Fit to a tee

Golf Things Considered column by John Rogers
JSpencerRogers@msn.com  

It’s a slap in the face, the way CBS broadcasts these images into our homes.

Less than 24 hours after a foot of snow fell here in the East, we are taunted by the footage from the Monterey Peninsula where the Tour players and a bunch of lucky amateurs are playing at Pebble Beach.

Sunshine, sailboats, short-sleeve shirts, all kinds of exotic wildlife, that magnificent coastline where the Pacific pounds away – and here we are laid out in our egg chairs and lazy-boys after shoveling the driveway, two portable heaters breathing hot air towards a set of toes still unthawed.

CBS should be ashamed, making us watch that stuff. Especially since our own golf courses will be closed for at least a week. It’s like cutting into a juicy filet, smacking lips and all, right in front of a starving man. Cruel.

I hope all those Californians know how good they have it. And all those Floridians, and people who live in places where the term “golf season” is meaningless because golf season is every day. We, the unfortunate snow-bound, not only get teased by the television images, but we have to sit around while rust accumulates on our games.

Seriously, golf is hard enough without having to take off weeks and months each year when the weather goes sour. It’s not just coincidence that a high percentage of the most talented golfers come out of areas that have a warm climate. It’s obvious why Tour players live in Southern states. Clearly it’s a disadvantage for those of us who spend our winter days stomping snow instead of Bermuda grass off our shoes.

But maybe there’s a way to turn our cold winters into an advantage. Here’s a thought: What if we used the downtime to get in shape?

Along this line, I recently developed a program called Fit to a Tee. It’s a two-part program being offered at a local fitness center. I work in partnership with a personal trainer to help clients improve their golf swings and their bodies at the same time.

We start with two evaluations – one to check the client’s level of fitness in several categories, including cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and mobility, balance and posture, and strength; the other evaluation looks at the client’s swing, including a video analysis.

The personal trainer and I then design two workouts – one to address the weaknesses in fitness, and the other is a set of functional drills. The functional drills are not really a workout in the typical sense; they are designed to help the golfer eliminate bad habits and develop a more efficient swing, often by going through a swing in slow motion with dumbbells or other training aids.

The idea was to offer this program specifically in the winter months. Give golfers an excuse to leave behind the lazy-boy, the scoop-shaped corn chips and French-onion dip, and that annoying television. It’s an opportunity to turn the frustration of winter into a few positives – improved health, and a golf game that’s not only not rusty, but better than last summer.

Programs like Fit to a Tee have become available around the country. Some of them are quite expensive, and few offer a partnership between teaching pro and fitness trainers. But there are always options. Just joining a gym is a start. In just a few sessions with a personal trainer, a golfer could learn a set of exercises to be done at home, maybe with one of those exercise balls. Even when the driving range is closed, it’s possible to spend 15 minutes every day making practice swings in front of a mirror. And the golf pros who are not lucky enough to head south for the winter are still around giving lessons when the weather allows.

There’s always something productive that we can do. The trick is to get motivated and get started. We might not get a daily eye-full of basking seals and bikinis like those spoiled folks in Monterey, but the winter, like most things in life, will be what we make of it. With a little effort and resiliency, we might head back to the tee in the spring feeling and looking pretty good.

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