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If you have been reading my columns this year, you notice that I am encouraging every golfer to be the best golfer possible by focusing on the key attributes of a successful golf game: good swings, custom fitting of equipment, strong mental concentration and exemplary physical fitness. Of these attributes, the one that seems to receive the least amount of attention is physical fitness.
It is now June, the summer is in full bloom, and so too is the golf season. Golfers are hitting the links and wondering how they can break 100? 90? 80? 75? Par? Studies have shown that the best ways to achieve these objectives are through hard work, concentration and using the right equipment for your golf swing. I would add that physical fitness is also a key attribute of a good golf game.
It wasn't until Tiger Woods joined the pro tour in 1997 that physical fitness came into vogue. Up until that time, the best golfers were the ones able to hit the ball straight and sink more putts—but that all changed with Tiger Woods. With his arrival on the pro tour, golfers became aware of the importance of physical fitness.
It is hard to believe this, but the average drive on the pro tour was a mere 262 yards in 1996. When Tiger was able to hit the ball 300 yards and consistently hit fairways and greens, people started asking how he was able to do this. The answer: he had superb eye-hand coordination, but it was his physical conditioning that enabled him to make that full turn and generate that 120 mph+ swing speed at impact.
Tiger Woods was not only able to hit balls farther and more accurately than his peers, he was able to concentrate on the shot at hand and blot out any distractions. In examining what separated Tiger Woods from other tour pros, analysts said that it was his ability to focus, which was commensurate with his physical stamina and strength. The game of golf changed with Tiger Woods from one of accuracy and finesse to one of length and strength. It also became a game where physical fitness and conditioning were key attributes.
It was a decade ago that TV commentators, golf writers and students of the game all came to realize that Tiger's conditioning and fitness enhanced his ability to make clutch shots, including putts to tie or win tournaments. While people can point to specific tournaments to emphasize the importance of physical fitness, I would argue that it was his performance at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach, where he became the first player to play four rounds under par and won the championship by 15 shots, that it became a key attribute. From that time forward, it became very clear that golfers were athletes who needed to be physically fit to perform at the peak of their abilities.
Today, the game of golf is definitely one of length and strength. Moreover, those senior golfers who are physically fit are able to handle the longer courses built to challenge today's top golfers. A good example of this is Bernard Langer, who won the Charles Schwab Cup on the Champions Tour in 2010.
To generate fast clubhead speeds, focus on the shots at hand and not be physically tired at the end of our golf rounds, we need to work on our strength and physical conditioning. We must be able to develop a physical routine that increases our shoulder turns. We need to strengthen both our arms and legs for the rigors of walking 18 holes, even if we use carts.
For Father's Day, one of the best gifts you can receive from your wife and children is a fitness pass to the local recreation center or physical fitness palace. Get off your chairs and couches and get physically fit so that you become better golfers.
And, Happy Father's Day to all!
Jerry Koncel is a freelance writer and avid golfer who has played the game for more than 50 years. He welcomes your questions and comments, as well as your suggestions for future columns. Please send him an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.