When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I won a local long drive contest three years in a row. At that time, I never weighed more than 165 pounds (I am 6 feet tall), and the most I could ever bench press was 200 pounds. When I graduated high school I weighed 155 pounds, and could consistently drive the golf ball 270-280 yards. As this was 25 years ago, we were using drivers made of persimmon and the shafts were steel, and the average PGA tour pro would drive it about 260 yards. The main reason why I could hit the golf ball further than most people was because I have a golf swing that has a wide arc due to a good shoulder and hip turn.
Do you remember watching Tiger Woods in his amateur playing days and when he first came out on tour? In 1996, when he joined the tour, he weighed 158 pounds, standing at 6’2. Remember watching him hit driver, wedge into the 500 yard, par 5 15th hole at Augusta in 1997 when he won his first Masters? Tiger was not the super strong athlete we see today. In fact, although he has added 25-30 pounds of muscle, he really does not hit the ball much more now than he did then.
Remember Sam Snead? His later years, he reportedly could still kick the top of a doorway with one foot still on the floor. It is no wonder that he remained very competitive on the PGA Tour into his 50’s. He set the record for the oldest winner on the PGA Tour at the age of 52. In fact here is a story I learned while playing the Virginia State Intercollegiate tournament at The Cascades in Hot Springs. In 1973, Sam Snead’s nephew, JC Snead, a long time PGA Tour player, set the course record on the Lower Cascades course with a round of 60. In 1983, ten years later, Sam Snead tied it! He was 71 at the time!
I guarantee that Sam Snead did very little weight lifting, but knew the importance of flexibility!
I have played with many muscular golfers over time, but few could hit the ball as far as me. This was due to their inferior golf swing. They had focused most of their fitness training on building big muscles, rather than flexibility. Therefore, it is most important for you to develop more flexibility first. I can think of a few current and former NFL quarterbacks that play golf pretty well (John Elway and Tony Romo come to mind), but I can not think of a single linebacker that is any good!
With this in mind, it is my recommendation that if you have a golf swing that falls far short of having a good extension with the arms, a good shoulder turn, and a nice wide arcing swing, you should focus your attention on stretching first! A good stretching routine that covers the entire body will take about 30-40 minutes to complete, and should be done two to three times per week.
After you have noticed a considerable increase in your flexibility, which you should see in a couple of months, you should begin to notice greater ability to get that fuller shoulder turn and longer arm extension in your golf swing. Bear in mind, your flexibility will also be enhanced if you are carrying less baggage on your body as well. Aside from John Daly, who is naturally gifted and has been very flexible since his junior days, you do not see too many very overweight golfers with a big full swing like Tiger Woods. Therefore, consider a proper diet and aerobic conditioning program with your flexibility routine.
After a period of time, and you notice significantly greater flexibility in your golf swing, then consider a strengthening program if you want to add more distance.
One note about some of the golf training gimmicks out there. Some of them do have some merit. However, I do not believe in using a weighted golf club for strength training, and here is why. The golf swing is NOT a natural motion for the human body, and for many golfers, it has caused a lifetime of back problems. Just ask Lee Trevino, Fred Couples, and Seve Ballesteros. The fact is the golf swing itself is very hard on the back, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Therefore, swinging a weighted golf club with any force at all simply makes no sense to me. I swing a weighted club very slowly for the sole purpose of losing muscles before practice or a round of golf, but never for the purpose of trying to build up my golf muscles! On that note, swinging a weighted golf club nice and slow right after your stretching routine makes a good bit of sense to work on that fuller extension and shoulder turn in your swing.
By improving your flexibility, you will be able to develop a more natural and fluid golf swing that will be a bit easier on the body over time. Then you can focus on improving your strength to enhance performance even further! With that in mind, flexibility first, strength second!
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