Take a Swing at Better Health 

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Compared to other golfers, I started much later 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. When the golf bug bit, however, it bit hard. I have come to appreciate the degree of skill, athleticism, and mental toughness that golf requires, and I have jumped into this challenge with both feet. There is 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. I’ve recently started to practice and play more often and have noticed my scores improving as a result. They will probably never be low enough for my liking, but 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 wonderful 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 seeking out new places. I have only scratched the surface of the many fantastic golf courses that are right here in the Northwest. Some of my favorites are Brasada Ranch and Awbrey Glen in Central Oregon, Bear Mountain and Gamble Sands in Central Washington and Gearhart Links on the Oregon coast. I’m hoping to explore many more in the near future. I have also had the privilege of playing some world -famous courses, including Pebble Beach, The Old Course at St. Andrews and Bandon Dunes.

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 by working on our fitness. Training can provide the physical tools necessary to hit the ball farther and straighter. Improving our strength, flexibility, and endurance also reduces risk of injury.

Strength training for golf

In golf, 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:

Flexibility and mobility for an improved golf swing

Improved flexibility and mobility can increase swing speed and reduce the chance of injury. What’s the difference? Mobility is the ability to move actively (on muscle power alone) through a range of motion. Flexibility is the ability to move passively (with the help of external forces) through a range of motion. So, for example, hip flexion mobility is shown when you lift your knee with your thigh muscles toward your head. Flexibility of that same motion is shown when you pull your knee upwards with your hands or a strap. In golf, we need both mobility of our joints and flexibility of our muscles to allow us to swing the club with ease. Free movement of the spine is especially critical, and hip and shoulder range are also important. The stretches below target these major areas, helping you improve your flexibility and mobility to help you play better golf.

These are my favorite golf stretches.

Endurance

Muscle fatigue can sap your golf 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 options to improve your endurance. Try for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Regular exercise will help you finish strong.

Getting the most out of your golf game

Before your round

Warming up before you play will help you perform better and reduce 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 won’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 tend to 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 have something to eat 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!

Golf-related injuries – physical therapy can help

Injuries happen to the best of us. They sideline weekend hackers like you and me as well as pros like Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods. Our best efforts to condition for golf and warm up properly will reduce, but 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. 

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 types of injuries often respond well to ASTYM treatment.  

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. 

Direct access

Direct access grants you the right to 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 of your choice for injury prevention or a Golf Performance Evaluation (including video analysis).  

Getting ready to hit the course?

As spring settles and the golf courses green up, you might be dusting off your clubs and digging your golf shoes out of the bottom of the closet. Before you book that first tee time of the season, it’s important to spend a little time preparing your body for the rigors of 18 holes. Checking in with a physical therapist is a great way to uncover any muscle imbalances or faulty mechanics that can lead to injury. A PT can also design a training program to help you get the most out of your golf game.

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