Ready to hit the links?
Even if winter lingers for weeks on end, there’s plenty you can do to start prepping for golf season right now. Here are some tips from experts:
Whether it’s in your backyard, your garage or your basement, take some light swings to start preparing your body for golf season.
The swinging will let you know where your body is at physically, said Philip Adler, a certified athletic trainer and manager of the athletic training outreach program for Spectrum Health Medical Group.
“How does it feel to rotate?” Adler said. “Are your hamstrings and back tight?”
If so, you know where you need to start stretching, he said. Swinging also gives you a chance to work on your set up and fundamentals, so you can build good habits long before ever arriving on the driving range.
“The best way to create a great base for improvement is to make 100 practice swings with an iron every day,” Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’ former golf coach, told Golf Digest. “At the most basic level, making those swings improves your strength and flexibility. It’s actually a decent golf workout, but the benefits go beyond that. Your hands get toughened up, you gain awareness of where the club is during the swing, and you start building a repeatable motion—which is great, even if the motion isn’t perfect just yet.”
2. Work the right muscles
Golf swings work in three dimensions, Adler said. You’re not just picking the club straight up and down, or rotating side to side. You’re doing both of those things, and also using diagonal movements that involve pieces of each of those.
“So how do we simulate that?” Adler asked. He said cable machines at the gym, also called pulley machines, mimic those motions.
Adler recommended standing cable wood chops, where you rotate your body to pull the cable from above your shoulder toward your opposite knee.
He also recommended standing cable lifts, sometimes called reverse wood chops, which involves the same motion but in reverse order. During standing cable lifts, the cable starts low and finishes high.
This video shows the proper technique of both of those lifts, and how to switch positions to work both sides of your body.
“Those four exercises on a pulley work the small muscles and work in all three dimensions,” Adler said. “If you look at golf and the things you have to do, it’s very similar mechanics.”
If you don’t have a cable machine, you can also use resistance bands attached to a wall or door to perform similar exercises.
3. Balanced workouts
Muscle imbalances cause you to compensate in your golf swing to protect the weaker areas, said Jodi George, DPT, a physical therapist with Spectrum Health Medical Group who is also a Titleist Performance Institute-certified golf fitness instructor.
That leads to extra stress on certain muscles, which leads to injuries, she said.
For example, lower back injuries often occur when the surrounding muscles—like hip flexors, hamstrings and abdominal muscles—aren’t also strong, Adler said.
“If you’re going to work biceps, you have to work triceps,” Adler said. “If you’re going to work your abs, you have to work your back. Stretch hip flexors and hamstrings as well. … It’s all about good balance.”
When you’re working out, proper form is also essential, or that can lead to injuries too, George said. If you don’t know how to properly do a particular exercise, ask an expert for help.
Golf isn’t often thought of as a strenuous sport, but the average golfer walks between 5.5 and 7.5 miles, depending on the course they’re playing and how straight they hit the ball.
If you can improve your cardio, you can improve your stamina, which will enable you to play better for all 18 holes (and practice more), instead of fatiguing as the round goes on.
“I don’t think we can neglect cardio during this time,” Adler said about colder-weather months. “We don’t necessarily think of golf as a cardio-heavy sport, but there’s still walking. And you think about a swing: Do you breathe the right way through the swing? Or do you hold your breath and grunt, almost like a power lift? Breathing properly makes a difference.
“And if you’re like me and you play military golf—left, right, left—it takes a reasonable amount of shape to play a round.”
5. See a professional
If you want someone to supervise your first workouts and help you design a golf fitness program perfectly tailored to your golfing needs, see an expert, Adler suggested.
George, the physical therapist and golf fitness instructor, provides these services.
“The one-on-one appointment looks at the biomechanical analysis and functional mobility as it relates to the golf swing,” George said. “Based on the results, an individualized exercise program is developed to address your areas of weakness and areas of decreased mobility.”
You could also get an indoor golf lesson, Adler said, to ensure you’re practicing proper swing mechanics and reinforcing good habits when you swing at home (see Tip 1). There are numerous pros in almost every city who give golf lessons, even in the off season.