Fit for Sport 3: Winter Golf – Be Prepared!
Irrespective of the level of game that comes out of your bag, cold, wet and windy weather, coupled with hard or slippery ground conditions will challenge every golfer this winter. Mark Adshead, Managing Director of Physio2go St. Albans joins forces with Nick Burch, PGA Professional to explore ways of preparing for winter golf.
Playing golf and walking the course requires a combination of strength, flexibility, muscle balance, co-ordination and aerobic endurance. Add to this the challenge of wintry conditions and the need for an appropriate warm up becomes paramount. Simply watch Ian Poulter swing to see how flexible his shoulders, arms and back are. A pre-round warm up should incorporate flexibility exercises; tight muscles equate with restricted movement. When a golfer is able to enhance his or her flexibility, freedom of movement in the swing is enhanced. In addition to the benefit of lengthening your golf swing, your risk of injury is lessened.
The Power of the Stretch
Before concentrating on strength training, it is important to achieve full range of movement. Limited range of movement leads to poor body mechanics and increases the likelihood of injury. Stretching as part of a general fitness routine as well as sport-appropriate dynamic stretching improves range of movement, circulation and blood flow. This becomes especially important on cold wintry mornings. Stretching before and after physical activity helps to relieve muscle soreness and fatigue and has been shown to reduce the incidence of low back pain. The general rules for stretching in any fitness regime hold true. Stretches should be done slowly and in a controlled manner. Bouncing should be avoided and your breathing pattern should remain normal. Golfers often experience an imbalance of muscle development and strength; just as in strength training, both sides of the body should be stretched equally. This will also improve muscle balance and posture.
Common injuries and how to avoid them
Many of the common injuries seen in a physiotherapist’s clinic are related to neck, back, shoulder, knee and hip pain. Many pitfalls can be predicted and action taken to avoid them before starting.
One of my favourite shoulder warm exercises is circling of both shoulders at the same time with the proviso that one shoulder is circling forwards whilst the other is circling backwards. It takes a little practise to get the rhythm and is a great party trick once you can do it!
Hips, knees and ankles
If it is a very cold day then any exercise to increase the blood flow before you start would be recommended (e.g. running on the spot, step ups). This will warm up your lower limbs. Remember ‘Golf is a long walk spoilt!’ If you develop a problem that fails to settle within 48 hours of playing and/or recurs after each game then you should seek medical advice from your GP or local Physiotherapist.
Golf warm up
Once you have warmed your muscles and joints, you can concentrate on your golf warm up. Take to the practice range or nets your Driving Club, 6 iron, 8 iron and Pitching Wedge, along with 6 golf balls and a few tees and don’t forget your golf glove. Simply start hitting 6 half swings with your Pitching Wedge, concentrating on a slow and smooth rhythm to find your natural tempo. Now move on to your full swing hitting 6 shots with each club, starting with your Pitching Wedge and finishing with your Driving Club. Take your time backing off and stepping away from each shot and following your set up routine every time, this will help you cope with pressure shots on the course as you are following the routine that you have practiced time and time again.
When wintry wet conditions mean that electric trolleys are banned, there are a few hints that may prevent injury or strain.
• If you can use a pull trolley and have a history of neck or back pain, it is better if you can always try to push or pull the trolley with both hands at the same time to balance the strain.
• If you have to carry your bag and are used to an electric trolley you will run the risk of neck, back or shoulder strain or injury. Reduce the load by using a lightweight carry bag, with a stand and a double shoulder strap. The double shoulder strap allows for a much more even distribution of weight and the in-built stand avoids having to bend over to pick up the bag after shots. If you still find it too tiring physically then reduce the number of clubs to a half set and avoid over filling your bag with unnecessary items. You will find that you are less likely to miss the gap between clubs in winter conditions where the ball travels less distance than in the summer.
Working on maintaining a good level of general fitness, strength and flexibility will not only help to prevent winter injuries, it will also improve your stamina and your game. These suggestions have only scratched the surface of some general fitness tips for any winter sport. Be sure to discuss your individual fitness requirements and goals with your personal trainer. If you have had an injury or have any questions related to joint health and fitness, contact one of Physio2go’s specialist sports physiotherapists.
For further information please contact:
St. Peters St,
AL 1 3HD
Telephone: 01727 85092