On most days, golf is a fun and entertaining game.
An afternoon of hook shots and bunkers might spoil some of the enjoyment, of course, but even then you get to enjoy the outdoors and beautiful scenery.
Relying on golf as a primary exercise regimen, however, is unrealistic.
“You’re not going to get any intensive cardiovascular workout,” said Phillip Adler, PhD, a licensed athletic trainer and operations manager for Spectrum Health Orthopedic Outreach. “But you’re doing something physically active.
“You’re getting out in the sun and there is the camaraderie with fellow golfers,” he said. “All that offers some mental health benefits, despite the frequent aggravations many golfers encounter.”
Because golfers use their muscles and various body parts, there are some tips you can follow to reduce the possibility of injury when you’re on the green.
Caution begins the moment you carry the golf bag and clubs from your car to the course.
Be careful when lifting the bag in and out of your vehicle. Bend your knees and lift the bag with both hands, keeping it fairly close to your body to use good ergonomics.
Use a pull cart if you have one. If you’re carrying the bag as you walk, be careful not to lean too far forward or to the side. If possible, find a strap to go over both shoulders to equally distribute the weight.
Next on your list: A proper warmup. This applies to players at every level.
Warm up your muscles by stretching, Dr. Adler said.
Start with the wrist and shoulders and stretch the lower back muscles and hamstrings. Take some slower practice swings and take a short walk before heading onto the course.
You also need the right equipment, so be sure the clubs are the right length for you. Do some rotational and diagonal movements to warm up and to strengthen muscles.
“The hardest part of golf is the rotation component of the swing,” Dr. Adler said. “Any time you add rotation, you’re asking your muscles to do things you don’t normally do during the day.
“It doesn’t have to be intense, but you should always warm up a bit,” he said.
For moderate exercise, use a pull cart and walk the course instead of riding an electric or motorized cart.
Even picking up the ball can cause problems if you don’t do it correctly.
Dr. Adler said that when bending forward to pick up a ball, swing one leg back to keep the pelvis neutral, avoiding possible back injury.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Some simple precautions can help you avoid problems like sunburn and bug bites.
Take sunscreen and bug spray, and dress appropriately for the weather.
Also, research the golf course you’re planning to visit. Understand the terrain. You’ll experience far more fatigue on a hilly course than a flat course—and this makes proper warmups even more important.
“Also,” Dr. Adler stressed, “golf isn’t normally an energy-draining activity, but when you’re in the sun you have to stay hydrated.”
Many golfers may want to head directly onto the course to have a good time, he said. The more competitive you get, the more attention you have pay to swing mechanics, flexibility, strength training and overall body mechanics.
You also should work to develop a healthy psychology for sports, to deal with the inevitable frustrations.
“Generally, golf should be a fun and enjoyable activity that you can do with the family throughout your life,” he said. “With proper preparation and attention to some details, you can enjoy it safely and prevent injuries.”
Curious about what exercises can improve your golf game? Contact Spectrum Health Lakeland Physical Therapy about their Fit Fore Golf program. Work one on one with a physical therapist trained in golf mechanics. Call 269.556.7150.