John Parr PT, OCS, CMPT | Director, TAI Gresham Physical Therapy
Compared to other golfers, I probably got a much later start than most. Throughout my adult life, I have enjoyed many sports, including flag football, softball, and running, but I never had much of an interest in golf until about seven years ago. When the golf bug bit, however, it bit hard. There’s no question…I’m hooked!
Hitting a golf ball is not easy and I like the challenge of trying to get better at it. When I first started playing, I was terrible, but I have seen my game improve steadily over time. I took lessons from pros who helped me get on the right track, and I enjoy practicing my swing at the driving range. Particularly in the last two years, I have practiced and played a lot more often and have noticed my scores improving as a result. They will probably never be low enough for my liking, but I think that is the beauty of golf…perfection can never be achieved, but we can always strive to improve.
Golf is a very social sport, which is a big reason why I decided to learn to play. Many of my friends are golfers, so playing a round gives us a great opportunity to get together. The pleasant, outdoor setting of a golf course provides a relaxing environment for easy conversation. I have had great talks on the golf course with friends, colleagues, business associates, my dad, my sons, and even total strangers. No matter who I am golfing with, the opportunity to connect with others is part of the appeal.
I love to travel and enjoy the chance to golf in new places. My family vacations in Sunriver in Central Oregon every year and I have only scratched the surface of the many fantastic golf courses that region has to offer.
I’ve also had amazing golf trips to Palm Desert and Bandon Dunes. Last September, I got to take the trip of a lifetime and golf for a week in Scotland. Among others, we played the Old Course at St. Andrews, which was an experience that exceeded all my expectations.
Training for Golf
I am a strong believer in physical conditioning. Most of us may never have the flawless swings that the pros do, but we can improve our strength and flexibility through exercise.
Power comes primarily from the core and hips. Improving strength can add yards to your drive and make you less susceptible to injury. Here are the three strength exercises that I feel are most important for golfers:
Improved flexibility can increase swing speed and reduce the chance of injury. Free movement of the spine is critical, and hip and shoulder range is also important. These are my favorite golf stretches.
Muscle fatigue can sap your performance and increase your risk of an injury on the course. Endurance can be improved through cardiovascular exercise. I’m a runner, but walking, biking, and swimming are also excellent. Try for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Regular exercise will help you finish strong.
Before Your Round
Warming up before you play will help you perform better and reduces your chance of injury. Driving range practice can help you get loose, but hitting balls BEFORE your body is ready to perform can lead to swing faults that carry over into your round. I recommend 5 – 7 minutes of dynamic warmup before you hit the range. Static stretching doesn’t cut it here…you need to perform active movements to elevate your body temperature and get your muscles ready to work.
On the Course
Walking the course will probably keep you feeling loose. If you are riding a cart or the pace of play is slow, consider repeating some of your dynamic warm-up exercises periodically to avoid getting stiff.
Stay hydrated and eat a light snack or two during the round. I always carry protein bars in my golf bag. Muscles perform best when they are neither hot nor cold, so dress for the weather. Layering gives you flexibility in changing weather conditions, and don’t forget to use sunscreen.
After Your Round
Time to hit the clubhouse for a beer with your foursome, right? Absolutely! Right after golf, however, is for static stretching. Spend a few minutes stretching your spine, hips, and shoulders, then go enjoy!
Injuries happen to the best of us. Even Tiger Woods, who ruled golf for years, has been sidelined frequently over the past few years. Our best efforts to condition for golf and warm up properly will reduce, but does not eliminate the risk of injury. The important thing to do when injury strikes is to take action to keep it from getting worse and start the road to recovery.
Low back pain is the most common musculoskeletal problem in the general population. Golfers are even more susceptible due to the potential stress of repeated bending to address the ball and spinal rotation to swing. Golfers who experience low back pain should seek physical therapy right away. Physical therapy yields excellent results for most who sustain a low back injury. Find out more about our Low Back Pain Revolution here.
Golfers are also at risk for elbow injuries. Strains to the muscles and tendons of the forearm are common and can develop from overuse. These may resolve with rest and ice, but for pain that lingers, physical therapy is recommended. These type of injuries often respond well to ASTYM treatment. Learn more about ASTYM here.
The golf swing can place a lot of torque on the knees, especially with any muscle imbalances present. Weakness in the hips can increase knee strain during the swing. Ice and rest may help alleviate the symptoms, but seeing a physical therapist is recommended to address any strength, flexibility, or balance issues that may be the underlying cause.
You can see a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral. This means you can seek immediate help for your golf injury. It also allows you to consult a physical therapist for injury prevention or a Golf Performance Evaluation (including video analysis). For more information about direct access, click here.