I took a break from a practice session a few years ago and surveyed the line of golfers at the driving range. All shapes and sizes, they had one thing in common: none of them stretched before they dropped their bucket and started banging balls into oblivion. I watched carefully and there was plenty of room for improvement up and down the line. Go to any range, any day, and you will witness a similar display. No one in competitive athletics would think of practicing or playing without stretching. With over 26 million golfers in the United States, there is tremendous opportunity for health and fitness facilities to provide innovative golf conditioning programs.
"There is no 'try,' there is only 'do' and 'not do.'"
My experience on the driving range was part of the motivation to develop the Will of Golf: Mastering the Mind-Body Connection program. In our book and seminars we present a sequence of yoga postures to facilitate and support a smooth, balanced swing, but the physical aspects are only part of the equation. To improve their scores, golfers must learn to breathe, relax and play in a confident state of heightened awareness. It's also wise to find a swing coach to encourage strong fundamentals and practice.
Tiger Woods Sets the Standard for Conditioning
Tiger Woods is the perfect example of this. Tiger has set the standard for conditioning on tour and everyone else is trying to catch up.
The Will of Golf program presents a new approach to golf conditioning, combining classic yoga postures with manifesting and visualization techniques to improve balance, flexibility and range of motion while transforming the golfers ability to relax, focus and create great shots at will. You may learn more about the program by visiting our web site at www.willofgolf.com
Yoga and the Mind-Body Program
I started playing golf when I was fourteen and this was the hardest sport I had tried. Perhaps you had a similar experience. Golf presented the ultimate challenge of mind over matter. Fortunately, I was given a book on Hatha yoga about this same time. Hatha yoga is designed to fuse the body into an instrument of the will. While fitness is important, improving physical, emotional and mental balance are essential.
Great players always demonstrate the ability to be "in the moment" and completely focused on their objective. The mind-body discipline of this 5,000-year-old science of life is ideal for sports performance and especially golf. If you have Hatha-based yoga classes in your facility, you are in a great position to attract a diverse new group of members with some creative programming and promotion.
"Yoga postures are profoundly intelligent and simple stretches to improve flexibility, balance and mental clarity," reports Planet Yoga founder Leeann Carey. She has worked extensively with competitive athletes including the Los Angeles Lakers. "Yoga begins with proper breathing techniques to increase mind-body awareness while helping focus, relax and lengthen the muscles used for yielding, twisting and turning the hips, torso and shoulders, all required for an effective golf game."
Under the guidance of Hatha-trained instructors, yoga classes provide increased flexibility, improved balance and peace of mind. After an hour and a half of breathing and stretching through a sequence of challenging postures, a relaxed, meditative state similar to "runner's high" is readily available.
It is this relaxed state of self-awareness, which will benefit the golfer, or any competitive-minded stressed-out person, most. The process puts life in perspective. Those who practice yoga regularly discover it's not about winning, but about being aware of your intentions and unattached to the outcome. For more information on yoga training you may visit: www.planetyoga.com or www.yogajournal.com.
The Powerhouse of Core Conditioning
The Pilates Method is another mind-body discipline, based on yoga principles, which has experienced extraordinary growth over the last few years. Pilates blends Western and Eastern approaches into exercises performed on mats or special equipment conditioning the entire body with emphasis on the core muscle groups supporting the spine and pelvis. Called the Powerhouse (in yoga, it's referred to as the center), this group of muscles includes the rectus abdominis, internal obliques, lower back muscles, transversus abdominis and gluteus maximus.
For a sense of engaging your Powerhouse, pull your navel in toward your spine. Try this, lengthening from the center of your body when you stretch, walk or swing. As a golfer, you will immediately recognize the benefits of conditioning these muscles to help prevent injuries and promote a fluid and powerful golf swing. With classical-trained instructors, Pilates conditioning, either one-on-one or in small group classes, creates an excellent profit center for your facility. For more information on Pilates training and equipment, visit www.peakpilates.com or www.pilatesmethodalliance.org.
Whether you choose conventional stretching and strength training or a more holistic mind-body approach such as Hatha yoga or classic Pilates, the objective is to facilitate a complete, fluid and confident golf swing. Your program must challenge the participants to improve, to step out of their comfort zone, strengthen their bodies and relax their minds. Encourage them to lighten up and loosen their grip on their bad habits, take some lessons and, of course, practice.
Experience Always Makes a Difference
Your golf-conditioning program is best lead by someone that understands the mechanics of the golf swing and loves the game. Golfers respect others who can play well, so consider consulting with your local PGA professional to develop and promote special evening clinics in your facility demonstrating how proper physical conditioning promotes an effective, powerful and safe swing. Don't be shy about promoting increased "power" as everyone wants to hit it longer. Strengthening and care of the lower back also warrant considerable attention.
Consider working with the PGA professional to structure a six-week program, either beginner or intermediate levels, and cross promote with their teaching facility. You provide stretching, mind-body awareness and strength conditioning in your facility while the group works with the professional on the essential fundamentals of grip, stance, alignment and tempo.
Based on your success, promote special event clinics and six-week programs throughout the year. Depending on your market, evening clinics may be presented free of charge, to sell six-week sessions or trial memberships, or range from $49 to $99 per person. A package of six weekly 60 or 90-minute group conditioning sessions, excluding professional instruction, may range from $99 to $149. You may want to offer special membership, member referral or corporate group discounts.
You will help the golfers establish a healthier approach to the game of golf, and their lives, and be rewarded with long-term memberships and multiple referrals.
About Ralph Cissne
Ralph Cissne is author of Will of Golf: Mastering the Mind-Body Connection, a golf-conditioning program. A writer, existentialist and lifelong fan of Joni Mitchell, Mr. Cissne has been a featured reader and venue host on the Los Angeles poetry and performance art scene. In addition to Will of Golf , he has written:, a body of poetry, a novel, East of Nirvana, and a collection of short stories. His short story credits include publications in Playboy and American Way. Visit www.morganroad.com ;Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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