This article is co-written with Jenna Peanasky, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Iowa State University. Jenna has been working with the Cyclones mens and womens golf teams for the past 4 seasons.
One of the best things about being a support staff member with golf is that the sport has embraced the holistic approach of training and sees that to improve your golf game means taking care of your body. Staying healthy is crucial, and staying on top of your physical training by addressing weaknesses and improving upon strengths is key to a long successful career throughout college and beyond. Gone are the days when the strength coach simply writes a program that everyone blindly follows, now programs are individualised to fit the exact needs of the sport and the athlete.
The physical attributes required to play good golf are widely debated, and rightly so when such a vast array of body types have been successful in the sport over the years. Outlined below are what we as trainers working with elite (PGA Tour) and sub-elite (college) golfing athletes, consider to be most important factors in training college golfers:
Posture is such a significant piece in the golf swing from start to finish, which is why it is such an important aspect in our training. In all aspects of our training we focus on having awareness of where our body is in space and making sure our athletes are able to maintain posture throughout their movements without unnecessary compensations. A key contributor to that approach in the past couple of years has been introducing the GravityFit equipment to our gym and pre golf warm ups. It’s specifically designed to bring awareness to posture and train endurance in the muscles responsible for holding us in good form.
Common postural tendencies for golfers are to go into an excessively rounded set up position, known as C-posture; or to have an exaggerated arch in the low back, known as S-posture. I have found that if a golfer carries these tendencies in their golf setup, they also appear in the gym. We aim to be right in between these postures and maintain a neutral spinal curve. One area of posture that sometimes gets overlooked is head position. All of the time a college golfer spends studying, reading, or sitting on their phone promotes a forward carry of the head, so when in the gym we aim to avoid this at all times and bring awareness to an upright tall posture through the head and neck.
Movement Efficiency & Mobility
Before adding weight to exercises, we make sure the athlete has solid technique whilst performing a wide variety of gym movements. We can start by asking, “Does the athlete have the ability to squat, hinge, lunge, push and pull correctly?” Starting at the feet, we look for a stable base and a strong connection with the ground during movement. Can the athlete maintain a strong connection or is there instability? Everything we do starts from the feet, therefore instability here may cause issues up the chain. Next we move to the hips, does the athlete have the ability to hinge and maintain their posture effectively? Can they create separation between their lower body and upper body? The ability to hinge and disassociate the upper and lower body are key elements in the golf swing so it is important that our athletes have the awareness and ability to perform these movements in the gym extremely well.
Movement efficiency and mobility go hand in hand. Knowing the difference between an athlete having a restriction due to a lack of mobility, or if the inability to perform a movement comes from a lack of skill and/or understanding is important. We strive to look at the body holistically and evaluate movement at the ankle, hip, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and shoulders. Using a collaborative approach with coaches, athletic training staff, physical therapists, and massage therapists allows us to all have a better understanding of each athlete and their individual needs. Communicating with the entire staff allows us to make sure that we are all on the same page to help our athletes improve as a whole.
Jeremiah Hales has provided an invaluable service as a consulting physical therapist to the Iowa State golf programs. Jeremiah conducts his custom design golf specific physical assessments on the players twice a year. These screenings provide very in-depth and specific information about the player’s stability, posture, mobility and movement efficiency. That information is like gold for the coaching and fitness staff, it helps us prioritise gym workouts, technical training and practice set up for the player. Jeremiah is also a fan of the GravityFit equipment and uses it his assessments and also in the prescription of individualised exercise programs for the players. Click here for his explanation of how and why he uses the equipment with Cordie Walker from Golf Science Lab
Core Stability & Glute Strength
Back injuries are one of the most common issues among golfers. Our goal is to address this from the start by making sure we have stability through the entire core. Golf is a very rotational sport, so our core work focuses predominantly on anti-extension, anti-flexion and anti-rotation. At specific times of year we may incorporate some rotational work, but since these athletes are getting this every day at practice, we benefit more from strengthening the core through stability and creating a rock solid pillar.
