‘GOLF FITNESS IS REALLY STILL IN ITS INFANCY’
t the same time, Myers says golf is behind other sports in fitness coaching because it lacks full acceptance by players, and there’s a relative lack of documentation about cause and effect. Myers remembers meeting Player, then in his 60s, in the 1990s and hearing the Hall of Famer confess that he wasn’t sure what part of the lifelong regimen he had so diligently followed had actually been advantageous for golf. Norman, an early adherent of intense exercise who tried to improve on Player’s example, now admits that if he had done things differently, he might have avoided some of the surgeries he faced late in his career and after his retirement from competition. “Golf fitness is really still in its infancy,” Myers says.
Joey Diovisalvi, who trains Johnson and Koepka, believes that although golf-fitness knowledge is accelerating because of the increased needs on tour, more mistakes are possible because players are pushing harder than ever to gain an edge. “Injures are more common than ever because players are more aggressive and they’re not afraid to do the things that they have to do to perform,” says Diovisalvi, known as Joey D. “It doesn’t mean they’re smart enough or diligent enough to do the proper prep work.” Diovisalvi poses the question, “Did Tiger do things that were potentially rogue?” referring to accounts of Woods’ Navy SEAL-style training and performing exercises like technical Olympicstyle lifts with extra weight that went against the advice of his then-longtime trainer, Keith Kleven. “He could have.”
Diovisalvi sees a need for improvement in the field in preconditioning golfers for challenging workouts, and in understanding the proper recovery protocols to lessen injury. “When players come back from being hurt or fatigued, sometimes they’ve given themselves their own green light, and they return too soon,” says Diovisalvi, whose first clients when he began helping tour players were Jesper Parnevik and Vijay Singh. “I don’t know if we’ve done a great job in golf getting players to understand that proper recovery simply takes time. You start to realise that, left to their own judgment, recovery is not something they do well.”
The argument runs counter to the criticism that current players often get for skipping too many tournaments. The basis is the relative ironman schedules that were common, especially among journeymen, in previous eras. But Jack Nicklaus—and later Faldo and Woods— showed the effectiveness of a shorter schedule designed to peak for majors.
More than ever, many of today’s players have the economic luxury of waiting until they’re mentally eager and physically primed before embarking on a string of tournaments. Given that those choices are now more complicated because the more extensive worldwide tournament schedule effectively lengthens the playing season, fitness trainers, Diovisalvi suggests, should strongly encourage a pace modeled on the way horse trainers hold out prize thoroughbreds to run only when they are fully rested, and preferably for the biggest races. ‘ TO SAY THAT PEDS DON’T EXIST IN GOLF, I DON’T BELIEVE THAT’ iovisalvi also sounds a warning that increased training by golfers brings with it the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“We have to get a hold of that in golf,” he says. “I don’t believe it’s as common as in other sports, but I would never doubt that it’s going on. Some guys will take the risk because the financial temptation pushes them beyond their ability to think rationally.
“To say that PEDs don’t exist in golf, I don’t believe that. When they start blood testing [ in the 2017-’ 18 PGA Tour season], we’re going to see a whole different dynamic.”
As Faldo says, there’s another chapter to be written on the role of fitness in golf. It will likely be one in which trainers will have a more definitive handle on the proper protocols.
“We all relish those moments when a great athlete pushes the limits of what a human being can do, and it’s a thrill to be part of that,” Suppiah says. “But more and more, for every one of those moments, even in golf, the athlete will be on the edge of being injured or breaking down. Could be through a training regimen, or intense practice sessions, or on the edge of mental exhaustion. That’s what the greatest athletes do, and what the new demands of golf are making the greatest golfers do. The athletes will always want to go there. It just means that in golf, the trainers who can properly guide them will become even more valuable.” september 2017 golfdigestme. com