Gary Player And The Fittest Guys To Ever Play Golf

‘Mr Fitness’ turned 80 last weekend. We look at Gary Player and other notable athletes who played the game.

Golf has always struggled to shake off its association with unathletic professionals. Over the years a few golfers have ignored the stereotype and taught the sport a valuable lesson about taking care of yourself.

Gary Player 

gary player gyming

There is no doubt that Gary Player is one of the fittest men to ever play golf. The south African still starts most days with 1,000 crunches. In addition the Black knight will squat, deadlift and rack up the leg press. Player’s intense routine was often criticised; “I will not mention the name, but one day he saw me squatting with 325 pounds the night before the U.S. Open. And there was quite an article that Gary Player will never last.”

Considering he hasn’t shot worse than his age this year he’s definitely had the last laugh. The Black Knight is just 5 foot 6 inches and remained around 150 pounds throughout his career, he viewed fitness as a necessary part of compensating for his small stature.

Camilo Villegas

camilo villegas

Along with Player this picture makes you question who is responsible for organising golfers on a fitness shoot? Camilo wouldn’t be out of place discussing hallucinogens with Hansel and Zoolander. The world number 161 seems to be the most zealous fitness advocate on tour.

Camilo begins on the bike before moving into stretching and dynamic exercises which all focus on flexibility and explosive power. The Columbian hasn’t gone more than 7 days without a workout in over a decade- that sort of dedication enabled him to go from a skinny 19-year-old, who barely weighed 135 pounds, to the adonis he is today.

You won’t catch Camilo facebooking between sets, the type of work he does is non-stop, picking specific exercises that allow the body to recover and continue as he completes a circuit. Think dumbbell clean and jerks, crunches followed by squats, all in a constant cycle into you feel sick. This is Camilo’s typical morning. He trains with the motto ‘sacrifice or regret- you chose’ hanging on the wall and this all takes place at 6am in his private gym.

Rory McIlroy

rory workout

People are fascinated by the Northern Irishman’s physique and it’s right he should be on the list given his transformation from chubby funster to serious athlete. Rory is a believer in lifting heavy and it would appear this intense fitness mentality brings discipline to his game.

Frank Stranahan


Frank was a successful amateur golfer in the 1950’s and was described by Gary Player as “my fitness mentor, friend and inspiration.”  The playboy won 6 times on the PGA TOUR, achieving all this whilst being the strongest powerlifter in his weight class. He was known as ‘the toledo strongman’, and could deadlift over 540 pounds. He was also known to take weights to competitions, paving the way for the ‘fitness cabin’ that now follows the tour on every stop. ‘Muscles’ was still powerlifting into his eighties and celebrated his 78th birthday with a 265 pound deadlift. He continued to exercise for the remainder of his life, completing 102 marathons by the time he passed away in 2013.

Tiger Woods

tiger workout

The popular opinion is that Tiger brought fitness to golf, however, as this article has shown the path was well trodden. At his pomp Tiger would start his day with an hour of cardio followed by stretching and core work. Tiger would do compound lifts 3-4 times per week and was accused of training for his ego by former coach Hank Haney. Keith Kleven revealed that at one stage Tiger could benchpress 260 pounds! It is difficult to identify what motivated Tiger the most, Haney would say vanity, however, there is no doubt he is one of the most athletic golfers to ever play.