It has been over 3 years since former Durham Academy golf standout, Rob Kirkland, first approached me and asked if he and fellow DA teammates could train in the winter and spring for the fast approaching 2006 varsity golf season at ActivEdge Fitness & Sports Performance. A junior then, Rob was regarded as one of the best young amateur golfers in the state and looking to better his game and help lead the varsity team at DA. Rob was different then the traditional golfer of past. Not only was he gifted, but very athletic, a trend that has started to emerge the past few years in the top Tour players and carried over to the younger generations.


What many people are not cognizant of is that golf is a highly athletic event that requires intense muscle activity. At times, a golf swing can use up to 90 percent of maximum muscle contraction. Combined with several repetitions and balancing the body while in movement, can cause significant fatigue. To counter this, some golf athletes add cardiovascular exercise and a machine weight circuit of some sort to try and get improvements. While their ability to walk the course may improve, this usually does not result in better golf performance.

So why do golfers shy away from lifting weights? Most often it is because of tightness that occurs across the body after exercise sessions focused on resistance training.
To golf at your best, you need to have exceptional ability to rotate every joint to its fullest functional limit. When considering a proper exercise routine for golf, you need to consider how to integrate the whole body together through a dynamic movement while maintaining flexibility.

When most people, including other trainers, try and find “golf specific” exercises, they will most likely stumble upon several ideas. The best ones should be addressing dynamic stability since this is such a large component of the golf swing. Dynamic stability is a fancy term that refers to the ability to maintain optimal joint alignment of the head, spine, legs and arms throughout the entire golf swing. Almost all of the strength exercises that the Durham Academy golfers complete at ActivEdge are designed with this in mind.

The other significant component that needs to be addressed is flexibility. Of all the tests that I perform in the gym for golfing flexibility, either a single or a pair of shortened hip flexors is the most common fault across the board. Physiologically, this often results in weakened hamstrings and abdominal muscles and increases the frequency of low back tightness, spasms, and pain. On the course, it may prevent you from making a full follow-through, with coinciding decreased accuracy and distance on the shot. One of my favorite exercises that stretches the hip flexors and adds a great dynamic stability component is a drop-back lunge followed by a lateral side bend.

Durham Academy is one of several area high schools that have started to encourage their golf team to add strength training to their off-season and even into season routine. As the equipment gets more and more technical, golf needs to be taken seriously as an athletic event and not just a skill in order to really make some improvements and utilize all the advancements in technology properly. Kirkland was integral in getting Durham Academy to realize the importance of this. His work ethic has carried over to now senior captain, Patrick Costello and other seniors Ben Cavanaugh and Walker McLear. Head Coach Greg Murray has strongly supported the DA players’ involvement and initiative in getting into the gym. He loves the changes in his players as they advance in age and continue to increase strength and stability in their swings.

In North Carolina, where we can golf several months out of the year, more and more talent is rising up through the junior ranks. Durham Academy has strong competition from several local private schools, including a powerful Ravenscroft team out of Raleigh. Coach Murray knows it needs to get the best out of every single golfer on its team in order to compete at the end of the year. Patrick Costello states, “I have been working out for a few years now and I recognize the impact it has my performance. Brian has shown me that while strength training should not substitute for skill and technical practice (nor will it make you into Tiger Woods), it is very important to make time for this type of training. I am having the best individual season I have had yet and feel the strongest I have in my four years at DA.”
During the season, it takes dedication to workout inside the gym, especially as the weather gets warmer and warmer and they spend more and more hours honing their games on the course. But as Costello rolls out of bed at 5:30am to head to the gym before school even starts, he thinks to himself, “State title. State title.” Unrealistic? He shrugs off the doubters and sets his sights on a strong, top 5, individual finish and a team title this year. This senior captain is leading by example, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his game among the elite.

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