While golf as a sport may seem more about precision and finesse, it’s important to not underestimate the role of physical strength and overall fitness in driving that perfect swing time after time over the course of a tournament. In this article, we’ll delve into our experiences of creating training tailored specifically for golfers. We’ll show you some of the exercises we use with our athletes to amplify your performance on the course. Plus we’ll give you the information you need to create your own golf strength and conditioning plan.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just teeing off this guide will explain how strength and conditioning can be used to elevate your golf game.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING IN GOLF

At first glance, golf might not be the first sport that comes to mind when considering the importance of strength and conditioning. Think about it this way though, a top-tier golfer can clock in over 2000 swings a week in competition, and the compressive forces on your spine can get up to 7000 newtons and shear force of up to 600 newtons per drive from an elite golfer, which combined over the course of a weekend of competition can add up to significant wear and tear on your body.

These frequent rapid spikes in force over the 18 holes of golf make strength and conditioning a necessity for modern day golfers to ensure both sustained high level performances as well as endure the volume of stress put on their bodies to minimise potential risk of injury.

strength and conditioning for golf

GOLF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING TRAINING

In order to successfully train with golf in mind it is important you understand the movement patterns of the sport. You would be forgiven in thinking that golf as a sport is less complex in it’s movement patterns than other higher intensity sports such as football or tennis. However due to the singular nature of the sport and the complexity of the golf swing there are a number of significant factors involved:

Breaking down your typical golf drive:

  • You start with your address position
  • Ease into the early backswing
  • Reach the top of your swing
  • Then bring the club vertical as you start the downswing.
  • Next comes the mid downswing, where things start getting serious, leading up to the impactful moment of contact with the ball, following this you’ve got the early follow-through and the late follow-through, completing the golf swing.

The ‘X-Factor’ in Golf (And How S&C can help)

Now to understand the relevance of these parts of the golf swing, there’s this thing referred to as the ‘X-Factor’ – it’s all about how much your upper body twists compared to your hips during your swing. The ‘X-factor stretch’ when your hips start turning back while your upper body stays put, creating a stretch. Now studies show that widening this rotational gap can seriously boost your driving distance. Researchers found that skilled golfers can pull off a bigger stretch (around 57° compared to 50° for the less skilled folks), especially at the start of the downswing. Basically, it means the pros can really separate their hips from their upper body during the swing, making their moves more efficient and making better use of their muscles elasticity (Stretch shortening cycle) for a faster more powerful swing.

So why is this relevant? Understanding bio-mechanic factors that will positively effect your golf swing means we can train specifically for it, with numerous studies showing various benefits from sport specific training, with the main goal of strength & conditioning in golf athletes to increase the overall robustness (preventing injury) of the athlete while increasing factors that will increase your “X-Factor stretch” and subsequently your club head speed. This is what we tend to focus on when working with our golf S&C athletes

INJURY PREVENTION FOR GOLF

In golf lower back injuries are common, typically occurring either during the swing or due to overuse with nearly half of all injuries coming from the swing itself.

Injuries typically happen during ball impact or the follow-through phase, with the lower back, wrist, and elbow being common sites. Recent studies consistently identify the lumbar spine as a primary concern for golfers, emphasizing the importance of maintaining flexibility and strength in these key areas as a way to limit the damaging effects of the compressive forces of each swing and their potential overuse.

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING TRAINING SESSION

When designing your training sessions always bear in mind that although golf may feel like a “top-heavy” sport the lower body is essential in your ability to generate force, as such any and all strength or power training sessions should be full-body with the intention for taking fundamental strength movements and coupling them with explosive sport specific movements.

The following training session is designed with golf in mind pairing compound resistance exercises with explosive and or rotational exercises to help mimic and reinforce the movement pathways of your golf swing.

