Golf fitness has become a pretty big topic over the past few years, and not just for the guys and ladies on the professional tours. There are plenty of articles, blogs, podcasts and products totally focused on getting your body golf-ready.
As we all age, of course, we naturally lose muscle tone and strength, but also flexibility. For the most part, our culture puts most of us in jobs that are relatively “movement-free” in that much of our days are spent behind a desk and sitting. Neither are very good for your golf game.
If your best golf is important to you, there is no question that improving your flexibility and building stronger, faster muscles can help you become a better player, but there is definitely a right and wrong way to do that. In golf, we don’t really care about conventional muscle strength, such as that required to lift heavy weights. After all, a golf club weights much less than a pound. What we are after in golf conditioning is S-P-E-E-D and endurance. We want our muscles to be of a quick-fire capability and we must do that within a framework of flexibility and range of motion. A strong and powerful golf swing requires a full range of motion and very precise and coordinated movements of the body core, arms and hands/wrists. The faster you can do this, the more clubhead speed you develop – it’s really THAT simple.
Let me begin by stating my opinion on distance. Unless you are playing a driver that’s over 4-5 years old, significantly more distance is not likely for sale in the driver rack. The same goes for the iron selection.
The secret to more distance lies in improving your quality of contact and strength training. The simple fact is that better fundamentals come through instruction and practice. And here are my top five workouts to help you build more clubhead speed:
• Stretching. This applies to all golfers but particularly, but us older guys and girls would benefit greatly by daily stretching to improve our golf power. Of particular importance are the torso muscles and the large muscles in the legs and shoulders. Read up on this subject and you’ll find a wealth of information on stretching exercises specifically designed for the golf swing. A few minutes a day can make a world of difference pretty quickly.
• Core Training. Strengthening the big muscles of the body core is hugely beneficial to golf swing power. But, as I mentioned, what you are after is S-P-E-E-D, not brute strength. And again, there are a number of published exercise routines and techniques for achieving a stronger body core. An internet search will keep you reading and learning for hours.
• “Off Side” Strength. The golf swing has to be led by a strong “front side” pull, and that means we have to rely on our “off” hand for power. For right handed people, that means you should bias your strength training to your left side so that it can achieve more of a balance. I like to do this with a weighted club (there are many on the market), and swing it left side only to build that pull-through power.
• Release Strength. The “secret” power move in the golf swing is a strong rotation of the hands and forearms through the impact zone. The wrists do not create power in the swing by unhinging – they do it by rotating the club through impact in sync with the rotation of the body core. It does no good to develop core rotational speed if your hand rotation cannot keep up. Conversely, of course, fast hands with a slow body core will be limited in power as well. You can keep a light dumbbell in your office and/or living room to do simple rotation exercises while you are on the phone or watching TV. It WILL pay off.
• Golf Swing Speed. This has become a hot topic in golf fitness and there are several very good speed trainers out there. As I mentioned, there is no better golf swing strengthening exercise than to swing a weighted club. But go with the lighter ones and make your workout one of more and faster reps with less weight. Heavier weights and less reps build big muscles and lead to more fatigue and post-workout soreness and recovery. You don’t want that. Fifty to a hundred swings every afternoon/morning with one of these speed trainers will work wonders. And while you’re doing those, focus on your fundamentals – posture, grip, extension back and through, rotation through impact – the things that will build power and distance.
So, there you have my top five ways to improve your distance through the bag, while also actively combatting the natural effects of getting older. If golf is important to you, isn’t it worth giving your “golf health” a few minutes a day?
Club Junkie reviews: Ping’s new i230 irons
Reviewing the new Ping i210 irons was something I was very excited to do. After all the success with the i210 irons, on tour and in amateur bags, Ping had some large shoes to fill. But in the early stages of the release they seem to have filled those shoes quite nicely. For the full review listen to the Club Junkie podcast below or on your favorite podcast platform, just search GolfWRX Radio.
The i230 irons are engineered for distance control and tight dispersion for aspiring golfers. They aren’t as demanding as the Blueprint or i59 but offer a lower flight and more workability compared to the G425. This class of irons that the i210 is in fits my game as a barely single digit handicap who is looking for some forgiveness in a smaller package.
