KEEPING FIT WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?
As I have mentioned before in this column, I have been teaching skiing for over 40 years. How does this relate to teaching golf? Well, the President of the USGTF and I were both funseekers at a ski resort in Vermont in another life, he being the Chief of Funseekers. He has asked me to relate some of my experiences in teaching skiing to teaching golf. There are a remarkable number of similarities, as you would expect. Stance and Balance! How many times do you use these terms and what they stand for as a basis for your lessons?
I have just returned from a ski race in Sweden. This race has been going on for over 75 years and the course winds its way from Salen to Mora. The distance is 90 kilometers (54 miles) and there are 15,000 people at the start line. If you want to go in this event next March, you have to get your entry in now. There is something very satisfying in being in a solid group of people of that number where everyone is a good skier. If you are not, you will not finish the race. A lot of time has to go into getting ready to ski that distance and you cannot do it if you are not physically and mentally fit.
I just got home and had time to do the laundry, repack and travel to Juneau, Alaska to conduct a three-day clinic for the local Cross-Country Ski Club. What a satisfying experience both events were as there was a high degree of enthusiasm in both places. Keen people wanting to accomplish something. I also run Nordic XC Ski Camps in the early fall and cater to large numbers of people wanting to improve their technique and/or their mid-life racing form.
There is a common thread to all of this and I know this same thread binds ski teaching and golf teaching together. We are dealing with skill sets and skill sets require a good deal of fitness.
How many times have you heard your clients say, “Well, good lesson but you really didn’t tell me what I was doing wrong.” If they didn’t mention this to you, they would have to their friends in the club house. In fact, if they hit the golf ball with some degree of success, they probably weren’t doing anything “wrong,” there were just easier ways of hitting it more efficiently.
In XC skiing, there are two things that keep people from being better skiers. Number one is that they must have the ability to balance on one ski (the glide phase). Number two is that they must have good upper body strength (for the push phase). My loose estimate based on nothing more than observation, is that a full 90 percent of skiers do not have anywhere near the upper body strength they need to ski well and nowhere near balancing upper and lower body strength. The fact is that we walk on our feet and legs and they get some strength and fitness from that but we do not use our hands and arms in the same way. If we do not do extra work to the upper body, it can in no way serve us in the way that is needed for skiing. I suspect it is the same for golf.
Simple core strength and upper body exercises would go a long way to improving the balance needed for skiers and golfers for Stance and Balance and using the upper body for propulsion and for hitting the golf ball.
There is the old joke that always goes around the pro room in a ski school that goes like this: “The guy asked me what I was doing wrong and what could the problem be. About this time I lost my sense of humour and told him he was too short. He asked me for a second opinion and I told him he was ugly too.” Well, we may have thoughts like that from time to time but they are best kept to ourselves. We can tell the folks that better fitness would be of benefit to them and would help them with their swing and their scores. If for nothing else, keeping up for 18 holes can be a grind. If you are not fit, the golf game will suffer as the day goes on. The fun goes out of it.
All funseekers know this.