Saturday, September 20, 2008

Initial Reading and Range-Time

Over the last few days, I’ve been surfing the net and reading different books regarding “golf fitness,” and finally came across a book I think I’m going to stick with, cover to cover, because it’s incredibly thorough and helps me design a custom-made fitness regimen based on my areas of weakness.

While this book and my subsequent training program may appear to be a little hardcore, I assure you that will not be the case. Despite my lofty intentions of getting my game in shape, I don’t have the time to spend 2 hours in the gym each day and hours upon hours to spend at the range. Now, I WISH that were the case, but it isn’t. So whatever fitness program I decide upon, it has to be manageable. The book is called “Complete Conditioning for Golf,” and it is written by Pete Draovitch and Ralph Simpson. The book starts out by listing the seven main components of a successful golf training program. These points are listed below.

1. Cardio-respiratory Endurance, which means you get your heart pumping to the tune of 20-30 minutes a day, 3 days a week at your training heart rate (220 minus age, multiplied by .70).

2. Postural Imbalances / Symmetry. Because golf causes the body to use certain muscles more than others, “muscular imbalances” are inevitable and you need to focus on practicing good posture regularly.

3. Golf-specific Strength: while your hips and legs produce the most force, a well-rounded strength training program helps to assure a proper power transfer during the downswing.

4. Functional Flexibility: obviously, a fluid golf swing is the result of a free-range of motion, and so daily stretching exercises are recommended.

5. Balance: other than being an absolute necessity in the golf swing, a positive side-effect of a balanced golf swing is that the swing itself is steady and controlled easily.

6. Motor Learning: by using these drills, you’re helping yourself produce and repeat the easiest movements with the least amount of stress. Stress, as it relates to joints and muscles. Not STRESS, as in: I just chunked a wedge into the water from 60 yards away and I’m freakin’ flippin’ out right now.

7. Nutrition: well yeah I guess…but I just want to pound my driver 350 yards…who cares if I want an extra piece of chocolate cake?

Just as an aside, I remember one of my teachers back in high school telling me that golf was not a “sport,” but a “game.” He, of course, was a baseball player, and thought that golf was for pansies. Well, I found a great quote from this book that will alleviate some of the emotional trauma my teacher caused me on that day:

“There is perhaps no single action in sport that requires more overall muscular strength, joint flexibility, and movement coordination than a perfectly executed golf swing.”

End-quote. Boo-yeah.

After getting pumped up by that quote, I went to the range to start getting a feel for my golf-swing again. I think one of the hardest things for an amateur to do is to slow down their swing and be patient on the range. What I mean by that is, after a few missed shots, the average golfer’s muscles tighten up and the driver comes out of the bag to wail away at 70 golf balls. Or, at the very least, the average golfer will start swinging faster and harder to try and make up for the 7-iron they just shanked.

That was the case for me today. I started out slowly, using a 7-iron to hit easy punch-shots with half-swings. I always love doing this, because it’s easier to focus on my impact position and really try to feel like I’m “pinching” the ball against the turf on the follow-thru. Once I get a solid feel for a good impact position, I start trying to shape shots around the range. Low hooks, high fades, whatever. It’s funny, but the last thing I try to hit is a straight shot at my target.

In fact, as I was watching the Ryder Cup today—ahem, GO USA—I kept hearing Johnny Miller say things like: “He’s going to try and play a high fade into this green.” Now, I understand the reasoning: a high fade will bite much faster on a green than a draw. But to an amateur, shaping a shot into a green doesn’t really compute. It’s not really something we think about. I mean sure, if there’s a hard right-to-left wind up near the green, I’ll be sure to aim right or try to play a fade, but I don’t usually think about shaping shots into greens. Sounds like a cool concept, actually. But I’m more accustomed to shaping shots under or around trees than having a great look at a flagstick from the middle of the fairway—with no wind—and saying, “Yeah, let me curl it in there from the right just for shits-and-giggles.”

Then again, hitting a straight shot into a green is always much harder, as even a small deviation in your swing can send the ball ANYWHERE. At least with shaping a shot you know what to expect.

After 20-30 balls, I moved onto my wedges, trying to hit crisp 100-yard shots along with several flop shots to make sure I can still pull those bastards off.

Bottom line: today was a day to get back in the saddle and take those first few steps towards a controlled golf-swing. But like I mentioned before, I think the fitness aspect of my game comes first. I have a feeling my swing will be much more pliable when I start getting into the nitty-gritty of swing mechanics if I can nail down a manageable fitness regimen now.

Take care all.

No comments: