When most people are considering a sport or activity to improve their fitness, golf is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, golf is a great sport that can offer many of the same benefits as other forms of exercise to people of all ages.
Golf was first featured in the Summer Olympics in 1900 and returned the following games in 1904. However, after a 112-year hiatus, the sport officially returned for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Having only grown in popularity and accessibility, taking up golf can be a fun way to explore a new sport and get in a regular workout.
What is Golf?
Golf, often played on a large open-air course, requires concentration and precision. Simplified, the goal of golf is to complete the course of getting the balls in each hole with the least amount of strokes (swings) required.
All you really need to get started is a course, clubs and balls. As you improve, you might want to invest in some advanced gear such as specialized apparel to grow you skillset and confidence in the game but as a beginner, if you’re eager to learn and patient, then golf is perfect for you!
Exercising on the Course
Golf might not be a physically steneous game at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in your daily workout on the course. The golf course is usually vast and players commonly ride in a golf cart to get from one hole to the next with their gear. But by ditching the cart and carrying your own equipment, you can get between 5-7 miles of walking and carve away up to 1500 calories and all the benefits of weight bearing exercise.
In addition, the body mechanics used in golf can improve overall flexibility. And we can’t fail to mention the added benefit of reduced stress. Research has found that stress, anxiety, and other mental strain is unhealthy. Golf offers a great way to de-stress. A recent study found that those who played golf were less likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks than the average non-golfer.
Stretches will help prepare your muscles and joints for a few hours at the range or a day on the greens. According to The Mayo Clinic, stretching can also improve your performance by creating a more fluid swing.
Before you begin stretching, try getting your blood flowing with 5-10 minutes of light activity such as walking or running in place. Always try to do a full series of golf stretches to ensure that all the necessary muscle groups have been worked and warmed up. You should focus your stretches on the following muscle groups:
- hips – gluteal
- hips – front
Getting Into the Swing of Things
Golf is a sport of precision and can take a lifetime to perfect. But that shouldn’t discourage you from trying it out. Here are a few basic beginner tips to help you get started on your game. If you find that you’re interested in learning more, there are numerous golf clinics and instructors near you that can take your game to the next level.
In a golf.com poll, 81 percent of golf instructors said that proper grip is the first things they teach new students. The GolfTribune recommends that you begin in a standing position while your arms hang relaxed at your sides.
- Position the golf club with the face square to your target. The grip end should be just below the heel hand and lie across the fingers where it touches the base of the pinkie finger and extend diagonally above the first knuckle of your index finger.
- Imagine that you are facing a clock. The shaft of the club should be at twelve o’clock. Next, place the thumb of the non-dominant hand at one o’clock.
- Set your dominate hand with the pad of your thumb resting on top of your non-dominate thumb. The club should rest across the fingers of your dominant hand —not curled in your palm.
- Your dominate thumb should be at the 11 o’clock position. The “Vs” that are formed by the thumb and each hand should line up and point to the inside your dominant shoulder.
After you have the proper grip, stand with the club face square to your target. Your feet should be shoulder-distance apart unless you are using a longer club like a driver or a fairway driver for which your stance should be widened by about 2 inches. For short irons, reduce your stance by two inches. Toe should be pointed straight or slightly angled outward. Your knees should be flexed though not bent. In this phase, your weight should be distributed evenly from the toes to heels and right and left.
Golf Swing Drills
The PGA recommends that beginners start with drills before hitting the links for the first time. Golf swings begin with the “takeaway.” By starting each swing out on the correct path and maintaining the club in the correct position, there is a greater chance that your backswing will follow. In turn, it will create a good downswing followed by a solid, straight hit.
- Start wth your non-dominate shoulder positioned under your chin. Keep the non-dominate arm straight. Wrists should be neutral until the point at which your club reaches your hip in height.
- As your club reaches the horizontal position, check that your grip end of the club is pointed at your target.
- Your club head should be parallel to your hands. The sole of your club should be parallel to your spine.
As with any sport, it will take time to perfect your technique so plan on spending devoting some time at the driving range to make your first time on the greens as enjoyable as possible.