Many people are often deceived by the level of fitness required to play golf, especially at professional level. The game is not simply about walking or driving a buggy around a course, the different aspects of various golf shots require a certain level of fitness. In addition to this, professional golfers are required to play four rounds of golf in as many days and do this over the course of a long season, every year.
The golf swing itself is a very athletic motion and if not timed perfectly can lead to disastrous results. A good golf swing requires the combination of different fitness components, one of which is strength. The upper body is consistently in motion during a golf swing and it requires real strength to be able to keep the correct posture when completing a successful shot, especially when driving the ball off the tee. Furthermore, there is no point in being able to maintain a good posture if the flexibility is not there to go with it. To be able to complete a full back-swing, good flexibility is a must. Balance is also a key ingredient to becoming fit for golf. Having the posture, flexibility and leg strength to be able to keep balanced when striking the ball is necessary to be able to get the maximum out of every shot on the course. The final requirement for a fit golfer is muscular endurance. As mentioned earlier, a round of golf can last for up to 6 hours and many professionals play four rounds in four days, meaning muscle fatigue can not set in because if it does, swing mechanics begin to fail and concentration levels fall.
However, you most certainly do not have to be amongst the fittest athletes in the world to succeed at the sport of golf. Take Miguel Angel Jimenez, to look at he does not seem like a professional sportsman competing at the very top but he is, despite his fondness for the cigars. There are also other professional golfers who are over weight but this does not seem to hinder their performance a great deal.
Having said that, it was Tiger Woods who, when bursting onto the scene at young age, showed great athleticism and energy in his play and has continued this throughout his career, building up his upper body strength over time. In fact, gym work and a healthy diet have become a big part of golf in the modern era, with players such as Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy employing strict fitness regimes as part of their overall training. This leads to the question of who is the fittest golfer of all time? The names above are obvious candidates, with Woods being the stand out individual despite succumbing to back problems recently but it is impossible to ignore golfing legend Gary Player. Even though Player is approaching 80 years of age, he still plays golf and works out on a daily basis, eating a mainly vegetarian diet. He has also been credited with helping some of the great players of today improve their fitness levels and is therefore one of the fittest athletes that golf has ever produced.
In the Future?
The above article was written in 2014. Undoubtedly there will be very more players in the years to come which will challenge the champions listed here in terms of fitness. Even a poll from a couple of years ago is starting to be dated. The poll by ESPN on the greatest Golf 'athlete' of all time, conducted in 2012, shortlisted Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods, with Tiger being crowned the greatest.
- The ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time.
- Our discussion of the greatest ever Golf player.
- More about the sport of Golf