On the morning of March 18, 2012, I woke with an unusual zeal. I am a morning person, but lazy Sunday is my favourite day of the week. This one was different. What little snow we had was gone, the ground was dry and Shooters golf course had decided to throw in the flags for an unprecedented day of golfing. Staying in bed was not an option!
This year, nobody in Manitoba golfed in March -- and perhaps will not in April -- but when this snow finally recedes you will want to be prepared to get out there quickly.
I know fitness, and I love golf, but my game is far from impressive, so I've called in a favour from an up-and-coming young golf professional for some sage advice.
Tanner Harms is the assistant golf professional at the Steinbach Fly-In Golf Course and has proven that golf is again an athlete's game. He has been around the game his entire life and whether playing, teaching, or working at the course, he has been privy to all the hardships that spring golf has to offer.
"It's a difficult time of year," he says. "Most of our members don't take many swings through the winter and it's a long way to go to The Golf Dome for a bucket or two, so spring golf can be tough on your body and your mind. Your body isn't used to the movement and can get pretty sore, and your mind isn't used to the processes involved in each shot, which can lead to a few extra mistakes here and there."
And what is Tanner's solution? "Practise, with purpose. Once you commit to practising for the spring, ensure that you're not just going to hit balls. Each swing you take should have intent; a goal that you're working on."
Well, even as a mediocre golfer, I practise here and there. But in my head all I want to do is hit the "big stick."
"And that's your (and everybody else's) big problem," Harms says. "Everybody wants to start swinging out of their shoes right off the hop. Before you even swing a club there are a few things you should focus on. Practise your alignment, reaffirm your grip, and then just worry about making contact.
"Find that clubface again and again until it's engrained in your movement patterns, then you can think about rotation and getting your body all the way around."
It all seems simple enough: practise progressively using the right drills and you'll find your swing more quickly. And once you've found that swing, what's your favourite drill on the range?
"I love to simulate playing real holes on the range. I'll pick a hole I really like -- or have really been struggling with -- and start with my tee shot. Based on that result, I'll play that hole out until I'm on the green. It really helps me with my visualization and allows me to hit a variety of clubs."
So we've tackled how to rediscover your swing on the range. But how can you improve your gym routine to help you avoid early season aches and pains and ensure that it's not your muscles and joints that are limiting you on the course? By adding a few simple, golf-specific exercises to your already well-established fitness program.
In the gym, the most important element to remember is to work from the ground up. You need solid balance, weight transfer from back foot to front foot, and then complete torso rotation. Implement these factors into your current routine and understand and appreciate how these simple variables will improve your movement patterns on the course, and you will be on your way to lower scores and less back pain.
Exercises can be difficult to explain thoroughly in person, never mind with only pictures and text. Thankfully, technology has made instructional videos easily accessible and exercise booklets a thing of the past.
With assistance from some good people at The Golf Dome, we were able to put together a quick tutorial of two practice drills on the range, and two exercises in the gym. Access it online at www.winnipegfreepress.com to get the best explanation and full effect of these golf-specific drills.
Tim Shantz is a Certified Athletic Therapist (CAT(C)) at Eastman Therapy Centre in Steinbach and a Certified Personal Trainer at the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks Hospital. He is also owner/head trainer at Threshold Conditioning, which focuses on sport-specific athlete training.