The Golfer's Workout 

Even more than time on the course, basic exercises can improve your game.

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There is some argument about whether golf is actually a sport, but there’s no denying that it’s popular. Whether you play to compete with yourself or use golf as social networking, it’s always good to be good. News flash: Even more than practicing, golf-specific exercises can make you a better golfer.

“A big part of the tour now is a traveling gym where the pros can work out,” says Terry Devine, a golf pro at Golf in the Round driving range. “You need the whole package to be good—strong legs, lats, triceps, wrist and finger strength. A strong core is very important for the turn.”

As in any athletic activity, weakness affects your game. Devine explains a big score-killer: fatigue. “When golfers get tired, they play badly. So you need strong legs, because once your legs go, then your swing goes as well.” He advises the serious golfer to walk the course rather than use a golf cart.

Besides strength, being limber is important to good golfing. One of the training exercises he recommends is the wall stretch. Stand with your back against the wall, heels about 12 inches from the wall and shoulder width apart. Lean forward about 30 degrees with your knees slightly bent. Turn your upper body at the hips and touch the wall with hands shoulder high. “If you can’t do it,” says Devine, “angle your feet to the wall a little. That will help you build up to the stretch.”

“You need the whole package to be good— strong legs, lats, triceps, wrist and finger strength.

Follow with another rotational exercise. Standing in the same posture, put your right arm against the wall with the hand as high as you can reach. Place your left arm on the wall at shoulder height. Your left elbow should end up directly over your right heel. As you turn to the left, your right foot will end up in a tiptoe position. Now do the same thing with your right arm on the wall. Devine adds that these stretching exercises are specific for both the back and follow though swing.

Many elite players work out by swinging a weighted club. Adding three or four pounds of weight to a club will stretch and strengthen your muscles. In the flowing motion of a powerful swing, all the muscles must be a strong chain, with no weak links to slow the flow.

There are semi-secret exercise tips used by both stars like Tiger Woods and local pros like Devine, who came to Utah from England 10 years ago. He grins, saying, “Very few golfers know about this one: Tie a can of soup to a little bar with a string 2 or 3 feet long. Twist the bar to bring the can up, then unwind it to lower the can. Do it pretty slow. You’ll really feel a burn in your forearms and wrists.” Strong wrists and forearms are essential for controlling the direction and distance of the shot.

A tough exercise like pull-ups may make one think of beefy football players, but it’s Devine’s favorite exercise. “It’s good for my lats, shoulders and arm strength,” he says. But he warns golfers to stay away from heavy-weight, low-rep resistance routines, because golfers need to be fast instead of bulky. Practice lifting light weights for 25-35 reps at a moderately fast speed.

Devine even has a solution for that annoying post-game lower-back pain that takes away from the pleasure of a beer in the clubhouse. “If you do a Hula Hoop for five minutes a day, you’ll never suffer from lower-back problems after a game. I learned that from a Russian gymnast,” he says.

The swaying motion of a Hula Hoop also helps all the core muscles be more steady, giving golfers better control of their swing. Devine sums it up as the power that comes from strength plus speed. He says that maintaining a steady head is essential—“You don’t want to be swaying around.”

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Wina Sturgeon

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Wina Sturgeon is an outdoor adventurer and a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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