Fitness

Ready, Set … Golf!

6 steps to spending a beautiful day on the links.

Golfing is the best way to get moving without even realizing you're doing it. In fact, even if you ride in a  cart, 18 holes of golf will still get you thousands of steps on a variety of terrains. Not to mention the total-body effort of swinging a club (but hopefully not too many times). An average round will work just about every muscle and joint, and if you hoof it like you mean it, your heart and lungs will join the fun. Oh, and don’t forget bright sunshine, fresh air, and four hours with your friends. Downside: Zero (assuming you calculate in lost balls before you tee off).

You might want to head out right now, but rushing into the game can leave you feeling more ridiculous than Jordan Spieth at the 2016 Masters, and maybe even injured. So before you take your first swing, read through this step-by-step primer from Rick McCord, one of Golf magazine's Top 100 Teachers.

 

1. Seek doctor approval.


Though golf doesn't seem that physical, a 6,000-yard course will literally have you walking for miles, especially when you take into account that every shot won’t go exactly where you want it to. Avoid overworking your body and see your doctor first to rule out any underlying health issues.

 

2. Hire help.


With greens fees, pricey clubs and goofy outfits, golf can be expensive. But one area you certainly don't want to skimp on is instruction. "Self-taught golfers often start off bending a body part in a way they shouldn't and could end up with a serious injury," says McCord. Instead, he suggests buying a series of five or six lessons where a professional will teach you proper stance, grip, and swing.

 

3. Get fitted.


Those in the golf world say that it's more important for an average or beginner player to get fitted for clubs than it is for the professionals on the PGA Tour. Why? "If the specs of your club are wrong for your body you'll subconsciously accommodate to fit the club," says McCord, "and you'll run yourself a greater chance for injury." Or worse, you'll card a higher score.

 

4. Play it slow and safe.


"Start playing in a relaxed atmosphere," says McCord. "Try an executive or par-3 course that's easier and don't play on a Saturday morning when there are going to be a lot of players rushing you." In the beginning, you'll want to take it easy on your body and your game.

 

 5. Warm up.


Any type of stretching to get the blood flowing is a good idea. Before playing, take 5-6 minutes to go McCord's favorite warm ups:

Calf flexes: Stand up on your tiptoes and hold it for 15 seconds. No bouncing! Slowly come back down and repeat three times.

Trunk rotations: Keeping your lower body still, twist your upper body to the left and hold it for 15 seconds. Come back to center and twist your upper body to the right. Hold it for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat three times.

Shoulder blade stretches: Grab your left elbow with your right palm and bring it across your chest. Hold it for 15 seconds and do the same for the other side. Repeat three times.

Neck rotations: Count to ten as you slowly rotate your head around your shoulders in one direction. Then do the same in the other direction. Repeat three times.

 

6. Pace yourself.


Walking is great for you but the combination of that and the stress on your muscles from your swing could send you ouch-bound if you're not ready. Work up to it by walking every other hole and sharing the cart-driving task with your buddies. And, "Don't forget to pay attention to your breathing." McCord warns. "Make sure you're breaking in through your nose and out through your mouth—even while taking your shot."

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