The 'physical demands' of golf

How to take care of yourself on the course

Golfmagic correspondent
Thu, 10 Jul 2008

Miguel Angel Jimenez reveals his pre-round stretch routine

Don't let anyone tell you golf isn't a physically demanding sport - or that pro golfers aren't real athletes. Now it's official - golf can punish your body and if you don't take care of it, your enjoyment of the game could be cut short.

Tiger Woods has revealed that his practice routine before the US Open - which he eventually won after playing 91 holes - was to hit a few balls on the range, sit in his golf buggy until the pain subsided, then hit a few more balls.

His win over Rocclo Mediate after a 19-hole play-off, confirms not only gritty talent but proves that it's a physically demanding game whether you're world No.1 or a mere beginner. Key muscles and joints get stressed especially when fatigue sets in towards the end of 18 holes.

"We just beat up our bodies," Jack Nicklaus told the Washington Post, recently. "It's why I gave up golf."

And the act of driving the ball in search of that booming tee shot can do more damage to us than you'd ever imagine - unless we do it right.

A study in The Golf Biomechanic's Manual by Paul Chek revealed that amateur golfers achieve approximately 90 percent of their peak muscular activity when driving a golf ball.

Jimenez stretches each leg's muscles
"This is the same intensity as picking up a weight that can only be lifted four times before total fatigue. This level of exertion and muscular activation equates golf with such sports as American football (equivalent say to rugby), ice-hockey and martial arts. The difference is that other athletes outside of golf include conditioning as an integral part of their preparation before they play."

Amateurs don't grind nearly as much as professionals, but they still have the same injuries. Florida chiropractor Terry Golden, who treats golf injuries, said there are many things average club players can do to reduce the risk.

He says: "You can't hit the ball 300 yards on every drive, so don't swing like you can. A smooth, easy swing can also result in distance. A lot of people swing too hard, which leads to problems. ''

He suggests a 30-minute warm-up.

"Before heading to the range, do some stretches as if preparing to run. Deep knee bends, toe touches, jumping jacks, windmill stretches and back stretches. Put a club behind your back and rotate your hips to loosen the lower back.

"Warming up is huge,'' says Golden. "It's a fact that 80 percent of golfers warm up for less than 10 minutes before golfing. And of those that do, their incidents of injury is about half of those that don't warm up. Just warming up reduces the risk of injury by 50 percent.''

He also suggests taking a lesson from a pro.

"A golf pro can point out flaws that will likely reduce stress on the lower back and joints. Poor swing mechanics is a primary cause in golf injuries. A golf professional can improve your swing and lessen your chance of injury.''

And don't ignore any pain, Golden told the St Petersburg Times.

"If back or joint pain persists, get it checked out. It could be something simple, but it also could be something more serious. Don't make it worse by trying to play through the pain. For example, to prevent low back injuries in golf it's a matter of flexibility. Primarily, stretching for the low back and for the hips is key.''

He says the average Joe Public looks at golf as a leisure sport with people think there is no fitness requirements to golf.

"That is absolutely untrue. There is just about as much muscle exertion in a golf swing as there is in any other sport and the more golf swings we take, the higher the risk of injury.

So if the approaching Open Championship, is encouraging you to get out there and p;lay more golf - or even swing a golf club for the first time, our advice is to take the time to warm up and fine-tune your golf swing. It will surely lead to more pain-free rounds.

Tell us on the forum about your pre-golf routine. Do you stretch and warm-up and hit balls on the range or are you one of us who dashes to the first tee and expects to lash the perfect drive down the middle?