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Opinion & Analysis

The Frost Delay: Building a fitness routine

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So I’d better start this out with an admission: I’m a pre-Tiger golfer. While he’s only one year my junior, anyone who learned the game before the aforementioned Mr. Woods took over understands just how different of a game golf used to be.

When I played the majority of my competitive rounds, Nike was a company that made basketball shoes. More than $25 was a lot to pay for a round, and most importantly, golfers didn’t workout.

This came from the top down. The tour was full of a bunch of skinny dudes (Paul Azinger, Payne Stewart, Corey Pavin), the occasional fat dude (Craig Stadler) and one dude who looked like he could beat them all up (Fred Couples). These were not “athletes” in the traditional sense. These were “golfers,” and until Tiger came into prominence, other “golfers” seemed totally cool with it.

In fact, after following a terribly unsuccessful freshman football season with a reasonably accomplished freshman golf season, my high school coach sat me down and had a heart to heart.

“Danny,” he said, “I talked to your football coach. We both agree that you’re never going to be Mike Singletary, and you’d probably be better served to spend your falls pounding range balls than getting slaughtered on his football field.”

Looking back, the man had a point.

However, the second I dropped football, I also dropped any sort of formal strength training — coach’s orders. As far as we knew back then, weight training was bad for a “golfer.” The logic was that the reduced flexibility and added strength would make it harder to maintain a consistent swing. The only strong dude I had ever played golf with was the late Derrick Thomas (who was a member at my country club), and to be honest, his muscles really did get in the way of his golf swing.

Obviously, the game has changed tremendously since then. My attitude toward fitness, however, has not. Don’t get me wrong, I love athletic activities  — I used to ski 40 to 50 days a year when I lived in Denver. And I’ll happily play the Stockton to your Malone in a pick up game of hoops and, if it’s below 90 degrees outside I’d rather walk than ride. But I’d never spent an minute in the gym until last year.

I’m not sure if it was the realization that I was about to go from “a little doughy” to fat, or maybe it was in an effort to keep myself alive for a couple more years, but I the notion of getting my self in a bit better shape became non-negotiable. And to be honest, for the first three months of the year last year, I was really enjoying it. I felt stronger, slept better, tended to eat healthier and had a ton more energy — all good things for a father of three. But alas, life and work got in the way, and after a couple horrible weeks I fell off the wagon.

Getting back on the wagon

As I’ll be working out toward something this year (a better golf game versus general health), I’m going to separate my exercise into two separate types this go round: The first type is pretty obvious—it’s the kind of general health and fitness we should all seek and it will be the focus of this column. There are, however, some things we should look for as golfers when we design even a general workout. While this isn’t universal, I believe golfers should workout for strength and tone rather than to “bulk up.” This means lifting less weight and doing more reps. I’m sure that there’s an exception for every rule, but I’ve never played with a giant muscle head dude who could

  1. Break 80, or
  2. Hit the ball further than me at my skinniest

In my honest opinion, I don’t believe that giant pecs and arms that are so big that they can no longer lay static next to your body are conducive to a “proper” golf swing. I made a couple call to some instructors I know, and I didn’t hear anything that changed that assertion.

Now, back to the matter at hand. I consulted with a trainer last year and we settled into a circuit-based workout. This provides a couple of advantages for me: First, I have limited time, and I can generally get one of these workouts in over a lunch break. Second, I have the attention span of a gnat, so long cardio sessions are out for me. By combining strength training with my cardio I tend to keep more engaged and am less inclined to spend my hour at the gym staring at random shiny things.

Here’s my general strength/fitness program:

I start with a 5-to-10 minute warmup. I had a back surgery 15 years ago, so the treadmill tends to tear me up a bit. I’ll generally run one of the “programs” on the bike — usually something that has to do with a heartrate.

I move to the bench machine. I do three quick reps of 10 at 75 percent weight, monitoring my heart rate. The whole point of the circuit idea is to keep your heart pumping like you’re doing cardio.

The next step is the bicep machine. Again, I do three quick reps of 10 at 75 percent. Then I move to the shoulder press machine. Again, three reps of 10 at 75 percent.

My final upper body station is the lat bar. I tend to alternate between lat pulls and tricep push downs, each 10 at 75 percent.

Abs are next. I hate sit ups and crunches — I mean I seriously hate them. I find them both boring and miserable, so I tend to do less of the more difficult inverted situps. If it’s a day where I’m doing legs as well, I’ll generally do them to burnout (which is generally less than 50 if the bench is steep enough). Afterward, I do my leg excercises, and then do my abs to burnout again. If I’m not doing legs, I do them to burnout, give myself a minute, and do it again.