The ability to properly activate the glutes is also extremely important. Proper glute firing ensures that the body reduces compensation and minimizes stress on the back. I have seen athletes present with glutes that do not activate well, yet they appear extremely strong through their gym movements. These athletes are compensating and not performing these movements optimally for sport. Once we address these compensations and the athlete learns to properly activate their glutes, they are much stronger than before and put themselves in a better position to avoid injury.
Strength & Power
Golfers must create, transfer and absorb their own force, which can put a lot of stress on the body. Developing strength is like putting on the armour to help protect the body against injury. Moving in all planes of movement and focusing on developing a strong posterior chain is very important. A well rounded program includes a wide variety of movements, including squats, hinges, single leg movements, pushes, pulls, carries, and core exercises. Varying these and incorporating them throughout the year at different intensities and volumes have given us exceptional results in keeping our athletes strong, powerful, and healthy.
Having a strong foundation of strength is the key to developing power. Once a base of strength has been set we work to translate this into power in different planes of movement by increasing the rate of force production. We do this by using various approaches including jumps, medicine ball throw variations, and using accommodating resistance such as chains and bands (see Cam Smith example below). Just like the varying types of movements we use for strength work, we vary our methods based on the time of year and individual needs of each player.
Approach to training
Having a collaborative approach with all members of the staff allows us to look at each athlete from various perspectives to ensure we aren’t missing anything. We have the coach explaining what they are working on in their swing, we have the athletic trainer and physical therapist performing evaluations and prescribing individualized exercises to improve weaknesses. We also have a massage therapist who sees the players regularly to address any soft tissue issues or restrictions. Then there is the strength coach who will write a training program that will help each student-athlete become the best version of themselves through improving in the key areas detailed above.
By working with every member of the staff and taking a holistic and collaborative approach we can all work together and share information to create a better program and plan for each student-athlete.
Valentino Dixon on his time in prison, his golf art, gratitude, and hope
Valentino Dixon, who served 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit — and took up golf course-related artwork as a hobby during that time — joined Michael Williams on the 19th Hole podcast.
While the full interview doubtless represents one of the most important and impactful GolfWRX podcasts to data, we wanted to present a few excerpts for the more textually inclined.
On the events that led to him spending 27 years in prison
Valentino Dixon: “This was Buffalo, New York…I grew up in a bad area, a drug infested area, a lot of violence and stuff like that and these guys pull up, they start shooting, they shoot a friend of mines and another friend of mines return fire, ended up killing the guy. Anyway, long story short, when the shots rang out I was inside the deli across the street and I actually ran out afterwards and ran to my car, I pulled off.
“Shortly thereafter I was pulled over and taken into custody and questioned and ultimately charged with shooting three people.”
“I knew that I was going to be cleared or at least I felt I was going to be cleared because there was 80 witnesses. So I said, there’s no way that they’re not going to straighten this out and I’ll be out the next day, but that didn’t happen. Two days after I was arrested, this friend of mines turned himself into police, told them what happened. Actually the physical evidence matched his story, they found the dead guy’s gun on the scene and they disregarded him, told him that they didn’t believe him. Seven witnesses came forward, they disregarded those witnesses.”
“I found myself going to trial ten months later, my lawyer promised the jury that he was going to call these witnesses and introduce this confession and did not do it, and this is all on public record. I had a public defender and the jury found me guilty. I didn’t know that later on the jury foreman went to the judge and asked the judge, “Hey, why his lawyer didn’t call the witnesses he promised us?” The judge told him not to worry about it, to go home and sleep well and the judge never revealed that this happened.”
“It was our local paper that went to the foreman and said, “Hey, what happened during the deliberations?” He said, “Hey, I went to the judge and told him I didn’t feel right about this, that something was wrong here.” Anyway, the judge denies that that even took place. I was given 39 years.”
On getting started doing golf course art
VD: “Right. Well, I was known as the artist in Attica. I spent, out of the 27 years, I spent 25 of those years in Attica. So over the years I had publicity on my case because the local newspaper had came to believe in my innocence, but there wasn’t a judge in Buffalo that would do anything about it. So the warden and the officers in Attica knew that I was innocent of the crime and would always check in on me and look in and see if I was all right and everything like that, but they knew that I drew also. So the warden came to me one day and asked me could I draw his favorite hole, which was Augusta, the 12th hole at Augusta.”
