December 11, 2014

When I began fitness training a month ago I never dreamed that my simple goal of wanting to get in better shape and “firm up” would be a have as much of an impact on my golf game as it would on my overall state of fitness. It was during our initial interview that I mentioned to my trainer Tony that I played golf, and when I told him I was a 26 handicap and looking to improve my overall flexibility and stability, he told me he was a 10 and promised to incorporate various exercises into our sessions designed to do just that.

As we would talk between reps and exercises we really connected with our mutual interest in the technical aspects of the golf swing. I think he recognized from my initial work that I had issues not just with core, lower body, and upper body strength, but also a validation of my stability and flexibility issues as well. A week into our month together he had me show him my set-up and address and take some imaginary golf swings; he in turn offered up definitive ideas about what the golf swing should look like and certain aspects I could improve upon were I willing to listen. And while Tony stressed he wasn’t trying to play golf instructor and change everything I’d learned from my swing coach Alex Black over the past couple of years, it is clear his background in fitness has greatly influenced his thoughts about the golf swing and his approach to the game.

Hey, when you’re a 26 handicap, beggars can’t be choosers, so of course I was open to any suggestions he might have.

To Tony, the golf swing was all about athleticism and aggressiveness – an angle I had never before considered. His recommendations fell into three areas: 1) my set-up and address, which he felt was too passive and loose; 2) my posture, which was too hunched over, and 3) my spine angle, which, rather than staying firm and straight throughout, tilted slightly to the left as I took the club back. His recommendations? 1) take a wider stance and a little more crouch to improve overall stability through the golf swing; 2) improve my posture at address by straightening my back, pushing my chest out, sucking my gut in, and lifting my chin to allow a freeing up and lengthening of my swing to generate more power and torque; 3) work on turning around my spine, not tilting backward.

The excercises he had me doing to facilitate the above are not easy: lots of strengthening the muscles not just in my upper body and chest, but my core and side muscles. He introduced several drills to improve stability and strength in my legs and ankles (balancing on a half ball while take slow, easy swings is not for the faint of heart!). But nearly a month in I can already feel the difference, and last weekend at the Superstition Springs range I could really begin to feel the impact of what we are trying to accomplish. The wider, more athletic stance with a bit more crouch really made me feel like an athlete and more willing to attack the ball; my improved posture and focus on my spine angle improved my overall ability to make solid contact with the ball, and eliminating that spine tilt (something I never knew I was doing) drastically reduced the number of balls I was hitting fat or quitting on early (so that’s where that big push / slice to the left came from!).

More importantly was the positive attitude these changes have brought. I feel more confident about my swing and more willing to attack the ball. Last year, my approach to golf was to try and play smart and avoid the big number in order to achieve playing bogey golf. I’ve got no one to blame but myself for this – my entire approach to the game had become defensive in nature. As a result, I spent too much time trying to avoid trouble and mistakes, and not enough just playing the game and trying to hit solid shots. Now, I’m not afraid to try and lengthen my swing in order to hit the ball as hard and as solidly as I can, knowing that the more repetitions I make the better the results I’ll begin to see.

Of course, that doesn’t foregoing the strategy of playing smart, but the whole idea of going out and trying to avoid mistakes is just so negative. Far better to focus on good form and making a good swing and dealing with whatever happens after that. The good players aren’t afraid to make mistakes – they have the confidence that more often than not their games have the ability to absorb them and still come out OK. And that’s where I want to be. Last year I never knew what was going to happen any given time I began a round; I was all over the place both mentally and physically, always struggling with that damned big number and my lack of consistency.

Going into 2015, I see these swing changes enabling me to swing more positively and agressively while still staying within myself. Hopefully, the result will be a few more yards with each club – never a bad thing – greater consistency, and most importantly, a more positive approach and outlook to the game.

And if I look in better shape while doing so, all the better!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:18 | Comments Off on Better Fitness, Better Swing
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