Oh, How I’ve Missed You, Golf

This summer has been a golf-less summer for me.  It’s the first summer in 9 years that I haven’t caddied, and on top of that I haven’t played once in the past year.  In fact, I just returned from the driving range for the first time since the end of last August..  It’s not that I don’t like golf, but a combination of a busy schedule and poor planning have kept me away from this archaic and asinine sport.

Golf’s origins can be traced across all of Eurasia back until the 1st century BC.  Interestingly, after almost 2,000 years few have seemed to question the concept of hitting a ball as far as you can, then chasing it down and repeating the process.  Despite that absurdity, it remains one of the most popular sports in America, with about 30 million people playing the game each year.  After a year layoff, I suppose I can count myself in that group.

Let me share with you some thoughts that I had on the range this afternoon.

Golf can be pretty dangerous.  Not in the sense of a taking a big hit in football, or the same as crashing a cycle during a road race.  When it comes to a complex movement, the golf swing is probably the most difficult maneuver in sport.  Actually, it exemplifies proper movement; the golf swing is a beautiful example of the balance of stability and mobility in the body.  Unfortunately, you don’t have to be balanced to play golf.

In reality, true balance would be a bad thing.  We’re going to develop asymmetries over the course of our lifetime, completing hundreds of thousands of repetitions of any action with the same hand or foot.  In reality, perfect balance can’t be obtained, and maybe it shouldn’t be obtained.  What you can do, with golf, or with any other sport or activity you participate in, is make sure that you’re doing things properly when you’re playing/practicing, and training for that activity.  If you’re already playing golf, you should do yourself a favor and get your butt to the gym.  It’s considered a lifetime activity, but how are you going to continue to play when your ugly swing causes joint pain throughout your body?  That’s not going to be fun!

Ideally, fitness training for golf would come before learning how to play golf.  If you have universal tightness or restrictions, would it make sense to learn how to swing (with the possibility for injury), begin a proper training program, then have to relearn your swing with additional range of motion?  Wouldn’t it make sense to iron out the kinks in your body, then take that body to the range and course, where you can learn to swing in safer ways?  It just makes sense to me.

The above picture is the cover of September’s issue of Golf Digest, featuring PGA pro Dustin Johnson.  Since Tiger Woods became popular in the mid 90’s, professional golfers are becoming increasingly more athletic, and it’s almost unheard of to hear of tour players who don’t train these days.  Before you lambast the cover, let me tell you that I already did.  When I first saw it, I mentioned to my brother and girlfriend that “This is the kind of media crap we have to deal with, people think this stuff actually works…Gray Cook would not be pleased.”  My brother has no idea who Gray is, but Maria chuckled about the comment.  The next morning when I started reading the piece, lo and behold, Gray’s quoted in the first paragraph, explaining the physical demands of golf.  In fact, he created a golf specific screen for the article that’s essentially a mash-up of the Functional Movement Screen and the screen used by the Titleist Performance Institute.  Unfortunately, I can’t link to the article online, but if you’re interested, definitely check out THIS website, which is a link to the fitness page of the Titleist Performance Institute.  It contains great information for preparing the body to move and perform.  It’s applicable to nearly any sport or activity, and includes material specific to the golfer as well.

If you’re not a reader, maybe you’re a watcher.  Check out the below video from Jason Glass and TPI, which will hopefully get the ball rolling on you to train for golf, or whatever activity you participate in.

In addition to training properly for golf, I think that people need to slow down on the range.  I averaged about a ball a minute tonight, other than some small little chip-shots I made while warming up and cooling down.  This slow tempo is still much faster than the swing rate you’d have on a golf course, but is much more likely to transfer the same mentality from the range to the course.  Does it make sense to swing every 15 seconds as hard as you can when you’re never going to do that on the course?  instead, step back between each shot you take, and go through a pre-shot routine, addressing the ball the same for every shot.  It will help you stay calm and relaxed, and you’ll be likely to take a ‘cleaner’ swing each time.

Golf is probably one of the most frustrating activities there is; it’s very difficult.  Just like health, and life in general, there are plenty of things that we can do better to make the most out of it.  If you invest time and energy into your body (with proper training) and into your game (with quality practice and instruction), you’re going to succeed both on and off the course.  Regardless of your skill level and ability, you’re an athlete, and you should treat yourself as such.

Tuesdays are a ‘late’ morning for me this fall semester, and I don’t have class until 10:50am.  That’s the perfect opportunity for me to spend some time on the range, or perhaps play 9 holes.  I’d like for golf to become a consistent habit of mine, considering it’s one of the few common athletic events I can participate in.  I’m not sure how serious I can be in regards to powerlifting or kettlebell sport, and golf is an activiy that I can use to both relax and stay active for years to come.

Well, at least until I succeed in my dream to become an Olympic badminton player.  I’m only half kidding.

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