GOLF FITNESS: Stretching and core strength help prevent golf injuries

Herald Health CorrespondentJanuary 15, 2013 

Casual golfers don't have to work out like Tiger Woods, who stays in super-athlete shape through a two- to 10-hour daily routine of cardio, stretching, core exercise and weight training.

But exercising off the course will help weekend golf warriors prevent back injuries and other physical hazards of the game.

"Most people think golf is a sport that doesn't involve fitness," said Ryan Henderson of Pope Golf, a course management company that oversees the Manatee County Golf Course and Buffalo Creek Golf Course.

"That's why the average golfer is so sore," he said. "I can't tell you how many people have said they hadn't picked up a club in awhile and were so sore the next day they couldn't get out of bed, especially if they played 18 holes."

According to the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, research has shown that 60 percent of amateur golfers experience injuries, most often in the lower back and elbow.

"Lower back issues are big in golf," said MeganLeineweber, a golf proat the IMG Golf Academy and professional golfer in the LPGA's Symetra Tour.

The golf swing isn't a natural movement for the body, she said, because of the way golfers must shift their weight and rotate when hitting the ball.

Flexibility, a strong core and strength in the lower hips and legs are important.

Simple stretches such as touching the toes or pulling knees to chest on the floor will loosen joints and improve range of motion, said Leineweber.

Abdominal exercises strengthen the body's core and cardio training improves stamina.

"For the elderly, walking on a treadmill will do the trick," said Leineweber about aerobic exercise for golfers.

In addition to working with weight machines at the gym, try exercise regimens like Pilates that focuses on strengthening the body's core.

Even routines like yoga can be good for golfers, enhancing flexibility and concentration.

Warming up the body such as taking a brisk walk before hitting the course also is protective against injury.

"It gets the blood flowing," said Kaityn Hogan, golf pro at the Lakewood Ranch and Country Club.

The average casual golfer who is playing more for fun and relaxation often doesn't know about the importance of stretching before and after a game, she said.

But amateur golfers who want to develop more powerful swings are more likely to pay attention to their fitness levels.

"For so long golf was considered to be a leisure sport, but (recreational) golfers are seeing the competitions on TV and want to be hitting farther and hitting harder," said Hogan.

"So more fitness is being pushed on golfers. You really do need to keep in shape if you want to hit the ball farther."

Meanwhile, another way to improve fitness is righton the golf course: walk between holes instead of using a golf cart. The pedestrian approach burns calories and contributes to aerobic fitness.

Walking isn't always pos-sible, however, when clubsrequire carts in order forgolfers to get throughthe course in a timely fashion.

But some clubs do allow golfers to walk and it's worth exploring. At the Manatee Golf Course, for instance, walking is possible in the late afternoon, depending on the season, said Henderson of Pope Golf.

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at shemmingway@hotmail.com.

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