Katherine Marren, Director of Instruction at the Quail Lodge Golf Academy, shows golfer Amber Mohr proper posture for a healthy golf game.
Katherine Marren, Director of Instruction at the Quail Lodge Golf Academy, shows golfer Amber Mohr proper posture for a healthy golf game. (Randy Tunnell Photography)
Professionals who work with golfers are finding out that what you do off the golf course may be as important to your game as what you do on it.

That's a pretty stunning realization, especially for those who think of golf as just something to do on the weekends without a lot of preparation.

But, say local golf pros and physical therapists, if you're serious about golf, you need to do more if you want to play your very best. That's why programs such as the Pebble Beach Golf Academy are now looking at the golfer as a whole, and emphasizing fitness, flexibility and even diet as a way to improve your game.

"The golf swing demands several physical characteristics- flexibility, strength, balance,coordination," says Bud Ferrante, a physical therapist in Carmel who is fitness consultant to the Pebble Beach Golf Academy and works with both professional and amateur golfers. "The physical attribute we lose first is flexibility. So flexibility is where one would start, if you want to play good or even reasonable golf."

He teaches many of these principles in his BACKtoGOLF seminars, the first of its kind for golf fitness, performance and rehabilitation. Ferrante has worked with many tour players,among them Tom Watson, Brad Faxon, and Justin Leonard. Not only is flexibility vital to the golf swing, it is also important in heading off injuries.


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Poor posture or lack of flexibility can cause back, neck or other bodily harm during a round.

"The golf swing in one of the most complex and difficult movements in all of sports to perform with skill and consistency," says Ferrante. "It requires different parts of the body to move in several directions at once."

Posture is all-important in the game, he notes, because good flexibility and posture will help a golf swing be more powerful and efficient and there will be less chance of injury.

Katherine Marren, director of instruction at the Quail Lodge Golf Academy in Carmel Valley, recommends that golfers be evaluated by a sports physical therapist, so that problems can be identified and a personalized program of fitness and stretching can be put into place.

EXERCISE FOR GOLFERS

Marren notes that the idea of an exercise regime is something new for golfers. In past decades, it wasn't even talked about. She says a mix of aerobic exercise and another activity that promotes flexibility and stretching is ideal.

Running, walking or cycling will fit the bill for aerobic endeavors, and Marren suggests Pilates or yoga for helping with balance and flexibility.

Evan Boone, head golf pro at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside.
Evan Boone, head golf pro at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside. (Randy Tunnell Photography)

It just makes sense that exercise off the course will aid a golfer's game, says Evan Boone, head golf pro at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside."As with any athletic endeavor, a fit body will outperform an unfit one," says Boone. "You must have flexibility before strengthening exercises are effective," he says. "Next time a PGA golf tournament is on television, check the posture of the golfers, and note how flexible they are."

Boone says that any activity that focuses on strength, flexibility or core conditioning is going to be good for the golfer. He does suggest mixing it up as much as possible.

"Do your exercises differently all the time, from different angles, on different days," suggests Boone. "Once the body stops learning, it stops changing. The best way to do that is to keep your routines as diversified as possible."

GOOD NUTRITION

Boone also advocates that golfers take a look at what they're eating and to work on optimizing their nutrition.

"Obviously fast, fried or processed foods aren't the best,"he says. "Try to eat organic proteins, fruits and vegetables as they'll have less chemicals and additives. And most of us don't need a ton of carbohydrates, so be careful with them."

Ferrante says golfers also need to compensate for the problems that come with age. Although golfing is promoted as a lifelong sport, there's no doubt that many older golfers are not in the prime shape they once were.

"Flexibility is lost first as we age - we all know we are not as limber and loose as we used to be," says Ferrante.

Katherine Marren, Director of Instruction at the Quail Lodge Golf Academy, shows golfer Amber Mohr proper posture for a healthy golf game.
Katherine Marren, Director of Instruction at the Quail Lodge Golf Academy, shows golfer Amber Mohr proper posture for a healthy golf game. (Randy Tunnell Photography)
 "Posture sags, the neck and back get stiff, hamstrings tighten, most of this from not being as active as we used to be. Jobs, kids, injuries, age, and many other issues affect our flexibility."

Warming up and stretching prior to a round of golf can help offset such problems. Boone recommends what he calls"dynamic" stretching, which is warming up by doing an aerobic exercise for a few minutes, such as running in place or doing jumping jacks. "This will get the whole body warm and ready and the blood pumping," he says.

Ferrante says pregame stretching is important, and has certain exercises he recommends to clients.

Marren says it's best to work with a physical therapist and get a set of golf fitness exercises and warm-up moves that are specific to you.

"In general, it's best to warm up and stay warm before you play," she says. "Stay loose and warm. There's less chance of injury that way."


RESOURCES

Bud Ferrante, Carmel Orthopedic & Sports Therapy/BACKtoGOLF, 245 The Crossroads, Carmel, 620-0744

Katherine Marren, Director of Instruction, Quail Lodge GolfAcademy, 8000 Valley Greens Drive, Carmel Valley, 620-8859; www.quaillodge.com/golfacademy

Evan Boone, Head Golf Professional, Bayonet and Black Horse,1 McClure Way, Seaside, 393-3006 x 215; www.bayonetblackhorse.com

Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.