“I’d never golfed before. I mean, I’m from the inner city. So it was like all right, I guess I can do it. I knew nothing about golf. I drew the Augusta 12th hole. He loved it. Other inmates loved it and one of the inmates encouraged me to draw more golf holes. I said, “What are you talking about? What for? That doesn’t even makes sense.” He says, “I love the golf course, I think you should draw more.” He planted the seed.”
“A week later I went around and I got some old golf magazines, Golf Digest magazines, and I start pulling out the pictures that I loved. The guy gave me some really old ones that he had in his cell. So I start pulling out the ones that I liked, the ones that I thought was pretty and then from there I started drawing them. Whenever I put my mind into something, I just go in and really hard. So for months and months, all I did was draw golf courses. Okay. “
“Eventually I started reading the columns out of the Golf Digest magazine and I came across Max Adler’s, called Golf Saved My Life. I kind of put the two together because it was like golf was saving my life because being there was really, really stressful and hard and every day was a challenge. I have friends that committed suicide. I didn’t know if I was going to be the next person that my mind was going to snap.”
On the positive reception his art got in Attica
VD: “Well let me tell you this. Right. Like I said, there’s so many guys … I mean guys that done killed three, four people were stopping at the cell saying, “Wow, I love that golf course.” These are guys that had never golfed before. So I’m saying if these guys love the golf courses that I’m drawing, I can only imagine how golfers would feel, because I mean these guys never golf. Maybe one out of 10 have golfed. You know what I’m saying?”
“So it really gave me the boost, the determination it gave me and inspired me to keep pushing it. I felt like, wow, this is something that you really like doing now because I got satisfaction out of other people looking at my drawings and loving them. This is what motivates me.”
On how he spent his time in prison
VD: “Well the thing is, is this. God was always with me. I prayed a lot. I prayed every day. Okay. And I just stayed positive. I read hundreds and hundreds of self help books, motivational books, anything to fill my mind with positive things and energy so that I wouldn’t become negative or fall into that whole negative thing that you see. I’ve seen a lot of prisoners fall into where they lose hope, they become bitter, angry, upset with the world and all that other stuff. I was determined not to allow that to happen to me. So I had to push my willpower to the max.”
“At the same time, I was drawing up to 10 hours a day. So I was really like, listen, if I got to become the best artist in the world in order to get my freedom, then that’s what I’ll do. And this is why I mean I pushed myself to the limit. I’ve done some golf drawings that were … these are all drawings now, not paintings. I’ve done some drawings that people have never even seen. I got a 60 by 90 drawing.”
On his artistic style
VD: “…I had to develop my own style over a course of I would say 20 years. Just every day I had to learn from error. I didn’t have no teacher, so I had to learn through trial and error of what to do, what not to do, how to blend colors, what worked, what didn’t work, how to layer everything on top of each other. My goal has always been to make the drawings look like a painting.”
“Take the whole paper out of it. So when you look at it, you’d say, “That ain’t done on no paper.” That’s the whole goal there. So I had to put so many colors on top of each other to get that painting effect and then drawings are so much more strenuous than paintings because I know how to paint also. But drawing is so much more strenuous because there’s no shortcuts. You got to sit there for … I might sit there for two hours and just do one little corner because you got to get all the detail in there. You know what I’m saying? So it’s way more work that goes into what I do in regards if I was painting. I mean if I’d had done this stuff in painting, I would have thousands of golf painting.”
On gratitude and his perspective
VD: “I’m a very grateful person. I don’t want to sound too religious or anything like that, but we should always be grateful to the creator for what the things that he’s given us. So I mean, I was in a bad situation. I’m sitting in the cell and I’m looking at the people around me and the people around me is doing 10 times worse than me and I had to be grateful. So that’s how I look at it. We had these little eight inch TVs that we could buy on commissary for like $149. Okay. So, right. Yeah, they would beat us on every level that they could. So I’m watching this TV when I can and I’m looking at the world. I’m looking at what’s going on with people out in society.”
