From the PGA

Are golfers really athletes?

By Mike Bailey
Published on

Decades ago, golfers might not have been considered athletes. Some golfers, even on the professional level, smoked on the course and didn’t do much training outside of hitting golf balls.

But you can certainly argue that Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan were athletes. And in today’s game, athletic ability is on display every week on the professional tours (think Lexi Thompson, Dustin Johnson, Brook Koepka and So Yeon Ryu, for example).

So if you’re looking to get the best out of your golf game, perhaps you should treat it more like an athletic endeavor vs. merely an outdoor activity.

“A person who plays golf is an athlete as the game is a sport,” says Alison Curdt, who is both a PGA Master Professional and LPGA Master Professional based out of Wood Ranch Golf Club in the Los Angeles area.

Golf is different, of course, than playing a fast-paced team sport like baseball or basketball, but it is athletic in many ways.

“What makes golfers athletes is their ability to use their bodies in a way to maximize speed, strength and mobility in order to project a ball to a target,” says Curdt, who also holds a doctorate in psychology. “Not only does it take skill refinement, but training of motor patterns that athletes do in other sports.”

In other words, there’s no underestimating the value of athletic training in golf, especially golf-specific athletic training.

For example, most recreational golfers don’t practice yoga, but they probably should. The gains in flexibility from yoga can make the golf swing much easier.

A good place to start would be with Katherine Roberts’ “Yoga for Golfers” videos and books, which utilizes movement specifically geared for the golf swing. And, as Roberts points out, not only does Yoga help with flexibility and strength, but it also helps with focus and the mental side of the game.

Most high level golfers also have fitness coaches and trainers, which help them through an array of workouts to help them develop core strength, balance and flexibility. A personal trainer isn’t necessary, but if you can work out a couple of times a week on these areas on your own, they will pay dividends.

And finally, almost every high level athlete these days pays attention to nutrition. “You can always out-eat your workout,” says Pam Owens, a personal trainer and fitness coach who has worked with golfers at every level, including the tours.

What Owens, who is based at Royal Oaks Golf Club in Houston, means is that no matter how hard you train, if you’re not putting the right fuel in your body, you’re not going to realize your fitness goals. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a cheat every once in a while, but if you want to play golf like an athlete, a diet dependent on fast food and sugar won’t work.

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