Out of the box the i210 looks great. The look from the back is sleek and if you didn’t look closely wouldn’t even notice the badge in the cavity. That badge is matching silver and has just a couple subtle lines in it, almost giving the look of a smaller players cavity back. The head size is a little larger than a Titleist T100s or a PXG 0311T but still looks good because Ping kept everything in proportion. The blade length is a little longer but you don’t notice it much with the slightly thicker topline and small amount of offset. To me the i230 looks like a players club that also gives you the confidence that you don’t have to strike the dead center in order to hit a solid shot.
Ping added a large elastomer insert behind the badge to dial in the sound and feel of the i230 irons and that technology seems to work. The feel is solid and responsive while still be a little firmer at impact. You can hear a little click as the club connects with the ball, but the vibration that gets to your hands in minimal and far from harsh. Responsiveness is really good and you get ample feed back on how good, or not so good, your contact on the face was.
Well struck shots launch pretty easily into the air and fly with a flat apex towards your target. My expectations for the i230 were that they would be low launch and spin, but they were much more playable than that. The i230 launched almost 2 degrees higher than my PXG 0311T Gen5 irons that I have been gaming most of this year. The overall apex was also lower and flatter with the i230 cruising at 76.7 feet above the grass compared to 82.8 feet for the PXG. The i230 were very forgiving and dispersion was very tight. I felt like there was a little less left in my misses and the ball started out on a straighter path.
If I brought a terrible swing I could still get the ball to go left, but on good and decent swings shots stayed online and at the target. My miss recently has been out on the toe and the ball speed and height on shots out there were very playable. Shots that were low on the face didn’t get up as high and as fast as some other irons, but still carried a decent amount and total distance would have depended on the roll.
Ping doesn’t really jump up and down to say that the i230 are wildly long but they added about 2 yards compared to my gamer irons. They also spun about 300 RPM more than the 0311T irons but still produced a really boring trajectory, even into a pretty strong wind. There was no rise or ballooning of any sort, even with shots that had some fade to them.
Overall the new Ping i230 irons are really good and we should see them in a lot of bags. The lower launch, distance control, and forgiveness will open these up to a wide range of players and provide excellent performance.
The Wedge Guy: A bunker experiment
Based on my observations and feedback from recreational golfers of all skill levels, I believe one of the most puzzling and challenging of all shots for most golfers is the greenside bunker “explosion” shot. Far too many times, the result is either making a swing that is way too steep and plows the clubhead into the sand, or it’s the exact opposite – catching the ball right “in the forehead” and skulling it across the green into who-knows-what kind of new trouble. In either case, the end result is a blow-up hole that puts a double bogey or worse on the card.
And the damage to your psyche is much worse than that done to your card.
Besides the visual and mental intimidation of finding your ball in the bunker, we recreational golfers are faced with a super-wide variety of lies and sand textures, unlike the tour players who see essentially the same bunker texture week after week. In contrast, on my own private club course, for example, we have bunkers ranging from wet packed sand (almost mud) to dry fluffy sand several inches thick. In contrast to the tour professionals, we “mere mortals” have a constantly changing set of obstacles in the bunkers, each requiring a different approach.
Let’s start with the basic premise of the bunker shot we have all been taught. While there are slightly varying instructional directions for the execution of the swing, most teach that you should make contact about two inches behind the ball. And it’s often taught that this is the easiest shot in golf, because you don’t even have to hit the ball. I’ve always challenged that notion, because on EVERY OTHER SHOT I face, I am trying to make precise contact with the ball, from driver to putter. So, since those few bunker shots in a round require me to abandon my primary objective . . . couldn’t that possibly make bunker shots the hardest?
Anyway, back to the topic at hand . . . is there a different way to approach bunker shots that might help you improve your up-and-down percentage and significantly reduce those left-in-the-sand or skulled-over-the-green disasters? I believe there is, and I’ve been doing some experimenting with a different approach lately that is showing great promise.
