Golf is a game that requires flexibility, balance and strength in order to eventually place a small white ball into a slightly larger hole after whacking it several times from hundreds of yards away.
In order to score well, players need various skills, but they also must be fit enough to execute those skills.
That’s where a fitness trainer like Niskayuna native Jeff Grayson Miller can help. The 46-year-old Miller has been a personal trainer for 17 years and is fully trained and certified as a Titleist bio-mechanics specialist.
Although Miller leaves the teaching and skills department to club professional members of the Northeastern New York PGA, he and others like him can help players perform at a higher level physically by concentrating on their total fitness. He once again has sent in some tips on fitness fundamentals that could help your game.
“The goal of the golf swing is to strike the ball in order to achieve maximum distance with a level of accuracy,” writes Miller. “There is a kinetic sequence that will allow an efficient and effective golf swing. All great golf strikers have an identical sequence of generating speed and transferring energy through the kinetic chain. Each segment of the body builds upon the previous segment: lower body, torso and lead arm.”
Miller’s emphasis is helping golfers put their body in the right position to make all the necessary shots — without pain or injury.
“The six phases of the golf swing are set up, backswing, transition, downswing, impact and follow through,” he notes.
“The set up position is an athletic address of the ball. Proper balance and grip will lead to a consistent swing. Improper set up will lead to re-routing of the club, poor sequencing, swing faults, poor mobility and [instability].”
Miller says that players who aren’t fit will start to see the signs during the back swing.
“The back swing is when you meet the club in the correct position [as] your body begins to recruit energy that will be transitioned at the top,” he said. “Some joints will rotate, while some joints will be stable. This will create torque and store energy in the muscle to be released at impact. Difficulties in the back swing are commonly caused by mobility and stability issues.”
It’s even more important to be fit as you begin the transition in your swing.
“Transition is when you begin the forward movement and your weight shifts from the inside right foot to the inside of the left foot. The lower body moves first, and the torso uncoils. This requires a high level of flexibility, balance and strength,” he said.
“In the downswing, the weight shift continues generating torque, and the power is transferred from the lower body and eventually into the club itself. That torque is generated from the glutes, legs and core. The downswing is completed when impact occurs with the golf ball. A golfer lacking physical strength, power or flexibility will struggle to develop the speed to transfer the stored energy during this phase.”
Miller says that during impact, 80 to 90 percent of the golfer’s weight is supported by the left foot, leading to the release of the hands. Correct timing will transfer the power to the club head.
“You must shift weight correctly to sequence the transfer of energy,” he said. “Physical limitations, such as poor mechanics and improper equipment will affect impact. Lack of power will show up at impact and can also lead to incorrect ball flight and direction.”
To prevent injury, players should always stretch before they play. It’s important to stretch and loosen up your neck, shoulders, hips, lower back, hamstrings and calves.
One of the best exercises to increase hip rotation — leading to longer shots — is to work your hips as if you were playing with a hoola-hoop.
You can warm up your neck and ankle muscles by simply moving them around slowly from side to side. Stretching hamstrings and calves can be done with the help of an inclined area, like a set of stairs and a wall to push against. You can also use a golf cart to push against, although players will find that walking is more beneficial and prevents a player from stiffening up as much during a round.