It has been well established for some time now that fitness is important for golf and this applies for junior golfers too and in fact, it could even be more important for them. Not only to maximise performance on the course but to minimise the risk of injuries associated with the sport.
When I talk about ‘junior’ golfers, I am predominantly referring to adolescence (about the age of 12-18years for girls and 14-18years for boys) within this post, however, the term does encompass childhood too (i.e. the period before adolescence).
Many junior golfers have gotten along fine so far without doing any fitness, let alone golf specific fitness, to help their performance and reduce their risk of injury. So for those juniors, why should they start now. And for those who have already taken it among themselves to improve their fitness for golf, here’s why it’s important.
Here are just 5 reasons why junior golfers need fitness for golf.
There are so many young golfers coming through nowadays with scratch or better handicaps, each one trying to do more than the next to get a step ahead. This includes utilising fitness to improve their golf performance. A junior golfer who is not using fitness to improve their golf is definitely missing a trick in my eyes.
Golf specific fitness for a junior golfer can help them become more competitive through longer drives resulting in shorter shots into the greens and resulting in shorter putts, which will help shoot lower scores. All helping to become more competitive as a junior golfer. Not to mention improved energy levels for some top junior events of 54-72 holes in two-days!
However, are competitions of this length really helping or hindering junior golf? Just looking at the list of junior championships this year (on the England Golf webpage), the majority of competitions are more than one round. Fair enough for adults to be playing 4 rounds in one competition, but the standard should be different for juniors.
Too Much Golf
Playing and practicing, day after day, pounding ball after ball will eventually take its toll on the body, let alone a body that’s not completely developed. Injury could be just around the corner, usually in a part of the body that is weakest or the part that gives way first (but more on that later).
I remember my junior golf days… as soon as the school holidays rolled around, we would spend most of our time on the golf course. And sure enough, I ended up getting injury. And for me, it was my elbow that gave way!
Specialising in golf at an early age can be detrimental in the long term.
Improved fitness can allow junior golfers to practice more through offsetting fatigue. Appropriate training can also provide junior golfers with fundamental movement skills (such as running, jumping, throwing), which they might not be getting due to time spent focusing on just golf. Furthermore, golf specific training can provide something fun and enjoyable away from the golf course or driving range.
I continue to see more and more junior golfers who have poor flexibility and stability! Golf, like many other sports require more flexibility and stability (or at least different types of flexibility and stability) compared to the demands of everyday living. Especially the everyday living of a junior golfer! Limited flexibility and stability, as a result from daily living, poor postures and habits could result in certain swing characteristics. And these swing characteristics could lead to injury.
Common characteristics could include “C posture” or “S posture” at address, loss of posture during the swing and reverse spine angle, for example. Often adolescence have tight hips and generally poor posture…so you can start to see where these swing characteristics come from. If we are talking about improving posture and loosing up the hips, this is where a good golf fitness programme can help.
This isn’t specific to golfers, but to all children and it is very important to consider and be aware of. A number of things can happen as a result of the growth spurt but here’s just a couple. Bones can grow much quicker than the muscles during this period which can cause a loss of flexibility and co-ordination (not great for a budding Tiger Woods).
Reduced co-ordination, for example, could affect sequencing in the golf swing. Not utilising the lower body and correct sequence in the downswing, for example, can rob you of yardage (not what you want to happen when you are 14 years old!). Furthermore, poor sequencing is less than efficient. Inefficiency can cause an early onset of fatigue reducing performance and increasing the risk of injury.
Flexibility, stability, sequencing and co-ordination, for example, can all be trained and improved using exercises and drills. However, it is important to note that a junior golfer who is already taking part in golf fitness is likely to fair much better when they reach their growth spurt, than those who do nothing or start an exercise programme after their growth spurt begins.
Reducing the Risk of Injuries
This final point ties into all of the above, however, it is really the most important one from my point of view. Whether its playing too much, not getting enough recovery, practicing, hitting too many balls, performing certain swing movements or swing characteristics, daily postures, tight muscles and poor co-ordination as a result of a growth spurt; all could increase the risk of injury.
It is important to minimise injuries at any age, yet for juniors, care must be taken as the body has not fully developed and injuries obtained when they are young can often hang around throughout their career. Golf specific fitness can help reduce the risk of injuries by providing fundamental movement skills and appropriate conditioning for each junior golfer.
- To keep up with the talented juniors in golf, fitness is essential to help increase driving distance, and shoot lower scores.
- Junior golfers may or may not be playing, practising and competing too much, and fitness can help prepare their bodies for the stresses and strains of this.
- All juniors go through growth spurts, so it is important to know what could happen during this time. If you are fit going into your growth spurt, the body is likely to cope better compared to an unfit body.
- The most important point that hopefully I have gotten across is that there are lots of things going on for junior golfers that could increase their risk of injury.
- Golf specific fitness can help reduce the risk golf related injuries caused from overuse, swing characteristics and a changing body during the growth spurt.