Mike Malaska, the 2011 PGA Teacher of the Year, is the PGA Director of Instruction at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Gold Canyon, Arizona.
Your body maintains and develops itself through motion – golf is motion and good for your body. When it comes to golf fitness, we must provide the services that people need to better themselves as a whole. This has four levels. The first is awareness– who the student is, what he or she can and can’t do and what’s their environment? Understanding where they are mobile and where they aren’t is an important first step. Professionals should know what resources their students have access to in order to ensure a consistent effort, as the only way they will improve is by having these resources easily accessible and working at it every day.
The second level is injury prevention or functional development. The body is designed to move in a certain way – balance is vital in becoming more functional in golf, tennis or any other physical activity. Vestibular training will help students become more spatially-aware and in control of their balance, with less chance of injury.
The third level of golf fitness is conditioning – becoming more aware of functional movement patterns. This may include sitting on a physio ball rather than a chair at your desk, utilizing a stand-up desk or even getting up and down carefully and walking correctly. Conditioning should be five or six days a week for 35-40 minutes per day to make you stronger from a functional perspective. It’s about creating balanced movement more so than just golf-specific-training. The body should be a balanced machine – if you build dysfunctional strengths for the sake of increased swing speed, you are creating potential for long-term serious injury. The holistic approach highlighted here will help lessen that risk. The most- effective golf fitness efforts train a student to move. Not only will the student’s golf swing benefit from this training, so will his or her day-to-day life.
The fourth level of golf fitness is sports-specific training. Golf motivates people to do things for themselves that they wouldn’t do in their regular life. But, incorporating fitness and exercises into the mix must be done gradually and within a student’s schedule and capabilities. I evaluate students on what they can and cannot do in their golf swing and take a step-by-step approach. If they understand step one, we proceed to step two, and so on. Fitness is the same thing. Start with simple breathing exercises for five minutes per day and progress to the ultimate goal mentioned earlier – five or six days per week.