Fitness has become commonplace in the world of professional golf. There are numerous examples of golfers who have made the gym a priority such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. There are also examples of golfers who have not embraced the gym, most notably John Daly. John Daly has made it known that he does not spend any time in the gym and in addition he drinks, smokes and is very overweight. He is not exactly the posterchild of a healthy lifestyle. I've talked to many people who use this example of why being physically fit isn't important for golf. However, I would argue that John Daly is an elite athlete and in some ways is actually fit for golf. In this post I will discuss what it means to be fit for golf and how it may differ compared to other sports and definitions of physical fitness.
What are the physical requirements of golf?
Golf at the professional level requires golfers to be able walk approximately 6.5 miles. In an 18 hole round of golf the PGA scoring average is 71.1. The PGA average is 29 putts/round meaning that there are 42 other strokes, some of which are full swings off the tee and approach shots, wedge shots and chip and pitch shots. There is plenty of rest between shots as well. As an amateur golfer you will have more strokes than this, however many amateur golfers also ride a cart in a round of golf further decreasing the physical demands of golf. On the surface the physical demands of golf are much less compared to sports such as basketball, football or soccer. However, swinging a golf club is actually one of the fastest motions in sport comparable to pitching or hitting in baseball or serving in tennis. The video above of Daly from 1992 is a slow motion video of his swing where he is producing 128 mph of club head speed (the PGA average is 115 mph and the average amateur golfer is 90 mph). The golfers mentioned earlier such as Bryson, Tiger, DJ, Brooks and Rory also possess club head speeds in the 120s. The ability to generate these speeds requires elite flexibility, strength, speed and power. Besides the speed of the swing also notice the positions that Daly is able to get into in his swing. Appreciate the position at the top of his backswing. This requires an extreme amount of flexibility in the hips, spine, neck and shoulders. Beyond that golf also requires the coordination and precision of movement to be able to consistently hit the center of the face and control distance, trajectory and shape of ball flight.
The reality is that the golfers on the PGA tour are professional athletes and possess elite physical characteristics and athleticism even if it their physical appearance doesn't always look that way. The vast majority of amateur golfers are nowhere close to these levels of flexibility/mobility, strength, speed, power and coordination (especially John Daly). John Daly was blessed with really good genetics in those areas despite not having to work on them. You likely weren't blessed with these genetics. Even though golf doesn't require a ripped physique, 6 pack or the appearance of being physically fit, it doesn't mean that the body doesn't play a crucial role in your performance on the course. The physical characteristics of golf just differ from other sports and measures of physical fitness. Neglecting this could be significantly effecting your health and performance on the course.