Joe Rocha is a PGA Teaching Professional at Golf Country in Middleton, Massachusetts.
Fitness wasn’t always a component of golf instruction, but over the past decade, it has truly become just as important as the technical aspects of the swing, developing a good short game or honing those putting skills for lower scores.
There are barriers to overcome in getting awareness out and helping students understand the importance of proper stretching, balance and fundamental movement skills. When it comes to our juniors, we must educate the parents of these benefits.
My youngest segment of students is my 4–8-year-old group. We set up 4-6 stations, through which the students rotate. We have a balance beam for proper balance and stability, a throwing station to teach weight transfer and proper body turn, a catching station for hand-eye coordination, a batting station for hand-eye and swing speed development, a run, skip and jump station for mobility, agility and stamina and a golf station, of course.
Parents may look over and see us crawling on the ground, hitting a ball with a bat or skipping to and from, and they’ll sometimes question what we’re doing, giving me the opportunity to further educate them on the benefits of, and frankly, the need for these activities.
The kids are having a great time, but we go briskly from station to station in five-minute intervals to keep them continuously active and engaged. Their enjoyment in these physical activities is the most important aspect of our time together. They often don’t want to leave and always look forward to coming back.
We have similar stations for our 9-12-year-olds and extend the time at each station to ten minutes. Through this curriculum, they are truly developing their motors skills and vital physical traits that will benefit them in golf, as well as in all other aspects of life.
We transition them to more adult-like learning in their teenage years, emphasizing the importance of stretching and being physically fit before hitting golf balls. We do jumping jacks and lunges to attain the physical preparedness needed for maximum athleticism in their golf swing, utilize medicine balls for increased range of motion and agility ladders to reinforce the proper mobility needed.
Posture is so important in golf – proper hydration and nutrition, as well. As PGA Professionals, teaching these points, creating this framework for future fitness endeavors and instilling the value of proper fitness in our young students is something they’ll carry over to other sports. Ideally, they will maintain a healthy lifestyle well into adulthood and look back on their time as junior golfers with appreciation and gratitude.