*Before each and every training session remember to warm-up, focus on dynamic stretching over static stretching and make sure to focus on rotational movements particularly in the trunk, hips and shoulders.*

ExerciseSetsRepsWeightRest
Barbell Back Squat
Jump Squat
3
3
4-6
4-6
80-90%
BW
3-5 Minutes
Compound Set
Dumbbell Chest Press
Rotational Medicine Ball Throw
3
3
4-6
4-6 each side
80-90%
≤ 10% BW
3-5 Minutes
Compound Set
Barbell Bent Over Row
Cable Pallof Press
3
3
4-6
3x15s each side
80-90%
3-5 Minutes
Compound Set
Example Golf Strength/Power Training Session

PROGRAMMING A GOLF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING PLAN

Golf as a sport varies dramatically from the usual team sports games that strength and conditioning is typically associated with, particularly when looking at the competitive schedule which varies wildly from your typical “season of play” so your strength and conditioning plan would need to account for the lack of Pre/During/Post season layout that you would typically use.

When creating a periodised strength and conditioning plan for golf you should select the tournaments of greatest priority throughout the year and choose those as your “peak weeks” building up to those events over the course of a 12 week “mesocycle” with a deload week before hand (see below).

Golfing tournaments generally speaking run from Thursday to Sunday, as such loading the start of the week with training will serve to be rested for competition.

Monday Tuesday WednesdayThursday Friday Saturday Sunday
RestTraining Session ARestCompetitionCompetitionCompetitionCompetition
Example A Competition Week S&C Training Schedule
Monday Tuesday WednesdayThursday Friday Saturday Sunday
RestTraining Session ATraining Session BRestCompetitionCompetitionCompetition
Example B Competition Week S&C Training Schedule

Reducing S&C training before and after competitions

It is important to make sure that relevant rest is taken before and after competitions to minimise injury risk and aid in recovery and improvements in performance both in the gym and on the fairway.

ExerciseSetsRepsWeight
Barbell Back Squat33-570-80%
Example reduction in load during deload week

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GOLF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

How does strength and conditioning improve performance?

It improves performance in two ways, firstly it strengthens the movement pathways that you will undertake in your chosen sport (in this case golf) so that you can perform those movements with higher levels of power. Secondly it works to minimise the chances of becoming injured which will in turn allow you more time for both strength & conditioning as well as skill training to improve on the whole.

How do I get more power and distance in my golf swing?

In order to get more power and distance in your golf swing you need to increase your CHS (Club head speed) by increasing this you increase the overall power transferred to the ball and therefore the further it travels. You increase CHS by training the relevant rotational movement patterns and increase your X-Factor stretch to allow for more energy transference to the ball from your club. (try the training session above it’s a winner)

What are the benefits of a strength and conditioning professional?

Experience! one thing that makes professional strength and conditioning coaches so beneficial is their ability to remove the guess work and provide you with Tried and Tested training methods that will work.

How do I build my core strength in golf?

The best way to build your core strength with golf in mind is to train rotationally, focus on exercises that move in an explosive way across the body (think throws and swings) the rotational elements will serve to strengthen the core with carry over to golf, Similarly working anti-rotational exercises like the above mentioned pallof press will also serve to strengthen the core and help minimise your chances of injury in the later segments of your swing.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Alas all good things must come to an end, Time for you to get to work!

  1. Give our example workout a try for a few weeks and give your body time to adapt to it, maybe take inspiration from this article and create your own training session.
  2. If you want a bit more guidance or support, then feel free to reach out and we can chat about 1:1 coaching, or drawing you up a custom programme.

REFERENCES

  • Bishop, C. et al. (2022) Strength and conditioning for golf athletes: Biomechanics, common …, Strength and Conditioning for Golf Athletes: Biomechanics, Common Injuries and Physical Requirements. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358727103_Strength_and_Conditioning_for_Golf_Athletes_Biomechanics_Common_Injuries_and_Physical_Requirements (Accessed: 01 February 2024).
  • Sorbie, G.G. et al. (2018) ‘Analysis of the X-factor and X-factor stretch during the completion of a golf practice session in low-handicap golfers’, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 13(6), pp. 1001–1007. doi:10.1177/1747954118791330.
  • Read, P.J. and Lloyd, R.S. (2014) ‘Strength and conditioning considerations for golf’, Strength & Conditioning Journal, 36(5), pp. 24–33. doi:10.1519/ssc.0000000000000062.
  • Bliss, A. and Langdown, B. (2023) ‘Integration of golf practise and strength and conditioning in golf: Insights from professional golf coaches’, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching [Preprint]. doi:10.1177/17479541231199657.