Every time I golf without stretching, I play at least five strokes worse. There’s good reason for that: In golf, every detail matters. If your form is slightly off, it can make the difference between…
Every time I golf without stretching, I play at least five strokes worse. There’s good reason for that: In golf, every detail matters. If your form is slightly off, it can make the difference between an enjoyable day on the course and a long, frustrating one. To get an edge on the course both mentally and physically, try these yoga poses before taking your first swing:
1. Standing Shoulder Stretch
Why: Golf involves more than just your swing. If you don’t use a cart, you walk up to five miles while carrying a set of clubs. When you reach for your ball and line up your shots, you squat and lunge multiple times each hole. Use this stretch to help open your hamstrings, shoulders, neck and back all at the same time. It prevents muscle fatigue and soreness — especially toward the end of your round.
How: Stand with your feet straight forward and hips-width apart. Clasp your hands behind your back. Inhale, lift your shoulders so that they’re even with the base of your neck and plug your shoulders back. If your shoulders are tight and slouch forward, hold your golf club for leverage. Exhale and bow forward. If your back is strained, bend your knees as much as you need to release it. Otherwise, straighten your legs as straight as they go. Hold for five breaths and come out of the pose.
Why: If your shoulders drop when you swing, you will feel a painful impingement in your shoulder. As a result, you’ll minimize your range of motion and become reluctant to swing at your full potential. A side stretch creates space through the sides of your body, helps you breathe deeply and allows you to maintain length in your torso so that you can swing smoothly.
How: Stand tall with your feet and legs touching. Hold your club with your hands shoulders-width apart and reach your arms overhead. Lean to the right and sway your hips to the left without leaning back. Keep your shoulders and hips square and your chin parallel with the ground. Hold for three breaths and repeat on the second side.
3. Twisted Lunge
Why: Nothing feels better than generating power when you swing, especially off the tee. When you rotate your shoulders while keeping your hips square, you get more distance without losing control. This same movement is what you are accomplishing when you twist in yoga. Practice twisted lunge to warm up and create a deeper rotation. As a result, you’ll have more torque when you swing.
How: Step your right foot forward in a lunge. Bend your front knee over your ankle and lengthen your stance so your back foot is vertical. Lower your back knee gently. Inhale, get upright in your lunge and bring your palms to touch. As you exhale, hook your left elbow across your right thigh. Angle your right elbow up and plug your shoulder back. As you balance, slowly look up.
4. Standing Thigh Stretch
Why: Stay out of pain and play more comfortably by stretching your thighs before and throughout each round. This basic exercise will open your quads and help you to set the top of your femur bones deeply into their hip sockets in a way that is anatomically neutral. As a result, you’ll open the hip flexor muscle that extends all the way up to your mid-back.
How: Start standing with your feet inner hips-width apart and straight forward. Bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand to hold the outer edge of your foot. Move your right knee in until your thighs are parallel with one another. Use your club to help keep your balance. Draw your right knee slightly forward and set your right upper thigh back. Hold the pose for several breaths with your hips and shoulders square before moving to the second side.
Why: This simple twist will help pivot your shoulders so you can hit harder every swing. It is an efficient way to create more range in your backswing — without pushing yourself beyond what is safe.
How: Step your feet inner hips-width apart with your feet straight. Bend your knees deeply over your feet. Set your upper thighs back and create a slight arch in your low back. Rest your right forearm across your thighs with your right elbow on your right thigh and your hand on your left thigh. Keep your hips and knees level and open your chest to the left. Reach your left arm up and hold for three breaths before changing sides.
6. Standing Hip Opener
Why: Your ankles, knees and hips all come into play when you golf. You extend and flex your legs, activate your hips and leg muscles, and plant your feet repeatedly when you swing. Protect the joints in your lower body and move seamlessly with a standing hip opener. This will also help with pain in your knees and hips so you can golf more frequently and swing with more stability in your legs.
How: Stand with your feet 4 to 6 inches apart and straight. Bend your knees deeply, shift weight in your left foot and hook your right shin across your left thigh. Press your left hand against the sole of your right foot and press your foot against your hand. Flex your right foot and sit deeply, setting your right inner thigh down and back to open your right hip deeply. Practice this pose on both sides.