Golf Fitness: Are we trying to fit a round peg into a square hole?

The game of golf is becoming more physical. Golfers are faster, stronger and more powerful than ever before and research has shown time and time again that this a good thing in terms of improved performance. However, when most people (golfers and the general public a like) are asked what fitness means to them it often seems the first thing that comes to mind is an image of the man or women on the cover of the fitness magazine with amazing abs.

To that end, I recently polled golfers via my Google+ page and the Google+ golf community page for their opinions on golf fitness. These general fitness images seemed to dominate their mindset; much of the talk was of high rep low weight sets to ‘tone’ and ‘shape’ muscles and cardio for fat loss. Whilst this maybe ideal for being fit and healthy and having the abs of a fitness model, does any of this actually make you a better golfer?

Lets also take a second to examine one of the most popular arguments against golf fitness, the “but John Daly, Kevin Stadler, Tim Herron, Karl Petterson, etc, are unfit and out of shape and they’re still all multiple winners on tour” argument, as I like to call it. Although these individuals are doubtless generally unfit and won’t be doing a triathlon any time soon, you can bet they ALL have great flexibility and strength as it applies to the golf swing. In other words they all have very high levels of golf specific fitness.

General fitness V’s Specific Golf Fitness


Every sport places certain, and distinct, requirements on the body. The better your body is at meeting those requirements, the better you’re going to perform. Golf fitness is not about doing endless cardio on the treadmill or even, about lifting weights. It’s about getting your body into, and through, dynamic positions in the golf swing with greater speed, power and efficiency.




The pie charts show how essential athletic attributes translate to Golf. Notice the percentage of strength needed. Golfers aren’t considered as athletic as other sportsmen and women, but their need for power training has the highest specificity of all sports. Perfectly striking a ball and hitting it 300 yards takes lots of reserve power and strength.

In addition, golfers’ energy system needs are vital and specific. Walking the full course taxes the aerobic energy system. And having enough energy in reserve to execute a powerful swing 50 or 70 or 80 times requires strength endurance. While high intensity interval training workouts, for example, that are predominantly focused on the anaerobic energy system are great for fat loss, they simply aren’t appropriate for golf performance as anaerobic energy system performance is not required in golf.

So If you want to improve your general health and fitness for the myriad of benefits that can bring to your quality and/or quantity of life I commend you, and by all means go for it. But if your aim in the gym is simply to improve your golf performance you need to constantly ask whether what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal, and stop applying a general idea of fitness to the specific task of golf fitness.

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