Fit bodies give edge on course
Golfers aren’t often known to have a sculpted figure. However, legendary golfer Gary Player began breaking the stereotype when he appeared in ESPN The Magazine Body Issue with a physique that did not match a usual 78-year-old man’s. Player, the same 5-foot-7 man who once told reporters he attracted women because he was “taller when he stood on his wallet,” was one of the early pioneers of what is known today as golf fitness.
UH is following Player’s lead, emphasizing fitness as part of its training regimen.
“Everybody that we have gets runs through about 15 tests,” said Director of Golf Jonathan Dismuke. “A lot of it has to do with functional movement, mobility, stability. You need all of those aspects in golf. A lot of people don’t think about golf as being a real athletic sport.”
The idea of golfers bettering their bodies in the hopes of improving performance on the course can be dated back to legendary golfer Ben Hogan and his recovery from a near-fatal car accident. In 1949 at age 36, Hogan had a double-fractured pelvis, a fractured collarbone, chipped ribs, blood clots and a left ankle fracture, according to Smithsonian Magazine. After being told he might never walk again, let alone play professional golf, Hogan used a steady and thorough walking regimen to get back into the form that would carry him into the record books.
Though it has come a long way since then, the basic premise of what Hogan, and later Player, was doing remains the same. The goal for golfers was not to be Mr. Universe, but to find a physical platform that aids them in a sport that awards mechanics and physical continuity.
“Our fitness and our nutrition are meant for every person on the team,” said associate head coach Chris Hill of assistant Director of Sports Performance Bryan Lewis’s work with the team in the offseason. “Coach Lewis did an outstanding job with our guys. Each guy got bigger, stronger and cut fat off their bodies.”
While the modern image of a successful athlete is the 6-foot-8, 270-pound LeBron James, golf has always proven to be a sport that can reward players who didn’t hit the genetic lottery. Player and six-time major championship-winner Lee Trevino stood less than 5-foot-6, but there are exceptions. Master’s champion George Archer was one of the best putters of all time as well as one of the taller golfers of all time, standing 6-foot-5. Even golf bad boy John Daly has reputation for physical endurance, even if the aesthetics seem off.
“People come in all different shapes and sizes,” Dismuke said. “There are times through his career Daly’s definitely been overweight, but he’s one of the most powerful guys on tour, he’s one of the most mobile guys on tour, and stability-wise, he tests through the roof.”
Dismuke explained that golf eschews the more cosmetic aspects of strength and training in favor of what will actually reinforce a golfer’s chances to succeed, such as focusing on core work outside of just crunches.
The golfers themselves are firm believers in the fitness system offered them.
“The average golfer doesn’t really know how important fitness is to the golf swing,” said senior Curtis Reed. “It’s very important. Next to being in shape, when you’re walking 18 to 36 holes, it can give you a mental advantage. Golf can wear you down a lot. You’re out there for five to six hours just trying to do your thing, and you can get really tired, but if you’re fit and in shape, you can utilize your body more.”