By Janie C. Farina
Does golf hurt? Most people think golf is a game for wimps with a minimal risk for injury, but an issue of Men’s Health Magazine once said: “Golf causes more injuries than karate, bowling and horseback riding combined.” The statistics show that, for female golfers, most problems occur in the shoulder. Most men experience lower back pain from golf.
If golf is a sport for wimps, why all this pain to achieve gain?
According to research conducted by the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the experts relate golf gain vs. pain to “core stability.” CS, as it is known, involves the large muscles of the body: the shoulders, hips, abdominals, back, and gluteus. When these core muscles are weak, or have a limited range of motion, the extremities surrounding these larger muscles become strained and even torn from overuse or misuse.
How do we keep from falling apart physically and continue to makes gains with our golf?
In the past, golfers neglected to train for golf physically. When our bodies reproduce a motion, especially a one-sided motion, that side of our anatomy may wear out and produce pain after several years. Enter the ice packs, the heating pads and the Ben Gay. As our bodies heal, our game gets on ice as well.
Fortunately, there are several remedies to avoid pain and still make gains with our game in addition to simple stretches.
The proper golf equipment may rescue us from the agony of ice packs. Sensicore shafts and graphite clubs have softened the vibration of miss-hits and arthritis problems for many. Larger, softer grips have eliminated many a blistered hand and provided the arthritic player comfort. Lighter and more flexible clubs allow our swing to generate greater speed with less effort. Even low-compression golf balls with softer coverings help.
Heating pads may work well in getting the body to warm up, but the oldest remedy, and the newest rage, is Pilates. This combination of yoga, core-strength training and isometrics is a must for golf gain. Pilates focuses on stabilizing several of the muscles a golfer uses, while working both sides of the body equally.
When a secure foundation is built to swing his body around, the golfer has balance. When a golfer has balance, he can create consistency. Inconsistency from injuries can cause compensations in swing, as well. Compensations due to lack of balance can create those injuries. An anchored base for rotation increases ability to create speed in the swing as well. The faster a player can swing the club in balance, the faster the ball can be hit when hit squarely.
The proper equipment, warming up before playing and Pilates (or other core-strength training) still does not offer the relief a golfer needs as much as having sound, fundamental golf techniques. Posture, grip, alignment and the proper swinging motion will keep a player from popping Tylenol and Motrin before and after every round.
A professional who is skilled at diagnosing the causes of weakness in swing, not at prioritizing the symptoms, is the best prescription for golf gain.
So, forget the pain and find the gain by treating golf like any other athletic enterprise. Work with a golf trainer for your swing, get busy with Pilates and ditch those stiff-shafted steel clubs from the ‘60s that feel like anchors when you swing them. (If you were playing golf back in the ‘60s, like me, better keep the Ben Gay, the ice packs and the heating pads just in case.)
Happy and Healthy Golfing!
Janie C. Farina is a 26-year LPGA teaching and coaching professional who has recently relocated to St. Johns. Her teaching specialty is working with the disabled or students recovering from disabilities who want to use golf as therapy, as well as seniors, women, and juniors. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.