Why professional golfers shouldn’t be criticized for going to the gym

As a golfer, don’t you hate the misconception that golfers aren’t athletes? Since the turn of the century, the sport of golf has seen a change in the physique of its professionals on the PGA Tour.

Tour pros are starting to look leaner, more muscular, and more marketable. Sure everyone loves the lovable fat guy – John Daly – but no one wants to be him. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or female, an athletic body is a something that the eye cannot ignore.

It is a spectacle of what can result from hard work and from being gifted with above average genetics. It’s easy to look upon with awe and respect…or for some jealousy.

But to what extent should golfer’s train their bodies? Should they be lifting heavy weights? Should they be lifting lighter weights? Should they be doing cardio? Or should they just ditch the gym in general?

There is a bit of a gray area when it comes to training for golf. On one side you have players like Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and David Duval all of whom have had strict training regimens, but have also left themselves susceptible to injury in the process. There is zero doubt that those four (all being world No.1 at some point) were the most physically fit in the sport’s recent history.

Each of these golfers put their bodies through compound exercises while lifting the heaviest weight their bodies could sustain. The result is they all pound drives miles down a fairway, but it comes at a cost.

The Golf Channel’s Brandon Chamblee brought this up during a broadcast once, saying he was fearful that McIlroy would be heading down the same path as Woods.

“When I see the things he’s doing in the gym, I think of what happened to Tiger Woods,” Chamblee said.

“And I think more than anything of what Tiger Woods did early in his career with his game was just an example of how good a human being can be; what he did toward the middle and end of his career is an example to be wary of. That’s just my opinion. And it does give me a little concern when I see the extensive weight lifting that Rory is doing in the gym.”

McIlroy, who hates when people comment on the intensity of his workouts, just responds with working harder in the weight room. Throwing up numbers like 265 on the squat rack.

One golfer who stayed in shape throughout his career was Sir Nick Faldo, the winner of six Major Championships. He sums up golf fitness perfectly, as one must find a balance between being strong and limber.

“I realize there is science and more knowledge today,” Faldo says, “but to me, messing around with weights of 200, 300 pounds, it doesn’t make sense when you’re playing a game of feel with a club that weighs only ounces. And when players change their bodies dramatically, whether getting bigger or smaller, a lot of times it hasn’t turned out well. We golfers can be delicate beings.

“I know the young players have a new style where they snap their body upward to hit it stupid long, but I still have doubts that method holds up on Sundays when they’re nervous. It still comes down to being able to land an iron shot on the yardage number and getting approaches within a 15-foot circle. Especially in the majors, it’s still about nerve and touch. You know, I doubt Shakespeare mucked out stalls right before picking up his quill. I’m prepared to be proven wrong, but it just seems there’s another chapter to be written in this argument.”

Here’s the thing, golfers like Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Adam Scott are all in relatively good shape. In no way are their biceps popping out of their sleeves like Jose Canseco, but it’s obvious that they have great strength by looking at their body-type and how far they hit the golf ball.

Swinging a golf club with a club-head speed of 120-plus mph can cause serious tension on the body. Not just the twisting of your core but coming into contact with the turf or rough after hitting an iron shot. The ground absorbs the energy you exert and sends it right back at you. Similar to how a gun pushes you back on a recoil.

If your muscles are too tight or are not flexible enough, it can lead to injuries down the road. Former Open Championship winner Johnny Miller bulked up after his 1976 win at Royal Birkdale. He sustained injuries later in life because he put on mass with out increasing his flexibility at the same time.

“Moderation is the best guide,” Miller says. “Sometimes guys who work out hard start looking in the mirror and fall in love with what they see. I think a golfer has to have enough strength and flexibility, but not go crazy with it.”


PGA Tour professionals should ditch compound exercises like heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench pressing in order to preserve their joints and lower back. They can still add size with free weights and other methods of lifting. There is no need to risk millions of dollars to squat 200-300lbs just to throw it up on the ‘gram.

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