“I hate to say it. I was in the worst prison and I’m in a six by eight cell and I felt like I was more blessed than a lot of people on the outside, but people are really struggling out there and doing really bad. Here it is, God preserved me, he kept me in shape, he kept my mind sane, he gave me this talent, he gave me a loving family.”
“So I had to count all those blessings and say, “You know what? I could really be twisted up in here and messed up. So you know what, don’t be bitter, don’t be angry, don’t complain, don’t cry, count your blessings, push your willpower to the highest level. Just push, push, push, push and be the best artist that you can be in the world.” That was my goal.”
All images via Valentino Dixon’s website. His golf art is available for purchase here.
GolfWRX Morning 9: Tiger talks 2019 | Phil’s legacy | Koepka snubbed again
By Ben Alberstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
December 12, 2018
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Brooks snubbed again
“I get no respect!” Who said it, Rodney Dangerfield or Brooks Koepka?
2. Tiger talks 2019
Woods sat down for an exclusive with Golf.com. Here are a few morsels from an interesting conversation.
3. Mickelson’s legacy
Did 2018 change the way we think about Lefty?
4. Shots o’ the year
Doug Ferguson goes through the bag, highlighting some of the most memorable shots hit with various clubs in ’18.
5. Louisville Golf
Our Peter Schmitt paid a visit to arguably the finest purveyors of persimmon, Louisville Golf.
6. Patrick Sullivan
He who putted a ball into the water and missed a four-footer at Q-School, Patrick Sullivan, isn’t letting it get him down.
7. What we learned
Kyle Porter looks in the rearview mirror at what we learned in 2018.
8. Reed against the world
That’s Scott Michaux’s headline in piece for Golf Digest.
9. Valentino Dixon
Our Michael Williams talked with Valentino Dixon about the Golf Channel documentary detailing his at once inspiring and heartbreaking saga in the latest episode of the 19th Hole.
Brooks Koepka does not appear happy with being left off ESPN’s list of most dominant athletes for 2018
On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine released their list of the 20 most dominant athletes of 2018. Amongst that list included household names such as Lebron James, Novak Djokovic and Drew Brees, while the American gymnast, Simone Biles, took the top spot on ESPN’s list.
One man who did not appear amongst the roll of honor of sporting royalty, however, was golf’s Brooks Koepka. The 28-year-old captured two major championships in 2018, but that wasn’t enough for him to feature on ESPN’s list, which included the triple crown winning horse, Justify, in 16th place.
Learning of his exclusion, Koepka took to social media and made this post, which suggested that he was not too pleased with his omission.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) December 11, 2018
The list evaluated athletes against their fellow competitors, and then analysed their performance against the accomplishments of other great athletes within their sport from 1998 to present.
Explaining Simone Biles score of 3.25, the compiler of the list Peter Keating stated “So what does Simone Biles’ dominance score of 3.25 mean? In 2018, she was 3.25 standard deviations better than the typical top-four performer in all-around women’s gymnastics since 1998—rendering her the year’s most dominant pro athlete.”
The LPGA’s Ariya Jutanurgarn was the only golfer to feature on the list, who Keating judged to have been the fourth most dominant athlete of 2018. The Thai player won three times on Tour in 2018, which is the same number of times as Koepka; however, just one of those wins was a major championship title, compared to Koepka’s two major victories this year. Jutanugarn did, though, have a total of 13 top-five finishes in 2018, compared to Koepka’s five, and also won every year-end LPGA award that was possible for her to win.
In the past, Koepka has spoken concerning the lack of respect that he feels that he is given, in particular by the media. The American has previously suggested that certain players get their names written about more than him because they “kiss up”, and this year the current world number one let the press know that he doesn’t forget an insult, stating “Come Sunday, I won’t forget it when everyone wants to talk to me because I just won. I don’t forget things.”
Judging by Koepka’s reaction on social media to ESPN’s list, this will be yet another incident that the 28-year-old is unlikely to forget. The chip that Koepka carries around on his shoulder has fueled him to win three of the last six major championships that he has appeared in, and this latest snub from the media has given him plenty of incentive to once again prove people wrong in 2019.
GolfWRXers, was Koepka’s omission from the list justified, or another show of disrespect towards golf’s current best player?
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