Recently Tiger Woods’ former coach Hank Haney was quoted by the golf channel as saying Tiger was too big to play golf. In order to examine this statement lets remove the rather sensationalist headline (Tiger is a pretty decent golfer all things considered!) and ask is his muscular build actually negatively affecting his golf game?
The golf swing requires precise balance of various physical attributes
A properly executed golf swing requires co-ordination, balance, strength, power, mobility and muscular endurance. However, strength is the most general of all physical adaptation, if strength levels increase most all other physical attributes will improve. Power, co-ordination, mobility, muscular endurance will all get better.
With this in mind, can too much strength ever be a bad thing? In my opinion no. Furthermore, an increase in muscular size for most will for most individuals result in muscular strength increasing.
The fear and assertion of many is that becoming more muscular will have a negative effect on the flexibility and range of motion undoubtedly required to properly execute the golf swing. However, research over the last dozen or so years has shown that properly performed strength training (be sure your form is down!), is actually one of the best ways to increase flexibility.
The law of diminishing returns
The second part of Haney’s reported quote stated the he felt tiger needed to spend less time in the gym and more time working on other elements of his game, his putting in particular.
Every improvement in the physical, mental, tactical or technical requirements of golf is subject to the law of diminishing returns, that is to say, when you start out improvements will be rapid and come at the expense of relatively little time and effort. However as your expertise and skills increase improvement becomes harder and harder and more time is necessary to devote to it.
So is Tiger spending so much time in the gym in an effort to improve what is undoubtedly strength of his game, when his time will be more efficiently spent simply maintaining his physical attributes and using the extra in area of weakness where improvement will be more rapid? Only him and his now coach, Sean Foley, truly know the answer. Many though are pointing to Tiger’s putting decline of recent years and asking questions.
The more pertinent question for you is, are you spending too much time blasting balls away with your driver on the range when in reality maintain your ability with the driver and working on your course management, short game or physical attributes would be a better use of your time and resources?
There can be little doubt the game of golf is becoming more physical. Golfers are faster, stronger and more powerful than ever before. Research has shown time and time again that this a good thing in terms of improved performance. Put simply you can never have enough strength.
However, when looking to improve your golf game a frank assessment of your strengths and weaknesses is necessary.
Are you hitting 50% of fairways and only 5 Greens in regulation a round, yet spending most of your time on the range hitting drives? Or are spending hours and hours working to improve you swing mechanics on the practice tee, when you lack the mobility and strength necessary to make a good golf swing? A few hours in the gym each week would allow for a greater improvement in swing mechanics with much less time investment to boot.
Incidentally, in order to determine weather or not you possess the physical requirements necessary to the golf swing, I highly recommend you get a TPI certified golf fitness coach to put you through a thorough movement screening.