscles or sculpting a beachworthy body. It is about developing the proper combination of flexibility and strength for a sport that requires the body to bend, flex, extend and twirl. It is about achieving a level of fitness that helps prevent injuries.
Can’t turn as much as you would like on the backswing? This is a job for the fitness pro, not the golf pro.
In Gaithersburg, Md., Dr. Greg Rose opened ClubGolf Fitness Center to rave reviews. “Everybody told me I was nuts,” he said. “I quickly had to hire four instructors. I tell golfers that the body is the most important piece of equipment they have. I tell them they’re crazy if they don’t know this. At last count, I’ve worked with 43 touring pros.”
In Dallas, Bob MacDonald started Golf Performance and Fitness Center. His students include Rich Beem and Harrison Frazar. “There are a lot of fitness people who still don’t understand golf,” MacDonald said. “They take body building exercises, tweak them a little bit, throw in a couple of twisting exercises and call it golf
specific. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough.”
In Palm Desert, Calif., well-known fitness trainer Rob Mottram runs Golf Health & Performance Center. Masters champ Mike Weir is one of his clients. Mottram was one of the pioneers in golf fitness,
traveling the PGA Tour as far back as 1987, when he directed Centinela Hospital’s mobile fitness centers.
“When I started on the Tour, very few players were working out,” Mottram said. “A few guys like Tom Kite and Chip Beck were out there running. We had all this elaborate equipment, and not many
people came in and used it. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what to put them on. I could see the headline: Jack Nicklaus misses the Masters because of working out with trainer. So I had to learn from scratch.”
Slowly the golf fitness pros emerged. Tiger Woods is a fitness disciple of Keith Kleven, who trains golfers at his Las Vegas facility. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has for years been renowned for the treatment of sports injuries and now is starting to focus on golf training.
Rose is golf’s poster boy for performance enhancement through fitness – getting more out of your body and your golf swing. On the PGA Tour, Davis Love III has won three times in 2003 after adopting an exercise program from Rose early in the year. Jonathan Byrd saw Rose and promptly won his first tournament last year. Brad Faxon credits Rose for a ball speed increase of more than 10 miles an hour with his driver. Even veteran Peter Jacobsen says that Rose sparked a
rejuvenation in his golf game.
Beem, after increasing his strength and receiving a tongue lashing from MacDonald about his drinking, won the PGA Championship. Weir, who refined his hip strength and speed by seeing Mottram, prevailed in the Masters. Neither Beem nor Weir is a physical hulk, but each dramatically demonstrated the effect of improved fitness.
There are many indicators of this trend toward fitness. Vijay Singh is building an addition to his house. Its purpose: to house his personal gym.
Even Carl Wolter III, the reigning Re/Max world long drive champion, went to Rose for evaluation. “I had never seen anything like it,” Rose said of the former All-American javelin thrower at Penn State. “There was no doubt in my mind he was the longest person on the planet.”
Rose has done a superb job of using extra length as a lure to golfers. One of his programs, “6 Weeks for 10 Yards,” promises 10 extra yards on tee shots.
“The No. 1 thing we can do in the shortest period of time is increase your ball speed,” Rose said. “I can tell you in 30 minutes how much you have left in the bag, where exactly you’re losing it, and how to get it back. That’s because of all the work we’ve done with the (Cobra/Pinnacle) long drive team.”
At all these facilities, membership starts with a
physical examination and evaluation. There is plenty of testing. “We test range of motion, core strength, muscle strength and endurance, balance, power, quickness and aerobic conditioning,” MacDonald said.
The cost of membership at these gyms ranges from $89 at Rose’s gym to $95 at Mottram’s
facility to $200 per month at MacDonald’s gym. MacDonald, though, offers free personal
instruction and guidance on a continuing basis, while some of these services are provided at an hourly charge by Rose and Mottram.
This is a sophisticated arena. Through the use of electromagnetic body motion sensors, many golf fitness instructors around the country are able to capture a golfer’s swing in three dimensions. Then they can compare dozens of different body positions with those of successful touring pros.
Says Mottram: “It’s funny that people never felt like golf was a sport and golfers weren’t athletes. Just look at what golfers have to perform compared to what some other athletes have to perform. There is a lot more precision involved in golf, and golfers have to do it at high speed.”
Such precision often starts in the fitness center, and that’s the motivation behind gyms for golfers.