What I’ve been doing is approaching bunker shots in very much the same way I execute any delicate greenside pitch, that is to view it as just another pitch shot, albeit from a more challenging lie than if the ball were sitting on the fairway or light rough. My goal is to make the wedge contact the ball and the sand at just about the same time, and just vary my swing power based on the texture of the sand – wet sand will “reject” the club more than dry, softer sand, requiring less power, much as tight firm turf will reject the club more than a softer lie in the rough.
As I play around with this approach, it seems much easier than trying to actually hit the sand some “measured” distance behind the ball, which also makes it easier for me to judge the distance I need the ball to fly and how much roll out I can expect. What’s most interesting for me is that as I began to experiment with this technique in the practice bunker, I paid close attention to where it “looked like” I was making contact with the sand. I put that in quotes because the sole of the wedge splashes out a large and clearly defined divot, so it really does look like I’m making contact further behind the ball than I really am.
If you are already an accomplished bunker player, my bet is that you are actually making contact much closer to the ball than the proverbial “two inch rule”, and kudos to you for figuring this out.
But for the majority of you out there who find a bunker shot a bit more challenging and fear-inducing, I highly recommend spending even a half hour in the practice bunker giving this “new” method a try. You still want to make a deliberate but relaxed swing and keep your angle of attack as shallow as possible so the bounce in your sand wedge’s sole can do what it was designed to do.
I’m sure we all would appreciate you sharing your own results and discovery with the rest of us.
Kelley: Learn when to train and when to perform
Regardless of what you may be working on in your swing, it is imperative to understand when to train your swing and game and when to perform on the golf course. Being able to switch mindsets and understand where to place your attention when training your technique and playing on the course will dramatically improve your scores.
Training Your Technique
To start, go to the driving range with a plan. Rather than hitting countless seven irons with no structure in mind, decide where you are going to place your attention on and what your intent is when practicing. If training a new technique, be mindful of your body and club with each swing. This usually should be done slowly. Remember you have to learn a new movement slowly, before fast. This requires discipline and understanding contact may not be ideal when so thoughtful.
On top of slow, training the “technique based swings”, practice hitting different ball-flight shots. (This will be discussed more on performance). If you normally slice the ball from left to right, place an alignment stick five yards in front of you and learn to hit golf balls right to left, drawing the ball around the stick. This will develop shaft and face awareness.
You can also simply place your attention on good contact. With each shot, note where on the clubhead the ball is struck. Practice off-speed shots making contact on the center, heel and toe of the face. Research shows intentionally practicing hitting the ball off center will actually facilitate center contact.
With most golfers having limited time to practice, don’t undervalue the importance of practicing at home. Simply grab a club and train your swing inside or outside your home. This is a great opportunity to slow down the swing, programming the brain with the new movement. If you have a mirror, practice looking into the mirror face-on to get feedback on how your body is moving. If you are outside and the sun is out, simply stand with your shadow directly in front of you at 12 o’clock, noting the shape of the shadow (your body) as you swing.
Learning to Perform
When on the golf course, it is a time to shoot the lowest score possible. This sounds like an obvious statement, although it is a simple concept that is often overlooked. The work you have done on your swing on the driving range and at home will morph into your swing on the golf course. This is also a time to focus more on the ball flight, not what your swing looks like.
“Ask what is wrong with your golf shot, not your golf swing“ – Karl Morris, The Mind Factor. This is a powerful and very effective question you can ask yourself on the golf course. Your post-shot routine is just as important as the pre-shot routine. Paying attention to what your ball is doing will give you a clear understanding of where to place your mind on each shot. Being able to adapt on the golf course with what you have that day and what to slightly change is critical to playing great golf.
Rather than trying to create the swing to create the shot on the golf course, which can lead to frustration, let the shot create the swing. In other words, ask yourself, “What does this shot feel like?” in order to get the ball from point A to point B. This is inclusive to the individual, and where practicing shaping the ball in your practice session plays dividends, so you can adapt on the course. This question may develop a certain feel or simple technical thought that has been developed with your coach.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of your attitude. Remember that having the chance to be on a golf course playing this great game is a privilege. Embrace the fact that Golf will never be mastered, and there is always a learning curve, even for the best players in the world. Embracing this challenge will make your good shots better and your bad shots not as bad.
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