Carin Koch’s tips to improve your golf game
Golf is a simple game. Just hit the tiny ball into a tiny cup with as few shots as possible. Simple. That’s one of the reasons the game is thriving, some 600 years after it first developed in Scotland.
But anybody who has picked up a 7-iron and tried to “just hit the ball next to the flag” knows that while golf may be a simple game, it’s not an easy one. And that’s the charm of it. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest athlete to be great at the game, but being in good shape does help.
“All training is good training,” says Carin Koch – and she should know: Koch is Europe’s Solheim Cup Captain and she’s got game.
Being fit also helps with the other important aspect of golf: the mental game. In golf, you’re competing against yourself and your bad habits, there’s no one else to blame, and you must be able to handle the ups and downs of the game. It can be incredibly frustrating, which is why many people who play golf to relieve stress find themselves stressing about their game instead.
There are several techniques to improve your mental strength. One is to develop a trigger that recreates the good feeling you have after a perfect shot. You could do this by association.
Another way to relieve stress is through breathing. While we all know how to breathe, we don’t always do it in the most efficient way possible. When we get stressed, we tend to breathe faster. To get rid of the stressful feeling, we should breathe deeply: draw breath through the nose, count to five, and then release the air through the mouth and count to ten.
Visualization is another good method to train the brain. Picture yourself at your goal, and then reverse-engineer from there. Your brain may be your most important organ even on the golf course, but to find your most important muscle, you have to take it down a notch.
In 2012, a research group at the University of Lisbon studied the most important muscle groups for a golf swing, and found the answer to be the gluteus maximus. That would be your buttocks.
The key muscles in your upper body, the pectoralis major (chest), latissimus dorsi (back), core, and forearm muscles, are also important to your game.
“For golfers, core training is particularly important. Strength training using lighter weights is helpful, as is stretching out the golf muscles. Remember to adapt your training to your ability and age,” says Koch.
“Many golf pros spend a lot of time on their conditioning, focusing particularly on strength. They’ve realized that such work is essential in order to perform on the golf course,” she adds.
Good exercises for the gluteal muscles are various kinds of squats: single leg, two legs, split squats, both with weights, and just using your own body’s weight.
For chest, back, core, and forearms, you can turn to good old push-ups. You won’t need any machines, because your arms are always with you, and you can find the space to do push-ups in even the tiniest of hotel rooms.
“There’s no better upper-body exercise than a push-up,” Mike Boyle, one of the best strength trainers in the US, told GolfDigest a few years ago.
“One thing that makes them great is that they are easily modified for different abilities,” he said. “Simply change your angle. The push-up allows all the muscles used in an exercise like the bench press to be used in an exercise that is fundamental to core stability. ‘The plank’ is basically holding a push-up.”
Other good exercises are dips, and if you want to go to the gym, incline flys with dumbbells, and shoulder flys with a cable cross-machine in which you pull the weights with one arm away from the machine, and then slowly take them back. According to experts, pulling exercises may help golfers more than pushing exercises.
It may also be good to remember that just a round of recreational golf is a good workout. The ten-kilometer walk is exactly the kind of low-intensity training that doctors recommend for people of all ages and fitness. According to a report by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, golfers with a low handicap can look forward to a five-year gain in life expectancy.
Text: Risto Pakarinen and Anders Ellqvist
Published: April 20, 2015