Golf has always struggled to shake off its association with porky professionals. Over the years a few golfers have ignored this stereotype and taught the sport a valuable lesson about taking care of yourself. In light of Dustin Johnson’s back-to-back victories I thought it would be worth shedding some light on the serious athletes who have played at the highest level.
6. Gary Player
No surprises to hear that Gary Player is one of the fittest men to have ever played. 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,” he once said in an interview.
If you consider he hasn’t shot worse than his age this year, you could say he’s 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.
5. Camilo Villegas
The world number 152 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, the sort of dedication that took him 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, his superset workouts are non-stop as he picks specific exercises that allow the body to simultaneously recover and continue. Think dumbbell clean and jerks with 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.
4. Rory McIlroy
People are fascinated by the Northern Irishman’s physique and he deserves to be on the list for 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.
3. 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, all whilst being America’s 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.
2. Tiger Woods
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 in a routine that was seen as frivolous by his 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, but there is no doubt his superior athleticism put him in a class of his own.
1. Dustin Johnson
DJ’s natural athleticism is what puts him at the top of our list. At 6′ 4″ he is one of the tallest winners in major championship history. No doubt he works hard – and plays hard, ahem – but a large amount of his ability comes from his genetic attributes, something his competitors acknowledge. “Dustin Johnson is, arguably, the most talented player on the PGA Tour. I think it’s a matter of time… He’s not only a freak athlete, he’s a freak golf athlete,” said Jordan Spieth, one week before DJ won the U.S. Open.