As I mentioned before, sometimes my schedule works out better to do a full workout three days a week, and sometimes it works out better to do six shorter workouts (alternating between upper and lower body with abs being the only constant). In the case of the latter, I’d hop back on the bike, ride it 5-10 more minutes, stretch and hit the shower. If it’s the former, we move on to legs.

I start out on the leg press. Back to the three reps of 10 at 75 percent.

I move on to the quad machine. Three of 10 at 75 percent.

I move to the inner thigh machine. Three of 10 at 75 percent

I then move to the hip flexor machine (this one beats me up for some reason). Three of 10  at 75 percent.

I finish with leg curls. Three of 10 at 75 percent.

I then cool down with 5-10 minutes on the bike, and finish with a five-minute general stretching session.

A couple additional notes on this workout:

I’m certain you could do a full circuit workout with free weights, and I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t do it all kinetically. I personally don’t like free weights (I’m always nervous some chic next to me is going to be lifting more) and don’t understand enough about the kinetic thing to have any advice on it, so this is what works best for me. Your milage my vary.

Sometimes I mix it up — I’ll do more weight with less reps, or less weight and more reps. I can’t tell you this is for any important reason other than sometimes I have a little less/more time and sometimes I just get bored.

Finally, it’s critical to let your muscles rest, as strength is essentially built by tearing up your muscles and letting them heal stronger. If you want to workout every day, you’ll need to either alternate from upper to lower body or one day of full-body and one day of cardio.

With all this being said, an exercise routine is a lot like a golf swing. Sometimes it’s cool to learn stuff on the Internet, but often it’s better to enlist the help of a professional (or in this case a trainer). I’d highly suggest at least a fitness consultation before starting a new workout program.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

Next column: Golf specific flexibility and using training aids to increase “golf” strength.

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Dan Gedman was born in Chicago and grew up in Kansas City, which makes sense as he currently splits his time between those two cities. A director by trade (commercials, long-form and the occasional rap video), Gedman is one of the owners of Liquid 9 -- a Chicago-based production company. He is the father of 3 (8, 5 and >1) and the husband of one. He's also a proud Jayhawk, which is much cooler during the winter and spring than it is during the fall. His current home course was designed by Donald Ross in his experimental phase, and starts with a 240-plus yard par 3. Therefore he's generally (at least) one over before he hits the second fairway.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Cris

    Feb 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    This is one of the most ill-informed articles I’ve ever read. We should start asking for specific credentials before we allow nonsense like this to be posted. It can really hurt people. The comment below from Ryan is substantially more accurate.

  2. kcslonghitter

    Jan 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Great Article it helped me understand that some of me problems may not be another swing lesson, but an increase in Body mobility

  3. Ryan

    Nov 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I think a lot of people are misinformed on this subject. I agree that bulky muscles are not ideal for golf but in order to get stronger you should be working with more weight and less reps, and not circuit training. Strength training will not give you bulky muscles. Strength is largely due to training your nervous system to send stronger signal to your muscles and muscle size is largely down to hypertrophy, the breaking down and regrowth of muscle you mentioned.

    I believe anyone serious about improving their athletic ability should fragment their training. Strength training separately in order to get the most return for your time invested. Proper stretching routines to stay flexible and then separate cardio if they feel fitness is an issue.

    It’s a myth that the above cannot be achieved without a large amount of time invested. The focus should be on quality not quantity; proper warm-ups and one or two intense working sets. This approach will get you in and out of the gym faster, stop you getting bored and keep you coming back, improving.

    Circuit training is fine if you just want a generic workout but it won’t allow you to focus enough on each component (strength, power, cardio, flexibility) or let you have the energy to commit to each component 100% and progress as quickly as you should be in each separate area.

    I would also avoid ‘golf-specific’ training if you’re trying to hit the ball further. I guarantee you ‘ll hit the ball further if you increase your deadlift or squat by 50 lbs than if you can do 100 press ups on a Bosu ball and pull a cable to mimick your golf swing. Lower body strength is the key.

    Everyone needs to find what works for them based on their personal preference, goals and limitations, but I submit that circuit training is second to a number of other methods in the pursuit of athletic improvement.

    Having said all that, improving your physique is 90% diet, exercising is the easy part!

  4. fitnessforever

    Nov 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    While I commend you on working out, your workouts are as pretty old school and don’t do much service to your body. Routines like you posted become tiresome, repetitive, and will NOT provide the results your are looking for after your body gets used to the workouts. There’s plenty of research out there that shows after repeating the same workout a few times, it becomes ineffective. This type of training will undoubtably lead to plateauing.

    To be more effective, look for workouts that use plenty of energy within a short timespan, require more explosive movements (pushups, burpees, squat jumps, etc), use body weight and weighted movements, and utilize aerobics during and in-between sets. Otherwise, you’ll end up where you started if you continue to do the old school “circuit training.”

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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