It was Mark Twain who once penned, "Golf is a good walk spoiled."
Twain was a much better writer than a golfer, but even he understood the physicality of the game and that it entails more than just a Saturday stroll in the park.
Until recently, few players believed that fitness even mattered in golf. But almost overnight, today's PGA Tour professionals started to morph themselves from beanpoles and beer bellies into chiseled athletes. It has resulted in record-breaking scores on the PGA Tour for several seasons.
Tour players have admittedly taken the exercise phenomenon to the extreme.
Just ask Paul Calloway, who served as the PGA Tour's first physical therapist from 1984-88, and now runs his own golf therapy business called Body Balance for Performance, a fitness program specific to golfers.
Calloway's program, which is sold to physical therapists across the nation, asks the more ambitious golfer to meet with one of his sports medicine specialists to determine: standing posture (viewed from the front, back and both sides); standing balance (tested with eyes open and closed); and flexibility, mobility, strength and stability of the muscles and joints of the lumbar spine (low back), pelvis, hips, thoracic spine (mid-back), cervical spine (neck), shoulder complexes, elbows and wrists.
It is, but Calloway's claims have been used by such champions as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.
At the lesser extreme, the electric cart has removed the need of cardiovascular health for most weekend hackers.
However, if exercise can shave strokes off Tiger's and Jack's game, it's difficult to argue that a simple stretching and exercise program to improve flexibility and stamina can do same for the rest of us.
Rick Bowser, R.P.T., of Aspen Ridge Physical Therapy in Layton, helped create the following set of stretching, flexibility and cardiovascular exercises. We made them as simple as possible for the golfer of any level. (Weights and resistance bands can be added to most of the exercises as needed. However, Bowser suggests you contact your physician or therapist before beginning any vigorous exercise program.)
Competitive golfers from the professional level to the junior level are required to walk each round of a tournament. Even the part-time hacker should take pride in walking at least nine holes. It's guaranteed to improve your game.
Bowser suggested cardiovascular improvement can be achieved quickly and simply by walking or riding an exercise bike each day. A duration of about 20 to 30 minutes each day should accomplish your needs.
"This is all about aligning the ears with the shoulders and the shoulders with the hips," said Bowser. "It is important to strengthen the erector spinae muscles."
In layman's terms, Bowser said he works with many golfers who have hunched shoulders, which results in back and shoulder pain following a round of golf.
Perform the exercise for 20 to 30 seconds and complete three to five repetitions at least a couple times per day.
At clinics across the nation, pros talk about balance being among the biggest flaws for amateur golfers. Watch the professionals swing and they almost never fall to one side or the other on their backswing or upon completion of the swing.
Maintaining proper balance over every shot can lead to a more consistent swing plane.
Once this exercise is mastered, try it again with the eyes closed.
A full hip turn is crucial to a powerful swing. Golf analysts constantly diagram and rave about the amount of flexibility Tiger has through his torso. It's not uncommon to see Tiger perform the following exercise during his routine.
Repeat for three-to-five repetitions on each side. Do this exercise at least two times per day.
While many instructors teach that power is generated through torso rotation, strong leg drive is often over-looked. If nothing else, exercises for the legs will help during long walks on hilly courses.
PGA Tour workouts
The following is a sample of several PGA Tour players' workout schedules:
Two hours a day, three to five days per week, Appleby does intense riding on the stationary bike for 45 minutes.
He also adds general weight lifting -- the bench press and squats -- to improve the arms shoulders and stomach.
During a tourney, Appleby will decrease the intensity of the workout and exercise mostly following his round.
He works out five or six days per week, emphasizing abdominal muscles. He does 100-rep crunches each workout and performs aerobics for 40 minutes. He also lifts light weights using high-intensity repetition.
Waite works different body parts on different days. Monday: chest and shoulders; Tuesday: cardiovascular; Wednesday: back and very light arms. Later in the week: Plyometrics, weights for legs and more cardiovascular work.
Other than a light warmup, Waite won't workout before a round and takes at least one day off during a tournament.