Swing Time

Better fitness, better golf

STRONGER GAME: Good fitness can mean the difference between enjoying golf or abandoning the sport because of injuries.

Golfers—young, old, fit, unfit and in all shapes and sizes—are as varied as any cross section of the population. Players’ differences may only be matched by the number of instructors teaching the game in different ways. In fact, there may be only one area of the game in which there’s a universal agreement: Swinging a golf club is difficult and involves an unnatural motion.

Ben Hogan, the 64-time PGA Tour winner who died in 1997 at age 84, is considered among the best ball-strikers in the history of golf and was a meticulous student of the game. He was also renowned for his poignant quotes.

“I don’t believe there is anything like a natural golf swing,” Hogan once said. “A golf swing is an unnatural thing, and it has to be developed.”

Golfers in Southwest Florida likely know Hogan’s sentiments well. But it’s not hopeless. Many fitness businesses cater to golfers of all abilities by offering exercise programs to help stave off the golfing curses, notably back injuries. Likewise, varied area businesses help golfers rehabilitate from injuries or help them prepare for a sport they may be returning to after years away.

In short, good fitness can mean the difference between enjoying golf or leaving the game because of the frustration of injuries.

Par 4 Fitness in Naples uses a simple equation in its motto: “Move Better. Feel Better. Play Better.”

“Function is all about allowing you to move better,” the company’s website details via its founder Darin Hovis, an athletic trainer and graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University. “We focus on obtaining a range of motion, where mobility is needed. Then, we focus on gaining control of your newly established ranges of motion. The goal is to foolproof your workouts in order to maintain your longevity, feel better and perform better. Improving function is an ideal place to start for new exercisers, post-rehab patients and professional golfers.”

Swinging a golf club most efficiently, according to many instructors and fitness experts, is often divided into five areas called biomechanical phases: set-up, backswing, transition, downswing and follow-through. Exercises that improve flexibility allow golfers to improve their swing with a full range of movement. Fitness routines enhancing coordination and balance promote ball control. Addition- al muscle strength can improve driving distance.

CORE STRENGTH: Pilates programs can complement golf, leading to fewer overuse injuries.

A private fitness studio in Naples, Body Crafters Inc. focuses on golfers developing a strong body. “Strong golf performance begins with a strong body,” reads its website. “Your body ultimately determines distance, accuracy and consistency in the golf game.”

Body Crafters’ instructors utilize fitness programs to reduce physical limitations and build on strong fitness points. Golfers undergo a complete fitness analysis to help identify physical areas that may be limiting their games. Exercise programs focus on fundamental swing mechanics and the physical demands of golf, with goals including eliminating pain and postural faults, as well as heightening body awareness to restore physical conditioning.

Pilates, Fitness & Therapeutics Inc., a wellness center in Naples, believes Pilates and golf are complementary. Both require trunk rotation, core strength, flexibility and glute stabilization.

“Pilates can certainly assist with this with a specifically designed program to help strengthen while keeping you mobile,” the company explains on its website. “By participating in a Pilates-specific golf program, it leads to fewer overuse injuries and more time enjoying the game.”