Four reasons why you’re literally not fit to be a Tour pro—and what you can do about it.
By Dee Tidwell | Photographs by E.J. CARR
FACE IT. Most amateurs don’t think of golf as a sport that requires fitness training. While the concept of golf fitness has had a direct impact on performance for guys and gals on the tours, I still don’t see it trickling down to the amateur golfer. Instead, I see amateurs gladly investing in the brands of clubs and balls used by their favorite pros without making the same kind of investment those pros make in their bodies.
The results are predictably frustrating, and it’s not just because amateurs nurture grandiose delusions about their ability or don’t work out enough. Having trained both professional and amateur golfers for more than 20 years, I can give you four main reasons why many amateurs struggle to improve.
1. TOUR PLAYERS TRAIN WITH INTENT AND STRUCTURE—AND YOU DON’T.
If you’re like most golfers, you don’t exercise consistently—or purposefully—enough to make changes in your game. You may “exercise” to check it off the health list or even to make yourself feel better, lose weight, etc., but do you have a specifically created plan to address the physical issues that may affect your day-to-day life— including golf?
Twenty-five of the top 30 PGA TOUR players have a TPI fitness professional who works closely with his teaching professional and medical staff to create a customized fitness plan to optimize performance. Having trained two Tour winners, I can tell you that the simpler I can make it for a player, the better. If an athlete can get up and look at the training schedule and know what to do, it helps with consistency, growth, progress and confidence. He or she also knows “why” they are doing what they’re doing in the training program because I’ve explained it. This provides a strong motivator to action.
Do you need that? The answer is yes. I suggest finding your closest TPI-certified professional to help begin the process of getting a program designed to identify exactly what your body needs and learn why issues such as tightness, weakness and immobility are affecting your golf swing.
Should you elect to design your own program, be sure to always include these crucial primal movements:
2. TOUR PLAYERS AREN’T AS TIGHT AS YOU PROBABLY ARE.
Flexibility is probably the top physical issue separating the professionals from the average golfers—a difference that was compounded during the lockdown by issues such as “texting neck,” “computer posture” and “pandemic pounds” becoming their own mini-epidemic.
When tightness acts as kryptonite to consistency, handicap reduction, decreased distance and difficulty of performing what a golf pro may be trying to teach you, it’s simply difficult for most people to make any progress.
3. PROFESSIONALS HAVE A MORE CONSISTENT BACKSWING THAN YOU DO.
The golf swing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. How you’re built, what sports you played growing up and your present athleticism will create your swing mechanics. Whether you’re comparing Rahm to DJ or Justin to Jack, one thing they all have is a consistent backswing move. However, most average golfers don’t know how to move their body in a correct biomechanical backswing.
Why the backswing? Well, remember that the backswing is an upper-body move and the downswing is a lower-body move. You want to be able to create a repeatable backswing rotational move to set up a repeatable downswing rotational move.
BACKSWING BODY SEQUENCE
- Stand at address holding an alignment stick or golf club to your chest to emphasize your body position.
- Using your lead arm, initiate the backswing by moving an imaginary club.
- Move your torso/thorax. Here’s where you can see the turn begin to show itself.
- Last, move your hips along with your front knee. This is crucial, as many amateurs don’t let their front leg (my left) follow the turn of the right hip into the rotation pat- tern. When the knee moves more straight, you limit your ability to turn your hips in your backswing and thus limit your downswing rotational pattern in the transition.
When the above sequence happens correctly, you will not have moved much from your original posture position up, down or laterally. At the top of your backswing, your sternum should be pointing 90 degrees from your address position, your hips to 45 degrees and your left knee to about 20 degrees.
If any of those three are limited, your brain will find a way for your club to get to the top in the form of swing faults. Being able to move with these biomechanical markers will set up better consistency, improve your rotational move in the downswing, reduce or eliminate back pain and improve your all- around game.
4. THEIR JOB IS TO PERFORM; YOURS IS TO PLAY.
If your golf obsession has only resulted in a disappointing lack of improvement, take the approach of so many other amateur athletes: Find balance. Most amateur golfers struggle to improve because they spend too much time on the range and not enough time working with the thing that swings the club—the body.
When your body doesn’t move well, swing faults arise and prevent progress in your golf game. For example, let’s say you’ve had a left hip or knee replacement. If you are too hesitant to load that side from transition to impact and follow through because you think it might hurt, swing faults such as swaying, hanging back, coming over the top, casting, scooping and loss of posture can result.
Imagine being able to maximize your new joint’s ability to move and reduce or eliminate those faults. I’ve done this with amateur and Tour
players since 2000, and never tire of the joy they experience when they discover they can improve despite their injury.
So, in the end, like with most things in life, create balance in your game. Get fit for clubs,
meet with an instructor to help guide you through your learning process and definitely spend time in the gym making your body capable of moving the best it can. Your brain and body will reward you with more fun while playing the game!
(1-3 sets of 6-10 reps both forward and backward)
- Get on all fours with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Lift one leg and try to create a circle with your knee hitting all parts of the circle.
- If you have ‘stuck’ sections of it, spend more time trying to break into that section.
- When you lift your leg, think about turning your pelvis to help raise the leg.
NECK ROTATION WITH FLEXION
(1-2 sets of 2-3 reps each side)
- Sit up tall, then turn your chin as far as you can to look over your shoulder without flexing or extending your neck.
- Once you’ve reached your max turn, tuck your chin and try to touch your clavicle without moving your shoulder!
- You can then GENTLY pull your head downward, but please do it GENTLY!
THORAX/SHOULDER SEATED ROTATIONS
(1-3 sets of 6 reps each move, each side)
- Sit on a chair or other wide seat. Make sure your sit bones stay flat and the crown of your head works to the ceiling throughout exercise.
- With good posture, reach forward with one arm in a “Spider-Man” wrist position and the opposite arm reaching strongly behind you with your elbow as high as your shoulder joint.
- Reach forward and backward with each arm, keeping nose and belly button facing forward.
- Be sure to turn the sternum as far as you can (smartly of course), which will help the arms reach a bit farther.
ELDOA LOWER BACK SPINAL DECOMPRESSION
- Lay on your back and try to get your sit bones on the wall. If you have to bend your knees to do that, then start from there; otherwise, keep legs straight.
- Extend yourself so the crown of your head and tailbone are “reaching” away from each other.
- Rotate your hands externally into “Spider-Man” arms—with pinkies toward each other with fingers spread.
- Straighten your knees and turn your legs inward so your toes point toward the opposite shoulder. Imagine a piece of paper between your feet, your toes should reach toward it but not touch it.
- Look down as low as you can with your eyes and keep them that way for the whole minute.
- Reach overhead and then reach hard away. Your head should reach in the same direction as your arms/hands, even though it won’t move.
- Keep your lower back flat the whole time.
- Learn how to work hard but be relaxed at the same time
- Work up to 1 minute–but start with as long you can go as cleanly as you can. Do after a workout or a round and before you go to bed.
Dee Tidwell owns Colorado Golf Fitness Club in the Tech Center and has twice been named a Golf Digest Top 50 Golf Fitness Instructor. He is a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) professional, ELDOA Trainer and has coached two PGA Tour winners and countless amateur, high school and college golfers. coloradogolffitnessclub.com; 303-883-0435
This article was also featured in the June Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.